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Friday, 9 November, 2001, 21:30 GMT
Bin Laden's PR blunder
Osama Bin Laden
Many Arabs now view Bin Laden with unease
Frank Gardner

Osama Bin Laden's popularity in the Arab world appears to be waning - even if his appeal is still a force to be reckoned with, especially in parts of Saudi Arabia.

His recent videotaped denunciation of the United Nations has gone down badly with many Arabs, and in the past week the Arab press has criticised him for giving Islam a bad name.

Arabs are asking themselves if this really is the man they want to represent all their grievances against Western policies

The initial pan-Arab euphoria that greeted his videotaped messages last month has been replaced by something else - a feeling of unease among Arabs.

They are asking themselves if this really is the man they want to represent all their grievances against Western policies.

The answer for many is no. More and more Arabs now accept that Bin Laden's organisation al-Qaeda was behind the 11 September terrorist attacks on the US, and they want nothing to do with it.

'Narrow and extreme'

Arab intellectuals have been writing increasingly outspoken articles in the press, accusing Bin Laden of giving both Islam and Arabs a bad name.

A recent editorial in the Lebanese daily El-Mustaqbal attacked his rhetoric as being morally and politically defunct, and without logic.

The article said his views were based on a narrow and extreme Islamic view of relations with non-Muslims.

Arabs are also perplexed by Osama Bin Laden's recent video broadcast in which he called the United Nations an enemy, and its secretary general, Kofi Annan, a criminal.

UN key

One of the few strands of hope for peace that people cling to in the Arab-Israeli conflict is the thought that a final peace deal will have to be based on UN resolutions.

Those resolutions, numbers 242 and 338, call for an Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab land.

So for Osama Bin Laden to lash out at the UN for whatever motive is probably a public relations blunder.

But those who have met him say Bin Laden is extremely resourceful, and that it is far too early to write him off as a spent force.

See also:

24 Sep 01 | Middle East
The cult of Bin Laden
23 Sep 01 | Americas
Clinton ordered Bin Laden killing
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Who is Osama Bin Laden?
14 Sep 01 | Americas
Bin Laden's command structure
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