One of the clearest indicators is the social origin of new recruits to al-Qa'ida. As Olivier Roy writes in his forthcoming Le Croissant et le Chaos:
La carte de recrutement d’al-Qaida ne correspond pas à celle des conflits du Moyen-Orient, car on y trouve surtout des jeunes musulmans européens de seconde génération et des convertis, mais ni Palestiniens, ni Afghans et fort peu de gens venus du Moyen-Orient.
The map of the origin of al-Qaida recruits does not match the map of Middle East conflicts. The recruits consist predominantly of second-generation European young Muslims and converts, not Palestinians or Afghans, and very few people coming from the Middle East.
This quote comes from an electronic file dated in July, but it perfectly matches the profile of those arrested in Germany last week: the sons of Turkish guest workers and a German convert.
Just what are these "converts" converting to? They are not converting to anything that most Muslims would recognize as Islam. They do not integrate into the religion and culture of Islamic civilization and then gradually develop political views that correspond to their new milieu. On the contrary: they are radicalized opponents of the global order who find that al-Qa'ida has become the most genuine anti-globalization revolutionary organization. "Conversion" is just part of the initiation ritual.
Former Pakistani ISI director Hamid Gul made the same point in a UPI interview on September 28, 2001. Elaborating on his thesis that the World Trade Center was bombed by the Israeli secret services who warned the Jews to stay away (I must have forgotten to check my email that day), Gul told Arnaud de Borchgrave:
The world needs a post-modern state system. Right now, the nation-state and round the clock satellite TV lead people to imitate America's way of life. Which is mathematically impossible. You have 4 percent of the world's population consuming 32 percent of the world's resources. The creator through Prophet Mohammed said equal distribution. Capitalism is the negation of the creator's will. It leads to imperialism and unilateralism. [We will have] a global village under divine order, or we will have global bloodshed until good triumphs over evil.Bin Laden is more sophisticated. He must have found it frustrating for years that his epigones denied him credit for 9/11, in the apparent belief that only Jews were clever enough to pull off such an operation. He now says to Americans who do not understand "why they hate us":
This innocence of yours is like my innocence of the blood of your sons on the 11th - were I to claim such a thing. But it is impossible for me to humour any of you in the arrogance and indifference you show for the lives of humans outside America, or for me to humour your leaders in their lying, as the entire world knows they have the lion's share of that.In his latest speech he even abandons the usual anti-Semitic claims that "Zionists" control the government and press in the U.S. in favor of the populist trope that the government serves capital, which wants oil. Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust. Bin Laden acknowledges the Holocaust and blames it on Western Civilization. Bin Laden even poses, amazingly, as the heir of the tolerance of classical Islam, the last time that Islam posed a global alternative:
The holocaust of the Jews was carried out by your brethren in the middle of Europe, but had it been closer to our countries, most of the Jews would have been saved by taking refuge with us. And my proof for that is in what your brothers, the Spanish, did when they set up the horrible courts of the Inquisition to try Muslims and Jews, when the Jews only found safe shelter by taking refuge in our countries. And that is why the Jewish community in Morocco today is one of the largest communities in the world. They are alive with us and we have not incinerated them.It is ironic to say the least that Bin Laden claims credit for the policies of Muslim rulers that his predecessors, the Salafis of the day (the Muwahhidin, known in Spain as Almohade), considered to be apostates.
Bin Laden's message has little or no appeal to Muslims in Palestine, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, or elsewhere engaged in their national struggles for identity, legitimacy, or power. He engages, as Roy writes, "les migrants, les réfugiés, la seconde génération, les nouvelles classes sociales, ou bien . . .les tribus en mutation sociale." (He attracts "migrants, the second generation, new social classes, or tribes undergoing social change.")
I made a similar point about Bin Laden's relation to globalization and the nation-state system in a previous post.
This movement can pose a serious threat because of its global capacity for violence. But the more we link that threat to the numerous political struggles of Muslims around the world, the more we provide Bin Laden with talking points for his next video. Stay tuned.