With or without Bin Laden

Published: May 9, 2011

Political participation and education may be of greater value than just ridding the world of Bin Laden.

Osama bin Laden may have died on May 2, 2011, but his relevance to global jihad and war against terror had ceased the day al Qaeda got its first recruits.

Today, not only the graduates of religious seminaries, but also the urban middle class youth in Pakistan and most Middle Eastern countries is steeped in radical ideas and us-against-them thinking.

This, more than the hunt for Osama, should have been the cause of concern for the Coalition of the willing.

With Osama gone, they’ll have Ayman al Zawahiri and after him, someone else. The top slots on their list of most-wanted men will never stay vacant. They’ll keep hunting them down, only to find hundreds more making it to the battlefields and thousands of sympathisers in the educated middle class.

The believer/non-believer duality is espoused by all belief systems in the world. Their scriptures may otherwise stand for peace and coexistence, yet when exposed to political and economic realities, their fault lines often trigger violent conflicts with their end point perceived by both sides as a zero-sum outcome.

This is not to suggest that coexistence is not an option, but to bring home a realisation that the fault lines that have unleashed the jihad enterprise (and the subsequent war-against-terror) are more concrete than shared human values of democracy, liberty, equality and justice.

So, ‘with or without Bin Laden’ should never have been the yardstick for war against terror.  Political participation and an education that helped men unlearn the national and religious biases they imbibed in schools and through their upbringing may have been of greater value. Such an approach would have helped kill the underlying causes that make people like Faisal Shahzad pick up arms and shun debate.

People of other faiths have also had their versions of Jamaatud Dawas and Jamaat-e-Islamis, they’re not just inherent to Muslims. The difference, I believe, is in the democratic traditions and states ability to stay independent of such groups. These two factors have let hardliners contest for power through ballot and not bullet. More importantly, these have let commoners vote these hardliners out.

The seminaries will otherwise continue to churn out foot soldiers for organisations like al Qaeda, and the urban middle class will keep providing legitimacy to its holy war.


Umair Rasheed

Works at the Lahore desk of The Express Tribune and tweets @umairrasheed1

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Tweety

    Great article Mr. Rasheed!Recommend

  • NO JOY

    sorry Mr Rashid ,but I find this article to be a lame attempt,at the defense of those zealots,who according to you have been parted away from EDUCATION and POLITICAL PARTICIPATION.Most subalterns of this Jihad mechanisms are well Educated,eg Faisal Shehzad,and were not economically or politically abandoned.some of them reaped all the benefits provided by an adopted nation and,chose to pay back in such a heinous way.in fact education and economical well being seems to rein-force their already present grotesque mentality.To search the roots of jihad and terrorism in political and economical injustices is absolute insanity.To say that death of OBL has no significance on world affairs is an understatement,rather naivety.
    again I find a strange tone in many Pakistani authors works,including you which emphasizes on the futility of OBLs killing.To let live a mass murderer,only because killing him might arouse some other nut-jobs to take his path,is only appeasement which definitely has worse consequences.Pakistan has become the factory of worlds terrorists/jehadis,not due the lack of education,or political opportunities.there are many countries who are a better candidates,for this post if we go by this logic.Burma,N. Korea, almost whole of Africa some Latin american countries and many other Asian countries.as compared to them Pakistan is better placed.but still it provides a conducive environment to all trouble makers of the world.when we start searching for silly ifs and buts for avoiding wholehearted criticism of such a heinous crime as terrorism,we are heading towards a disaster,which Pakistan has become for sure.mixing religion into every sphere of life,has off late proved disastrous for this hapless nation.Religion is becoming less and less important day by day for all the forward looking societies who are doing excellent in every conceivable fields of life but the Pakistani society seems to be going backwards,and undoing all the efforts of their previous generations.Deciphering the intricate language of religion,by ones own whims and fancies and inability to separate worldly from godly affairs is the direct consequence of this overdose of religion,and main cause of wholesale destruction of the fabric of once vibrant Pakistani society IMHO.Recommend

  • Pweety

    Nice read!
    helped me understand some of the ‘izms’ in the world we live in.
    Good Job!Recommend

  • Khalid Rahim

    All these articles that I read daily about terrorism, terrorists and who,why, when and where
    we are heading to? Reminds me to read the Nursery Rhymes fit those charactersw with the
    episodes that keep taking place daily in our lives.
    Your article will only have its impact when people do not read it for sake of reading or tell
    their neighbor or adult children, this article is great unless it is debated on the dining table.Recommend

  • Shweety

    What is this islamizm? I dOn’t uNdeRStandRecommend

  • SPweety

    I totally agree with the writer. Terrorists (like the ones pictured above) should move from extremism and islamism towards liberalism. Also instead of covering their faces with black scarfs, they should wear bandana’s and switch to pink trousers Recommend

  • UltraPweety

    “The believer/non-believer duality is espoused by all belief systems in the world. Their scriptures may otherwise stand for peace and coexistence, yet when exposed to political and economic realities, their fault lines often trigger violent conflicts with their end point perceived by both sides as a zero-sum outcome.”
    Brilliantly put!Recommend

  • Crooked Fingers

    Brilliant incision into the workings of various terrorist groups…its like having crooked fingers…with or without bin laden there’s always going to be somebody to be hunted!Recommend