Muslim world had soured on bin Laden since 9/11
Afghans watch television coverage announcing the killing of Osama bin Laden at an electronics store in Kabul, Afghanistan.
May 2nd, 2011
04:59 PM ET

Muslim world had soured on bin Laden since 9/11

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - Though large swaths of the Muslim world cheered Osama bin Laden after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, there has been relatively little sympathy expressed for him from those quarters since his killing Sunday - a testament to the dramatic falloff in global Muslim support for the al Qaeda leader in the last decade.

While the spontaneous street celebrations that broke out in American cities like New York and Washington over the news of bin Laden’s killing by U.S. Special Forces have not been repeated in the Muslim world, there has been praise for his death from some Muslim political leaders.

In Yemen, which has been racked by unrest in recent months as hundreds of thousands have demanded the removal of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, bin Laden’s killing has yielded a rare moment of political unity, with both Saleh’s government and the opposition praising the development.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, meanwhile, hailed the killing as a “mega-landmark event.” Certain quarters of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s newly emboldened opposition party, have also voiced support, even as the party released a statement opposing assassinations of any kind and asking the U.S. to "stop intervening in the affairs of Muslim and Arab nations."

And while many other leaders from the Muslim world have so far been mum on bin Laden’s death, virtually none have voiced overt criticism of the U.S.-led operation. Experts say that’s largely because even Muslims in the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere who were once supportive of bin Laden soured on him years ago.

“When 9/11 first happened, people in the Muslim world weren’t entirely sure it was bin Laden who was behind it,” says Juan Cole, a professor of modern Middle East history at the University of Michigan. “He’d had this reputation of a freedom fighter who’d gotten the Soviets out of Afghanistan. He was a hero.”

But as al Qaeda established affiliates throughout the Muslim world after the September 11 attacks - leading to deadly attacks that claimed Muslim lives in countries like Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Morocco - Muslim support waned.

“Terrorism went from being seen as something that happened ‘over there’ to something that affected Muslims themselves,” says Cole.

A major turning point was Iraq war, during which the group al Qaeda in Iraq staged attacks that killed huge numbers of civilians, tarnishing the al Qaeda brand in eyes of Muslims who had expressed at least tacit support for the organization.

A report issued Monday by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project showed support for bin Laden has dropped considerably in six predominantly Muslim countries since 2003.

The report, which drew on surveys conducted last month, found that confidence in bin Laden among Muslims in Jordan had fallen to 13% last month, compared to 56% in 2003.

In Indonesia, 26% of Muslims said they were confident in bin Laden, down from 59% in 2003.

Even in the Palestinian territories, where support for bin Laden last month was highest among all six majority Muslim nations surveyed, confidence in the terrorist leader stood at 34%, down from 72% in 2003.

In many countries, a steep falloff in Muslim support for bin Laden correlates to the time period when that country experienced major terrorist attacks, said Richard Wike, associate director of the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

In Jordan, support for bin Laden remained strong until 2005, when a trio of suicide bombings for which al Qaeda claimed responsibility killed dozens in the nation’s capital. Since then, support for bin Laden has plummeted.

“Exposure to terrorism really changes opinions,” Wike says.

The uprisings that have swept through the Middle East and North Africa this year - resulting in government overthrows in Tunisia and Egypt - have been largely peaceful, offering a powerful alternative to al Qaeda's message of violent revolution.

"Osama bin Laden has lost relevance among the majority of Muslims around the world," said Dalia Mogahed, executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. "The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt dealt a final blow to the group’s narrative by accomplishing peacefully in a matter of weeks what all of Al Qaeda’s bombs failed to do in decades.”

U.S. President Barack Obama, for his part, has gone out of his way to avoid inflaming Muslims over bin Laden’s killing.

"I've made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam," Obama said in a televised address Sunday night announcing bin Laden’s death. "Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader. He was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries including our own."

Wike notes that Obama’s efforts to improve relations with the Muslim world has not led to more support for the U.S. in public opinion polls.

A Pew survey last year showed that just 17% of those in Egypt, Pakistan, Turkey - all countries where support for bin Laden had plummeted - had a positive opinion of the United States.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Islam • Osama bin Laden • Terrorism

