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December 24, 2001 No.
319

Terror in America (30) Retrospective: A bin Laden Special on Al-Jazeera Two Months Before September 11

On July 10, 2001, on the Al-Jazeera talk show "Opposite Direction," Dr. Faysal Al-Qassem dedicated a program to "Bin Laden - The Arab Despair and American Fear." According to the show's regular format, two guests with opposing opinions were invited. One, a critic of bin Laden, was London resident and Sudanese author Al-Hatem 'Adlan, leader of the Al-Haq Democratic Forces Movement. The other guest was Abd Al-Bari 'Atwan, editor-in-chief of the pro-Iraqi London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, who had once interviewed bin Laden, and who since September 11, has been a regular guest in the Western media presenting the "Arab viewpoint." The majority of the show's callers, and the host, praised bin Laden. The following are excerpts from the program:

Introduction
Host Al-Qassem opened the program: "Good evening, dear viewers. Do you know how much Osama bin Laden weighs? That's what one of the Arab leaders at the recent summit in Amman asked. The answer is: No more than 50 kg. In contrast, the average weight of the Arab leaders is at least 80 kg, not to mention the weight of the [Arab] armies and the huge budgets. Nevertheless, the slender bin Laden has made the greatest power in history shudder at the sound of his name, [while] the physical and material heavyweights arouse only America's pity and ridicule…"

"Has bin Laden not become a worthy opponent, feared by America - for whom [America] moves its fleets and puts its army and embassies on highest alert?… Who smashed one of its destroyers on the high seas? Who fought it in Somalia and caused its troops to run like rabbits? Who made its embassies throughout the world into fortresses [whose residents] fear even a light breeze? Who caused America to yelp in pain one hundred times? Who has become recently the No. 1 Arab and Islamic hero? Does the U.S. fear him because it sees him as a terrorist, or because he is the conscience of the Arab and Islamic world?…"

"On the other hand, who inflated the legend of Sheikh bin Laden? Wasn't it none other than America and its media? Hasn't bin Laden's hostility towards the American presence in the Gulf become hostility towards the governments of the region, thus leading to instability? Is reliance on bin Laden appropriate, or does it express Arab desperation and frustration?…"

Terrorist or Jihad Fighter?
'Adlan opened the discussion by stating that he perceived the "bin Laden phenomenon" as "part of a broader phenomenon of international terrorism… the main goal of which is to seize power by violent means

'Atwan disagreed: "If you want to talk about terrorism against a legitimate government, fine. The U.S. dropped two atom bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and the victims were innocent… This is the legitimate power you are defending. Didn't it kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people? Can we call this government legitimate? It is a terrorist regime that has killed innocent people since 1945 to this very moment… In Vietnam, did they kill innocent people or not?…"

"The Arab Mujahideen were considered pure angels [when they were fighting the USSR]. Donations were collected for them in the Persian Gulf, in all the mosques. Now, in most Gulf states, they are considered terrorists. Saudi Arabia spent $21 billion on them [Host Al-Qassem: "$22 billion"], $22 billion, and now they have turned into terrorists… Must we be silent and submit and behave like a herd of sheep?! Anyone who says 'No' to the U.S. is considered a terrorist…"

"There is a difference between bin Laden and, say, the [Philippine Muslim] Abu Sayyaf organization. Abu Sayyaf is a terrorist organization that kidnaps civilians and demands ransom… [Al-Qassem: "While bin Laden is a legitimate Jihad fighter"] Bin Laden has a work plan. He was an ally of America. In the past, he fought together with the U.S. You can't say that he's a terrorist now but wasn't a terrorist before. No. Either he was a terrorist when he fought the Soviets, so he is a terrorist now as well, or not. This is the American double standard towards the world. Whoever is with it, such as Israel, is above the law, does not stand trial, all doors open before it and the red carpet is rolled out; whoever is against it is a terrorist…"

"The Arab countries, primarily the Gulf states, customarily paid millions, even billions, to the Arab Mujahideen. They used to send them in airplanes [to Afghanistan], and provided all they needed to go and die a martyr's death in Afghanistan - on the assumption that this was a holy cause, that they were fighting the atheists, and assuming also that they were liberating a Muslim country from foreign occupation. After they succeeded in their mission, instead of being given badges of honor by the U.S. and the Arab countries, they became terrorists pursued across the globe… They used them and threw them away like Kleenex…"

"Bin Laden told me: 'I swear to Allah that I have already lived too long. I had hoped to die a martyr's death and to meet my God ten years ago. I want to die. Give me a front to die at.' Those around him said the same thing: 'We want to die a martyr's death, we do not want this world, we want to meet our God.' They [the Arab rulers] are not giving them a chance, they are not helping them, they are not letting them return. Is this not injustice?!"

