May 2011


Repressive Arab regimes and their ideologies fuelled bin Laden and his supporters, and his death should wake them up.


Osama bin Laden is a product of Wahhabi teachings [GALLO/GETTY]
Osama bin Laden’s death in his Pakistani hiding place is like the removal of a tumour from the Muslim world. But aggressive follow-up therapy will be required to prevent the remaining al-Qaeda cells from metastasising by acquiring more adherents who believe in violence to achieve the ‘purification’ and empowerment of Islam.

Fortunately, bin Laden’s death comes at the very moment when much of the Islamic world is being convulsed by the treatment that bin Laden’s brand of fanaticism requires: the Arab Spring, with its demands for democratic empowerment (and the absence of demands, at least so far, for the type of Islamic rule that al-Qaeda sought to impose).

But can the nascent democracies being built in Egypt and Tunisia, and sought in Bahrain, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere, see off the threats posed by Islamic extremists? In particular, can it defeat the Salafi/Wahhabi thought that has long nurtured Osama bin Laden and his ilk, and which remains the professed and protected ideology of Saudi Arabia?

The fact is that before the US operation to kill bin Laden, al-Qaeda’s symbolic head, the emerging democratic Arab revolutions had already, in just a few short months, done as much to marginalise and weaken his terrorist movement in the Islamic world as the war on terror had achieved in a decade. Those revolutions, whatever their ultimate outcome, have exposed the philosophy and behaviour of bin Laden and his followers as not only illegitimate and inhumane, but actually inept at achieving better conditions for ordinary Muslims.

What millions of Arabs were saying as they stood united in peaceful protest was that their way of achieving Arab and Islamic dignity is far less costly in human terms. More importantly, their way will ultimately achieve the type of dignity that people really want, as opposed to the unending wars of terror to rebuild the caliphate that Bin Laden promised.

After all, the protesters of the Arab Spring did not need to use – and abuse – Islam to achieve their ends. They did not wait for God to change their condition, but took the initiative by peacefully confronting their oppressors. The Arab revolutions mark the emergence of a pluralist, post-Islamist banner for the faithful. Indeed, the only people to introduce religion into the protests have been rulers, such as those in Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and Syria, who have tried to use fear of the Shia or Sunni “other” to continue to divide and misrule their societies.

Bin Laden’s era

Now that the US has eradicated bin Laden’s physical presence, it needs to stop delaying the rest of the therapeutic process. For the US has been selectively – and short-sightedly – irradiating only parts of the cancer that al-Qaeda represents, while leaving the malignant growth of Saudi Wahabism and Salafism untouched. Indeed, despite the decade of the West’s war on terror, and Saudi Arabia’s longer-term alliance with the US, the Kingdom’s Wahhabi religious establishment has continued to bankroll Islamic extremist ideologies around the world.

Bin Laden, born, raised, and educated in Saudi Arabia, is a product of this pervasive ideology. He was no religious innovator; he was a product of Wahhabism, and later was exported by the Wahhabi regime as a jihadist.

During the 1980’s, Saudi Arabia spent $75 bn for the propagation of Wahhabism, funding schools, mosques, and charities throughout the Islamic world, from Pakistan to Afghanistan, Yemen, Algeria, and beyond. The Saudis continued such programs after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, and even after they discovered that “the Call” is uncontrollable, owing to the technologies of globalisation. Not surprisingly, the creation of a transnational Islamic political movement, boosted by thousands of underground jihadi websites, has blown back into the Kingdom.

Like the hijackers of 9/11, who were also Saudi/Wahhabi ideological exports (15 of the 19 men who carried out those terror attacks were chosen by bin Laden because they shared the same Saudi descent and education as he), Saudi Arabia’s reserve army of potential terrorists remains, because the Wahhabi factory of fanatical ideas remains intact.

So the real battle has not been with bin Laden, but with that Saudi state-supported ideology factory. Bin Laden merely reflected the entrenched violence of the Kingdom’s official ideology.

Bin Laden’s eradication may strip some dictators, from Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi to Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh, of the main justification they have used for their decades of repression. But the US knows perfectly well that al-Qaeda is an enemy of convenience for Saleh and other American allies in the region, and that in many cases, terrorism has been used as a pretext to repress reform. Indeed, now the US is encouraging repression of the Arab Spring in Yemen and Bahrain, where official security forces routinely kill peaceful protesters calling for democracy and human rights.

Al-Qaeda and democracy cannot coexist. Indeed, bin Laden’s death should open the international community’s eyes to the source of his movement: repressive Arab regimes and their extremist ideologies. Otherwise, his example will continue to haunt the world.

Mai Yamani’s most recent book is Cradle of Islam.

A version of this article first appeared on Project Syndicate.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Source: Al Jazeera /05 May 2011

Terrorism will not end with bin Laden’s death without significant political and economic change in the Middle East.


The success of the revolution in Egypt and the momentum of others across the Middle East create a unique opportunity for positive change [GALLO/GETTY]
The killing of Osama bin Laden by United States special forces constitutes a significant victory over global terrorism. But it is a milestone, not a turning point, in what remains an ongoing struggle with no foreseeable end.

