Arab world divided over bin Laden's assassination

Wed, May 4, 2011, 01:00

ARAB REACTION to the death of Osama bin Laden has been confused and contradictory.

Palestinian Authority prime minister Salam Fayyad hailed his passing as an event that boosted the chances for world peace but de facto Gaza prime minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas condemned the “assassination”.

“We regard this as a continuation of the American policy of oppression and the shedding of Arab and Muslim blood,” he said.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the armed group associated with Fatah, which administers Palestinian West Bank enclaves, said: “The Islamic nation was shocked with the news that bin Laden had been killed by the non-believers.”

The brigades said his death would not “stop our Jihad mission against injustice and occupation”. About two dozen students carrying portraits of bin Laden rallied in central Gaza. The group included supporters of al-Qaeda as well as students who did not subscribe to his ideology but opposed his assassination and now consider him a martyr.

In Egypt, while the government apparently stayed silent, there was a great deal of comment from fundamentalists. The Muslim Brotherhood said bin Laden was not representative of Islam and condemned his actions.

However, a statement on its website said the movement was “against assassination and supports a fair trial for any criminal, regardless of the crimes he committed”.

The Brotherhood also said resistance against foreign occupation was a “legitimate right”. Aboud al-Zumur, a founder of Egypt’s Islamic Jihad, called on al-Qaeda not to carry out revenge attacks. Mr Zumur called bin Laden a “martyr” and said his death “will solve nothing”. He argued that militant factions had been undermined by uprisings that showed dictators could be confronted with peaceful mass action.

Al-Gama’a al-Islamiya spokesman Sheikh Usama Hafez, whose niece is married to one of bin Laden’s sons, doubted his death but urged al-Qaeda to renounce violence and change its strategy.

Sheikh al-Azhar Ahmad Tayyeb, the highest Sunni juridical authority, condemned bin Laden’s sea burial as un-Islamic. Muslims insist on burial on land unless there is no alternative, clearly not the case in relation to bin Laden.

Yemen, homeland of the bin Laden family, welcomed his “elimination” and said it “marks a monumental milestone in the ongoing global war against terrorism”.

Saudi Arabia expressed the hope that “an evil has ended” with bin Laden’s demise.

Caretaker Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri, a Sunni closely tied to Saudi Arabia, said: “The harm inflicted by Osama bin Laden to the image of Islam and Arab causes is equal to the harm inflicted by the enemies of Muslim causes . . . [He] introduced the culture of killing, terrorism, destruction and sabotage to the minds of thousands of youths.”

King Abdullah II of Jordan said he hoped bin Laden’s death would end smears on Islam and added that al-Qaeda is an organisation of “religious totalitarians . . . who seek power by intimidation, violence and thuggery.”

Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd, said: “We, like many people in the world, are delighted to see an end to [bin Laden’s] mentality and his devious ideology.”

He added that while “al-Qaeda will not disappear as such, it is a major blow to the organisation”.

The foreign ministry of non-Arab Turkey called his death a significant step in the fight against territorism.

Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi said: “If the US invaded the region under [the pretext of killing or capturing bin Laden], the problem is over now and [it] had better pull out . . . immediately and stop killing people.”

Regional media reported bin Laden’s demise and carried commentaries on his career without praising him. Some editorials condemned US celebrations of his death and warned of reprisals.