Check out my new piece for Conversation.edu: “Bin Laden’s online legacy”
The past few days have seen a flurry of prognostications on al-Qaeda and its future. While each argument spars over whether al-Qaeda is on the ropes or resurgent, they miss a vital segment of analysis. What are al-Qaeda’s grassroots supporters saying?
Unlike Western media, which has obsessively been writing about the anniversary, bin Laden’s supporters have not shown much initiative in remembering his legacy. In the days leading up to the anniversary of bin Laden’s “martyrdom,” there were a couple of threads on the forums that posted photoshopped pictures of bin Laden with al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem behind him, adorned with flowers on the ground and an AK-47 on the side, along with other similar images. There was also a poem written in his honour.
It is still possible that online jihadis as well as supporters attached to al-Qaeda’s branches or individuals unaffiliated such as key ideologues could release commemorations, since most eulogies released last year for bin Laden were in the weeks after his death. Since then bin Laden has been highlighted in Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri’s video message “Days With the Imam #1,” released last November. Bin Laden was also celebrated in Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahidin’s messageon the merger with al-Qaeda this February. In doing so, al-Shabab reiterated its fealty they gave to bin Laden would also hold true to al-Zawahiri. This hearkened back to al-Shabab’s original pledge of allegiance to bin Laden when they releaseda video in 2009 titled “Labayk ya Usama” (At Your Service Oh Usama).
Overall, though, one has not seen too much in the past year. There are two potential explanations: individuals still remember bin Laden, but have moved on, or they view celebrating his “martyrdom” as contrary to Islam.
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