Bin Laden’s Death: Reaction around the world and in Azerbaijan

Baku Yesterday: Bin Laden? Bin Laden who?It would be comforting to think that across the world there is universal joy at the death of Osama Bin Laden but judging from comments from politicians and others in Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Yemen and the Lebanon that is not the case. Most striking was this comment from Mohammad in Yemen. “If Osama Bin Laden has really died and they killed him as they claim, a thousand Osama Bin Laden will appear, God willing.”

That of course is the fear, that the demise of Bin Laden will inspire many already radicalized Muslims to plan more attacks upon American and Western targets.

Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas administration in Gaza Strip has already stated that “we condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior. We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood”.

More worrying Mahmud Ezzat, deputy leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood [tipped to gain power in the forthcoming Presidential Elections] has said that with Bin Laden’s dead, Western forces should now pull out of Iraq and Afganistan. Tareq al-Zumar of Egypt’s Islamist group al-Gama’a al-Islamiya, which took up arms against the state in the 1990’s has been quoted as saying “Bin Laden will become a symbol of resistance to occupation… The U.S. killing of Bin Laden will undoubtedly galvanize reaction and retaliation attempts.”

On the streets, the reaction has been stronger. “Bin Laden defended the dignity of Muslims and now the U.S. and the West will answer for their occupation,” said Egyptian Abdullah Ali, a Salafist taxi driver in his 60s. Meanwhile Omar Bakri a Lebanese Sunni cleric, mourned bin Laden as a martyr. “His martyrdom will give momentum to a large generation of believers and jihadists. Al Qaeda is not a political party, it is a jihadist movement. Al Qaeda does not end with the death of a leader.”

The immediate reaction of the American Government has been to issue a warning to citizens living oversea to be cautious and ever vigilant but as we all know, waiting for the lights to turn green before crossing the road, won’t stop a piano falling on your head…

Here in Azerbaijan, reaction had been far more muted. I asked several American friends to let me know the reaction of people they came into contact with. They told me that for the most part, people didn’t mention it or said “congratulations” and moved on. The most interesting comment however was the following:

“I’ve asked one person about it, a guy who has a thoughtful disposition, and the only thing that came of it was that he said America has killed its own, referring to the 1980s when we [the US] were supplying Osama in Afghanistan against the Soviets.  Then he said that if he was the American President, he would probably act the same way”.

So there you have it. Radicalized Muslims will take the death of Bin Laden as call to arms but here in Azerbaijan, where perhaps only 5% of the community are practicing Muslims the news was greeted with a shrug as the world continues to spin on its axis…


About stevehollier

Steve Hollier is the editor of AZ Magazine, an English language lifestyle magazine based in Baku, Azerbaijan. He began his career working for a firm of stockbrokers in the City of London then went on to attend the University of Essex where he was awarded an MA in Sociology in 1984. After a career in arts and cultural development work, he became a freelance arts consultant, writer and photographer.
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11 Responses to Bin Laden’s Death: Reaction around the world and in Azerbaijan