soundoff (285 Responses)
  1. Jimmy

    There can be little doubt that when Allaah (swt) uses daiivetrons from the root k-f-r in the Qur’an that almost all of the time it does have a highly negative connotation and implication, often with extreme consequences of kufr mentioned.I am not sure what you are getting at with an attempt to at-Tasriyf [othewise known as 'ilm as-Sarf]. I taught Arabic for over two years and am well versed in its various inflections. In this part of your statement your sentiments are only half on target. In stating, often with extreme consequences of kufr mentioned , yes, there is an extreme consequence, and that is Hell-fire. And that brings me precisely to my point again! The consequence of kufr is in the Hereafter, not in this life. Allah may choose to punish certain individuals or whole groups of people [Fir'awn or the people of 'Ad/Thamuwd] in this life but that is the prerogative of God! God and God Alone is able to deal in absolutes because God is All-Seeing, All-Knowing, Just, Free From All Want, and Infinitely Merciful. Men have to deal with conditions, specificities, and to use a legal term, precedents. Why else do you think the advent of usul al-fiqh [Islamic jurisprudence] developed within the first 100 years or so after the Hijrah? Do you think that Imam Malik and the rest of the Muslims of his time had nothing better to do in the desert? The death of the Prophet [may God grant him Peace] hailed a new era in which Muslims would have to develop an open-ended system of interpretation for issues and precedents for which the Qur'an and Sunnah did not have explicit experience with!The other aspect of your argument is that you compact all unbelievers [kafiruwn] into the same box. This may seem unduly sophisticated but the kafiruwn of the Prophet's time are not the kafiruwn of ours [or any other time outside of Revelation]. What I am trying to get at here yes, the Arabs of the Prophet's time were indeed covering the truth. They understood the Message in terms of its linguistic aspects. They were cognizant of their tie to the tradition of Abraham and as the Message progressed, as their understanding of it progressed, they grew arrogant, hostile and impetuous. The objections of the Quraysh was that Muhammad was breaking the bond between father and son, mother and daughter and so on. And moreover, the Prophet was one of them, a point God clearly illustrates for the exact point of further driving home the point that they did indeed understand the Revelation. The same cannot be said for every person who simply might not even know what Islam is or have ever heard of the Prophet! So for someone who is ignorant of the existence of Muhammad of Arabia or the Revelation of the Qur'an, are they covering the truth ? I am not making any claim to the nature of their salvation in the Hereafter, but it seems that your wanting to brand the word kafir seems more ideological than ontological.Continuing:Necessarily for those who do not speak Arabic in our daily lives, there can be no higher source of looking to the deepest meanings of words than their use by Allaah (swt) in the Qur’an and in the Qur’an the word has far from a neutral connotation.I am not sure what the use or even implied importance of Arabic is in one's daily life in this context. On one hand, this would mean that those who do use Arabic on a daily, communicative level would somehow grasp the notion of kufr [Disbelief] to a greater extent than non-Arabic speaking peoples [despite the fact that most Arabs are woefully ignorant of balaghah or Qur'anic Arabic]. I find this statement disturbing in [a] how you can make such a determinant, in that I highly doubt you possess the requisite Arabic to stake such a claim, and [b] anyone outside the fold of the quotidian use of Arabic is immediately limited in their capacity to understand God's concepts of Belief/Disbelief. Again, this resonates of a false-utopia, a time gone, a place gone, or perhaps just not God's chosen people, in that one can aim to achieve but any such attainable goals have limits, the highest beyond reach.So, we should let the word means what it means Again, this insinuates that I am not letting it mean what it means . By making such remarks, you demonstrate that only by my subscription to your line of thinking can I possess the pure and unadulterated understanding of Islam. Anything else is just contaminated water.And God knows best.

    March 3, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
  2. Abid

    Basically, I agree with you (except for the word sordid ). When Obama made the auennocnment Sunday night, he should have concluded by stating firmly that no further details would be released by the White House until all SEAL and CIA operatives were back in the U.S., fully debriefed, accounts analyzed, and discrepancies among the accounts resolved. This would likely take a week or two. While this seems sensible to me, I realize that it is unrealistic. First and foremost, Obama is sensitive to the people's right to know . The President and his designates are accountable to the public and to Congress. Second, the media would not willingly accept a moratorium on information about the operation that killed bin Laden. The media is a ravenous beast that desires frequent feedings, particularly about such a sensational story.As a dual AUS/US citizen, resident in the NY area, a registered Democrat, and a supporter of Barack Obama, I wince every time an Administration spokesperson takes the microphone to modify or correct earlier statements. Credibility ebbs each time.

    March 2, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  3. replicac51922


    September 22, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  4. Muneef

    The WP Virtual Islamic School (http://www.witness-pioneer.org/VSchool/index.htm) (WPVS) is a project of Witness-Pioneer, an Internet-based Islamic Organization that is dedicated for the study of Islam through authentic sources.

    WPVS is offering a course to start (April 29, 2011 ~ August 26, 2011) Inshallah. Details are as follows:

    HP101: International and Interfaith Relations: Islamic Perspectives: 
     Name of the Course:  Visit http://witness-pioneer.org/VSchool/hp101.htm

    May 4, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
  5. Muneef

    Hadith and Apostasy
    by Abdullah Saeed
    April 4, 2011, The Public Discourse

    May 4, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
  6. Muneef

    Interesting site although not related to the blog subject but could be a source of informations related to the Holy Quran....