Muhammad Al-Tamimi of Amman, a viewer who called in, supported 'Atwan's position, stating: "Bin Laden is not a terrorist, as Brother 'Adlan claims. In the eyes of Muslims throughout the world, bin Laden is fighting a Jihad for the sake of Allah. He is one of the drawn swords of Allah, brandished at the faces of the leader of the infidels on the face of the Earth - America - which is also the leader of terrorism. America today is arrogant, and its spokesman says: 'Who is stronger than me?' This America sucks the blood of the peoples, and anyone who challenges it or refuses to obey it is persecuted by the judicial system, becoming a terrorist, a violator of human rights, and a danger to world peace…"

"The bin Laden phenomenon is a natural phenomenon in this [Islamic] nation, after the rulers relinquished Jihad at the 1991 Dakar [Senegal] conference, on America's instructions. As if Jihad were a political decision that could be rescinded. Jihad is a divine decision that no one can rescind. Bin Laden is a natural phenomenon in this nation whose rulers have relinquished Jihad. It is the rulers who should be fighting the Jihad. Bin Laden incited the nation, calling for Jihad. The nation awakens by means of Jihad, and the spirit of Jihad and martyrdom. When we relinquished Jihad and martyrdom, we were humiliated, and have begun to beg from America. America understands only the language of force. When bin Laden confronted it with the same logic the U.S. itself uses, it became horror-stricken..."

"Bin Laden is the conscience of this nation. Dr. Faysal [Al-Qassem], if you were to conduct a public opinion poll in this [Islamic] nation, [you would see that] the overwhelming majority of Muslims on the face of the Earth support bin Laden and consider him their conscience. Anyone who attacks bin Laden and accuses him of terrorism stands with the enemies of our nation; he does not want our nation to awaken. He wants our nation to lose the spirit of challenge; when we lose the spirit of challenge, we will die."

Bin Laden and Arab Regimes
The Arab regimes' contribution to the creation of the bin Laden phenomenon was mentioned several times. 'Atwan explained: "There is despair and frustration, because we must admit that we are ruled by tyrannical, corrupt regimes that plunder the resources of the peoples - regimes incapable of playing any genuine role in [solving] the nation's problems and that have completely surrendered to America and Israel… Change and democratization have reached the entire world, even the Socialist bloc, but when they come to the Arab region, they are denied entry. There must be no democracy in the Arab homeland; there must be no human rights, because America does not want democracy and human rights for the Arabs

'Atwan explained that Islamic radicalism results from the lack of other options for change in the Arab world, and posited three possible ways to bring about governmental change: "The first way is the transfer of power through peaceful means, democratic elections, and parliaments; all these do not exist in our countries."

"The second way is by military coup. The army carries out a military coup and calls it a revolution. This is what happened in the Sudan and other places. Unfortunately, all the Arab army officers went into business. All own companies, they and their children. Anyone who takes power in an Arab country by military coup [then] destroys the military so it won't carry out a counter-coup…"

"There remains the third option - [the rulers'] death. No democracy, no military coup - at least Allah will take them and let us be. But the rulers have begun to intervene in the will of Allah as well, setting their sons to take their places. Thus even death, in which we put our trust, does not release us from them. We are forced to live with them, their tyranny, and their corruption - and after [them] come their sons."

