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An open letter to Osama bin Laden
September 13, 2010 8:04 AM   Subscribe

This is an open letter written by Noman Benotman, a former commander in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and a former associate of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. In al Qaeda strategy meetings in Kandahar in 2000, Benotman warned the al-Qaeda leadership of ‘total failure' to realise their aims and called on bin Laden and al-Zawahiri to abandon violence. Soon after the 9/11 attacks, he distanced himself from al-Qaeda and later resigned from his own jihadist organisation. He has more recently been instrumental in negotiations with Libya's government to free former LIFG leaders, and in persuading these leaders to formally renounce terrorism. He also recently joined the London-based Quilliam Foundation as a Senior Analyst.
posted by bardophile (22 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
The man makes some very interesting points. I would love to see - but, of course, it's not very likely - bin Laden's response. I mean this sincerely.

Perhaps in some parallel universe, bin Laden would agree and lay down his arms, and stop the killing. Everyone on every side would see the wisdom in talking rather than killing and we could all reach an amicable compromise on all the bullshit that everyone's been fighting over. We'd use all the resources now used to build bigger, shinier killing machines to cure hunger and cancer and disease instead, and in fifty years we'd be travelling among the stars.

But of course we live in this universe and I expect nothing to ever change.
posted by WalterMitty at 8:15 AM on September 13, 2010


"Noman" is a pretty great name for a fighter. Less zingy when you retire, though. Sacrifices!
posted by grobstein at 8:32 AM on September 13, 2010


"Noman" is a pretty great name for a fighter.

"No man, be not man" sounds like some kind of zen tautology.
posted by kmz at 9:04 AM on September 13, 2010 [8 favorites]


And here we have "Noman" vs. "Ayman"
posted by grobstein at 9:05 AM on September 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Noman" is a pretty great name for a fighter.

Only if he sticks to Cyclopses (Cylcopsi?)
posted by griphus at 9:10 AM on September 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I am as surprised by this as I was by the pastor in Florida abandoning the Quran burning. I can only pray that these small signs of hope can turn into larger steps forward.
posted by vorpal bunny at 9:11 AM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Separately, when Mullah Omar asked you on several occasions to stop provoking and inviting American attacks on his country, you ignored him.

Interesting. Back in 2001, when Mullah Omar offered bin Laden to the US if they could produce information against him, I did not consider the offer genuine. This information however...
posted by I_pity_the_fool at 9:18 AM on September 13, 2010


Benotman's done this before:

The Unraveling: Al Qaeda's revolt against bin Laden, a TNR article published in June 2008. (Single-page, print link)

Most of these clerics and former militants, of course, have not suddenly switched to particularly progressive forms of Islam or fallen in love with the United States (all those we talked to saw the Iraqi insurgency as a defensive jihad), but their anti-Al Qaeda positions are making Americans safer. If this is a war of ideas, it is their ideas, not the West's, that matter. The U.S. government neither has the credibility nor the Islamic knowledge to effectively debate Al Qaeda's leaders, but the clerics and militants who have turned against them do. Juan Zarate, a former federal prosecutor and a key counterterrorism adviser to President Bush, acknowledged as much in a speech in April when he said, "These challenges from within Muslim communities and even extremist circles will be insurmountable at the end of the day for Al Qaeda."
posted by WalterMitty at 9:19 AM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Only if he sticks to Cyclopses (Cylcopsi?)

Cyclopes.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:20 AM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Most likely Bin Laden's response will be to declare Benotman to be an apostate and some extreme cleric will issue a fatwa on him. It's nice to read this sort of thing though, seeing that there are moderate voices even among the mujahideen.
posted by Mokusatsu at 9:27 AM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


When was Bin Laden's last public statement? he seems to have faded away, if he's lost influence among the terrorist set then certainly people can gain by disagreeing with him. One day I asume like Pol Pot there'll be an announcement of him dying in ignominy somewhere, unmissed by his own people because he's outdated and useless.
posted by shinybaum at 9:41 AM on September 13, 2010


> When was Bin Laden's last public statement? he seems to have faded away, if he's lost influence among the terrorist set then certainly people can gain by disagreeing with him.

If he's even still alive. His communiques grew increasingly weird and suspicious around 2004, no video or photos have been seen since then, and there's been no cheerleading for him by lower ranked Al Qaeda bosses. If he's not physically dead he might as well be.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:05 AM on September 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I interviewed Quilliam co-founder, Maajid Nawaz. i've got a lot of time for Quilliam.
posted by quarsan at 10:09 AM on September 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Another possible reason that Al Qaeda doesn't seem to any longer have any time for bin Laden is that all of his money is probably long gone.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:15 AM on September 13, 2010


Quilliam has a lot of problems and little support among mainstream Muslims in the uk. They tend to pressure Muslims into mainstreaming and are apologists for islamophobia in uk government policy. They also attack progressive Muslim politicians.
posted by By The Grace of God at 10:33 AM on September 13, 2010


Let me amend that. The Muslims who fight against 42 day detentions and boycott Israeli goods and support womens right to wear a hijab are indeed mainstream. Quilliam is trying to shift the frame as to what mainstream is. I often see their guys sitting on a panel with police and intelligence justifying political vetting of Muslims at Uni and Stop and search with profiling. They are to be fought.

The people bridging the gap between cultures are far more subversive than Quilliam, c.f. Martin Luther King.
posted by By The Grace of God at 10:41 AM on September 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Don't know much about the Quilliam Foundation myself but their website has this to say about profiling:

Does Quilliam believe that civil liberties have to be compromised in order to prevent terrorism?

No. Civil liberties are an intrinsic part of being British and Quilliam has and continues to oppose their erosion in the name of ‘making Britain safer’. Measures such as airport profiling, targeting CCTV in largely Muslim areas and unjustifiable stop and searches can be counter-productive and bolster the Islamist narrative of there being a ‘war on Islam’. Quilliam is proud of its track record consistently defending human rights in news interviews and debates that are widely available on the internet.

posted by bardophile at 11:30 AM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah but it also says:

Are all Wahhabis problematic?

Not necessarily.


Words like that on a FAQ don't look good.
posted by shinybaum at 11:53 AM on September 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I spent about two years of my life flying into Libyan airspace with his name on my list. Thanks for the paychecks America.
posted by timsteil at 12:57 PM on September 13, 2010


I spent about two years of my life flying into Libyan airspace with his name on my list. Thanks for the paychecks America.

Story please!
posted by grobstein at 6:40 PM on September 13, 2010


so am assuming he's on the CIA hit list :P
posted by liza at 8:55 PM on September 13, 2010


Military folks in a theatre of operations often will have a list of 'shoot on sight' targets.
posted by By The Grace of God at 11:54 PM on September 13, 2010


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