At some point in his life, Osama Bin Laden turned into a media star; a star, in the sense that media outlets strived to carry out interviews with him in the Afghan mountains.
Bin Laden realized the importance of media back then, during the mid-90s. He also realized his value in the media, so he began to specify which media outlet would be allowed to meet with him and which journalist would be granted the honor of interviewing him.
It didn't end here, but he also set conditions for the topics of the interviews. The idea of the interview was tempting for journalists and some were able to go to him to Afghanistan's mountains under the stipulations that Bin Laden specified. They pretty much adhered to what was agreed on.
The honeymoon period between the Americans and their product, al-Qaeda, had not ended yet. The western awareness in understanding the size of threats this extremist mentality posed - which they contributed in launching into the world - was not complete yet. The West was not yet fully aware that this extremist mentality may reach out and touch them one day, no matter how convinced they were that they live in fortified castles.
This is your wake-up call
The September 11 attacks came to violently wake up those who were unaware of what they had awaken. These attacks were a means to expose “black terrorism” from its hiding and grant it new horizons and regional and international dimensions under American and Western protection. And the costs were high.
Both Beltagy and Bin Laden made vile remarks in their videos, confirming they were still possessed by denial.Abdel Latif el-Menawy
The September attacks were just the beginning as several terrorist operations followed. Perhaps the most prominent of them were the Madrid and London explosions. These acts were a strong slap in the face of those who thought they can play with fire without getting burnt. They didn't realize that terrorism, which they supported, will target them even if they are in fortresses.
The major discussion between myself and Western political and media figures, or even ordinary Westerners, was that the major mistake they've committed was estimating that enabling political Islam will lead to deflating pressures against them. They believed that the best solution to many of their problems was for Islamists become occupied with fighting over power in their countries.
Although I hope that the September 11 attacks or the Madrid and London bombings aren’t ever repeated, I can assert that such events are likely to return because safe havens for terrorist groups from across the world are being provided. These groups may therefore unite and work to implement their vision which surely contradicts with human civilization.
Choosing Al Jazeera
Back to Osama Bin Laden. So, he decided to choose the media outlet for him to appear on and broadcast his messages. Of course, we all know that he chose Al Jazeera. Back then, his choice appeared strange. But with time, the events that followed showed that it should have been an expected choice that harmonizes with the aim that Bin Laden was created for and with the aim Al Jazeera was created for. Controlling them both by several other parties aimed to serve interests - which are certainly neither Arab or patriotic - interests that go beyond the countries' borders and even beyond their country's sheikhs.
Bin Laden was murdered after several leaders from al-Qaeda, which America also created, were murdered. The U.S. claimed it insists to fight terrorism. But at the same time, it supported political Islam groups. What governs them is what they think achieves their interests. But it seems their calculations were wrong, although they still think they can fix their mistakes and implement their vision via other means.
Mohammad el-Beltagy, a Muslim Brotherhood leader who was wanted by Egyptian authorities, appeared on Al Jazeera. A curtain that looks cheap appeared behind him, and the video appeared to have been recorded by a cheap camera. When I saw this, I remembered Bin Laden's tapes especially that he chose, or rather someone else chose, that his message be carried through Al Jazeera.
Both Beltagy and Bin Laden made vile remarks in their videos, confirming they were still possessed by denial. Those who had been doubting the Egyptian decision to revolt against the Brotherhood and topple the group were reassured that this was the right option.
What unites these two scenes of Bin Laden and Beltagy on Al-Jazeera is that the “creator” appears to be the same. The organizations that made Bin Laden are the same that pushed Beltagy to where he is.
This article was first published in al-Masry al-Youm on August 28, 2013.
Abdel Latif el-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of “Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak,” a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy