One of the main targets of bin Laden, who instantly gained worldwide notoriety with the attacks his terror organization, al-Qaeda, carried out on Sept. 11 2001, was to destroy repressive, pro-West regimes in the Middle East through terror.
Bin Laden's number two man, Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri, also believed the only way to destroy the authoritarian and Western collaborating Hosni Mubarak regime was through bloody attacks. Before joining al-Qaeda, al-Zawahiri joined Islamic Jihad, which killed President Anwar Sadat in 1981, and was imprisoned for three years. But the youth in Tunisia and Egypt managed to overthrow the aged Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Mubarak regimes without using terror, defying the teachings of bin Laden and al-Zawahiri and striking a heavy blow to al-Qaeda. This development was more profound than the killing of the leader because it showed that terror was not necessary to get rid of dictators.
Assessing the meaning of the rebellion in the Arab street before Mubarak resigned, Egyptian Professor Shibley Telhami at Maryland University pointed to his very fact. “The power and pride that the peaceful masses exhibit in the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities are Bin Laden's worst nightmare. Peaceful masses, not the murder of innocents, overthrew a regime most thought was entrenched,” he said.
Al-Qaeda's power was based on the assumption that the Middle East had no other option other than to follow one of two paths that could be briefly described as cooperation with the West or revolting against it with terror. However, the ability of peaceful demonstrations to shake authoritarian regimes showed that a third path existed. When we look at the factors that showed the youth in Tunisia and Egypt that there was another alternative to collaboration with the West or revolting against it, we become compelled to mention the example of Turkey, which has a strong relationship with the West as well as freedom and economic development. It is for this reason that in addition to the Egyptian and Tunisian youth, Turkey should be added to the list of factors that killed the spirit of bin Laden in the Middle East.
Now when we turn back and look at the targets bin Laden set, we see a terrifying situation. With its attacks that targeted civilian people in the name of religion from New York and London to Jakarta, Madrid, İstanbul and Baghdad the bin Laden ideology is one of the biggest blows to the peaceful religion of Islam. Secondly, bin Laden, the brainchild of an ideology of terror, is just as responsible for the killing of millions of innocent people as those who started wars because he triggered the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Thirdly, the al-Qaeda ideology is also the reason why Muslims in Europe, America and other parts of the world are changing their Muslim names for security reasons, why people are being searched at borders like potential terrorists and why many religious Muslim are working relentlessly to explain that Islam is a religion of peace. Fourthly, bin Laden's ideology provided pretenses not just for the authoritarian regimes in the Muslim world, but for all democratically deficient regimes in Asia to become more oppressive. Let's not forget the tragedies in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which is still suffering from the destruction caused by this ideology and is still trying to figure out a way to get rid of it.
We cannot list every act of destruction caused by bin Laden. But in brief we can say this: If a somber scriptwriter was asked, “What's the best way to hurt Islam and Muslims?” I suppose the script would be about al-Qaeda. Of course, this does not mean I am dismissing the crusading mentality of neo-cons, the occupation of Iraq led by George Bush under false pretenses, the Palestinian tragedy, which laid the foundation for the birth of al-Qaeda and similar structures, and internal and external atrocities happening in other parts of the Muslim world. But it's clear that these problems don't justify bin Laden's actions, nor did bin Laden's methods solve these problems.
Certainly there are many questions that need to be debated: Will bin Laden's death bring about the end of al-Qaeda? Why did it take the US nine and a half years to find the CIA-trained bin Laden? Why was he killed and buried at sea instead of captured and questioned? Bin Laden was being searched for in caves. But he was found 50 kilometers away from Islamabad near the homes of retired generals of the Pakistani army and a stone's throw away from a military academy. What message does this convey for the future?
We will discuss all these questions, but for now I would just like to note that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh's reference to bin Laden as a holy warrior of the Arab world upset very much in the name of the Palestinian cause.