Few In The Arab World Supported Osama Bin Laden

To talk about the reaction of the Arab world to Osama Bin Laden's death, Renee Montagne talks to Rami Khouri, an international affairs analyst at the American University of Beirut. He's also the editor-at-large of the Beirut–based Daily Star newspaper

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

To hear about reaction in the Arab world to the death of Osama bin Laden, we've reached Rami Khouri. He's an international affairs analyst at the American University of Beirut and a newspaper editor.

Morning. What are people saying they are in Beirut and in other Arab capitals?

Professor RAMI KHOURI (Journalism, American University, Beirut; Editor-at-Large, Daily Star): Well, it's pretty predictable. Most people in the Arab world think that bin Laden is a criminal and a sign from the past. And very, very few people support him, so the reaction has been very much along those lines.

There are questions that are raised about peripheral issues related to bin Laden. For instance, the grievances that bin Laden has tried to play on and to get support in the Arab world are issues that are widely - concern about them is widely felt all over the region; issues of corruption, of Western armies, of Arab-Israelis issues, things that people feel very strongly about all over the region.

Now, bin Laden tried to marshal Arab public opinion to support him and failed completely. His message didn't resonate at all. But those issues are still there and some people are saying, well, bin Laden's done. But the movement, the groundswell that created bin Ladenism or criticism against Arab governments, is still there. And people are saying bin Laden is from the past and people are trying to create new governments, new democracies and to address our problems in a better way now.

MONTAGNE: Well, does his death have any affect on how the U.S. is perceived in the Arab world?

Professor KHOURI: It doesn't create any new sentiments. I mean people who were critical of the U.S. before will be critical of it now, and saying that what they did was a criminal act. But I think the vast majority of people in the Arab world saw bin Laden as a bad guy. You know, he killed many more Muslims and people in the Arab world than he killed Americans or Europeans. So people have suffered at the hands of bin Laden and the bin Ladenist phenomenon that spun off all kinds of copycat movements.

I mean the number of people who've been killed and made refugees in Iraq by bin Laden-inspired terrorism and by Zarqawi and others in Iraq, for instance, is, you know, you're talking about hundreds of thousands of people who have suffered. And millions in terms of refugees.

So, you know, bin Laden was not admired around the Arab world. Very few people looked up to him.

MONTAGNE: Thank you.

Rami Khouri is editor-at-large at the Beirut-based Daily Star newspaper.

INSKEEP: All this morning we've been listening to people respond to the news of the death of Osama bin Laden. We're finishing our seventh hour of coverage on top of several hours last night. And this much has become clear: people are not running out of things to say. In fact, it's hard for people to stop talking.

MONTAGNE: Osama bin Laden seemed less on our minds in recent years. It seems fair to assume he would never be found. And in many ways the world was moving on, even the Muslim world was shaken by uprisings that had nothing to do with bin Laden.

INSKEEP: The leader of al-Qaida had become less relevant. But now we know the U.S. military and intelligence agencies did not forget. And by the evidence of the last dozen hours or so, the rest of us never forgot either.

MONTAGNE: It has been an excruciating decade since the crimes of September 11, 2001.

INSKEEP: Now a new chapter starts and Americans can say with grim satisfaction it's a new chapter for us, not the author of those crimes.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: It's special coverage from NPR news. I'm Steve Inskeep.

MONTAGNE: And I'm Renee Montagne.

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