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Bin Laden as 'Martyr:' A Call to Jihadists

Author: Ed Husain, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
May 4, 2011


Editor's note: Ed Husain is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and is author of "The Islamist."

Osama bin Laden died the death he wanted: that of a "martyr." He was a mass murderer, but as we celebrate his killing in the West, we should not forget muted reactions in the East and how this is bringing a new generation of jihadists to the fore.

Although the jubilation in New York and outside the White House is understandable, it risks sending the message of another premature "Mission Accomplished" moment. To put it simply, Osama bin Laden is dead, al Qaeda is not.

Removing bin Laden is a colossal psychological blow to al Qaeda globally. But bin Laden was never the cause for al Qaeda: The issues that motivated him are still alive and well. Al Qaeda is a global brand, an idea, a movement. And just as he was recruited to a mind set of extremism, confrontation and violence, his death will serve as a global clarion call for another generation of jihadists.

The killing of Hasan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1949, did not end the brotherhood. The hanging of its most radical ideologue, Syed Qutb, bin Laden's intellectual guide, gave rise to a whole new generation of jihadists inside Egypt. Indeed, when I was in Egypt last month, several of the most radical Muslims I met there had been inspired by the killing of Qutb, and remain extremists to this day. Bin Laden's successor, Ayman al Zawahiri, is a direct result of Qutb's writings.

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