Bin Laden the Lonely Terrorist
Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda cohorts, once viewed as the Paris Hiltons of the radical Islamic movement, are finding themselves increasingly lonely. In high school terms, they are more comparable to the acoustic guitar-wielding emo teen that listens to Dashboard Confessional than the popular cheerleader who dates the quarterback. While the terrorist organization is still a potent threat capable of enormous harm, bin Laden's collapse in popularity is a silent victory in the war on terrorism that the media has missed because of its anticlimactic storyline.
Bin Laden once was looked highly upon by very large parts of the Muslim world. Nearly 50% of Saudis viewed him favorably in June 2004, a month after al-Qaeda launched attacks in Riyadh, prompting the royal family to belatedly join the battle against the terrorist organization. If almost half of the Saudi population supported bin Laden after his group attacked their country, then the thought of how many Saudis supported him prior to the event is truly frightening.
Today only 10% of Saudis support al-Qaeda and only 15% have a favorable view of bin Laden. More Saudis had unfavorable opinions of Hamas and Hezbollah than favorable as well, according to the poll. The news coverage of fellow Muslims being slaughtered en masse by al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups is causing major defections from the ideology of radical Islam.
Another part of the reason for al-Qaeda's losses in the political war is that the Muslim world has seen what rule by radical Islam means. In Iraq, the Sunni population that harbored al-Qaeda operatives ultimately turned against them and allied with the U.S. and the Iraqi government after being exposed to al-Qaeda's rule. Today, the Sunnis of Iraq are far better off and the Muslim world is realizing that the promises of a better life through Islamic puritan rule are empty. The dynamic is similar in Afghanistan, where only four percent of the population, which has lived under strict Islamic law, desire for the Taliban to return to power. To live under radical Islam is to hate radical Islam.
While Allah's will is ambiguous and debated among Muslims, it is becoming clearer and clearer to all Muslims, both moderates and extremists, that Allah's will is not with al-Qaeda.