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The Importance and Unimportance of Al Qaeda Videos
There is an interesting debate ongoing over whether the mass media, and particularly Arab-language television, should broadcast and assign great importance to the videos of al Qaeda leaders, particularly Osama bin Laden, when they appear.

Do the broadcasts help create a mystique around a cult figure that inspires those who want to participate in the broader al Qaeda project, even on an ad hoc basis? Or are such broadcasts necessary for the general public to see and understand al Qaeda, to understand the enemy more clearly? Or both, and does it make any difference?

I think it is both, and that in the Internet age it matters little what is broadcast on air. Those who want to access the entire speech will be able to do so in a matter of hours, and can download and forward it with great speed and efficiency. If there are hidden messages to followers, keeping the broadcasts off the air are hardly likely to be a deterrent or keep the message from getting through.

Broadcasting bin Laden's speeches, in whole or in part, are far less dangerous than the radical, hate-filled sermons that fill many mosques in London every week, as the Times of London documents.

There, preachers like Riyadh ul Haq spew their venom week after week, urging hatred for Jews and Christians, complete separation from the evils of the outside world, the need shed blood to defeat Israel.

In this time of darkness, "adhering to the fundamentals of Islam . . . is considered extremism and the struggle against oppression is called terrorism," ul Haq said in a sermon last year. "Nobody should be able to tell us what moderation is and what extremism is. One man’s poison is another man’s medicine."

This type of hate speech justifying violence, intolerance and the virtues of remaining entirely separate from the surrounding world while despising all who are different, is part of the radicalization process that is slowly but firmly taking root.

According to the Times of London investigation, "Riyadh ul Haq, who supports armed jihad and preaches contempt for Jews, Christians and Hindus, is in line to become the spiritual leader of the Deobandi sect in Britain. The ultra-conservative movement, which gave birth to the Taleban in Afghanistan, now runs more than 600 of Britain’s 1,350 mosques, according to a police report seen by The Times."

So, in 600 mosques on any given Friday, across London, Muslim youth and others are hearing a message of hate and violence, from platforms they believe are filled with people speaking the truth about their faith.

Ul Haq's books and tapes fill libraries, widely circulate on the internet and he is hailed as a true Islamic scholar.

Perhaps he is a scholar who is able to speak the truth as he sees it, including the necessity of the destruction of the West.

But regardless of the intellectual prowess demonstrated, that is a far more dangerous long-term effect than anything bin Laden or Zawahiri can say in one go every few months, much of it repetitious and out of date.

So, bin Laden is a new item, an unusual event, but the constant hatred and violence is an ongoing event on fronts around the world. That is what worries me.

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