Thursday, 25 October 2007


Correcting for the cut-and-paste version of the Bin Laden talk

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It's now clear that the brief taped material broadcast Monday by
AlJazeera (the basis for the prior post here) was a cut-and-paste
from a longer, 33-minute audio tape,
which was released on the Internet by the AQ media arm Al-Sahab
today, Tuesday, with English subtitles, along with a bitter
complaint from Al-Sahab
about the distortions in what AlJazeera presented on Monday. And it
seems they have a point.

The first eight minutes or so of the full tape are devoted to praise
of the Iraqis for their exploits and their courage in fighting the
occupier. This is followed by a thumbnail outline of the geo-
politics of the AQ-jihadi struggle. "The map of the region will be
redrawn," says BL, "at the hands of the mujahideen, and the
artificial borders placed by the Crusaders will be erased, for the
state of truth and justice to be established..." a project that is
being thwarted by enemies global and local, for instance the Taliban
government was toppled in Afghanistan, and in Sudan, where the
president declared that he planned to apply Islamic Shariah, "the
governor of Riyadh again sought to convince the Sudanese president
this time to implement the demands of the atheist United Nations, to
allow the entrance of Crusader forces to Darfur." This is something
that places an obligation of jihad on people both in Sudan, and in
the Arabian Peninsula as well. Bin Laden says: "I mention these
events to remind you (Iraqis) of the full size and weight of the
responsibilities placed on your shoulders, and of the full magnitude
of the conspiracies being hatched against you." In other words, BL's
point is to place Iraq in the context of the struggle for Islamic
justice regardless of existing national borders.

And it is at that point that he raises the problem of unity in the
ranks. There is a duty to unify the ranks, and there is a duty
on "sincere people of knowledge and virtue" to promote that. There
isn't any hint or any suggestion that this involves any thought of
unity between AQ and any nationalist-oriented group or groups. On
the contrary, he has just devoted a lot of time to explaining the
whole struggle in uncompromising terms of transnational Islamic
justice. Moreover, when it comes to his "advice", he talks about
the "mistakes that take place between brothers," and he talks about
the need to refer all disputes to judgment according to Islamic law
administered by men of knowlege and virtue, "for it is there that
claims are sorted out and proof is presented... and the two
disputing parties must respond to those sincere men of knowledge
calling for reform." All of which suggests it would be quite a
stretch to think that BL is raising this "unity in the ranks" issue
by way of looking to reconcile with any of the groups that aren't
already of the ideologically AQ-oriented persuasion. Rather in the
full context it reads more like a call to order respecting internal

Moreover, the section on avoiding "taassub", which was the lead
section in the AlJazeera presentation, follows the above exhortation
to settle disputes with due Islamic-law process, and here likewise
there isn't any actual indication that he means his denunciation
of "fanatical partiality" as implying any hint of criticism of the
concept behind the Islamic State of Iraq. There isn't any explicit
reference to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, so it isn't possible to exclude
the idea that he could be one of the leaders in whom BL sees the
danger of people taking his orders as infallible, but there isn't
any hint in that direction either. The Al-Sahab subtitle writer
quotes Bin Laden at this point as saying "Beware of fanatical
partiality to men, groups, and homelands. Truth is what God and the
Messenger have said...The brotherhood of faith is what ties Muslims
together..." And he does end the "A is more important that B" series
with "The ummah is prior to the [Islamic] state," so theoretically,
there could be a suggestion that he is reminding AQ members that
even the leader of the "state" has to be assessed according to law.
But the main scriptural citations are to strict application of the
law generally, without any hints about current circumstances, and
then this: "And even worse than that (doing something generally
unlawful just because it is ordered by the group's leader) is when
his group and its commander embark on the greatest of cardinal sins
and order him to embark on them, like entering the polytheistic
parliaments...and electing its members [because government is from
God not from men]. I advise myself any my brothers to be pious and
patient, for that is the provision and weapon of he who hopes for
victory." So the one specific example is in the opposite direction
to that of inter-group reconciliation: it is a denunciation of
backsliding against his view of Islamic law.

Finally, the "beware of hypocrites" section comes last of all,
following on the denunciation of those who dabble in the democratic
process. BL says: "And I tell my brothers: Beware of your enemies
especially hypocrites who infiltrate your ranks to stir up strife
among the mujahid groups and refer such people to the judiciary. And
you must check and verify [so as to avoid judgment based on
suspicion only]. So the placing of that in the context of the
overall speech suggests, again, that what BL is concerned with is
unity and good order within the AQ organization, not any "avoidance
of fanaticism" in the sense of reconciliation with non-AQ entities.

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