LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

In the Arab world, reaction to Osama bin Laden's death has been somewhat muted. A decade ago, bin Laden was a major figure. Everyone in the region seemed to have strong feelings about him. Today, bin Laden and his message appear far less relevant in light of the so-called Arab Spring, the recent uprisings that began in Tunisia and spread rapidly through the region.

NPR's Kelly McEvers sent this report from Beirut.

KELLY MCEVERS: 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 al-Qaida 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 is a longtime supporter of al-Qaida and other militant groups who's based here in Lebanon. He says the assassination of bin Laden will only create a need for revenge.

Mr. OMAR BAKRI: If the people see that bin Laden has been assassinated at his own home, with his own wife and with some of his own children and friends in this cold blood, I think, why not? They'll retaliate on the same way.

MCEVERS: Other Arab analysts say most Arabs are happy to see bin Laden go -mainly because he represents 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 Arabs' minds, the list of punishments for bin Laden's crimes is long.

Mr. NADIM KHOURY (Human Rights Watch): You've got the invasion of Iraq and you've got, you know, Gitmo and you've got Abu Ghraib. I mean, it's all part of this sort of difficult few years that went through. And frankly, for the last few months, this is a region that is feeling hopeful, this is a region that is feeling empowered again.

MCEVERS: Despite the fact that the revolutionary fervor in many countries like Yemen, Bahrain and Syria has turned violent.

Hilal Khashan is a professor at the American University in Beirut. He 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 those seen as invaders or oppressors is giving way to new ideas. Arabs, he says, are finally realizing something they wouldn't acknowledge before.

Professor HILAL KHASHAN (American University): Their own problems are their own making. 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.

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

Prof. KHASHAN: When the young Tunisian man set himself on fire, he was not on a jihadist mission. He was delivering a ruthless political statement to his country's ruler that: I am fed up with you. If you continue to humiliate me, I will kill myself.

MCEVERS: Sadly, Khashan says, too many Arabs wasted their lives on suicide bombings against American and Israeli interests, only to find out that...

Prof. KHASHAN: All they needed to get going was a single man delivering them a powerful statement.

MCEVERS: Kelly McEvers, NPR News, Beirut.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.