Bin Laden’s ideology lives on
As a terrorist group, Al Qaeda is a resilient global organization whose life does not depend on the life of its leaders.
MANILA, Philippines – Osama bin Laden’s confirmed death is a great blow to Al Qaeda and its purported followers worldwide.
But bin Laden is not the only person who founded Al Qaeda and masterminded many terrorist attacks, including the September 11, 2001 attacks on the twin tower in New York City.
Bin Laden is the strong persona of a violent extremist ideology of Al Qaedaism that declares war against what it calls the “infidel” United States. He personifies the idea of contemporary Wahhabism, a Salafi brand of Islam. Some of its followers espouse violent jihad that can take the form of what is popularly known as terrorism.
US President Barrack Obama describes the death of bin Laden as “the most significant achievement to date” in defeating al Qaeda. President Obama stressed that “his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.”
While the world celebrates the death of bin Laden, there are followers who mourn the loss of their idol and global leader. These followers have the intent and capability to pursue retaliatory attacks to avenge the death of their global icon. President Obama even admits that bin Laden’s death “does not mark the end” of global counter-terrorism efforts and that “al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks”. Thus, President Obama underscored ,“we must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad.”
It is currently argued that Al Qaeda’s Number Two man, Ayman al-Zawahri, will likely take the place of bin Laden.
Egyptian in origin, al-Zawahri is a surgeon in profession who adheres to militant Islamic jihad and is willing to continue the fight of bin Laden. Thus, the end of Bin Laden does not mean the end of Al Qaeda and the ideology.
Osama bin Laden is dead! But what’s in it for the Philippines?
It is already a public knowledge that the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) has been linked with Al-Qaeda. In the 1990s, bin Laden sent to the Philippines his brother-in-law, Mohammad Jamal Khalifa, to establish this link. Since the launching of the global war on terrorism in 2001, in which the Philippines was loosely labeled as the “second front,” this link is believed to have been weakened but not totally eliminated.
Khalifa founded in the late early 1990s the now defunct Islamic School, the Darul Imam Shafee (DIS), which trained more than 100 Muslim militants in the Philippines. Most of his students have joined the ASG.
Yassir Igasan, the rumored Amir of ASG based now in Sulu, was trained by Khalifa in DIS. Igasan upholds the Wahhabi ideology of bin Laden whose death will surely have enormous emotional impact on him and his few Muslim followers in the Mindanao. These followers have the intent and capability to mount retaliatory attacks, which the Philippine law enforcement authorities should prevent.
As a terrorist group, Al Qaeda is a resilient global organization whose life does not depend on the life of its leaders. Its complex network of relationships with other likeminded organizations worldwide provides the life support for Al Qaeda.
As a resilient terrorist organization, Al Qaeda learns not only from its mistakes and setbacks but also from its achievements and victories.
Bin Laden is dead. But the ideology of Al Qaedaism that he founded lives on. This ideology, in fact, has already immortalized him even before he was killed. This ideology is considered omniscient by believers, and this ideological omniscience provides the resilience of Al Qaeda.
With the death of Bin Laden, there is no doubt that Al Qaeda will never be the same.
But Al Qaeda has the capacity to innovate like other international terrorist organizations.
To keep the organization alive despite the setback of bin Laden’s death, Al Qaeda will now study how to move on in a post-bin Laden era.
Without bin Laden, Al Qaeda can still actively operate as the clandestine network he established has not been totally eliminated. Al Qaeda can even mutate into a new form that can change the nature of contemporary global terrorist threats.
The Philippines, being affected by the threat of Al Qaeda, can join the whole world in celebrating the death of a man that gave terrorism a new face. At the same time, there are a few Moros who mourn the death of what they call their global ideological beacon.
The challenge to Philippine law enforcement authorities is to prevent those who mourn from translating their remorse into actual terrorist attacks.
The author is the Executive Director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research
(PIPVTR) and author of the book, Philippine Security in the Age of Terror published in 2010 by CRC Press/Taylor and Francis, New York City.
TAGS: , Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Al-Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), Mohammad Jamal Khalifa, Osama Bin Laden