"Because change in the upper echelons is impossible in Arab countries, it is natural that movements such as bin Laden's arise, and that the people flock to them and try to strike the main country that supports those regimes - America…"

Al-Qassem told his guests that many viewers had sent faxes to the studio saying: "In light of the terrible Arab surrender and self-abasement to America and Israel, many of the Arabs unite around this man, who pacifies their rage and restores some of their trampled honor, their lost political, economic, and cultural honor… [Because of the] leadership vacuum, many listen to a man like bin Laden." Later in the show, a viewer, Dr. Sa'ad Al-Faqih, a known Saudi Islamist living in London, went on the air, saying, amongst other things, that "the Muslims, primarily the rulers, provide outstanding examples of treachery, weakness, and submission to the Americans…"

"The nation thirsts deeply for someone who will confront America… not with words and slogans. [The nation thirsts] for someone who can prove in practice that he is a worthy opponent… Bin Laden [became] the right man for this important role in the confrontation with America, the enemy of the Muslims, which conspires with the Muslim rulers to hurt [the Muslim nation] and plunder its resources. Bin Laden is an ordinary man, like anyone else… he weighs little and his influence is limited… But America's arrogance and conceit prevent it from understanding the truth about the Islamic world and about how Muslims think. There is a tremendous cultural and psychological barrier between America and the Muslims…"

'Atwan directed the discussion back to the Arab regimes' behavior as a factor in the emergence of the bin Laden phenomenon: "The Arab regimes prevented the establishment of political parties, cancelled and falsified elections, violated human rights, [and] used torture; they rule by emergency law, and prohibit entrance to mosques. The sermons in the mosques are dictated by the Ministry of the Interior. The intelligence apparatuses are kind enough to tell us all we need to know about [the religious laws regarding] menstrual cycles and childbirth [Al-Qassem interjected: 'Menstrual cycles, childbirth, beards, and hair!!'] and sexual relations, and I don't know what else. In such a situation, obviously the [Islamic movement] would want to topple the regime…"

"There is unemployment in the Gulf states, and in Saudi Arabia. The income level has regressed, though we are one of the richest countries in the world. The average income in Israel is $19,000 per capita; in Saudi Arabia it is $4,000, even though it has oil, and the same goes for the Gulf states…"

'Atwan continued: "Even the shirts and ties we import [Al-Qassem: 'Also galabiyas and kaffiehs'] - Where's the progress…?! All those billions and no progress. Their progress is nothing more than buying land and yachts [Al-Qassem: 'and cars!!'] and villas, and cars from America. This is progress?…"

'Adlan insisted that the Arab regimes prevented Arab Afghans from returning to their countries of origin out of self-defense, saying that those seeking repatriation "returned with conspiracies to assassinate presidents. They brought back with them terrorism, assuming that this was the next stage on the road to victory."

"All right, why not," said 'Atwan. "Do these regimes rule justly? Do they rule transparently? Do they rule democratically? Do they rule through free elections?"

"When the nation fought, when the Arab countries fought, when the Arab regimes fought in the days of Abd Al-Nasser, the entire nation was united against Israel and the U.S. But now, when the Arab regimes are not fulfilling their role in Jihad and the struggle for liberation, and submit to humiliation at the negotiating table, and live off the crumbs of American aid under American protection, it is natural that the bin Laden phenomenon should spread. I predict that this phenomenon will thrive, and will be duplicated in many Arab capitals, and in Palestine.

Why Doesn't bin Laden Attack Israel?
The central issue of why bin Laden had not directed his efforts against Israel was also discussed in the program. A viewer from Syria who called in said that he "and all the Arabs and Muslims in the world, from the East to the West" were "bored by all the talk of Osama bin Laden and his dubious activity," and stated that if bin Laden were a real man of struggle, he would have "walked hand in hand with the fighting Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah [Hizbullah's secretary-general], and invested his money in Hizbullah.

'Atwan defended bin Laden. "This is a peculiar analysis," he said. "Poor bin Laden, [stuck] in Afghanistan, sitting in the mountains. I met him at an altitude of 3,000 [meters] above sea level at 20 degrees [Celsius] below zero, with snow half a meter deep. The man is in hiding, and moving from cave to cave. How is he supposed to plan and coordinate with other bodies… If Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah wanted bin Laden and would protect him in Beirut or southern Lebanon, I think bin Laden would go there tomorrow. I wouldn't be surprised if bin Laden went to Beirut one day. Also, in Occupied Palestine, we have seen that people wave pictures of bin Laden… This is a very rare thing. They did not wave pictures of other Arab leaders, only pictures of bin Laden, and this is proof that bin Laden's popularity has reached the occupied land. What terrifies Israel now is [the possibility] that the bin Laden phenomenon will reach Palestine."

