Osama bin Laden - The Full Transcript
Amidst the January sales, the latest NASA folly out in space, and the growing effects from the USA government?s ?Orange Alert?, the release on Sunday by al-Jazeera of the latest audio-taped message from Osama bin Laden has gone almost without notice. Most of the mass media, when it?s not demonising black pop stars, or sensationalising stories about potential Democratic presidential candidates, has as usual, spent its time discussing whether or not the tape is genuine.
As is expected in a state that considers itself at war, little attention has been given to its contents. However, a reading of the transcript of the tape makes it clear that this was as much a message to western observers, as it was to the world’s Muslim people. Gone are the rather medieval sounding references to the glory of the martyr, and the satanic nature of the Bush regime. In their place, what we find is something that, were it written by anyone else, would pass as a radical, but hardly revolutionary, Islamic political analysis of the present-day Middle East.
The Bush administration’s own political analysis of Osama bin Laden seems no more profound than George W Bush’s own view on the matter, i.e. that bin Laden is “evil”, because “he hates freedom”. This latest statement by bin Laden seems partly designed to convince the non-Muslim world that his motives are not evil, not even aggressive, but defensive, and perfectly in accordance with Islamic law.
For all the associations with the cruel murder of 3,000 people, Osama bin Laden, in this tape, comes over as a sensitive and compassionate Muslim, living in a time when his land, his people, his culture, and his religion is under determined attack from an alliance of Zionists in Israel and abroad, and from non-believing capitalists wearing the cloak of Christianity. He believes that, as a Muslim, he has a right and a duty to oppose this alliance, as he opposed the secular nationalism of Saddam Hussein - a right and duty given to him by the word of God in the Quran and Sunnah (authenticated example of the Prophet Mohammad, peace and blessings be upon him).
It is important when reading the text of his message to understand that in Islam the term jihad has a twofold meaning. Its literal translation means “struggle”. The two kinds are jihad akbar and jihad asghar, and only the latter concerns the rules of warfare. Warfare was indeed considered a noble venture by Muslims in the eight years of the Prophet’s exile, during which time they were frequently under attack from powerful polytheistic tribes, and under specific circumstances it was and is believed to be carried out with God’s express permission.
However, this kind of struggle - jihad asghar, or “lesser struggle” - was always considered of secondary importance to jihad akbar - the “greater struggle” - which was with one’s own impure motives and thoughts. In his message, Osama bin Laden refers without explicit distinction between the two to both jihad akbar and jihad asghar, and it is left to the reader to decipher his intentions in each case.
Purely as a political argument, the message clearly has merits. For all its small geographical area, as possibly the world’s fourth largest nuclear power, and in possession of far more weapons of mass destruction than Saddam Hussein ever had, Israel looms over the Arab world like a bad tempered giant. The implantation by force of a mainly immigrant-based Jewish state in most of Palestine in 1948 - a land promised by the British empire as a future state for its millions of indigenous inhabitants - and the recognition of that state by the United Nations, sends echoes down the proceeding generations as a great betrayal of Muslims by western powers. The brutal thirty-six year occupation of the remaining parts of Palestine by Israel, and the hypocritical behaviour of western powers in response to the occupation, is confirmation enough of this betrayal.
The Jewish state in Palestine, and the USA-Israeli alliance to protect its interests, is the biggest obstacle to peace in the Middle East.
The support given by Arab rulers to Israel’s backers, in terms of access to oil, the decision in 1991 by the House of Saud and other Arab rulers to invite USA forces into Arabia, and the cowardly response of these rulers to the invasion and widespread theft of Iraq, has left millions believing that only the overthrow of most Arab regimes will restore stability and self-respect to Muslims. And the methods suggested by Osama bin Laden to carry out the required internal revolution - the summoning of a council of dignitaries to debate the matter, and decide upon new rulers - are in accordance with the tenets of Islamic law.
In respect of its reasoned tone, the message will surprise most non-Muslim observers, and will rally support from many in the Arab world. However, in light of the overwhelmingly accepted claim that al-Qaeda were behind the 9/11 attacks, his message will fail to relieve even the open-minded observer of the belief that he is, in essence, a terrorist and murderer.
Certainly, pragmatic arguments aside, Palestinians, Iraqis, and arguably Arabs as a whole, have the right to resist the occupation and theft of their land and property by outsiders. Given the globalised nature of the aggressor in Iraq, one could even argue that attacks against strictly military targets abroad is also a part of warfare that has its precedents in conflicts carried out in and by the west throughout the last century. As such, whatever the moral or religious arguments involved, such actions may be defendable in a truly impartial court of international law (not that there is one).
With this tape, Osama bin Laden will have managed to convince those who bothered to read its transcript that he is not an unthinking hater of freedom, but a militant with a political agenda rooted in the shared experience of a perceived injustice. However, in light of the absence of convincing evidence to the contrary, or even a clear and unambiguous claim by Osama bin Laden that he had nothing to do with the horrendous attacks on September 11th 2001, his claim to be an Islamic leader must continue to be resisted by Muslims.