The significance of what was accomplished stems in part from bin Laden’s symbolic importance. He has been an icon, representing the ability to strike with success against the US and the West. That icon has now been destroyed.

Another positive consequence is the demonstrated effect of counter-terrorism operations carried out by US soldiers. As a result, some terrorists, one hopes, will decide to become former terrorists – and some young radicals might now think twice before deciding to become terrorists in the first place.

But any celebration needs to be tempered by certain realities. Bin Laden’s demise, as welcome as it is, should in no way be equated with the demise of terrorism.

Terrorism is a decentralised phenomenon – in its funding, planning, and execution. Removing bin Laden does not end the terrorist threat. There are successors, starting with Ayman al-Zawahiri in al-Qaeda, as well as in autonomous groups operating out of Yemen, Somalia, and other countries. So terrorism will continue. Indeed, it could even grow somewhat worse in the short run, as there are sure to be those who will want to show that they can still strike against the West.

Prevention

The best parallel that I can think of when it comes to understanding terrorism and how to deal with it is disease. There are steps that can and should be taken to attack or neutralise certain types of viruses or bacteria; to reduce vulnerability to infection; and to reduce the consequences of infection if, despite all of our efforts, we become ill. Disease is not something that can be eliminated, but often it can be managed.

There are obvious parallels with terrorism. As we have recently witnessed, terrorists can be attacked and stopped before they can cause harm; individuals and countries can be defended; and societies can take steps to bolster their resilience when they are successfully attacked, as on occasion they inevitably will be. These elements of a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy can reduce the threat to manageable, or at least tolerable, levels.

But tolerable is not good enough when it comes to protecting innocent life. We want to do better. The answer is to be found in the realm of prevention. More must be done to interrupt the recruitment of terrorists, thereby reducing the threat before it materialises.

Most terrorists today are young and male. And, while the overwhelming majority of the world’s Muslims are not terrorists, many of the world’s terrorists are Muslim. It would help enormously in this regard if Arab and Muslim political leaders spoke out against the intentional killing of men, women, and children by anyone or any group for political purposes. There is also a pivotal role here for religious leaders, educators, and parents. Terrorism must be stripped of any legitimacy that it may be viewed as having.

‘Arab Spring’

One potential positive development here stems from the political changes that we are seeing in many parts of the Middle East. There is a greater chance than before that young people will become more integrated in their own societies (and less susceptible to the appeal of extremism) if they enjoy greater political and economic opportunity.

Pakistan will most likely prove critical in determining the future prevalence of terrorism. Unfortunately, while it is home to some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists, it is decidedly less than a full partner in the struggle against it. Some parts of the Pakistani government are sympathetic to terrorism and unwilling to act against it; other parts simply lack the capacity to act against it effectively.

Capacity is much easier to provide than will. The outside world can and should continue to provide assistance to help Pakistan acquire the strength and skills required to tackle modern-day terrorists.

But no amount of external assistance can compensate for a lack of motivation and commitment. Pakistani leaders must choose once and for all. It is not enough to be a limited partner in the struggle against terror; Pakistan needs to become a full partner.

There will be Pakistanis who protest against the recent American military action, arguing that it violated Pakistan’s sovereignty. But sovereignty is not an absolute; it involves obligations as well as rights. Pakistanis must understand that they will forfeit some of those rights if they do not meet their obligation to ensure that their territory is not used to shelter terrorists.

If things do not change, the sort of independent military operation carried out by US soldiers will become less the exception than the rule. This is not nearly as desirable an outcome as Pakistan joining what should be a common international effort. At stake is not only assistance, but Pakistan’s own future, for, in the absence of genuine commitment to counter-terrorism, it is only a matter of time before the country falls victim to the infection that it refuses to treat.

Richard N. Haass, formerly director of Policy Planning in the US State Department, is president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

The article was first published by Project Syndicate.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Source: Al Jazeera/05 May 2011

Although relieved with bin Laden’s death, many Chinese are scared where Washington will focus its attention next.

The Chinese reaction to the circumstances surrounding Osama bin Laden’s death were mixed with admiration for a successful covert operation, and fear for where Washington would start focusing its attention next [EPA]
The United States’ most vilified terrorist foe has been dead only a week but China is already haunted by the phantom of the next big US enemy. Almost simultaneously with the spread of the news of Osama bin Laden’s death in a covert US operation in Pakistan, Chinese analysts had begun the guessing game of where Washington will focus its attention next.

“Why didn’t they catch him alive?” speculated military affairs analyst Guo Xuan. “Because he was no longer needed as an excuse for Washington to take the anti-terror war outside of the US borders. It is because of bin Laden that the US were allowed to increase their strategic presence in many places around the world as never before. But Libya and NATO’s attack there have changed the game. They (the US) no longer need bin Laden to assert their authority.”

Even before bin Laden’s death, Beijing had expressed concern that the US strategists are diverting their attention from the war on terror to containing the rise of China and other emerging economies.