"All right," said host Al-Qassem, "but the question is a good one. Where are bin Laden's attacks on Israel? True, according to opinion polls we conducted, America is Enemy No. 1 - I am not saying 'enemy' but Enemy No. 1 - of all the Arabs and Muslims according to all the polls - but Israel is the spearhead. Where is his struggle, his Jihad against Israel? Why are we not seeing it? Why, for example, did he go to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets and is not fighting the true enemies of the nation - the Zionists?"

"That is a legitimate question, and I asked him that [when I interviewed him]," replied 'Atwan. "First of all, we must take into account that bin Laden is not a superpower; he has no armies, no tanks, no missiles, not even money. He admitted to me that he had lost $170 million in the Sudan in road paving… When they told him to leave, he said to the Sudanese, 'Give me my money.' They answered, 'Take fruit! Take corn! Go sell them!' They wanted to turn bin Laden into a seller of fruit and corn!!"

"The man has no central bank, and no petroleum… he has nothing, only a group of Mujahideen. I saw them myself, poor wretches, they have Kalashnikovs and a few missiles and they are on the run because the U.S. is pursuing them, the Arab intelligence apparatuses are pursuing them, and Arab spies are pursuing them, even some in Pakistan are pursuing them. Okay. We expect him to liberate Palestine for us. We are exaggerating the man's abilities. The man is trying, he has a plan… to harass the U.S., to harm its presence in the region as much as he can… How does [the Syrian] viewer want bin Laden to get to Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah? With flocks of giant birds [like those in the Koran, sent by Allah to destroy the 'Elephant People']? How is he going to land in Beirut? For that, he needs Al-Buraq [the winged horse who bore the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Jerusalem on the Night Journey] to get him to southern Lebanon, as he could not pass through Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, or the Mediterranean. Let's be reasonable. It's not nice to talk that way."

Violence Against America
'Adlan claimed that bin Laden's terrorism against America had no strategic significance: "I think that bin Laden's position towards America, despite all his violence, is merely tactical, because he thinks that the American presence prevents him from toppling the [Arab] regimes. If America goes, he and his men will be able to infiltrate the regimes… If and when he takes over the regimes, he will maintain relations with America and sell them oil. This is what happened to all the regimes that arose in high-flown rhetoric, thinking that they would shatter America, but in the end they maintained relations with it and held out their hand to beg, as in the Sudan."

Host Al-Qassem, however, thought that bin Laden's situation could be advantageous, even if it was only tactical: "What's so bad about bin Laden having a particular tactic? The Arabs always go to negotiations after throwing down their arms. The Palestinian Authority did it, and so did other Arab countries. Why shouldn't we benefit from the bin Laden phenomenon as a tactic? Even as a tactic, he terrifies the enemies of the nation… Why not use him? See what Hamas did. The Palestinian Authority could have based itself on these Jihad movements as a tactic…"

'Adlan said, "The Palestinian problem is a different problem, because of the Hebrew state's occupation, settlements, oppression, repression, and terrorism." Al-Qassam retorted, "Bin Laden thinks the Arab region is occupied."

"It's not occupied," said 'Adlan. "Let's be clear about this. The Americans are not in the Gulf because they came as [occupiers]. That's the difference… They came because they were legitimately called in by the countries [to fight] a country that wanted to invade them… Bin Laden's political plan is different [than Saddam Hussein's]. It's a medieval, anti-democratic plan, a plan against justice, enlightenment, and all the achievements of human culture. This is what we have seen in Afghanistan, in the Sudan. He took these countries with him back to the Middle Ages, and [we] cannot agree to this. I am opposed to many things in the Arab regimes, but when facing the intentions of bin Laden and other organizations like him - I stand with the regimes…"

Host Al-Qassem addressed 'Adlan: "From the beginning of the program, you've been saying that the Islamic movements, headed by the Jihad movement in Afghanistan, are regressive, and things like that. Okay, why not be realistic? I want to give you an example: Who hurt Israel and achieved the first victory in modern Arab history, if not the Islamic Jihad movement? The heroic Hizbullah in southern Lebanon is a popular movement. 'Hizbullah' [Party of Allah] is a beautiful, mighty name, and as many have said, it succeeded in expelling the Zionists from southern [Lebanon] like dogs - my apologies to the dogs…"

