Protests show lessened al-Qaida influence

May 3, 2011 at 9:13 AM
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LONDON, May 3 (UPI) -- The message of violently toppling regimes al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden preached has been supplanted by protests advocating peace, Middle East analysts say.

Unlike bin Laden's message of ruthlessness to address global issues, the recent wave of anti-government protests across northern Africa and the Middle East embraces peaceful, pluralistic approaches to address home front issues, the Financial Times reported Monday.

"The narrative of al-Qaida has been undermined because non-violence is bringing down the very regimes that bin Laden has been trying to fight forever," says Emile Hokayem, a senior fellow for regional security at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. "It was the anger that made bin Laden a hero. When people see a measure of hope elsewhere he becomes an irrelevant quantity in Arab society."

Bin Laden was killed Sunday in a U.S. Navy SEALs raid on his compound in Abbottadad, Pakistan, just miles from Islamabad, the capital.

Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi political analyst who knew bin Laden, says the recent protests demonstrate the error of bin Laden's thinking in choosing a violent approach to change.

"What we noticed in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Yemen was the opposite of what bin Laden stood for," Khashoggi told the Financial Times. "The people want change but their vision is non-violent and inclusive of all segments of society."

While bin Laden's death is being mourned in some parts of the world, experts said al-Qaida has been shunted aside by the recent revolts and by the change in administrations in the United States from President George W. Bush to President Barack Obama.

"With bin Laden gone it is a whole era that comes to an end, and it has been fading away since the revolutions in the Arab world," Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a university professor in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, said. "But America has changed also with Obama, so the appeal of being against imperialist America, Bush's America, has lessened dramatically since 2008."

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