Osama bin Laden’s legacy continues 20 years after 9/11

0


Two decades after the Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on American soil, and more than a decade after his death, Osama bin Laden remains at the heart of the global jihadist movement. Bin Laden’s image and speeches continue to feature regularly in jihadist propaganda. Members of Generation Z regularly swap memes who revere him as genuine, courageous and successful. As a symbol, it transcended the rivalry between al Qaeda and the Islamic State, serving as an icon for veteran jihadists as well as those new to the movement. Bin Laden’s appeal extends even beyond jihadists: it has often been acclaimed by violent far-right extremists, including white supremacists, neo-Nazis and so-called “accelerators.”

The main reason for Bin Laden’s continued resonance is also one of the most misunderstood factors of his success as al Qaeda leader: his cautious cultivation of a stoic and eloquent self-image. Unlike the gore and carnage fostered by the leaders of later terrorist groups such as the Islamic State, bin Laden focused on disseminating discreet images of himself. The images of bin Laden sitting in a cave wearing a camouflage jacket, AK-47 by his side, still convey a sense of confidence and leadership that few jihadist leaders have been able to replicate, including the current emir of Al- Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri. This distinct aesthetic legacy of Bin Laden, and the way he still shapes terrorism today, deserves far more attention than it has received in the West.

Bin Laden had a solid understanding of the importance of media and propaganda, once observing that “rhetoric and satellite propaganda can be on par with unmanned bombers and cruise missiles.” He was also always concerned about Al Qaeda’s disciplined messages and fully understood the importance of public relations.

Two decades after the Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on American soil, and more than a decade after his death, Osama bin Laden remains at the heart of the global jihadist movement. Bin Laden’s image and speeches continue to feature regularly in jihadist propaganda. Members of Generation Z regularly swap memes who revere him as genuine, courageous and successful. As a symbol, it transcended the rivalry between al Qaeda and the Islamic State, serving as an icon for veteran jihadists as well as those new to the movement. Bin Laden’s appeal extends even beyond jihadists: it has often been acclaimed by violent far-right extremists, including white supremacists, neo-Nazis and so-called “accelerators.”

The main reason for Bin Laden’s continued resonance is also one of the most misunderstood factors of his success as al Qaeda leader: his cautious cultivation of a stoic and eloquent self-image. Unlike the gore and carnage fostered by the leaders of later terrorist groups such as the Islamic State, bin Laden focused on disseminating discreet images of himself. The images of bin Laden sitting in a cave wearing a camouflage jacket, AK-47 by his side, still convey a sense of confidence and leadership that few jihadist leaders have been able to replicate, including the current emir of Al- Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri. This distinct aesthetic legacy of Bin Laden, and the way he still shapes terrorism today, deserves far more attention than it has received in the West.

Bin Laden had a solid understanding of the importance of media and propaganda, once observing that “rhetoric and satellite propaganda can be on par with unmanned bombers and cruise missiles.” He was also always concerned about Al Qaeda’s disciplined messages and fully understood the importance of public relations.

Nonetheless, Al Qaeda’s media campaigns struggled in the latter part of bin Laden’s tenure. Navigating the Arab Spring protests that began in 2011 has occupied bin Laden’s bandwidth and has led many to predict the demise of Al Qaeda as a result. Meanwhile, the Islamic State was in full swing, producing smoother and more sophisticated propaganda than that of Al Qaeda, evoking comparisons to big and luxury brands, Google and AOL. While ISIS tapped into the reach of social media, bin Laden’s al-Qaeda remained more comfortable with audiotapes and video messages tailored to an older population. Al-Qaeda was widely seen as a relic in the face of an aggressive attack by media-savvy jihadists broadcasting live life in their own caliphate.

But to blame Bin Laden for not having the technical skills of a millennium is to confuse the power of his message. Indeed, bin Laden’s sermons, in which he addressed issues such as the liberation of Palestine, the American occupation of Iraq, and the corruption of apostate governments and regimes in South Asia, North Africa and Middle East, have always been widely dispersed and effective at recruiting new members for al-Qaeda.