"See what Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the other Islamic movements have done in Palestine. Israel is shaken… bin Laden and the Jihad movement in Afghanistan - and I am only quoting from the [faxes] in front of me - are what made America bleed and say 'ouch, a thousand times ouch…' What Arab regime has managed to make America bleed?!… Bin Laden causes America great fear, but the Arab regimes cause laughter and derision… [In the Arab countries] these Jihad movements are destroyed. [Their members] are thrown in jail and persecuted abroad, while these movements are the nation's strategic reservoir. I am not expressing my opinion, but this is the opinion of the street."

'Adlan said he supported Hizbullah and Hamas, but not terrorism against America: "Although America supports Israel, America cannot be seen only from this angle… We are opposed to the American position on Israel and fight it in this area. But we cannot, for example, fight trade with America; we can't try to topple the American government on behalf of the American people. This [would be] is a real mistake… let the American people topple whomever - Bush, Clinton - that's their business…"

"You present bin Laden as if he wanted to topple the [government in] America and take it over," interjected host Al-Qassem. "All the man wants is to expel America from the region."

"You called bin Laden 'America's oppressor,' and said that he made the Americans 'flee like rats,'" replied 'Adlan. "I think this is absolutely untrue."

"How can you say it's not true?" Al-Qassem protested. "Don't you watch television? The U.S. Navy cancelled a joint maneuver with Jordan, fled Bahrain, all those things… Can you deny that this Jihad warrior who is now in Afghanistan [bin Laden] is striking fear into America, which shudders at the sound of his name?"

'Atwan, who had throughout the program claimed that bin Laden has no intention of destroying America but only of bringing about its expulsion from the Middle East, asked that bin Laden's influence on the American public not be underestimated: "The U.S. spent $2 billion on increasing security at its embassies… The American citizens are terrified. Every day there's an alert: 'Don't go out at night, go in groups, don't vacation in these places…' 16 embassies closed in a single day because of a threat, or half-threat, by bin Laden. It's no exaggeration. It's reality."

Host Al-Qassem kept up the pressure on 'Adlan: "Can you deny that Osama bin Laden or his associates managed to destroy the American military bases… They hit a few dozen of them, making the Americans conceal their bases in remote places in the middle of the desert. [Look at the case of] the destroyer USS Cole in Yemen. As everyone knows, a green fly cannot get to these destroyers - not even mighty Russia can get to them - but he got to it [USS Cole] and destroyed it… Today, when two people talk on the telephone - and as everyone knows, the American satellites monitor even the crawling of ants - and one says to the other, bin Laden is going to carry out a bombing soon, all of America goes on high alert. What more do you want? The guy strikes fear into the entire world."

"I think," said 'Adlan, "that the chances of Osama bin Laden's toppling the American regime don't even approach one in a million. These are extremely marginal matters. It's a very serious issue, because it will make America treat bin Laden and groups like him as if they had declared war [on America], and handle them not through legal investigation inquiry, but with the American armed forces…"

'Atwan did not back down: "There is a phenomenon of Arabs and Muslims willing to die a martyr's death. They are willing to die, willing to blow themselves up, and this is what America fears. America has taken over the world with so-called globalization. It has taken over the world economically by means of the big banks; it has taken it over in the security sense by means of the treacherous regimes… and it has taken it over in the media sense by means of the mighty arms of the media, such as the Internet and satellite channels. The only thing capable of ruining this globalization is armed actions against the embassies… as the American military is unbeatable [in direct confrontation]…"

Host Al-Qassem could not accept 'Atwan's claim. "You're saying that he couldn't defeat [America], but we have an example from the area where bin Laden is: Who defeated the greatest power on the face of the planet in Afghanistan? The Soviets with all their military might - who defeated them? Wasn't it the Mujaheddeen - with American help, of course."

