While the media in the United States would have readers believe support for al Qaeda is on the slide five years after al Qaeda attacked New York, the report by Chatham House --quoted by the media-- suggests two distinct trends. Al Qaeda loses support when the organization is responsible for killing Muslims, but when fighting against (primarily) Western powers responsible for repressing Muslims there is a renewed sense of satisfaction and hope.
While anti-terrorism programs brought by the United States have reduced financing of al Qaeda the organization is becoming more of an iconic symbol to combat the same democratic freedoms the White House and 10 Downing Street claim to be offering the Middle East.
Ahead of the 9/11 fifth anniversary, patriotism between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate continues strong in fighting al Qaeda. On 7 September the Senate "unanimously" approved an additional $200 million in funding to search for al Qaeda's leader Osama bin Laden. Some 1,826 days have passed in which the White House claimed the search for bin Laden was its strategic goal. Bin Laden is thought to still be at the head of the al Qaeda organization, although the chain of command remains unclear in part to anti-terrorism efforts since 9/11, which have driven al Qaeda leaders underground.
Al Qaeda -- much in same way that President George W Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair have lost support -- is reinventing itself as a political movement on a localized level, which is the direct consequence of the United States' military failures in Iraq and Afghanistan. In other words, the "winner" role is still up for grabs in reference to the Chatham House report.
Muslim support for al Qaeda has waned, but not as much as support for President Bush and Minister Blair.
"Al Qaeda's terrorism has forced the issue of the need to examine Western policies towards the Muslim world," writes Maha Azzam, associate fellow of the Middle East Programme at Chatham House.
There are perceived consequences to the White House's policies -- in so much as all of the blame for Muslim strife rests upon the West. The result will be a much longer sociological affect than current military action present in Afghanistan and Iraq. Azzam concludes that this example is more alike post-colonial blame of powerful nations by secular socialist Arab regimes.
Followers of al Qaeda believe that in a democracy, all parts (not just one man or one president) are responsible for the government's actions. "...The message to the citizens of Western democracies is that it is their governments and not al Qaeda, which should bear the responsibility for the infliction of terror on their societies. While the indications are that, with the possible exception of Spain, such a message found no broad resonance among Western populations, it can be argued that Western governments and their societies are becoming increasingly aware of the need to address more than security issues, and of the fact that regional crises help foment terror."
Muslims hold the United States responsible for three main issues: Unrest in Afghanistan and in Iraq; they blame the White House for installing and maintaining dictatorship regimes in the Arab world under the disguise of democracy; and for spreading the message, Muslims conclude is nothing more than propaganda, that democracy is working in the Middle East.
"This is partly because regimes, in a rearguard action to defend their authority, point to the growing power of the Islamist trend as a way of cautioning their Western sponsors against moving too quickly in this process. Yet it is precisely the rise of a viable moderate Islamist opposition with the prospect of winning power that can undermine the appeal of the radical Islamists, including al Qaeda, to the masses," Azzam wrote.
The Arab-Israel conflict proves to be a symbol of ongoing repression against Muslims. Establishing a Palestinian state along with at least some ruling power over East Jerusalem, could bring immediate resolve to how Muslims view Israel at the moment.
"The problem is that it is hard to see how this can be achieved. The European Union might push harder for a solution that is uncomfortable for Israel, but is difficult to see how a United States administration would fail to listen to Israeli concerns about security.
"These concerns affect all aspects of the solution: Speed of implementation, viability of the proposed state, return of the Palestinian refugees; while given the symbolic significance of Jerusalem for Israel, it is equally hard to see how it can abandon control over that city, or even a small part of it," Azzam wrote.
Thus, to Azzam's earlier conclusion about lack of speed on democratic change, the Israel and Palestinian conflict only exacerbates that fear with Muslims that the West in particular meddles in their affairs to the detriment of their social being.
While the White House has reduced the lines of communication to the al Qaeda network post-9/11, the group has grown in influence even though it is fractured as piece parts. It is more difficult, post-9/11, to define al Qaeda as one group. Azzam uses riots from Muslims in France during October 2005 as one example to show the results of yet unresolved integration and identity between Muslims and the West.
These issues can lead to new organizations on a local level, which do not require much of a networking program to compete with the ideology of al Qaeda.
Organizations, such as al Qaeda, are largely built upon issues of independence and autonomy meant to challenge society at large. Al Qaeda is charged specifically with bringing forth the needs of Muslims on a regional scale. While Muslim populations are less sympathetic towards al Qaeda's mission, their own regional grievances remain unresolved and ignored by the West.
---This content is copyrighted by Think & Ask, reproduction of any kind is not permitted without written consent.---