    May 4, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  7. cb

    why bring religion in? just cause osama was muslim, then all moslems are the same. if that the case then all christians are paedophiles since you priests practice that????? is that fair on you? NO its not so please dont bring religion in this.

    May 4, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  8. Muneef

    An Arabian Proverb states that "The worst of all disasters is the One that makes laugh...admit many might have laughed out first out of disbelieve that such kids  is said to have pulled such unbelievable act to such A Country with such tight Security ...then again have laughed in disbelieve of what might happen as a reaction for that pulled act which serves no Arabian nor a Muslim country but rather it served those who want certain accounts or references to burn down or to shake the trade for certain immediate gains or for gains that might result out of the reaction that will follow...

    To find out the truth you have to find out who had benefited from those attacks against the twin towers....?! It would never be by any ordinary men but it would rather be by those on the tiptop of (Finance&Power) to pull such act either towards making immediate financial or political gains or for hiding their crimes by making another crime....       

    [40:44] "Some day you will remember what I am telling you now. I leave the judgment of this matter to GOD; GOD is the Seer of all the people."

    May 4, 2011 at 7:57 am |
    • Muneef

      The biggest proof to that was killing him with any chance of court hearing to his words of defense or finding him guilty of all charges they made us hear over the years...so they chance to close the chapter....

      May 4, 2011 at 8:03 am |
  9. Reality

    Bin Laden followed the dictates of the koran. His execution for crimes against humanity has not changed the koran. Until this book of terror is modernized or deleted all together, no male Muslim can be trusted.

    May 4, 2011 at 7:34 am |
    • righteous

      You pesky little coward. Back to your hole.

      May 4, 2011 at 7:53 am |
    • Ed

      @righteous Are we playing wack-a-reality?

      May 4, 2011 at 9:07 am |
    • Darkwolf

      C'mon, Ed... if you wanna call the Koran a "book of terror", at least be fair and look at the Bible in the same light. 80% of the Koran and the Bible tell the same story... and it isn't "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm". At least we and the Muslims share the same God... even if He is a vengeful, bloody Tyrant.

      May 4, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
  10. Kermit01

    So, muslims supported Bin Laden as long as he killed non-muslims but they soured on him once he started killing other muslims. Can anyone tell me what this says about the nature of islam?

    May 3, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • YeahRight

      The same thing as Christians killing Christians.....

      May 3, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  11. Reality

    Ending most religions as we currently know them in less than 100 words:

    Saving 1.5 billion lost Muslims:
    There never was and never will be any angels i.e. no Gabriel, no Islam and therefore no more koranic-driven acts of horror and terror

    Saving 2 billion lost Christians:
    There was and never will be any bodily resurrections i.e. No Easter, no Christianity and no miracles.

    Saving 15.5 million Orthodox followers of Judaism:
    Abraham and Moses never existed.

    Added details upon request.-----------------------------------

    May 3, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  12. Veritas

    The character of a group is revealed by the kinds of heros they revere. CNN notes "large swaths of the Muslim world cheered Osama bin Laden after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks," So they've soured on this particular evil murderer since then – maybe because of his failure to kill more innocent civilians? As I look at the kind of people that the Muslim world admires I'm increasingly convinced that they are deserving of our deep and abiding pity...and our clear-eyed, sober, realistic opposition...unclouded by political-correctness and our mistaken classification of a violent totalizing political ideology as a "religion."

    May 3, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Darkwolf

      There are going to be Radicals in any Religion. Christianity certainly its own brand of Nutcases (like Fred Phelps and the Koran-burner in Florida). Happily, in the U.S., such people are quickly marginalized by the Majority, and their caustic message reads for what it is. Democracies tend to self-correct in this way... sadly, such is not the norm.

      May 4, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  13. Why judge?

    I wonder if all these people that are saying bad things about Islam actually know anything about it?

    May 3, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  14. Why judge?

    EVERYONE has made mistakes in their lives and so did you, but why judge a whole religion on ones mistakes. Islam means peace and love and if you don't believe me go do some research. Osama is the opposite of Islam and why blame all Muslims for his mistakes? You can say what you want, but please think about it. Say your Christian or Hindu or some other religion/belief if one person in your religion made a mistake why do you have to blame them all for ones mistakes? Put yourself in the shoes of the people in the middle east and think about it. Many have died by accident and if you were them and one of you family members died and a person like Osama said this is what the westerners are would you believe them when you have no cable or anything just the image of the dead family member? Everyone has made mistakes but NEVER blame a whole religion for someone elses mistake because ISLAM MEANS PEACE AND LOVE! Research it!