  1. Kerahdah says:

    You know Steve, people seem to forget all the relevant facts where Bin Laden is concerned, or any other known terrorist with Islamic roots is concerned. Bin Laden came to dramatic prominence with 9/11, and while such an atrocity should be condemned, consider the following.
    Bin Laden was America’s MAN in Afganistan, during the Soviet occupation of that country during the ’60’s. I don’t know if you are old enough to remember that. He was trained by the US and armed by them. They latest Stinger missiles at the time were also supplied to the Mujehadin to use against the Soviets, and Bin Laden was a prominent figure amongst the Mujehadin. He did not suddenly wake up one bright and sunny morning and pick the US as a legitimate target! Why do you think he did that, and at the same time exposed the fragility of the USA’s borders?
    The USA has for decades, and still is involved in an internationally recognized illegal programme of invasions. It invades foreign countries under all kinds of phoney pretexts. Iraq, Afganistan, Pakistan, are all recent examples of that programme.
    What is the result of such illegal programmes? The USA leaves in it’s wakes, destroyed countries, communities, and thousands of locals dead and maimed, destroyed infrastructure, and economies. Iraq’s cultural treasure were looted during the invasion and forms part of collections of antiquity in the USA. If you were a survivor, or a member of a family who suffered as a result of such illegal bombings and ‘terror’ attacks, what would your response be? Would you be angry, would you be annoyed, would you want to take up arms?
    That is exactly what radicalised youth in those countries are doing. The USA does not go into countries for humanitarian reasons, it never has and never will! They always embark on military actions for their own benefit. When the USA constructed military bases in Saudie Arabia, the country that contains the most sacred Islamic sites of pilgrimage, Bin Laden finally realized that the USA was no friend of the Arab world. Evidence of that has been revealed with the eruptions in the Middle East, and the double standards employed by the USA in the region for its own agenda.
    So, when you think of 9/11 consider where the conflagration started, and who started it. We have a tit-for-tat situation between America and the Islamic world. Islamic terrorists are rightfully blamed and condemned for terrorism, but who points fingers at American terrorism? To the world America comes across as a victim and not an aggressor. So, while you rejoice in the killing on Bin Laden, in a sovereign state, do you also, at the same time condemn America military intervention that leaves thousands dead and maimed, based on unsustainable and unsubstantiated reasons? Because if you do not, then you too espouse double standards! Ethics and morality cut both ways, because it is universal regardless of religion. I do not espouse the use of terror or aggression as legitimate methods for resolving political differences or issues. But I cannot be one-sided when it comes to applying ethics and morality. The latter is the focus of my academic agenda, so I could never see only one side in an issue such as important as this.

  2. stevehollier says:

    Thank you for your comments, John. I agree with much of what you say but it was in 1979 not the 1960’s that the US as part of its Cold War strategy, started providing financial and military support to the Mujahideen.

    During the 1960’s both the US and Soviet Union vied with each other for influence over Afghan regime, building roads, airports and other bits of infrastructure. By the late 1970’s the Communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan staged a coupe and managed to take over control of the government.

    The majority of the Afghani people were pawns in an international game. The US government was cynical in their use of Afghani tribespeople as proxies in their fight against Communism. As House of Representative member Charlie Wilson said at the time, “the U.S. had nothing whatsoever to do with these people’s decision to fight … but we’ll be damned by history if we let them fight with stones.” Anyway, you are right to imply that at the end of the day, the US created the environment that allowed Bin Laden to thrive.

    I do not personally rub my hands in glee that Bin Laden is dead but stand by the suggestion that it would be comforting if there were universal joy at the news of his demise. Unfortunately that is not the case and we will all be carrying the can for poor political decisions and West’s unquenchable appetite for oil and other minerals.

    I remember being swayed by an argument put to me some years ago about the logic of being a suicide bomber. My friend said “if you have lost everything but believe in God and heaven, becoming a suicide bomber makes a lot of sense”. I don’t believe in God however and I certainly don’t believe in killing myself and others to make a political statement.

    I also don’t believe that the situation we are in is “tit-for-tat”. There are two very different ideologies going head-to-head here, both of whom assume that God is on their side.

    Finally, I do try to be balanced in my views on this matter and do not think I portray the US as the “victim” and Islam the “aggressor”.

  3. Kerahdah says:

    By the way, suicide bombings is un-Islamic. The Qu’aran forbids suicide. So any Muslim who uses suicide as a methodology, regardless of the cause, is not a true Muslim, which begs the question; ‘why do Islamists approve of suicide bombings? If they’re trying to secure a place in ‘heaven’ they’re going about it in the wrong way!