"But the Mujahideen were fighting on their own land and they had a cause," explained 'Atwan. "Bin Laden doesn't want to defeat America - as I understood from him [in the interview], he doesn't want to fight in the U.S. He thinks the American forces in the Arab region, and particularly in the Gulf, are occupying forces just like the Soviet forces were in Afghanistan. These forces must withdraw, and he wants to carry out reform in the Arab regime in his own way. He wants to institute Islamic religious law according to the accepted standards. He doesn't want to defeat America in America. He wants to say to the American forces: 'Please, you came here on the pretext of liberating Kuwait; you liberated Kuwait, what are you [still] doing in our country? Go, and may Allah be with you.' Then, Arab regimes in accordance with Islamic religious law will arise; they will have justice, equality, and a fair distribution of wealth. That is all the man is asking for."

A Phone Call from the Al-Qa'ida's Spokesman and A Poem from Denmark
Al-Qassem put Al-Qa'ida's spokesman Sheikh Suleiman Abu Gheith on the air:

"I would like to present six points. First…, Osama bin Laden is an excellent example [of following] the right path in order to escape the pitiful situation and the nation's subordination [to the West]."

"Second, we, through our support of the Jihad warrior Osama bin Laden, are not relying on emotion, rather on a religious and ideological basis. What bin Laden is calling for and aspiring to achieve is a vital religious demand to which the nation must in no way hinder compliance, [or] acting towards its implementation."

"Third, we indubitably think there is a global heresy, [spread] by the Jews and the Christians - and headed by America, the spearhead of heresy, which genuinely occupies Muslim lands, plunders their resources, exiles their sons, and carries out a series of illegitimate actions in order to gain control and influence. What the Jews are doing in Palestine is decisive proof. They kill and exile, damage honor [i.e. harm women], destroy houses, bomb innocents. How can the [Islamic] nation permit itself to refrain from helping?"

"Fourth, and most important, America occupies the Arabian Peninsula, from one end to the other. This contradicts the religious writings that command the exclusion of Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula. As the Prophet Muhammad said, in the reliable Hadith [oral tradition] quoted by Ibn 'Abbas, 'Remove the polytheists from the Arabian Peninsula.'"

"Fifth, based on the same writings, which are no secret to any Muslim, warfare against the Americans, the Jews who are at their sides, and anyone who supports them, constitutes a 'fardh 'ayn' [a religious commandment binding on Muslims as individuals]. Fighting them is an obligation in which there can be no compromise, until they leave the Arabian Peninsula and all the Muslim lands they occupy. The clerics have reached a consensus… that Jihad is an obligation in three cases, one of which is when the enemy enters Muslim lands. What can we say when the Jews and Christians disseminate corruption in the holiest place on Earth - the land of the two holy places [the Arabian Peninsula], the land of vision and prophecy, and the land of Jerusalem…?"

"Sixth, in our activity with youth and in [our] preaching and direction, we sense that the Muslim youth is extremely perturbed by the American presence in the Arabian Peninsula and its unlimited support of the Jews. They [the young people] are looking for advice on how to remove the Americans from this land - and this is clearly shown by the martyrdom operations [suicide bombings] they carry out, that doubtless constitute the most tremendous acts of obedience to Allah… Young Muslims today refuse to bow [their] heads to the Arab regimes' open conspiracy against the Islamic nation… The Americans must know, my dear brother, that Osama bin Laden is the symbol that the nation has been seeking for a long time. His ideology has already spread and taken root, and they mustn't think that his dying, or that killing him, will stop the Jihad and the resistance. This is an ideological issue, not contingent upon the life or death of one man."

"Finally, I would like to say that today the nation needs, first of all, 12,000 young Mujahideen recruited to defend the religion, as the Prophet Muhammad said: '12,000 will not be defeated by a few.' Second, the Muslim merchants must give charity to support the holy Jihad against the Jews and the Christians. Then victory will come, Allah willing…"

"If [I have] half a minute left, I want to say to the honorable brother Abd Al-Bari 'Atwan, with all due respect: Bin Laden was never an ally of America; bin Laden called for boycotting American goods as early as 1987, in a video distributed in Saudi Arabia, which the believing youth passed on throughout the Arab homeland. He called for striking America at its head - this is exactly what he said. The joint fighting against the Russians was right according to religious law, but once the ties were cut, it no longer interested us. The Prophet said: 'Fight the Persians even if it serves the interests of the Byzantines, and fight the Byzantines even if it serves the interests of the Persians'…"

The next caller, Shaker Mansour of Denmark, said: "America occupies the Gulf and only an arrogant man, a traitor, or an ignoramus would say otherwise. The religious ruling, as noted by the brother who called before me, is that it is the obligation of Muslims to fight to remove the American forces from the sanctity of the most holy of Muslim lands." Mansour went on to read a poem he had written on the matter. (Such poetry readings have become customary on Al-Jazeera's talk shows).

