Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Faisal Shahzad's Sheikhs Were Not in the Field

Remember Faisal Shahzad, the guy who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square a year ago. He was a born in Pakistan and gained U.S. citizenship by swearing what he later admitted was a false oath to be a loyal American.

He's a prime example of a Muslim who was radicalized by the propaganda of Al Qaeda and its ilk. The image of Osama Bin Laden waging jihad from caves in Afghanistan and Pakistan was key to that propaganda. But we now know that wasn't true. Osama Bin Laden was living in a luxurious mansion in the city of Abbottabad, far from the front lines where his duped followers have been losing their lives fighting a losing cause for the last 10 years.

In an April 2009 email exchange, Faisal excoriated the views of a moderate Pakistani politician, urging his friends to find "a proper Sheikh to understand the Quran." Asked which sheikhs he followed, he replied, "My sheikhs are in the field."

Faisal's sheikhs in the field were Osama Bin Laden, head of the Al Qaeda, and Mullah Mohammed Omar, head of the Taliban. At the time Faisal wrote that, Bin Laden was likely already ensconced in his Abbottabad mansion. And Omar may well have been and still be hiding in a Karachi mansion.

So what do the jihadists who are fighting in the field do now? Will some of them come to realize they have been duped into the wrong fight under false pretenses? I think they will. Not all of them certainly, but the cowardly death of their lying leader may be the last straw for many.

Osama Bin Laden will remain a folk hero to many Muslims who have never been near the front lines of this fight. He'll be their Jesse James. But the Osama Bin Laden myth now has some facts to compete with.

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