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Pew: Bin Laden's Influence Was Waning Among Muslims

An undated recent picture shows Osama Bin Laden attending a meeting with a Kalashnikov on his lap in an undisclosed place inside Afghanistan
AFP/Getty Images
An undated recent picture shows Osama Bin Laden attending a meeting with a Kalashnikov on his lap in an undisclosed place inside Afghanistan

In a survey of the Muslim world taken in late March and early April, the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project found that Osama Bin Laden's influence was waning. Pew reports:

"... Bin Laden received his highest level of support among Muslims in the Palestinian territories – although even there only 34% said they had confidence in the terrorist leader to do the right thing in world affairs. Minorities of Muslims in Indonesia (26%), Egypt (22%) and Jordan (13%) expressed confidence in bin Laden, while he has almost no support among Turkish (3%) or Lebanese Muslims (1%)."

In 2003, those numbers were vastly different. In the Palestinian territory 72 percent said they had confidence in bin Laden; in Jordan, which has seen the largest change, 56 percent said they had confidence in him.

Ian Black, Middle East editor for the Guardian, says the uprisings like the ones in Egypt and Tunisia had already proven that bin Laden's influence was not what it used to be:

Al-Qaida had already looked marginal and on the back foot for several years. But the dawn of largely peaceful change in the Middle East and North Africa this year rendered it irrelevant.

In Egypt, where the jihad movement was born in the 1980s before merging with like-minded Saudis, the momentous overthrow of Hosni Mubarak's regime was accomplished by a coalition of civil society and democratic forces in which even the powerful Muslim Brotherhood played little organised role.

Time recounts that during the uprisings, protesters didn't carry pictures of bin Laden. that Al-Qaida had "in recent years, morphed from an organization into an idea. And the idea has proven increasingly unattractive to most Arabs."

Bin Laden, writes Hamid, presided over Al-Qaida's "turn toward irrelevance in the past five years."

Time adds that militant groups "no longer define the Middle East:"

The Arab Spring is shaking up the region in a manner not seen since Mark Sykes and Francois Picot took to a map with their markers in 1916 and divided up the moribund Ottoman Empire into spheres of interest between Britain and France. The paradigm has changed. In the old days, if an autocratic regime was pro-American and anti-Islamist, its opponents were anti-American and Islamist almost by default, and vice versa. But today's young Arabs have rejected both autocrats and extremists.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.