The O-ama Vision
With both the final address of Osama Bin Laden and President Barack Obama’s speech on the Middle East aired within less than twenty-four hours apart, two themes converge to shed light on the future of the Muslim world and the West.
In an historical message recorded before his assassination, Bin Laden praised the revolutions of Tunisia and Egypt as sources of hope for millions, and an opportunity not to be wasted. He effectively endorsed non-violent dissent and revolution as the successful mode of Jihad today. Even for those who no longer found Bin Laden significant, his statements are unparalleled in power when negotiating an alternative interpretation of Islam with those who still deemed him relevant.
President Obama conveyed without ambiguity that the United States is dedicated to help people in the Middle East secure their self-evident rights. In doing so, it will help establish a framework that not only enables and protects freedom of expression, but also the long term economic development and integration within the global economy.
For Western Middle Easterners like myself, the challenge immediately becomes to integrate both messages in a coherent way forward. The emerging vision for Muslims in the World today becomes a Puritan Jihadi ethic tempered by its integration in the global economy. After Bin Laden’s endorsement of their non-violent revolutions, Muslims are now able to fully reclaim Jihad in its political sense and invigorate their dedication to Islam and the sovereignty and welfare of the Ummah. Furthermore, the desire to develop their countries beyond the traditional models of patronage and charity and by incorporating the openness of corporations and entrepreneurship will require a genuine partnership with the existing world economy. This will necessitate a departure from inflammatory rhetoric against the ‘Other’ and the perpetual suspicion that is antithetical to collaboration and mutual benefit.
The vitality of the Puritan Jihadi ethic is key; for Muslims are called upon to bring to the world a refreshed model of dissent and sacrifice in order to correct the inhumane aspects of the current global system. In this model, suicide bombings will rapidly fall in disfavor and non-violent protest before the eyes of the world will be the new path to martyrdom.
Therefore, one of the features we will witness with the Winter of Arabs coming to an end is mounting non-violent pressure in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Israel and neighboring countries. Bus ride after bus ride and freedom march after freedom march, Palestinians and Israelis along with citizens of the world will create the Promised Land in front of an awe-inspired world. The hypocrisy of realpolitik will be exposed and put to shame with the fall of unarmed martyrs blessing the road to Peace with their blood. When Peace in the Middle East is protected not by arms, but by hands joined in a common culture of mutual respect, that is when the Arab Spring will blossom.
Such is the O-ama vision, one that transcends the limitations of Obama and Osama apart and conveys the synergy of their visions combined.