[FORUM]Listen to Al Qaeda’s warningsAl Qaeda uses passionate rhetoric. The pan-Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera broadcasted the demagoguery of Al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri on Aug. 4. He said, “Nations of the crusader alliance, we asked that you get your hands off the Muslims, and we and the lion of Islam, the fighter Sheik Osama bin Laden, God preserve him, offered you a truce on condition that you withdraw from the house of Islam immediately. ... But you foolishly didn’t withdraw from our land and spilled blood like rivers in our countries. So we exploded the volcanoes of wrath in your countries.”
The videotape was made immediately after the July 7 bombing attacks in London. Mr. Al-Zawahiri argued that the bloody revenge was done because the allied nations ignored the warning to leave the Islamic world. The statement does not include a direct claim that Al Qaeda carried out the suicide attacks. However, he boasted that the organization was behind the terrorists associated with the London bombings.
Osama bin Laden is referred as a “lion,” a symbol of Islamic bravery. A mention of his name is immediately followed by a blessing, “God preserve him.” Mr. bin Laden is treated almost as a saint.
We need to pay attention to his historic perspective because that he called the United States, Great Britain and other nations participating in the war against Iraq “nations of the crusader alliance.” Al Qaeda considers the current situation an extension of the Crusades from the medieval times. Christianity has invaded the land of Islam, and it is the duty of Muslims to fight a jihad to drive the Crusaders away. It is a religious war that goes back a millennium.
“Our message is clear, obvious and decisive: There is no escape for you unless you withdraw from our land, unless you stop stealing our oil and wealth and stop supporting the corrupt rulers.”
Salvation is the ultimate prayer of the Christians and Muslims alike. Al Qaeda has proposed three guidelines for it. First, Mr. al-Zawahiri ordered the non-Muslims to withdraw from their land. The most precious land of Islam is Saudi Arabia, a country of two most significant Islamic sites, Mecca and Medina. The Prophet Mohammed was born and received the first revelation in Saudi Arabia. When the prophet was persecuted in Mecca, he and his followers migrated to Medina. After the Hijra, or flight, Mohammed drafted the Medina Charter and created an Islamic community.
The direct cause that made Osama bin Laden declare a war against “Crusaders” was the presence of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia. Since the first Gulf War in 1990, the U.S. military has been stationed in the country. The second demand, to stop stealing the oil, is a nationalistic one.
Lastly, Mr. al-Zawahiri called the pro-American governments in the Middle East “the corrupt rulers.” He claimed that corrupt royal families were oppressing innocent Muslim citizens. He was propagating Islamic equality.
It might have been not only because of the threats from Mr. al- Zawahiri, but the United States closed its diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia for two days on Aug. 8 and 9. Great Britain and Australia told their citizens to avoid travel to Saudi Arabia as they had reports that militants were planning attacks in the region.
“What you have seen in New York and Washington, you Americans, and the losses you see in Afghanistan and Iraq are merely the losses from the initial clashes. If you go on with the same policy of aggression against Muslims, you will see, God willing, horrible things that will turn Vietnam pale. ... As was the case during the Vietnam War, Bush, Rice and Rumsfeld are lying to you, Americans! If you don’t leave today, certainly you will leave tomorrow. But one day’s delay will cost you thousands of lives.
The Al Qaeda No. 2 reminded Americans of the 9/11 terror attacks in New York and Washington. And then, he mentioned the increasing casualties of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Then he threatened that the losses so far were merely a “beginning” of even bigger catastrophe. He warned of “horrible things” in the name of their god, Allah. He did not forget to compare the situation of the U.S. forces in Iraq struggling against the resistance of militant rebellions with the nightmare of Vietnam.
Since the 9/11 attacks, the Al Qaeda organization has virtually been wrecked by the two wars and a large-scale raids by the Pakistani government. Nevertheless, Al Qaeda still controls the spiritual world of Muslim terrorists. “Al-Qaedaism” is an ideology.
It seems that the collision between civilizations, religions or different ideologies cannot immediately be resolved by guns and swords.
* The writer is the international news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Oh Byung-sang