A long article on Libya stalemate published by the editor of Contemporary International Relations magazine, Lin Limin, argued that the US has been unwilling to take the lead role in the Libya conflict because it has “finally woken up to the fact that its main reason to worry are the emerging countries.

“If the US position on Libya is not only a tactical stance but a strategic one and they have really come to understand that they should not waste military power and energy in numerous directions ‘spreading democracy’ all over the world but should begin focusing their attention on the rise of emerging countries, then we do have a reason to worry,” Lin argued.

The US presence in Afghanistan has always been a controversial one for Chinese politicians. China joined the global war on terror because bin Laden’s political agenda of setting up an Arab caliphate and sponsoring terrorism presented a direct threat to its restive Muslim north-western region of Xinjiang. But Beijing has been suspicious of the US intentions, worrying that Washington is pursuing a broader agenda for long-term presence in the region, which China regards as its backyard.

Beijing officially hailed the killing of the terrorist leader by the US as “a milestone and a positive development for the international anti-terrorism efforts”.

“Terrorism is the common enemy of the international community. China has also been a victim of terrorism,” foreign ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu was quoted by the official Xinhua news agency as saying after bin Laden’s death.

She was referring to Xinjiang, where Muslim separatists have been waging a bloody insurgency against Chinese rule. Beijing had linked the global war against terror with its struggle to quell separatist sentiments in the Muslim region, insisting insurgents are aided from outside.

Chinese public reaction to the news of bin Laden’s death has mixed reluctant admiration at the success of the secret mission played out reportedly on screens in front of US president Barack Obama with outright fear over what comes next.

“The whole thing seemed like an intelligence operation lifted straight out of ’24’ (a TV series about US counter-terrorism agents),” said Huang Mei, a TV producer with barely concealed awe. “How advanced and confident they must be to ask their president to watch the killing mission on screens live!”

But some see bin Laden’s demise as a blow to efforts to promote a school of Anti-American thought.

“The great anti-America fighter bin Laden was murdered by the US! How sad!” wrote one commenter on Sina’s popular Weibo micro-blogging site.

“Is this real? Excellent!” wrote another of the news. “Now the only terrorist left is the United States!”

Commentators have begun analysing the political capital reaped by Obama and preparing for the possibility that he may win a second term in office. Writing in Beijing’s Xinjing Bao, commentator Chen Bing predicted the US will exploit the death of bin Laden to expand its influence in the Middle East and bring the Arab spring to an end.

“What a great way to issue a warning to all anti-American politicians in the region,” Chen said. “And a declaration that it (the US) intends to mould the Middle East according to its own design.”

A version of this article first appeared on Inter Press Service news agency.


* Source: IPS/06 May 2011

The FBI estimates that each year more than 100,000 underage American girls are exploited for commercial sex

Underage prostitution in the US is organized crime’s third biggest money-maker after guns and drugs. But the kids get blamed instead of the criminals. Young girls are put behind bars for walking the streets, with no offer of rescue or help.

The US State Department regularly puts out reports on how horrific human trafficking is in other countries.
Yet for the home country, the FBI estimates that each year more than 100,000 underage American girls are exploited for commercial sex. The average age is 13 years old. But the usual treatment the children get, when arrested, is either jail time or probation.

In the US, prostitution laws do not exempt minors from prosecution. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention reported 1,600 juveniles were arrested for prostitution within just one year.
But lawyers say in the US, the paradox of the system is that the children are prosecuted for crimes for which they cannot legally give consent.

“We say that this child is a victim and yet we send them to jail. Somewhere along the line, there’s something wrong with that and we need to take a look at ourselves and a look at the fact that we have made detention, and law enforcement, and the criminal justice system, and juvenile justice system a default setting for what happens to these kids. And we just kind of lock them up and shove them away. And that’s the end of our response to these issues, this system. We wanna make sure that these kids are treated as victims,” says Raychel Lloyd from Girls Educational and Mentoring Services.

But treating the victims and providing for their recovery requires funding.
“There’s no federal money for US victims of trafficking,” says Tina Frundt who works with a non-profit group in Washington, which helps the children to get their lives back providing them with housing and medical treatment. She herself was trafficked at the age of 13.

Tina says it is easier for the government to label the children as prostitutes, charge them and send them to detention centers, rather than fund shelters and invest in their future.

“There’s not enough housing for sex trafficking victims at all. So what they’re saying is that for their safety we will arrest them and put them in jail. Then we charge the victim. We don’t put rape victims in jail, why would we put victims who were trafficked in jail?” asks Frundt.

Almost all of the victims of child trafficking remember being constantly raped and abused both by pimps and clients.
“Many of the young people we served have been incarcerated and charged as an adult under the age of 16. So they have this lengthy 15, 20, 30, 40 arrests both as a juvenile and as ‘an adult’ for prostitution. When they go to apply for public housing, they are not eligible for that. When they go to do certain employment, that pops up in a background check and they are booted out of an employment training program,” says Raychel Lloyd.

The past of such children is already scarred as it is. And the non-profit organizations that help victims of sex trafficking say by prosecuting the children and by not investing in their recovery it is the government that scars their future.

Published: 16 April, 2011