The Quran makes clear that disproportionate use of force, and the use of force against innocent bystanders, is strictly forbidden in all walks of life. It is hypocritical to suggest that one can carry out the word of a compassionate and loving God, whilst murdering office workers, passers by, and those venturing to save them.
What follows is a translation of the full transcript (minus references to verses in the Quran) of a tape made by Osama bin Laden in December 2003, obtained by Al-Jazeera, and aired by them on January 4th 2004. The BBC were responsible for most of the translation, including that of all Arabic colloquial terms, into English.
From Osama Bin Laden to his brothers and sisters in the entire Islamic nation: May God’s peace, mercy and blessings be upon you.
My message to you concerns inciting and continuing to urge for jihad, to repulse the grand plots that have been hatched against our nation, especially since some of them have appeared clearly, such as the occupation by the crusaders, with the help of the apostates, of Baghdad and the house of the Khilafa, under the trick of weapons of mass destruction. There is also the fierce attempt to destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque, and to destroy the jihad and the mujahideen in beloved Palestine, by employing the trick of the roadmap and the Geneva peace initiative.
Baghdad was the centre of the Islamic world for five hundred years.
The Americans’ intentions have also become clear in statements about the need to change the beliefs, [educational] curricula, and morals of the Muslims to become more tolerant, as they put it. In clearer terms, it is a religious-economic war. The occupation of Iraq is a link in the Zionist-crusader chain of evil. Then comes the full occupation of the rest of the Gulf states, to set the stage for controlling and dominating the whole world. For the big powers believe that the Gulf and the Gulf states are the key to controlling the world, due to the presence of the largest oil reserves there.
O Muslims: The situation is serious and the misfortune is momentous. By God, I am keen on safeguarding your religion and your worldly life. So, lend me your ears and open up your hearts to me, so that we may examine these pitch-black misfortunes, and so that we may consider how we can find a way out of these adversities and calamities.
The West’s occupation of our countries is old, yet new. The struggle between us and them, the confrontation and clashing began centuries ago, and will continue because the ground rules regarding the fight between right and falsehood will remain valid until Judgment Day.
Take note of this ground rule regarding this fight. There can be no dialogue with occupiers except through arms. This is what we need today, and what we should seek. Islamic countries in the past century were not liberated from the crusaders’ military occupation except through jihad in the cause of God. Under the pretext of fighting terrorism, the West today is doing its utmost to tarnish jihad, and kill anyone seeking jihad. The West is supported in this endeavour by hypocrites. This is because they all know that jihad is the effective power to foil all their conspiracies.
Jihad is the path, so seek it, because if we seek to deter them with any means other than Islam, we would be like the one who goes round in circles. We would also be like our forefathers, the al-Ghasasinah [an Arab society that existed in the north-west part of the Persian empire - present-day Syria - during the last five centuries before the rise of Islam]. The concern of their seniors was to be appointed officers for the Romans, and to be named kings, in order to safeguard the interests of the Romans by killing their brothers in the Arabian peninsula. Such is the case of the new al-Ghasasinah.
Muslims: If you do not punish them for their sins in Jerusalem and Iraq, they shall defeat you because of your failure. They will also rob you of land of al-Haramayn [Mecca and Medina, and the sacred sanctuaries there]. Today they have robbed you of Baghdad, and tomorrow they will rob you of Riyadh, and so forth unless God deems otherwise. Sufficient unto us is God.
What then is the means to stop this tremendous onslaught? In such hard times, some reformers maintain that all popular and official forces should unite, and that all government forces should unite with all their peoples; everyone would do what is needed from him in order to ward off this crusader-Zionist onslaught. The question strongly raised is: Are the governments in the Islamic world capable of pursuing this duty of defending the faith and nation, and of renouncing allegiance to the United States?
The calls by some reformers are strange. They say that the path to righteousness and defending the country and people passes through the doors of those rulers. I tell those reformers: If you have an excuse for not pursuing jihad, it does not give you the right to depend on the unjust, thus becoming responsible for your sins as well as the sins of those who you misguide. Fear God for your sake and for your nation’s sake. God does not need your flattery of dictators for the sake of His religion.
The Arab world has arguably suffered as much from the corruption of its rulers, as it has from the aggression from outside.
The Gulf states proved their total inability to resist the Iraqi forces [under Saddam Hussein]. They sought help from the crusaders, led by the United States, as is well known. How can these states now stand up to the United States? In short, these states came to America’s help, and backed it in its attack against an Arab state that is bound to them with covenants of joint defence agreements. They reiterated these covenants at the Arab League just a few days before the US attack, only to violate them in full. This shows their positions on the nation’s basic causes.
