Al-Qaeda in South Africa — Chasing Islamic Phantoms

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A recent closed session on Terrorism in Africa hosted by the Institute for Strategic Studies (ISS) followed months of incessant propaganda through media opinion pieces and research papers warning of imminent terrorist threats against South African targets by “Al-Qaeda cells”.

Linking every explosion from London to New York, Casablanca to Chechnya, Bali to Baghdad, Kabul to Istanbul, the alleged perpetrators have been Al-Qaeda. These unsubstantiated allegations have heightened the climate of Islamophobia, resulting in the South African Muslim community, both indigenous and foreign, coming under intense suspicion and scrutiny.

These so-called “security and terrorist experts” from the South African Institute for International Affairs [SAIIA] and ISS aver that “South Africa, with its strong banking sector and large Muslim communities, functions as an important logistical and terror finance transit point.” What this indicates is that South African Muslims have become the target of a deliberate and systematic campaign of defamation and hate.

Al-Qaeda has become a convenient phantom to justify an ongoing war. The continuing existence of al-Qaeda is a thus very useful pretext for Western “experts” and the Anglo-American-Zionist axis. It provides the necessary tool to create fear and manipulate public opinion. Its ultimate objective is to galvanize support for the American-led “war on terror”.

But what indeed is al-Qaeda? Al-Qaeda (the ‘Base’ in Arabic) was the CIA sponsored training camp for the Afghan Mujahideen, including Osama bin Laden and his fighters. The group was trained and financed by the US administration against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. They were called "freedom fighters" by former US president Reagan.

After the defeat of Russia, Osama bin Laden urged the United States of America to end its occupation of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States; remove its military bases and terminate its support for the puppet regimes and dictators of the region. When the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan refused to extradite bin Laden post-9/11, the USA declared a “war on terrorism” vowing to crush Al-Qaeda and capture bin Laden dead or alive.

A historical film written and produced by Adam Curtis The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear, which was broadcast on BBC 2 last year, challenged the fantasy image of Al-Qaeda as a powerful, well organized enemy with a centrally coordinated command structure that needed to be crushed.

Curtis argues that what we have been told about the threat of international terrorism “is a fantasy that has been exaggerated and distorted by politicians. It is a dark illusion that has spread unquestioned through governments around the world, the security services and the international media.”

Robert Scheer of the Los Angeles Times highlights some of the questions this program poses:

  • If Osama bin Laden does, in fact, head a vast international terrorist organization with trained operatives in more than 40 countries, as claimed by Bush, why, despite torture of prisoners, has this administration failed to produce hard evidence of it?
  • How can it be that in Britain since 9/11, 664 people have been detained on suspicion of terrorism but only 17 have been found guilty, most of them with no connection to Islamist groups and none who were proven members of Al Qaeda?
  • Why have we heard so much frightening talk about "dirty bombs" when experts say it is panic rather than radioactivity that would kill people?
  • Why did Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claim on "Meet the Press" in 2001 that Al Qaeda controlled massive high-tech cave complexes in Afghanistan, when British and U.S. military forces later found no such thing?

The film concludes: “But the nightmare vision of a uniquely powerful hidden organization waiting to strike our societies is an illusion. Wherever one looks for this Al Qaeda organization, from the mountains of Afghanistan to the ‘sleeper cells’ in America, the British and Americans are chasing a phantom enemy."

International Law has sanctioned the use of arms to resist invading powers that mask their brutalities, massacres, expropriations, bombings and depredations as a civilizing mission to bring peace and democracy. Armed organizations in legitimate local conflicts have been listed as “terrorist” organizations and are now at war with the United States of America.

However, President George Bush, urged on by the Zionist lobby, seems determined to create Islamic phantoms. He stated: “The militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses, enabling them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region and establish a radical empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia.”

If Bush, Sharon, Blair and their allies are serious about removing the scourge of terrorism, they need to take a hard look in the mirror and ask themselves one single question: Do people like to be occupied, killed, abused, tortured and humiliated by foreign forces? Surely, retaliation against aggression is not terrorism and armed resistance against occupation is not violence.

If “terrorism in Africa” is a major problem then it is critical to define the term and apply the definition consistently. None of the “terrorist and security experts”, like their American, Israeli or British counterparts can define it, as they will themselves be incriminated by those definitions.

Moves are afoot to brand South African Muslims as the "villains" of the contemporary age. It was not long ago that communists held this dubious distinction; since the demise of communism, Muslims have become the latest threat. They must be suppressed and eliminated by any means, fair or foul.

But the history of the Muslims of this country is a glorious one, at the frontline of the liberation struggle to free the oppressed from the shackles of racism practiced by the very powers conducting a vicious, illegitimate and immoral “war” against the opponents of American hegemony. The inflammatory assertion about every Muslim in South Africa suddenly becoming a potential walking bomb is simply ludicrous.

South Africa holds the moral high ground in international circles. Its stature is second to none. It has bravely followed an independent foreign policy including opposing the invasion of Iraq, and also condemned the building of Israel’s Apartheid Wall. To secure South Africa’s participation in this iniquitous “war on terror” will be a coup.

Throughout the Cold War, which was a pretext for state of fear, Western secret agents and NATO collaborated in attacks against civilian targets, which they then blamed on left-wing groups in order to create panic and force the public to turn to governments for more security and protection. The South African government needs to be vigilant not to be drawn into an unending and unjust conflict not of its making.

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Dr. Firoz Osman, Executive Member of the Media Review Network (MRN), gets featured on Media Monitors Network (MMN) with the courtesy of MRN, which is an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa.

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