On Wednesday, Al Jazeera aired segments of what they said was a new audiotape by Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. In the recording, Bin Laden asserted that U.S. policy in Pakistan has planted “new seeds of hatred and revenge against America,” adding that President Obama has proved he is “walking the same road of his predecessors to build enmity against Muslims and increasing the number of fighters, and establishing more lasting wars.” According to CNN, the speaker on the tape cited U.S. strikes, destruction and Obama’s “order” to President Zardari “to prevent the people of Swat from implementing Sharia law.” The message went on to say:
All this led to the displacement of about a million Muslim elders, women and children from their villages and homes. They became refugees in tents after they were honored in their own homes…This basically means that Obama and his administration put new seeds of hatred and revenge against America. The number of these seeds is the same as the number of those victims and refugees in Swat and the tribal area in northern and southern Waziristan. The American people need to prepare to only gain what those seeds bring up.
A CNN analysis of the audiotape as it aired indicated the voice on the tape sounds like bin Laden’s. CBS News cited U.S. intelligence officials who further confirmed the authenticity of the tape, but assured, “There’s no reason at this point to believe that any specific or credible threat is contained” in the message. A counterterrorism official told CBS, “There has never been a fake bin Laden tape. In the past, he has timed the release of the messages to major events. So it’s unsurprising that he chose this particular week…While the words are different, this latest message recycles many of the broad themes of messages past.” The NY Times, in its coverage, noted that the recording, if verified, is a signal that bin Laden “remains alive and in touch with current events, and that he retains effective channels of communication with the outside world.”
U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke addressed the audiotape during a press conference with Zardari today, and stated it was “ludicrous” to suggest that anyone but Al Qaeda and the Taliban are responsible for the refugee crisis in Pakistan. The U.S. official arrived in Pakistan Wednesday to assess the plight of the 2.4 million people displaced by the conflict in Pakistan’s northwest, reported Dawn. GEO Television quoted him during the news conference saying, “Today, the [U.S.] President has asked me to inform you and your government that he has requested the Congress of the United States to allocate an additional 200 million dollars…He [Obama] sent our team to Pakistan to do several things, first to show our concern to the people of Pakistan and to the world our concern for the internal refugees.”
Obama, meanwhile, is in Saudi Arabia on the first leg of his Middle East & Europe tour. The Osama bin Laden message was therefore strategically timed to be released as the U.S. President arrived in the Middle East, a trip intended to address a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and improve the image of the United States in the Muslim world. On Thursday, the U.S. President will address the relationship between the United States and the Islamic World in a speech at the University of Cairo, [it will air at 610 EST]. According to BBC News, Obama “will hope to break with the hostility of recent years and set a new tone designed not only to isolate the extremists of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, but to re-establish the understanding America gained on 9/11 and lost in Iraq.
Although some have criticized the way Obama speaks about Islam as an entity, suggesting it “gives ammunition to those who define Islam as a political movement as well as a religion,” the administration’s press secretary Robert Gibbs said tomorrow’s speech “will outline his personal commitment to engagement, based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. He will discuss how the United States and Muslim communities around the world can bridge some of the differences that have divided them.”
When President Obama addresses the Muslim world his words will be best understood by the people of Pakistan — literally, that is, because this is one of the largest English-speaking countries in the world. And today, with Pakistan being torn apart in a battle between the ideas of Western democracy and Islamic law, its people could use a few encouraging words from the American president, in the language the two nations share.
Below, is an Associated Press report featuring further opinions from Muslims around the world. I’d like CHUP readers to weigh in on this question as well – As Obama prepares to deliver his speech to the Muslim World tomorrow, what would you like to hear him say?