  4. Kerahdah says:

    If you take religion and God out of the equation then you do have an ideological tit-for-tat, which manifests itself in aggression and counter aggression, neither of which is defensible. Long before the phenomenon of Islamic terrorists in international politics, the USA was embroiled in its expansionist programme. Eisenhower spoke out loudly against the folly of such a foreign policy.
    The issue of religion is a red herring. Consider another Middle Eastern issue; the creation of the state of Israel. Israelis want the Palestinians to recognize the statehood of Israel.
    How do you recognize a de facto illegally created state. UN approval of the state of Israel does not grant it legality. Israeli academic Professor Sholom Sand,Historian at the University of Tel Aviv, no less, in his seminal work titled “The Invention of the Jewish People”, provides ample evidence, supported by fellow Jewish scholars, going back many years, that Israel has no historic or biblical claim to the territory known as Israel. So, if the Israelis know this, do you think that the Arab world does not? Which begs the question; ‘why expect the Palestinians to recognize the state of Israel? Do you see how easy it is for sustainable evidence of history to be ignored in the bigger picture of modern-day colonisation? And America is a modern-day coloniser, whether we like it or not, admit it or not. It does so via the monetary system at work in the world. but that is about to end in roughly three years time, based purely on statistics. During the week an America academic stated that America spends its GDP on making and fighting wars. It is a warlike nation, while China spends its GDP developing its economy. Hence the disparity in annual growth rates. And the American war machine like it’s economy runs on oil (Mostly Arab oil).

  5. stevehollier says:

    A lot of points there, John and I won’t be able to address them all in this comment but here are a few additional thoughts that come into my mind.

    I don’t see the validity in the claim made by early Zionists, “to a people without a land, a land without a people”. It ignored the fact that of the two million people living in Palestine in 1948, nearly 70% were Arabs. To claim as theirs a land they ruled more than 2,000 years ago, is like the present day Welsh claiming England as their rightful homeland because they were driven out of it by invading Romans.

    Possession as it is said, is nine-tenths of the law. I know this because my father’s country Cyprus, is [or at least 37% is] occupied by Turkey. They won’t be moving out any time soon. The country I live in Azerbaijan, is also suffering occupation in part by Armenia. Neither of these occupations are “legal” but unless you are up for bloody conflicts, it is up to the rest of us to come to some accommodation with the occupying states. What would you do with the Israelis, drive them into the sea?

    Americans I have been in conversation with in the past have on several occasions boasted to me that unlike the British, they have never had an empire. Well, it all depends what you call an empire. International loans to countries that can never pay them back, political and military “advisors” and the development of neo-colonialism through trade and business deals have given the US all the advantages of an empire without the troublesome requirement to rule a string of colonies. Like you say however, China is now in the ascendant and more countries [and continents like Africa] are coming under the influence of that Asian economic powerhouse.

    I for one want to see the US continue to have a leading role on the world stage but not through foreign adventures in the guise of keeping the world free for democracy.

  6. Kerahdah says:

    Thank you Steve. Atleast we’re moving towards a point of confluence with regard to history, and the history of colonisation, and colonisation in a modern guise. What to do about the Israeli? No, driving them into the sea serves no real purpose at all. The only option is a peace settlement based on equality and egalitarianism, with an unqualified franchise. The present situation where the construction of new settlements in the face of countless UN Resolutions, is clearly counter-productive. But the Israelis are working on the premise that if they go far enough, there will be nothing that can be reversed, which is a dangerous game to play considering that historically speaking, countless Jewish settlement and communities have been conquered and destroyed through the ages. The modern state of Israel is no exception. Powerful civilizations have been destroyed and have imploded before, and you have to take cognizance of the fact that human beings have not learnt from history. The various cycles merely repeat themselves. Even the mighty USA is imploding at the moment, and that mostly because its moral and ethical standards have been eroded by a rationalist approach.
    As that continues to destroy the fabric of the nation, more powerful nations will fill the void. The sad fact of the matter is that Americans themselves refuse to see the writing on the wall. The mighty military and the country are seen as indestructable. It took a handful of terrorists to dispel that myth. What the world needs is a second equally powerful world power to counter the adventures of the USA. During the Cold War years, and the days of the Soviet Union, each side would have hesitated to engage in projects such as the ones the USA does these days. It acts with impunity, and assumes carte blanche, in its approach to the international community. I find it macabre that a country that happens to be so deeply in debt to the Chinese, and certain Arab states, should behave in such an arrogant fashion. It does not even have the money to back its swagger in the world. How’s that for a materialist state. I take it that is the same one you would like to see continue to have a leading role in the world? How does it lead, on what principles, morals, ethics, what kind of international role model is it?. It is not even a true democracy, and yet it preaches to the rest of the world?

