March 7th, 2011
07:35 AM ET

Fareed's Take: Al Qaeda is irrelevant

The Arab Revolts of 2011 represent a total repudiation of al Qaeda's founding ideology.  For 20 years, al Qaeda has said that the regimes of the Arab World are nasty dictatorships and that the only way to overthrow them is to support al Qaeda and its terrorism.

And then, in a few weeks, the people of the Arab World have overturned two despotic governments by means of non-violent demonstrations and they have begun a process of reform and revolution that will alter the basic bargain between the ruler and ruled in the Middle East.

There really is no hankering in the Middle East for a return to the 7th Century – only a desire for jobs, pluralism, freedom and good government.

Al Qaeda has embraced violence precisely because it has no political strength or strategy.  It cannot bring a million people into Tahrir Square to demand the ouster of Mubarak, so it hopes to shock and awe people by spectacular acts of violence.

Let's look at the facts:

1. Since 9-11, al Qaeda has been unable to launch a single attack in the United States. Small groups of people inspired by it have managed a few smaller attacks in cities in the Middle East and Europe.

2. Most terrorism is now the product of lone, would-be suicide bombers rather than an organized movement with a central figure or central organization.

3. Political support for al Qaeda, Islamic terrorism, and suicide bombings has dropped in every country on which we have polling data.

4.  If the Arab World becomes more democratic, those numbers will continue to fall.  In Iraq, for instance, support for political violence is tiny – lower than it is in the United States.

So can we all take a deep breath, stop cowering in fear of an impending caliphate, and put problem of Islamic terrorism in perspective?  It's real, but it's not going to take over the world anytime soon.


soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Bashy Quraishy

    Dear Fareed Zakaria
    It is the first time; I read a sensible analysis about Al- Qaeda’s insignificance in the Muslim world. But you also make a fatal mistake in describing the violence committed by some individuals or even groups as Islamic terrorism.
    You of all people should be very mindful of the terminology being used to demonize Islam. Terrorism has no religion. It is the work of people as you so correctly point out.
    Kind regards
    Bashy Quraishy
    Secretary General – EMISCO -European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion – Strasbourg/Copenhagen
    Chair-Advisory Council-ENAR – Brussels
    Chair-Jewish Muslim Co-operation Platform – Brussels
    Mobile; 0045 40 15 47 71
    Phone; 0045 38 88 19 77
    http://www.bashy.dk

    March 7, 2011 at 8:24 am | Reply
    • trehugr11

      i dont understand...if a person believes that his religion is itelling him to engage in terroist acts and that person is islamic, why is it inaccurate or unacceptable to say " islamic terroist" ?

      March 8, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Reply
      • kalmeida317

        Because the religion is not telling him/her to indulge in acts of violence and lets face it, in the recent past Islam has been a religion unfairly tied to negativity, when the reality is that an incredibly small population of Muslim people join terror groups.

        People use religion as an excuse for violence I don't think it should be affiliated to the actual religion.

        March 9, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  2. EJ T

    Hate to be off topic, but can I request that the podcasts of GPS be updated more regularly and in a more timely manner. For various reasons, I can usually not catch the show on Sunday, and rely on the podcasts to follow one of my favorite programs. I believe the latest audio podcast now available is from 2/21? Will the more recent once be added soon? Hope so. Cheers.

    March 7, 2011 at 8:54 am | Reply
  3. Richrd Gordon

    The first intelligent opinion about Al Qaeda I have read in a long time. Fact is Al Qaeda is an figment of the Bush Administration imagination and a propaganda casus belli excuse for the Bush Administration's oppressive George Orwell government . Like all good lies there is a small kernel of truth to its existence. But it never was a real threat to America or the West. At its height in numbered no more than a few hundred or may be just a few thousand. It was never plausible that America's military might or its heavily militaristic society was ever threatened by a rag tag bunch of extremists running around with ancient weapons. They were a nuisance and a menace more than a threat. However, for political purposes they were an excellent excuse for the Bush Administration and the Right Wing of American politics to spy on everybody and every thing.

    The true irony and hypocrisy of American Right Wing ideology is that they profess to believe in small government and non interference of government in the peoples business. The reality is that the Republican Right believes in small government and no interference in public affairs only if you are rich and Republican. As for everybody else, they should be spied upon and subject to the most Orwellian treatment by government.

    Extremist Republicans are no more rational than their Taliban counterparts. In many areas they have identical beliefs.

    March 7, 2011 at 9:05 am | Reply
    • Tom Bulger, Canandaigua

      You speak the truth, and that's the water that melts the wicked witch of the west.

