Amil Khan on what Barack Obama’s victory could potentially mean for al-Qaida, the Middle East, and America’s image in the Muslim world:
It’s often overlooked that al-Qaida promises a fairer society. If its support is flagging, it’s because ordinary people have looked at its methods and wondered what sort of state it would run. But the calls for an end to corruption, nepotism and restoration of pride, dignity and self-determination still resound just as they have for more than 100 years through other ideologies.
Al-Qaida’s brand has done well in the past seven years because of America’s mistakes rather than the group’s achievements. By just proving its continued existence, it could assume an image on the streets of Cairo, Casablanca and Karachi as the plucky standard-bearer of Muslim pride. The torture in Abu Ghraib and the detainees in Guantanamo were heaven-sent opportunities to say; “Look! Rule of law? Human rights? All lies. None of that means anything to America.”
When America starts showing that it can deliver social justice at home, it makes public opinion in the Muslim world wonder whether it can do so abroad. However, the election only produces a window of opportunity for America, and Britain, to make a serious dent in al-Qaida’s rhetoric by proving their commitment to the ideas and principles for which they say they fight. The Obama victory will require follow-up if he is to change perceptions. Closing Guantánamo, as the president-elect has pledged, would be a great start.
Related: More on Obama’s ambiguous plans for the post-Guantanamo era from Cernig, Spattackerman, digby, and Mithras, who asks a salient question that threatens to be lost in the shadows of Camp Justice:
Although Gitmo is large and symbolically important, we reportedly have secret prisons all over the world. Is Obama going to include people being held there for long periods of time in this program?