These regimes wavered much before taking a stand on using force and attacking Iraq. At times they absolutely rejected participation [with the USA], and at other times they linked this with UN agreement. Then they went back to their first option. In fact, the lack of participation was only in line with the domestic desire of these states. However, they finally submitted and succumbed to US pressure and opened their air, land and sea bases to contribute toward the US campaign, despite the immense repercussions of this move. Most important of these repercussions is that this is a sin against Islamic tenets.
Most important and dangerous in their view was that they feared that the door would be open for bringing down dictatorial regimes by armed forces from abroad, especially after they had seen the arrest of their former comrade in treason and agent of the United States - when it ordered him to ignite the first Gulf war against Iran, which rebelled against it. The war consumed everything and plunged the area into a maze from which they have not emerged to this day.
They are aware that their turn will come. They do not have the will to make the difficult decision to confront the aggression, in addition to their belief that they do not possess the material resources for that. Indeed, they were prevented from establishing a large military force when they were forced to sign secret pledges and documents long ago.
In short, the ruler who believes in even some of the above-mentioned deeds cannot defend the country. How can he then do so if he believes in all of them, and has done that time and again? Those who believe in the principle of supporting the infidels over Muslims, and leave the blood, honour and property of their brothers available to their enemy in order to remain safe, claiming that they love their brothers but are being forced to take such a path - of course this compulsion cannot be regarded as legitimate - are in fact capable of taking the same course against one another in the Gulf states.
Indeed, this principle is liable to be embraced within the same state itself. Those who read and understood the history of kings know that they are capable of committing more than these appeasements, except those who enjoyed the mercy of God. Indeed, the rulers have practically started selling out the sons of the land, by pursuing and imprisoning them, and by unjustly and wrongly accusing them of becoming like the al-Khawarij sect who held Muslims to be infidels, and by committing the excesses of killing them. We hold them to be martyrs and God will judge them. All of this happened even before the Riyadh explosions in Rabi al-Awwal of this year [May 2003]. This campaign is part of a drive to implement the US orders, in the hope that they will win its blessings.
Based on the above, the extent of the real danger, which the region in general and the Arabian Peninsula in particular is being exposed to, has appeared. It has become clear that the rulers are not qualified to apply the religion and defend the Muslims. In fact, they have provided evidence that they are implementing the schemes of the enemies of the nation and religion, and that they are capable of abandoning their countries and peoples.
Now, after we have known the situation of the rulers, we should examine the policy which they have been pursuing. Anyone who examines the policy of those rulers will easily see that they follow their whims and desires, and their personal interests and crusader loyalties. Therefore, the flaw does not involve a secondary issue, such as personal corruption that is confined to the palace of the ruler. The flaw is in the very approach. This is due to a malicious belief and destructive principle, which spread in most walks of life, to the effect that absolute supremacy and obedience were due to the ruler, and not to the religion of God. In other countries, they have used the guise of parliaments and democracy. Thus, the situation of all Arab countries suffers from great deterioration in all walks of life, in religious and worldly matters.
We have reached this miserable situation because many of us lack the correct and comprehensive understanding of the religion of Islam. Many of us understand Islam to mean performing some acts of worship, such as prayer and fasting. Despite the great importance of these rituals, the religion of Islam encompasses all the affairs of life, including religious and worldly affairs, such as economic, military and political affairs, as well as the scales by which we weigh the actions of men - rulers, scholars, and others - and provide a means to deal with the ruler, in line with the rules set by God for him, and which the ruler should not violate.
Therefore, it becomes clear to us that the solution lies in adhering to the religion of God, by which God granted us pride in the past centuries, and by installing a strong and faithful leadership that applies the Quran among us and raises the true banner of jihad.
The honest people who are concerned about this situation, such as Islamic scholars, imams who are obeyed among their people, dignitaries, notables, and merchants, should get together and meet in a safe place away from the shadow of these oppressive regimes, and form a council for Ahl al-Hall wa al-Aqd [a council of upright people who, in accordance with Islamic law, can appoint or remove a ruler] to fill the vacuum caused by the religious invalidation of these regimes and their mental deficiency.
The right to appoint a leader is for the nation. The nation also has the right to make him correct his course if he deviates from it, and to remove him if he does something that warrants this, such as apostasy and treason. This temporary council should be made up of the minimum number of available personnel, in lieu of the rest of the nation, except what the religion allows in case of necessity, until the number is increased when the situation improves, God willing.
Their policy should be based on the Quran and the Sunna [the authenticated example of the doings] of the Prophet Mohammad, the peace and blessings of God be upon him. They should start by directing the Muslims to the important priorities at this critical stage, and lead them to a safe haven, provided that their top priority should be uniting opinions under the word of monotheism, and defending Islam and its people and countries, and declaring a general mobilisation in the nation to prepare for repulsing the raids of the Romans, which started in Iraq, and no-one knows where they will end.
God suffices us and he is the best supporter.
An original publication for the World Crisis Web.
Osama bin Laden - The Full Transcript