      March 8, 2011 at 5:59 am | Reply
  4. bright jerry

    Fareed, i admire your analysis of AL- Qaeda. the uprising in the middle east has send a message to them(al- qaeda) that the people in the middle east believe in peaceful demonstration to achieve their goal not always through violence, but we should never mock the silence of al-qaeda because, the silence might not only mean defeat but planning perhaps for a more big attack

    March 7, 2011 at 9:09 am | Reply
  5. LionOfBabylone

    They are irrelevant in term of their impact of people's heart and mind. Although the people in the Middle East and Islamic World are oppressed since ever, nobody really adopted their way of changing things, simply because they wish death, and the people want life, freedom, and prosperity. They have hurt people badly in New York, Europe, and Iraq in order to become relevant in this world, but as it seems they have failed. Sooner or later they will become history.

    March 7, 2011 at 10:33 am | Reply
  6. Bill Simpson

    Hey Freed, You're a very smart guy. If you happen to run into of those CNN USA TV producers, would you tell them that IT IS VERY RUDE TO CUT OFF THE PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA WHILE SHE IS TALKING TO OBAMA IN THE WHITE HOUSE. And we wonder why foreigners don't love us (besides the illegal invasions, that is) !

    March 7, 2011 at 11:51 am | Reply
  7. ericvegas

    To reprsent Al Queda as the sole source and arm of radical Islam in the Middle East and North Afrida is to be speaking with a mouthful of sand due to one's head shoved in the ground. The revolutions in MENA may have begun with many peaceful, freedom loving people–we will see who wields ultimate power. I hope it those same people who organize, write constitutions based on freedom, and enact similar laws. To do so, they will have to defeat many fascist factions in MENA that are not Al Queda.

    March 7, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Reply
    • Tom Bulger, Canandaigua

      Is it any different here? Most of the time we keep the nut jobs in check. People have shown incredible courage in North Africa and the Middle-East, so it defies belief to think they would tolerate a minority take over.

      March 8, 2011 at 6:06 am | Reply
  8. Qdilse

    Actually,Al Qaeda has all it can do just to survive today. The right-wing thugs in Washington,however,still need that organization to scare the public into supporting the two current useless and unnecessary wars that we're fighting overseas. Moreover,Ossama bin Laden is most probably dead now since he was suffering from nephrtis 10 years ago.

    March 7, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Reply
  9. Krista Moran

    I am not so sure. As I read more about Middle East from various sources, I can see validity to some of the points Al Qaeda makes. News about Israel is VERY disturbing, and I find myself agreeing with Carne Ross; in his book he writes that we have no idea what our diplomats are negotiating about on our behalf. I am furious that Israel does not honor West Bank boundaries, and in fact is subsidizing women to overpopulate the areas!!!

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/29/AR2009062904150.html?hpid=sec-world

    (FYI...tried to twitter this article...didn't work....coincidence???? AIPAC????)
    Read this: Social workers find their voice as strike enters third day http://t.co/7CjqaeX via @Jerusalem_Post
    We never hear of the underlying causes of conflict, like water rights:

    http://mapsomething.com/demo/waterusage/actors.php

    And now Israel expects US to help them upgrade their military so they can agitate everyone and US will back them!!!!

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703386704576186861325527354.html

    WHILE THEY VOW TO KEEP TROOPS ON JORDAN'S BORDER NO MATTER WHAT!!!!
    We are slashing US budget, cutting food for babies, while Israel is a sacred cow!!!

    http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/03/201135115850632729.html#

    Time we did a real cost benefit analysis of these policies, and inform the public so that we may participate in the democracy we encourage others to die for!!!
    Bin Laden has warned us about following our leadership's policies. I now get what he is saying. I don't think he is irrelevant...just waiting to see how this chaos gets sorted out. SO AM I! I encourage the media to inform us of US policies and how it effects the world.
    Thank you,
    Krista Moran
    Bristol RI

    unbelievable!
    It is time the media inform the US public of this outrageous policy.

    http://alarabiya.net/articles/2011/03/08/140673.html

    March 8, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Reply
    • Krista Moran

      I am a Quaker, and hold Truth as the highest way to honor God. Tell US the TRUTH!! I am now connecting ALL dots :)
      Now wondering about how land gets divided????

      http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/world/israel/seismicity.php

      KM

      March 8, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Reply
    • Krista Moran

      It is time to support President Obama when he attempts to create balance in Middle East policy! Fear of Jewish backlash must end!! Read article "Isi Leibler: Obama and the Jewish Leadership" @ http://ning.it/fzusUt
      EXCERPTS
      "It was also disconcerting to learn that despite the recent tsunamis in the Arab world, Obama still sees a linkage between the turmoil – including the threat from Iran – and the need for concessions to the Palestinians."

      "Even more alarming was a JTA report quoting Obama making a patronizing call to the Jewish leaders to speak to their friends and colleagues in Israel, and to "search your souls" as to whether its government is serious about making peace."

      "Israel's long-term viability remains highly dependent on US support – more so today than at any period since the creation of the state. It is highly gratifying that the American public and Congress are strongly supportive. But in the White House, we have a president whose priority is to appease the Islamic states, and even engage with radical Islamists, which inevitably conflicts with support for the Jewish state. