I wonder if an ad went up on some websites on May 1, seeking applicants for a new commander-in-chief for al Qaeda? Trust me. Al Qaeda Inc. is not going to allow a leadership vacuum to develop -- no matter how decentralized their operations become and how many terror franchises they open.
It's a stark reality: Bin laden is dead, but his ideology is not. And inspirational leadership is the best catalyst for ideologies to thrive.
Today, the Islamic world is facing a hard choice: follow the militant ideology or revert to our roots of peaceful Islam? Choose militant figures or follow spiritual leaders? It's like a billion investors looking at their portfolios and wondering: Where shall I invest my savings? The Corporation of Somali Pirates or Apple Inc.?
If al Qaeda wants to keep selling the shares for Corporation of Somali Pirates, they better fill their top spot soon.
So let's imagine what an online ad from al Qaeda might look like:
"Seeking a new commander-in-chief for a multinational network of dedicated workers. Candidate must be fluent in the Salafi version of Jihad. Ten years of field experience is desirable (but could be waived for US citizens). Ability to work under stress and under cover is critical. Must be willing to relocate and travel. Interested applicants can call 1-800-TERROR1 for further instructions."
As a side note, who were we trying to help by dropping bin Laden's corpse in the Arabian Sea, spilling champagne in the American streets and chanting jubilantly, "USA, USA"? That was a free recruitment ad for al Qaeda right there.
Not to forget the declaration of Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT), an Indonesian radical group: "If it's true Osama bin Laden is dead, then he died a martyr. He fought for Islam and he fought for the lands colonized by America."
Like all top jobs, it is plausible that someone from within had already been promoted. Rest assured. Al Qaeda Inc. has a new leader by now.
But where is the inspirational leader of peaceful Islam? Someone who can reciprocate to the President's call of "United States is, and will never be, at war with Islam" with "Islam is, and will never be, at war with the United States"?
No matter how many Muslims keep rejecting the notion of violence, the ideology of peaceful Islam will remain in tatters in the absence of a commander-in-chief.
So if we were to float an online ad, seeking a candidate to lead the true, peaceful Islam, what credentials would be required? Consider my first draft:
Seeking a commander-in-chief for true Islam. The candidate must demonstrate a long track record of rejecting extremism, empowering women, allowing freedom of expression, promoting education and providing spiritual guidance to mankind. Belief in separation of church and state is necessary so candidates seeking governmental control need not apply. Prior experience in leading a multinational Islamic group is a plus.
While many Muslim leaders have jumped on the post-9/11 bandwagon of "peace," one would be hard pressed to find a group with a track record of practicing such views, say for over a hundred years. Twentieth-century Islam has largely seen militant Islamic organizations coming to the forefront, whether it was Maudoodi in the sub-continent, Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab States or the ever-spreading Saudi/Wahabi movement.
Ironically, one group meeting the above criteria, Ahmadiyya Muslims, is bitterly persecuted by the same ideology of militancy and hatred that attacks America.
Since the President rightly claimed, "America can do whatever we set our minds to. That is the story of our history," we must set our minds to finding and empowering a peaceful universal leadership within Islam. The world must float the ad, seeking a commander-in-chief for true Islam.
God willing, we can fill the position internally.
Faheem Younus is an adjunct faculty member for religion/history at the Community Colleges of Baltimore County and a clinical associate professor at the University of Maryland.
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