Viewpoint: The Killing of Bin Laden – the end that never was

The killing of Osama bin Laden on Monday 3rd of May was indeed a historical advent which ought to signal the end of one of the most difficult phases in the relationship between the West and the Muslim world.

For nearly a decade, Bin Laden had become not only the world’s most wanted man but also the main signifier in a troubled relationship with Islam and Muslims worldwide. In the immediate aftermath of 9-11, the world lived a brief moment of unity in which all nations expressed shock and outrage as to the attack that claimed the lives of thousands of innocent people. Sadly that moment was scuppered rather than capitalised on, with the launch of the ‘War on Terror’ and the apparent intent of the US administration to seek vengeance through a military, intelligence and security campaign that claimed the lives of thousands upon thousands of innocent civilians.

The war in Afghanistan followed by the invasion and occupation of Iraq, brought not only unspeakable misery, pain and strife upon those who in normal circumstances would not support Al-Qaeda ideology and tactics, but severely damaged relations between the West in general and Muslims as a whole. With terrorist attacks following in London, Madrid, Paris, Istanbul and countless other locations resulting in the death of hundreds of innocent by-passers, it was clear that those intent on bringing death and destruction operated on both sides, with the global population caught in the middle and suffering as a consequence.

Over the past years and on frequent occasions, mainstream Muslim organisations, groups and figures have consistently condemned the ideology espoused by Al-Qaeda, the wave of terror and fear it was waging. The message from mainstream Muslim community was constant and unequivocal:  Islam, as well as universal human values, forbids the shedding of innocent blood regardless of colour, creed, race or culture. It was immoral and criminal to consider commuters in New York or London as legitimate targets, as it was to consider passers-by in a Kabul or Baghdad market mere collateral.

Few disagree that for years, Bin Laden has been little more than a spiritual leader rather than an effective operational commander of Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda has rapidly become an idea and a brand rather than an organisation with any tangible structure or base, as a result of a number of factors including some which the USA, the UK and several Western governments must contend with and answer for. His capture and death should have signalled the end of a difficult chapter in the lives of countless people around the world. However, the manner in which he was killed and subsequently disposed of, adds to the long list of mistakes that cements the state of mistrust, lack of faith and goodwill between the West and the Muslim world.

The celebrations that broke out on the streets of several US cities, while understandable on some level, displayed an unsavoury side of the US to the rest of the world. Civilised nations do not celebrate the death of an individual in that manner, nor do they consider vengeance a palatable objective. It is also likely that this will lead to more young people sympathising with rather than rejecting the line which Al-Qaeda promotes, and rhetoric of an extreme nature is already appearing on online blogs and discussions forums. Instead of moving on, it seems we are in for a long haul of staying exactly where we are.

Some expressions of sympathy that have emerged from some corners whom were renowned to have always condemned the statements, policies and actions of Al-Qaeda, should be taken in the spirit of both Islamic tradition as well as political reality, rather than support for the demised. Islam forbids its followers from speaking ill of the dead especially those killed, and calls upon them to pray for their forgiveness. Furthermore, in light of failing Western policies throughout the Muslim world and particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, amongst other reasons, Bin Laden was seen as the West’s nemesis. This afforded him popularity amongst disenchanted and disenfranchised masses despite them rejecting his ideology. Some groups and figures, chose to recall his earlier days of fighting against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan forgoing the life of lavish luxury he could have well enjoyed, before an extreme ideology and skewed interpretation of Jihad and liberation took hold of him. He espoused an ideology of hatred, isolation, fear, violence and bloodshed.

Such statements must not be mistaken for support. Indeed, the Arab Spring that brought peaceful protests and revolutions throughout the Arab world in the past four months were the perfect antithesis to Al-Qaeda and its poisoned rhetoric, and were as much a rejection of extremism and terrorism as they were of corrupt despots and dictators.

Muslim leaders in the UK and the West must capitalise on this and act and speak responsibly as young people are searching for leadership and for guidance at these tense times. We must, at all costs, avoid initiating a new era where recriminations and counter-recriminations coin West-Muslim relationships. If anything was learnt from the past decade, it is that violence begets violence and the cycle of bloodshed is virtually impossible to break.

Western Muslims must join efforts with fellow country folk to reject policies which deem human lives dispensable and war an easily ready option. Just because the death of an innocent person is initiated by virtue of a government state decree does not make it any more acceptable than if decided by a rogue individual.

The challenge is for us all to truly turn a leaf and set a new standard for West-Muslim relations. This requires a new vision, new dynamics and people of courage, clarity and faith.

News Release: Moving Beyond Osama

News Release: Moving Beyond Osama

The death of Osama bin Laden, should signal the end of one of the most difficult phases in the relationship between the West and the Muslim world. It should bring closure to a painful 10 years after 9/11.  It should lessen the need for mainstream Muslim organisations to feel always under pressure to condemn the ideology espoused by Al-Qaeda and like many other historical moments, should provide us with a chance to think, ponder and reflect.
The state of mistrust, lack of faith and goodwill between the West and the Muslim world should be reflected upon along with methods of reparation and how we espouse the values of justice and how we pursue them.  Retributive justice that inspires cycles of violence becomes a ball and chain for a future without reconciliation.

