Unless you have lived in Tora Bora, by you should know that Al Qaeda’s spiritual leader, the American-Western dubbed terrorist, Osama bin Laden has been killed by American Special Forces. The small city of Abbottabad, unknown to everyone before the 1st of May, now became the hub of worldwide media attention. This became the last place, Osama bin Laden lived. His legacy, however, undoubtly survive and perhaps even stronger. Many scholars have frequented news reports, where they have argued on the future of Al Qaeda. The question is, however, if this debate is relevant at all.
Al Qaeda after 9/11
To fully comprehend what happened to Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda, a quick walk down memory lane will provide insights. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden co-founded Makhtab al-Khidamat (MAK) or the Afghan Services Bureau that financed Mujahedeen rebels in Afghanistan. When the Soviets left Afghanistan, MAK dismantled. Osama bin Laden turned to his new pet project which became one of the most feared terrorist organisations in the world. “The Base” as Al Qaeda means became a network in Afghanistan with sufficient strength to conduct the biggest terror-attack in the world – the attack on World Trade Center in 2001. With the United Nation’s Security Council’s blessing, the United States entered the battle against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. In brackets it is worth noting that Iran and Russia have been fighting together with the Northern Alliance against Taliban during the rule of Taliban in Afghanistan. From being a network with bases, Al Qaeda diminished into an ideology or a beacon of Islamic terorrism. The Wahabi-schooled Osama bin Laden did not any longer coordinate terror-attacks. Instead he issued statements on anything from the Muhammad-cartoons to actions in Iraq.
Jihad is one of the most contested concepts in the world, and many articles have been written on the topic. Briefly the concept, big Jihad refers to the spiritual development of the Muslim whereas small Jihad refers to the actual fight against an enemy. Osama bin Laden took it one step further. He argued in favour of a global Jihad against all Westerns, and defended it through democracy. In other words, he reasoned that if a majority of voters could vote in favour of George W. Bush, they have to take the consequences. The consequence being retaliations for what Osama bin Laden and his now “ideological network” referred to as injustice against Muslims.
Throughout Osama bin Laden’s many statements, he reaffirmed Al Qaeda’s position on different matters. He reproduced the ideological decision, Al Qaeda made. It is exactly this reproduction that is expected to last. Those that have followed him after September 11 and the demise of his organisation will surely continue to follow Al Qaeda in the future. And exactly because of their support for this ideology, any attempt to divert from it will be deemed illegitimate, and hence not reproduced. In other words, Al Qaeda has embarked on a path that cannot be changed – at least not that easily. Hence changes are not likely. The King is dead, long live the King.
Kim Andersen is student of Politics in Aarhus University, Denmark. He also works with openDemocracy. His main interests are communication and international politics.
[The views expressed are writers own and not the organization he has wrote for.]