    May 3, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Darkwolf

      OBL propagandized "Jihad" as "Terrorism"... nothing could be farther from the Truth. Al Qaeda's members are NOT Jihadi... they are Halabi.

      May 4, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  15. harv

    Muslims need to teach kids in schools love humanity and respect others, not if you are non muslim you are devil, you don't have to repeat it on tv or radio channels which religion is peacful, people are not dum they know all religions are for peace, but where is the peace in practically, showing hatred or having thoughts of islamization the world,stop evil thinking of conversion of anyone to islam that is not peaceful religion or thoughts.help the poor and needy, give equal respect to male and female respect democracy and more important develop tolerence.intolerence is the basic evil of human race.

    May 3, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  16. illuminatedgenius

    The president of Hamas in Gaza hailed Osama Bin Laden is a hero and martyr which is not surprising. Pakistan had Osama Bin Laden living in a mansion right next to a military academy in Pakistan. This does not surprise me giving muslims secretly supported Osama Bin Laden and radical Islamic extremism in this world. It is not also surprising that people in Yemen call for other Osamas to come forward. The evil ideology which atheists have condemned correctly as hypocritical and evil was rightfully so to be condemned. Islam is a threat to the advancement of western civilization as it is a backwards cult from the 7th century forcing the values of totalitarianism, fascism and militant components to control all aspects of life. I would say we have the same problem with corruption in organized religion in this world as well and it is something that should be addressed as a fact in the real world we live in. Personally i don't think we would have all these wars in the middle east if it was not for Islam and those who exploit it for power and corruption like many Islamic dictators.

    May 3, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
  17. Elan Remford

    The strongest, and indeed the ONLY meaningful reaction the US can express would be to acknowledge bin Laden's death as merely a necessary item ticked-off a list of essential to do's – attributing no more significance to it, or HIM, period.

    While bin Laden may have failed to win-over or subjugate the Muslim world, he continues to have an effect upon America by ANY degree to which he still occupies attention – alive OR dead and waterlogged.

    May 3, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  18. damawn82

    It is mind boggling that so many people are ignorant of what is really going on; Muslims coming out the woodwork after bin laden is killed? please... it's more like the main stream media finally gives the time to these peaceful muslims... otherwise, before, it wouldn't help sell their product, which is a tarnished image of Islam, as a religion of terror. And for those who think Muslims were seen celebrating on 9/11 are sadly mistaken; they were actually Israelites. and as far as bin laden goes... the entire show is just that, a circus show. He died YEARS ago and now they pull out the 'killed al qaeda' trump card to make it appear as if they have done anything actually of purpose.

    May 3, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • חֲנוֹךְ

      I am just speechless. You could make Alex Jones blush with your fantasies.

      May 3, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Bornfree71

      You started off so beautifully – "main stream media finally gives the time to these peaceful muslims" – and after that, you just lost me. Stop living in another dimension and come back to the real world. Yes, not all muslims were dancing at 9/11, but those who did were all muslims. And the only Circus show here is how a small group of radical muslims so easily hijacked an entire religion and the so-called "moderates" or "peaceful muslims" as you called them couldn't do sh!t about it. I just hope out of this death comes a renewed strength in the hearts and minds of moderate muslims to never let their religion be hijacked again.

      May 3, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • anticrap

      Bornfree71, don't tell me my religion was "hijacked by extremists" and that I didn't do anything. What are we supposed to do when we hold all these peace initiatives, condemn all these idiots blowing themselves up, make all these feel – good interfaith groups – only to turn on the TV and see another large story on how Islam is becoming radical, listening to another politicians talking about the apparent dangers of Islam and Sharia Law, and watching Sen. Pete King tell us we aren't doing jack sh.t. I am sick of it. I am not saying Muslims are flawless, but I can tell you Muslims here in America have gotten the short end of the stick, regardless of what we have done, everytime a couple of idiots tries to do something in the name of Islam. I can show you news reports of Christians and Jews who do the same, do we suddenly see them all as terrorists? No. So please, find out what the truth and stop being so ignorant. And just ignore these stupid conspiracy theories, they are just a waste of everyones time.

      May 3, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  19. Muneef

    The late has weakened the Arabs and Muslims more than strengthened them....which clearly shows that he was serving another agenda that brought all Arabian and Islamic world to kneel down to the western countries..now that his service is over and world politics are changing they have ended the myth with such story...just to add a celebration in addition to the British royal marriage,then the Italian,Vatican beatification of the Pope....
    Any way surely he was killed if he was killed because his family and country given the green light since they feared that he may come and make use of the political moves swarming the MidEast to come and claim the Throne over the Arabian Peninsular....

    May 3, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  20. HS

    Anyone who preaches that violence, and especially violence against innocents, is anyway justified by religion, is bound to fail.

    May 3, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.