Osama bin Laden's ratings are falling. His latest pronouncement was a yawn. His scripts could use a rewrite. "Infidels" this, "crusaders" that. Blah, blah, blah. We've heard it all before.
However, one new wrinkle in bin Laden's diatribe deserves more attention, as it illuminates the nature of the West's struggle against radical Islam. "I call on the mujahedin and their supporters in Sudan ... and the Arabian Peninsula to prepare all that is necessary to wage a long-term war against the crusaders in western Sudan," bin Laden declared. The crusaders in question are United Nations peacekeepers, who aren't even in Sudan yet but who are going to stop genocide there - we hope. Bin Laden suspects a Western plot to install U.S. bases and destroy Islam in Sudan, and he wants to fend off the U.N., which he calls an "infidel body" and "a tool of crusader-Zionist resolutions." If he thinks the U.N. is a tool of the Zionists, clearly he needs to get out of his cave more.
Nonetheless, bin Laden's call to open a new front in Sudan highlights some underappreciated aspects of the jihadist mission. First, most of the people being slaughtered by Sudan's Arab-controlled government are Muslims. Bin Laden wants his holy warriors to fight for a Sudanese right to exterminate indigenous Muslim tribes. In this, bin Ladenism represents a perverse form of globalization.
In the West, we tend to talk about globalization as if it's a euphemism for Americanization. But there are many competing forms of globalization. Even anti-globalization activists favor the "right" kind of globalization, one driven by the U.N. and "progressives" instead of corporations and markets.
Radical Islam is globalization for losers. It appeals to those left out of modernization, industrialization and prosperity, particularly to young men desperate for order, meaning and pride amid the chaos of globalization. Radical Islam provides it, but at a terrible price.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported the sad tale of the demise of Mak Yong, an ancient form of dance and theater in Southeast Asia drawn from pre-Islamic faiths, including Hinduism. But such traditional cultural influences are now considered "un-Islamic."
"Many Southeast Asian Muslims now navigate by guideposts from the Arab world," the Journal reported. "Young men in Indonesia are starting to wear turbans and grow beards. In Malaysia, Malays have adopted the Arab word for prayer, salat, to replace the Malay word, sembahyang, which literally means 'offer homage to the primal ancestor.'"