One link to Islam is the founder, Bin Laden, were Muslims. Bin Laden was born to a wealthy Yemeni father and a Syrian mother in 1957. His father was a very religious man, and he made a fortune from the construction business and had close ties with the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia. He passed on his deep religious feelings to his son, a strong member of the Islamic Faith, who in school and university was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. For a boy born in Saudi Arabia, none of this was unusual.
The turning point of his life was the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, which was seen by Bin Laden as an attempt to impose godless communism, and an unjustified attack on Muslim People. He met in Pakistan with Afghan leaders fighting the Russians, and left for Saudi Arabia to collect money and supplies for Afghan rebels, the Mujahadin. After several trips delivering arms and aid, he decided to join in the fight against the Russians. As a rich Saudi he soon made a name, acquiring followers in Muslims countries, such as Egypt and Turkey.
He claimed that his followers numbered in the thousands, all determined to fight a Communist ideology that spurned God. Eventually he opened a Guesthouse in Peshawar, which became a stopping off point for Mujahadin fighters. He began to build camps in Afghanistan as the numbers of fighters became so great, and he named the guesthouse and camp Al-Qaeda – which in Arabic means ‘The Base’. After the Mujahadin claimed victory over the Russians in the Cold War, bin Laden looked forward to a warm welcome home, but was instead disillusioned by what he considered to be lack of recognition.
When Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait in 1990, bin Laden offered an army of Mujahadin fighters to the government to help defend the Kingdom against further Iraqi aggression. The Saudis turned him down – accepting instead an American offer – and soon there were more than 500,000 on Saudi Soil preparing to launch operation Desert Storm against Iraq. This angered bin Laden who then became a bitter critic of the Saudi government, who in his eyes had betrayed Islam. Therefore his objective became to remove all American forces from Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf Region.
His other objectives were: The liberation of Jerusalem from the Israelis. * The overthrow of ‘un-Islamic’ governments in the region. * The restoration of the Caliphate. Another factor that links Al-Qaeda to Islam is that the majority of Al-Qaeda are of the Muslim Faith. However, they are not all Arabs; there are members of Al-Qaeda from many different nationalities. The fact that the organization is mostly Muslim serves as a uniting factor between Al-Qaeda. Although Bin Laden is the main leader, the organization is wide spread, with cells in more than 40 countries, and is loosely controlled with many groups being almost independent of the leadership.
It is this looseness that has caused the argument that even if Bin Laden is captured or killed; Al-Qaeda will become even looser, and thus harder to crush. Al-Qaeda were also connected to the Islamic Group, the Taliban. The Taliban came to the world’s attention in 1994 when they were charged by the Pakistanis to protect a convoy trying to open a trade route between Pakistan and Central Asia. By this time the Russians had withdrawn from Afghanistan and the Cold War had ended.
The Taliban was made up from Afghans trained in religious schools in Pakistan, and from the former Mujahadin The Taliban took control of the country in September 1996 after capturing the Afghan capital city of Kabul. Afghanistan was suffering from the internal strife of various different factions fighting each other and bringing misery to the people. The fact that the Taliban were successful in opposing all these groups made them very popular, especially once they began to stamp out corruption and restore peace. The policy of the Taliban was to set up the world’s purest Islamic state and they took their ideas as much as possible from a rigid interpretation of Islamic Law.
This meant that, for instance, crime was punished directly by means of execution and amputation. Men were far superior to women, who were not able to go to school or work, and were forced to cover their bodies entirely. Unfortunately the government soon came to the attention of the international community, mostly for its lack of equality for women. However, when the United Nations did impose sanctions in 1998 this was because the Taliban refused to hand over one Osama bin Laden. The Taliban claimed that bin Laden was a guest in their country, and Islamic tradition insisted he therefore be treated with hospitality.
The Taliban protected Al-Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden, and provided them with a safe base. They did this, as both Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were Islamic Fundamentalists. Al-Qaeda can be compared to many other terrorist organizations, one of which is the IRA (Irish Republican Army). The IRA was formed in the 1970s, and its main aim was to establish independence for Ireland. Like Al-Qaeda, they were prepared to use violence in order to achieve their goals but unlike Al-Qaeda, they were not a religious organization, but a political one.
They were also against suicide bombing. Al-Qaeda aimed to convert everybody to the Islamic faith, it was a world-wide organization, while Ireland was local (they only wanted independence for Ireland). Al-Qaeda, along with other Islamic Fundamentalists, were deeply angered by Apostolic States, which are Islamic States where the government or ruler declares themselves Islamic, but does not act in accordance to Islamic law. Islamic Fundamentalists feel that these governments need to be removed from power so that the voice of God can be heard in government.
Some Muslims even believe that these States are worse than Christians and Jews, because at least they pretend to be nothing else, whereas apostolic states betray the very principles of Islam. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are examples of these states. Bin Laden did not believe that the Saudi Government acted in accordance to the Islamic law when they willingly allowed thousand of Americans upon their soil. There are many factors that link Al-Qaeda to Islam, but one that does not is the Crusades, which took place in the Middle Ages. They were an attempt by Christians to ‘rescue’ Jerusalem form the ‘Infidels’ (Muslim Seljuk Turks).
They starting of being successful, but Muslim power in the Middle East was ensured by the victory of Saladin in the late 12th century. By the time the Crusades were over, a new power was emerging – The Ottoman Turks. The Ottomans spread to Europe and North Africa, capturing Constantinople in 1453. However, Christian powers were able to seize parts of the Islamic World in the 18th Century, due to the weakening of the Ottomans. The French took countries such as Syria and Lebanon, while the British took Iraq, Jordan and Palestine.
Although the French and British empires collapsed after the Second World War, the arrival of Americans had convinced many Muslims that Christian Armies and states still seek control of the Islamic World. To them the crusades continue to this day, and this is an affront to their national pride at least as much as it is a question of religion. Anti-Americanism and oil could also be important factor to suggest that Al-Qaeda was not an Islamic Group. Due to many Arab countries having large oil deposits, Americans and the west have interfered in those countries.
Iran, for example, was told by Western powers who was to be their leader. The Muslims feel that the oil is theirs, and the presence of Americans and western powers in Arab countries could be yet another attempt to steal their oil. Much of the hostility towards Westerners’ stems from this problem. The motivation for the terrorists’ acts may be to try and stop Americans trying to take what is not theirs. Poverty and disillusionment is another factor that can suggest that Al-Qaeda is not an Islamic Organization. Extreme poverty is suffered in many areas of the Islamic Word, such as Bangladesh, or Sudan.
Many Muslims blame this on the economic exploitation of western businesses and companies for this poverty. They seek to alter this state of affairs by striking back at the richer nations and affecting their business profits, as they believe that this is the only way to make world trade fairer. Recruits are gained easily from those who feel that they have nothing to lose, and that any action they take can only lead to improvement in their lives. Al-Qaeda could just be fighting against the extreme poverty found in the Islamic World, as they feel that the Western World have been exploiting them.
There have been many terrorist acts upon Israel, which began in 1947. The Muslims claim that it is their land, which they have inhabited for many centuries, while Jews quote the biblical references of Palestine as the Promised Land. The Muslims have sought to end Israel by many acts of terrorism, which were unsuccessful, and led to the Jews taking even more Muslim Land. Although there is a religious element to the Arab-Israeli conflict, there are also issues of nationalism and social issues involved, which sometimes are the main motivation for the terrorists’ acts. Al-Qaeda and other Muslims may not want to lose anymore of their land.