    • Xarici says:

      Where did all this talk about morality come in? The point of the original post was to point out how the death of bin Laden could negatively affect US Arab relations. What is with the history lesson rant?

  7. Kerahdah says:

    Xarici you can say what you like. Freedom of expression is not defined for me by what others would like to hear. If Steve feels that he would rather not respond to anything, then he has the right to say so. And you have the right to stick your opinions up your rear end if you so wish. That’s your right. I don’t really give a continental whether you do or not. Maybe you should try to read what people are saying, and why. I’m assuming, of course, that you can.

  8. Kerahdah says:

    Steve, a question. How many deaths were Bin Laden responsible for? A rough guestimate would do. Then the other question. How many Native American Indians were killed in the genocide committed by Americans in order to steal the land? It’s just a questions that comes to mind in the context of Bin Laden, his death, and his campaign against the USA etc. Of course, the Native American Indians were not Muslims, so, maybe the term genocide become academic, or incidental! What do you say?. Since Xarici is so concerned about the potential repurcussions of Bin Laden’s killing, it might be worth looking at the wider picture in order to balance everything out at a discursive level.

  9. stevehollier says:

    Well John, it all depends on what you mean by “responsible for”. I have no idea how many people Osama Bin Laden killed himself, perhaps none but al-Qaeda and groups inspired by him have been responsible for many thousands. These would include:

    Russians killed in Afghanistan from 1979 onwards.
    Perhaps one could include Afghanistani people killed by the Mujahideen, although they were not al-Qaeda.

    Those killed at the
    World Trade Centre.
    Beslan school hostage crisis
    US embassy bombing in Kenya
    Bali bombings
    Sundry attacks in Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea, Istanbul, Kashmir, London, Madrid
    etc. All in all I would estimate between 20,000 and 50,000.

    Native Americans killed? David Cesarani states that “in terms of the sheer numbers killed, the Native American Genocide exceeds that of the Holocaust” W.W. Norton. David Cesarani, Holocaust: Critical Concepts in Historical Studies, Routledge, 2004. (p. 381)

  10. Kerahdah says:

    My point exactly. One needs to put all the known facts into perspective and ask the relevant and appropriate questions. If the USA persists with its present crusade, then, of course, there will be repercussions. But people seldom look at both sides. They champion the cause of their favourite, unsubstantiated by reliable factual information. I have seldom seen any criticism, by any sane unbiased people who put the facts into perspective, where the USA is concerned. All the emotional hype serves no purpose at all. America’s agenda against ‘terror’ is also predicated on false information.
    Operations in sovereign states have become part of the new, revised, rationalised morality and ethics. They keep moving the bar, and people keep falling for and accepting rationalised principles and values. The current generation of Americans approve of extra judicial means as solutions, forgetting that once the fabric of society is unravelled, you no longer have a nation based on values. And in the rest of the world, the same is happening. You, for instance see the USA as a leading nation in the world. What you base that on, I am not quite sure. I prefer looking at behaviour rather than meaningless mouthings about morality. And if you see the USA as a legitimate leader into the future, then what kind of values do you espouse? You have to practice what you preach! The USA, clearly does not see value in simple statement. Torture, for instance, is a primitive practice, that belongs in the annals of medieval times, and yet, its use, to-day is being rationalised, accepted, and approved! So, who does the USA preach to?. It certainly does not occupy the moral high ground, and on what basis does it fight ‘terrorism’, when, in fact, it is in the business of engaging in terror itself?

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