Islam Responds to the Bin Laden Tape
By now, anyone remotely interested has viewed and listened to the video tape of Osama bin Laden discussing the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center with a Saudi named Khaled al-Harbi, identified as a former anti-Soviet fighter in Afghanistan who was stripped of his Saudi citizenship in 1994 for attempts to organize opposition to the monarchy. (Initial news reports erroneously identified him as Sheikh Ali bin Said al-Ghandi, a Saudi Arabian cleric known for extreme anti-western views).
Nevertheless, it is interesting to review reactions to this tape compiled from Reuters and Associated Press reports from various elements of the Islamic world community.
Following the video’s release, several Palestinian men at a coffee shop in East Jerusalem were asked about the tape. Most said they had seen it on Arabic satellite television channel Al-Jazeera, but none believed bin Laden was guilty.
“If I, Abdullah, am saying I am going to attack the United States; if I am saying that, does that mean I am going to do it?'” asked Abdullah Alkam. “I don’t think bin Laden was responsible for this attack.” They considered the video U.S. propaganda to justify the war in Afghanistan. “Anyone who opposes them, who tries to implement Islam, is a terrorist,” said another man.
Abu Johara, a Jerusalem jeweler who acknowledged seeing the video, commented: “I can’t say or judge that bin Laden was responsible.”
In Cairo, Mohamed al-Amir al-Sayed Awad Atta, Egyptian father of the suspected hijacker Mohammed Atta, dismissed the video as a farce. “The whole world has been saying this name [Mohammed Atta]. Where did bin Laden get the name from? Bin Laden got it from America. All this is a forgery, a fabrication,” he said.
Investigators believe Mohammed Atta personally crashed American Airlines Flight 11 into the World Trade Center, and that he was the ringleader behind the four hijacking teams.
Cairo advertising agent Munir Salem charged, “It’s a Hollywood farce. They have studios which can simulate earthquakes and all sorts of special effects so nothing would stop them from finding a bin Laden double.”
Egyptian architect Hend al-Alfi asked, “If they can make a film with an actor shaking the hand of the American president, what prevents them from using such special effects to fake a video?” He then added, “Even the inaudible parts were done deliberately to give it an authentic flavor.”
Amr Abdel Mohsen, a political science student at the University of Cairo, said, “The Americans lie as easily as they breathe. They had promised a Palestinian state and now they bless Israel’s destruction of Palestinian land, so to fabricate a cassette is nothing.”
Egyptian militant defense lawyer Muntasser al-Zayyat accused the United States of launching an onslaught on Afghanistan without proof of Osama’s responsibility. He said, “[The tape] shows that the United States had no evidence whatsoever when it blamed bin Laden hours after the September 11 attacks, and when it launched its air raids on Afghanistan on October 7, killing people and destroying homes.”
“Tell me something,” said former Pakistani intelligence chief Gen. Hamid Gul. “Osama has been denying he did the job, and then he conveniently has himself recorded and leaves the tape behind in a house? Come on … in this high-tech world, a look-alike of Osama can be made to say and do anything.”
Pakistani writer Ameena Khan said, “This is all just an American game, a negative media portrayal against Osama. This tape doesn’t convince me.”
Abdullah Omar Abdel Rahman, whose brother, Ahmed Omar, was seized last month in Afghanistan as a suspected leader of Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network believes the United States ” … has the technology to forge a videotape of this kind.” He said, “In openly admitting his involvement, bin Laden is contradicting himself, as he has always blessed attacks, but has never explicitly claimed them.” Their father is Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind Islamic cleric sentenced in 1995 to life in prison for a foiled plot to bomb several New York landmarks.
Muhammad Rizieq leader of the radical Indonesian Islamic Defenders Front: “I am sick with its [U.S.] propaganda to cover up their war crimes in Afghanistan. You know Americans have all the technology. Making up a videotape is so easy for them.” Hasyim Muzadi, who heads the more moderate 40 million member Indonesian group Nahdlatul Ulama, commented, “Is Osama the culprit? It still looks rather doubtful, doesn’t it?” Malaysia Muslim opposition party members dismissed the tape as a fake.
Even Chechen fighters questioned the tape’s authenticity on their kavkaz.org website, saying that it raised more questions than answers. “The quality of the tape was quite bad. Modern technology makes it possible to alter any taped sound.”
There were some positive responses to the bin Laden video from the Muslim world, primarily from within the United States and Pakistan, and there were even some “I’ve changed my mind” responses, but the overwhelming Islamic reaction was outright rejection.
The collective world of Islam prayed urgently to heaven: Great Allah, in your utmost goodness and mercy, grant that no fact, convincing though it may be, even when proven beyond doubt, grant that no fact will sway our considered opinion.
Robert G. Williscroft is DefenseWatch Navy Editor