The legacy of Osama bin Laden

The legacy of Osama bin Laden
Comment: Al-Qaeda's former leader was killed four years ago, but his influence still lingers, says Angela Lano.
3 min read
05 May, 2015
Osama Bin Laden remains adored by many in the poorest parts of the world [Getty]

On 2 May, 2011, the founder and leader of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, was shot dead by US special forces at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

After the body was identified, bin Laden was buried at sea, ostensibly in accordance with Islamic law. Al-Qaeda confirmed Bin Laden's death a few days later.

Riches to riches

Born in 1957 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to a wealthy family, Bin Laden joined the Afghan mujahideen forces who were fighting Soviet troops in the country.

As a wealthy man and with powerful friends in the Arab world, Bin Laden helped support the muhajideen with funding, arms and finding recruits from across the Muslim and Arab world.

In 1988, he formed al-Qaeda, a militant organisation based on the fundamentalist Wahhabi doctrine, which later transformed into a network dedicated to fighting the West.

Their anger grew as US forces were stationed in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War in 1991, the site of the two holiest sites in Islam.

As Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan, al-Qaeda became internationalised and its militants were redeployed to different parts of the world.

While many of the oppressed and deprived in Africa and Asia view Bin Laden as a hero, fighting western imperialism.

Others saw him as an ally or agent of US imperialist interests.

"The Islamic 'jihad' was supported by the United States and Saudi Arabia… backed by Pakistan's military intelligence (ISI) which in turn was controlled by the CIA, the Taliban Islamic State was largely serving American geopolitical interests," wrote Michel Chosudovsky, a Canadian professor, in the article Who is Osama Bin Laden?

He even went to suggest that the al-Qaeda attacks of 9/11, meant that the militant organisation and its leader were useful assets for US Middle East foreign policies.

What next?

But the death of Bin Laden didn't represent the end for jihadi ideology.

Al-Qaeda's new leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is pursuing objectives that would see the militants expand into new areas.

A "branch" was opened in India in September 2014.

In a video that announced the launch of the group, Zawahiri launched an appeal to all Indian Muslims "to join the jihad in order to unify the Islamic world against the enemy, liberate the occupied lands and establish the Caliphate".

Al-Qaeda’s ideology has inspired other jihadi organisations, including the Islamic State group, who have expanded their "franchise" to Africa and other parts of the Middle East.

Alain Gresh wrote in the April edition of Le Monde Diplomatique, to end terrorism it is necessary for the United States and its allies to reflect on their policies in Africa and Asia. 

This, the Palestinian question, Israel's actions, and the constant humiliation of Muslims need to be tackled.

Otherwise, the fight against al-Qaeda and IS will only give these militant greater visibility and success.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.