The Arab Spring that brought peaceful protests and revolutions throughout the Arab world in the past four months are a perfect example of moving towards a sense of restorative justice.
The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) emphasises that now more than ever is the need to move towards a sense of peace and mutual respect for and between people. Spiritual scriptures all envision a pluralistic world, mutual understanding and religious tolerance, emphasising love of the Creator and love of the neighbour in contributing towards meaningful peace around the world.

There will be those who will seek to divide the community but there is a need to ensure that community relations are strengthened so that we can collectively ensure that British society as a whole emerges from this turbulent time stronger in its moral and ethical fabric and able to lead the way in peaceful coexistence with mutual respect and understanding.

Commenting on this, Anas Altikriti, CEO of TCF said ‘We must, at all costs, avoid initiating a new era where recriminations and counter-recriminations coin West-Muslim relationships. If anything was learnt from the past decade, it is that violence begets violence and the cycle of bloodshed is virtually impossible to break. Western Muslims must join efforts with fellow country folk to reject policies which deem human lives dispensable and war an easily ready option.’

We at The Cordoba Foundation stand proud in our aspiration that different cultures, civilisations and, thoughts can thrive and strive for the common goal of understanding, respecting, accepting and celebrating diversity.

Burning the Myths about Islam

Burning the Myths about Islam

The recent violent protests in Afghanistan – a reaction to the burning of the Quran by a small church in the United States last month – recalled an inescapable reality.

Extremists on all sides – whether in free, democratic America, or in corrupt, occupied Afghanistan – create havoc and chaos, demonstrating the danger brought about by a deadly cocktail of ignorance and idiocy. Ultimately, they cause the deaths of innocent people.

Conversations in the Arab street are much more bold, brazen and uncaring about who might be eavesdropping. It’s simply a matter of time, but change is certainly now a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.

Once free, the Arab and Muslim nations will not resort to violence, extremism and isolationist practises, as some would like the world to think.

Please click here to read more

Press Release: Cordoba Foundation CEO visits Egypt for Explorator​y Mission

Press Release: Cordoba Foundation CEO visits Egypt for Explorator​y Mission

Anas Altikriti, Chief Executive of The Cordoba Foundation (TCF)  has arrived in Cairo today to conduct exploratory consultations with civil society and political leaders following the ousting of Hosni Mubarak as President of Egypt .

Commenting on his visit, Altikriti explains that “the mandate of The Cordoba Foundation amongst other things is to facilitate a space for people with opposing ideas to come and explore ways of working together.  We are hoping that we would be able to make constructive contributions in Egypt to help navigate Egyptian civil society to move forward towards a more stable future“.

TCF believes Egypt is facing a new and exciting future as a result of people’s power as recently evidenced in the streets of the country. “It is important that ordinary Egyptians are able to exercise their democratic rights, and determine their own future — free from external influences” added Altikriti.

The future of Egypt, like other countries where people are demanding an end to despotic rule and dictatorships, should foster political and religious pluralism to creating a more inclusive and cohesive society.

TCF will continue its dialogue with the main stakeholders involved in events unfolding in Egypt in order to ensure a peaceful outcome that meets people’s aspirations and ensures a smooth transition to a better and more human reality.

Press Release: Cordoba Foundation CEO visits Egypt for Explorator​y Mission

Press Release: Approaches to Tackling Terrorism and the Question of Multiculturalism

The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) welcomes the publication of ‘The Edge of Violence‘ by DEMOS, which suggests a ‘radical’ approach to tackling home grown terrorism.   The report which defines ‘radical’ as the ‘rejection of the status quo’ lays bare the myth that radicalisation is a linear path to violence and terrorism. As the report argues; ‘differentiating between types of radicalisation is extremely important because targeting the wrong people can breed resentment and alienation and erode the freedoms Western governments want to preserve’.

 

Using a combination of literature reviews and interviews across 5 countries (UK, Canada, Denmark, France and the Netherlands), the report seeks to cast light on how and why some types of radicalisation develop into violence and others do not; how the different types relate to each other and what implications this has for social and security policy.  The report comes up with the following 3 recommendations stakeholders will find useful in addressing the challenges in question: encouraging positive activism, demystifying and de-glamourising Al-Qaeda as a structure and an ideology and encouraging a greater role for the involvement of non-governmental actors.

 

Commenting on this, Anas Altikriti, Chief Executive of TCF said: “This report is timely because it reminds us of the key complex issues that we are facing.  Unfortunately, the discussions that have emerged from the weekend following David Cameron’s speech in Munich have been focused on one aspect: the failure of multiculturalism.  It is all very well to abrogate responsibility to a single issue, but the real issue is that problems are not one-dimensional and do not belong to just one community.  Social problems cannot be viewed through a security lens.  We welcome DEMOS’ recommendation in particular that space needs to be provided for discussions and dialogue to take place in order to counter some of the established narratives”.

 

TCF believes that the issues facing the Muslim communities – both internally and externally- are multi layered and replicated in other immigrant ethnic and faith communities and thus cannot simply be written off as a failure of multiculturalism. Adequate attention needs to be paid first to normalising social structures whilst at the same time providing a space for establishing dialogue and facilitating partnerships that will give communities the confidence they need to address their real concerns. This needs the involvement of all stakeholders in society without exception to ensure the promotion of respect, understanding and acceptance of diversity.

 

This is indeed the challenge for the Big Society to overcome.