Richard Fenton-Smith writes about a collection of 1500 tapes found in 2001, which formed al-Qaeda’s audio library: The collection also features speeches given by Bin Laden in the late 1980s and early 1990s to audiences in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
“What’s fascinating is how Bin Laden is speaking about the ways in which the Arabian Peninsula is threatened – but who is the enemy? It’s not the United States, as we often think, or the West. It’s other Muslims,” says [Flagg] Miller [an expert in Arabic literature and culture from the University of California, Davis].
While the US would eventually become Bin Laden’s prime target, there is almost no reference to “the far enemy” in these early speeches. For several years he was much more concerned with what he called “disbelief” among Muslims who did not adhere to his strict, literalist interpretation of Islam.
“They are Shia first and foremost. They are Iraqi Baathists. They are Communists and Egyptian Nasserists,” explains Miller.
“Bin Laden wanted to bring jihad to the question of who is a true Muslim.”
[An] unexpected name to make an appearance in the tapes is Mahatma Gandhi, who is cited as an inspiration by Osama Bin Laden in a speech made in September 1993.
This is also the first speech in the collection in which Bin Laden calls on supporters to take action against the US… by boycotting its goods.
“Consider the case of Great Britain, an empire so vast that some say the sun never set on it,” says Bin Laden.
“Britain was forced to withdraw from one of its largest colonies when Gandhi the Hindu declared a boycott against their goods. We must do the same thing today with America.”
Bin Laden also encourages his audience to write letters to US embassies, to raise concern about America’s role in the Middle East conflict. Still no mention of violence against America. [Continue reading…]