Straight from his cave somewhere in Southern Afghanistan, Osama Bin Laden has just sent his latest gift to Europe. Bin Laden’s flowery language is no news for the most part –his grievance against the Saudi ruling dynasty, his contempt for America, his overblown sense of grievance are a fixture of his rants. This time he also expressed sympathy for Holocaust deniers–though it is not clear if this was an endorsement for Iran (a religious foe for its Salafist doctrines) or for David Irving (an outright infidel). But there are important elements in his message that European policymakers would be foolish to ignore. Bin Laden’s threats to Europe have less to do with European participation in the Afghan mission than with the Danish cartoons:
And [you also know now] that these massacres are never erased from the memory of the peoples and the effects of this are not hidden. Although our tragedy in your killing of our women and children is a very great one, it paled when you went overboard in your unbelief and freed yourselves of the etiquettes of dispute and fighting and went to the extent of publishing these insulting drawings. This is the greater and more serious tragedy, and reckoning for it will be more severe. And I bring your attention to a telling matter, which is that despite your publishing of the insulting drawings, you haven’t seen any reaction from the one and a half billion Muslims which includes an insult to the Prophet of Allah, Jesus the son of Mary [peace and prayers of Allah be upon him]. We believe in all of the Prophets [peace and prayers of Allah be upon him] and whoever detracts from or mocks any one of them is an apostate unbeliever.
The inaccuracies of this rant–the killing of priests and nuns in several Muslim countries in “retaliation” for the cartoons hardly qualified as “no reaction”–are beside the point. Bin Laden has just officially applied the doctrine of taqfir against Europe because of the Danish cartoons. Taqfir, it should be recounted, means the permission to punishment unbelievers by death: unbelief, more than any other sin, dooms souls to hell in Islamic thinking. What Bin Laden said is short for “Europeans, as a body politic, are apostates. And they deserve to die.”
This means that al-Qaida’s fury will now be visited upon Europeans for daring to insult the Muslim prophet. Not so much for our support for Israel (about which Europe is not exactly enthusiastic anyway), or for its military contribution to Afghanistan (which is not huge), its presence in Iraq (which is negligible), or its alliance with America. No, Europeans deserve to die because some cartoonists caricatured Muhammad two years ago and some newspapers, as an expression of defiance, reprinted them when they discovered that Bin Laden’s companions had tried to murder one of the cartoonists.
Ominous? Yes. But this message should be yet another wake-up call for Europeans who assume that Islamist grievance (and the terror it begets) are a consequence of foreign policy. The threat just issued by Bin Laden to Europe is a reminder that it is our conception of freedom, our open society, and our religious skepticism that are the offending qualities. So brace yourself for more fitna. Because Europeans, with all their frequently-derided predisposition to appeasement, are not about to embrace Islamic piety as a way out of their tiff with Bin Laden.