"… Oh rulers of my land… We have declared you all to be infidels/You are the secret of our catastrophe…/Ask Anwar [Sadat] how he betrayed us on the day he launched peace with the Jews/He was drinking wine from the goblets, and we gave him arrows to drink/The game of conciliation with the Jews was exposed/The cover was removed from the eyes/Expect soon an earthquake of the thrones/The fire of the peoples began to burn/And because the caliphates disappeared long ago/Soon we will produce from among ourselves an imam who will expel the traitorous spy with an army whose ideology and regime is religion/Oh thieves of darkness who disseminate corruption/ Behind the darkness the dawn is breaking."

The People Want bin Laden
Towards the end of the program, host Al-Qassem said to 'Adlan: "I am looking at the viewers' reactions for one that would support your positions - but, unfortunately, I can't find any [against bin Laden]. All show unprecedented support for bin Laden."

Al-Qassem then put Sheikh Yassin Omar of Beirut on the air. Sheikh Omar said: "I know Al-Khatem 'Adlan. I was jailed for a long time by the regime he supported, and afterwards he turned against it and fought it. I also know bin Laden. I went to Afghanistan several times, even before bin Laden got there. I was with the revolutionaries even before they entered Afghanistan, and the same in Somalia and many Arab and African countries…"

"I know bin Laden; he is a modest and good man. I know his family. I worked with his brother in the economic institutions in the Sudan and in other places. Bin Laden is from a wealthy family. He left everything and went to live this kind of life, as a fugitive. Brother 'Adlan fought with us in the Sudan, but now, in the land of fog [Britain], he has a better life than he had in the Sudan. In the past, he opposed the presence of any Western base, American or French, in any Third World country; today he defends it. What happened?! Why justify the existence of the Western and American bases?…"

"I want to address the talk about bin Laden being a terrorist… Was [Che] Guevera a terrorist? I ask Brother Al-Khatem 'Adlan. Guevera was an example for struggle in the world; shall we call him a terrorist? I think that Osama bin Laden is the same phenomenon as Guevara. He works towards liberation. The attacks carried out by some of bin Laden's men were not directed against the peoples or against innocent people. They were attacks on Americans at the heart of their interests. Now America is horror-stricken… Bin Laden isn't saying that he will defeat America and occupy Washington…"

Concluding the program, host Al-Qassem said: "Al-Hatem 'Adlan, there was an opinion poll in a Kuwaiti paper which showed that 69% of Kuwaitis, Egyptians, Syrians, Lebanese, and Palestinians think bin Laden is an Arab hero and an Islamic Jihad warrior… 65% claimed that attacking American targets was justified, because it [is implementation of the principle of] 'an eye for an eye,' and because the American slogan is 'Might is Right' … 76% would be sorry if bin Laden were caught. You demand democracy and such things - here's democracy for you. This is [the opinion of] the people. Besides, I have a poll on the [Al-Jazeera] Internet site. Out of 3,942 people who responded, 82.7% saw bin Laden as a Jihad fighter, 8.8% as a terrorist, and 8.4% didn't know. This is an actual result about which there can be no argument… There is an Arab consensus from the Gulf to the [Atlantic] ocean. A real 82% - not like percentages in elections in Arab countries."

"This still doesn't change my opinion," insisted 'Adlan. "Such polls are selective, and it is doubtful how representative they are."

"What do you mean, selective?" protested host Al-Qassem. "The people who use the Internet are the educated class - and if this is the situation with them, you can only imagine what it is among the poor, the persecuted, and those who have been stripped [of their rights]. Maybe even 99.99%!"

 

[1] Al-Jazeera (Qatar), July 10, 2001. The full transcript can be found at http://aljazeera.net/programs/op_direction/articles/2001/7/7-12-1.htm. The discussion here does not necessarily follow the order of the discussion on the program.