As the Middle East continues to deal with instability and changing political realities a new element has been added into the mixture, with unclear results. The news of the death of Osama bin Laden was met with a large variety of responses from Middle East observers; from shock and anger, to satisfaction and delight.
Saudi Arabian Reaction Mixed
In Saudi Arabia, bin Laden’s birthplace, joy could be discerned as well as mourning and denial. Several conspiracy theories have even emerged.
Expert observers of the Middle East have asserted that the successful hunt for and killing of bin Laden will certainly give the US a huge domestic boost while at the same time the political situation in the Middle East has been rendered more complex with the chances of terrorist attacks and other violent responses increasing.
In the hours shortly after the news of bin Laden’s death reached Saudi Arabia a debate raged about whether bin Laden was a criminal who gave their country and Islam a bad name while others declared that bin Laden was a holy martyr who stood up to western imperialism.
According to one online poster, Mohamed al Saeedi from Qatif in Saudi Arabia,
“Small groups of Saudis consider him a hero, while most think he is a criminal, but the voices of extremists are louder.”
Israel Declares US Action Victory for Justice
Not surprisingly, the official statement from Israel was highly praiseworthy of the US action. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the raid was a “resounding victory for justice, freedom and the common values of all democracies fighting shoulder to shoulder against terrorism.”
Hamas Condemns bin Laden’s Death
The reaction of Hamas, however was highly condemnatory. In the Gaza strip the leader of the Islamist Palestinian movement, Ismail Haniyeh called the US action a “continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood.”
Disbelief in the reality of bin Laden’s death afflicted many online Islamist militant activist, and those that did believe it vowed revenge. “Oh God, please make this news not true. God curse you Obama,” read one post in Arabic. “Oh Americans…it is still legal for us to cut your necks.”
The Islam Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt issued a carefully constructed statement, taking care to protect their potential role as a powerful political influence after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak during February’s revolution. Criticizing neither the US action nor al-Qaeda, they rather urged the west to “stop linking Islam to terrorism” and called on western powers such as NATO, the EU and the US to depart from Iraq and Afghanistan.
One shopkeeper in Jordan probably summed up Middle Eastern sentiment by saying that:
“Although we’re against killing civilians, we sympathize with him because he’s a Muslim and was killed this way. He became a symbol of fighting against American occupation.”