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Arab World: Tempered Response To Bin Laden Death

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Arab World: Tempered Response To Bin Laden Death

Arab World: Tempered Response To Bin Laden Death

Arab World: Tempered Response To Bin Laden Death

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A man fixes televisions as he watches a TV broadcast on the death of Osama bin Laden in his workshop in the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon, on Monday. Mohammed Zaatari/AP hide caption

toggle caption Mohammed Zaatari/AP

Reaction to the news of Osama bin Laden's death around the Arab world is somewhat muted — it's as if bin Laden is old news compared with the uprisings that started in Tunisia and spread to Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria.

The strongest statements in the region came from the Muslim Brotherhood and other affiliated Islamist groups. The Brotherhood released a statement Monday in Egypt, saying now that the terrorist leader is gone, the U.S. should pull all of its troops out of Muslim countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, and recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.

Omar Bakri, a longtime supporter of al-Qaida and other militant groups who is based in Lebanon, says bin Laden's slaying will only create a need for revenge.

"If the people see that bin Laden has been assassinated at his own home, with his own wife and with some of his children and his friends in this cold blood, I think, why not? They will retaliate on the same way," Bakri says.

But other Arab analysts says most Arabs are happy to see bin Laden go — mainly because he represented some of the worst years in recent memory, when the larger community of Arabs felt like they were to blame for what one man did.

Nadim Khoury, who heads the Human Rights Watch office in Beirut, says that in Arabs' minds, the list of punishments for bin Laden's crimes was long.

"You've got the invasion of Iraq, you've got Gitmo [Guantanamo], you've got Abu Ghraib. It's all part of this sort of difficult few years," Khoury says. "And frankly, for the last few months, this is a region that is feeling hopeful, this is a region that is feeling empowered again," despite the fact that the revolutionary fervor in many countries like Yemen, Bahrain and Syria has turned violent.

'Their Problems Are Their Own Making'

Hilal Khashan, a professor of political studies at the American University of Beirut, says it's not a coincidence that Arabs have moved away from seeking justice through violent means. He says the anti-colonial Arab nationalism that was born in the 1950s and '60s, and then adopted by Islamist extremists to justify killing those seen as invaders or oppressors, is giving way to new ideas.

Arabs, he says, are finally realizing something they didn't acknowledge before.

"Their own problems are their own making," Khashan says. "They no longer identify their problems with Western colonialism and imperialism. They have come to terms with the fact that the devil is living among them."

That, Khashan says, means a single act of protest in a Tunisian village that sparked a revolution in January might well be the new paradigm.

"When the young Tunisian man set himself on fire, he was not on a jihadist mission — he was delivering a ruthless statement to his country's ruler that, 'I am fed up with you; if you continue to humiliate me, I will kill myself,' " Khashan says.

Sadly, Khashan says, too many Arabs wasted their lives on suicide bombings against American and Israeli interests, when "all they needed to get going was a single man delivering a powerful statement."

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