The first strategy consists in ending the ‘war on terror’ rhetoric and policy. Since the Bush administration launched the WOT in order to combat al-Qaeda’s the terrorist activities, the exhausted and age-old discourse of a ‘clash of civilisations’ between the West and the Rest resurfaced with specific reference to Islam. Yet for many of us in the Muslim world, the ideologies and terrorist activities of al-Qaeda under the leadership of OBL did not at all reflect how true Muslims should act and live. A faith of peace and love for the overwhelming majority of Muslims, Islam is nevertheless all too often portrayed as ‘uncivilised’, ‘traditional’, ‘irrational’, ‘violent’, and ‘alien’ by Orientalist and essentialist understandings that are deep-seated and centuries-old. Influenced by these assumptions, much of the current literature and debate continues to adopt a rather simplistic and stereotypical view of Islam as a violent, irrational, and backward religion that has the potential to turn its believers into potential terrorists (such as OBL himself). Hence, the US-led WOT can be identified as the continuation of such orientalist, ethnocentric and cultural biases that characterize the relationship between the West and the East – or the ‘Orient’ or ‘Islamic world’ – in the form of violent conflicts between ‘us and them’. Such simplistic views impede the understanding of WOT by creating a ‘false-consciousness’ for non-Muslims – ‘us’ – as rational, non-violent, and peaceful beings in the West, while alienating the dedicated (and diverse) followers of Islam worldwide – them – as irrational and violent. Although it seems that the Obama administration stopped using the ‘War on Terror’ expression at the level of policy and rhetoric, the idea of being ‘at war with Al-Qaeda’ has never been abandoned and indeed it has recently been used to justify the killing of OBL. Reactions to his death varied from the celebrations and chanting of Americans, to the condemnations for the way he was killed and ‘buried at sea’ by his followers and ordinary Muslims. There were also some critical voices in the West. Hence, the US Special Forces’ operation has raised many questions about the legality of the killing and the handling of his burial among Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
*Published in Political Reflection Magazine (PR) Vol. 2 | No. 2
** Director, Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Contemporary Political Violence (CSRV); Lecturer in International Politics of the Middle East and Islamic Studies; Department of International Politics; Aberystwyth University.
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