Its relative lack of technological sophistication may have even been a selling point. Bin Laden’s reputation for avoiding the comforts of creatures, even though he has inherited millions of dollars, and his stubborn commitment to jihad and al-Qaeda have made him a cult hero among the “Afghan Arabs” who follow. fought to expel the Soviets from Afghanistan in the 1980s. This reputation was cemented after 9/11 and continued to grow even after he was forced into hiding. Bin Laden’s relative asceticism, a common thread throughout his life, had always made him seem particularly attached to the jihadist cause.

In his speeches, Bin Laden addressed the global Muslim community directly (or uh), and have often sought to place the issues in their historical context, alluding to colonial-era injustices such as the Sykes-Picot Agreement. His fatwas have successfully portrayed local conflicts in parts of the Muslim world as interconnected and part of a global struggle between Islam and Western countries.

But a big reason Bin Laden remains relevant to contemporary generations of jihadists is that his political priorities were specific enough to inspire passion, but broad enough to transcend transient news cycles. The grievances highlighted by Bin Laden have still not been appeased. Even as the United States takes steps to reduce its military footprint in the region (a development that Al Qaeda has already captured in its propaganda), Washington’s support for “apostate regimes” in Egypt and Saudi Arabia remains. . This lends even more credibility to Bin Laden’s message and plays into the hands of those who stir up the grievances of young Muslims sympathetic to the messages of the jihadists. Moreover, as the recent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians revealed in May, the issue of Jerusalem and the Israeli occupation of Arab lands concerns Muslims in Mecca, Minnesota.

If al Qaeda continues to benefit from bin Laden’s vast treasure trove of audiotapes, videos and sermons, it can preserve its legacy for future generations. He’s already an icon on social media, with a range of new content specifically dedicated to the relevance of his legacy to the next generation. Given that al-Qaeda today has between 30,000 and 40,000 members worldwide, it seems clear that, as Bruce Hoffman and Jacob Ware recently stated, to inspire a new generation to take up arms in a war he first proclaimed 24 years ago, even before many of these latest recruits were born. For these young recruits, Bin Laden remains at the forefront of the jihadist pantheon, first among his peers in the history of the Al-Qaeda tradition.

With the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, it is possible that the country will once again become Al-Qaeda’s main base of operations. The organization could see Afghanistan as a golden opportunity to use Bin Laden’s legacy to inspire foreign fighters to join Al Qaeda’s ranks. Bin Laden’s story began in Afghanistan, and Afghanistan was the base from which September 11 was organized. The US pullout comes on the 20th anniversary of the attacks, providing al-Qaeda with a Hollywood-style opportunity to win a propaganda victory, inspiring and mobilizing young recruits to carry on Bin Laden’s legacy at its base. ‘original operations.

It’s no secret that al-Zawahiri fought to catalyze the next generation of al-Qaeda infantry. The septuagenarian is notoriously interminable, and his sermons are considered phlegmatic and uninteresting. Hamza bin Laden, Osama’s son who was prepared to potentially lead the group one day, was killed, as was longtime Al Qaeda veteran Abu Muhammad al-Masri. Saif al-Adel assuming leadership of the organization as Zawahiri’s successor is a safe bet, but not very inspiring for the younger generation.

There is a good chance that bin Laden will continue to encourage young Muslims to take up arms in the name of Al Qaeda. He viewed propaganda not only as a means to recruit new members, but also to sow fear in the Western public and to explain Al Qaeda’s main grievances. The upcoming 20th anniversary of September 11 will put bin Laden back in the spotlight, carefully protecting and enhancing his image, and providing al-Qaeda with the opportunity to promote its legacy to the next generation of so-called jihadists.



Share.

About Author

Leave A Reply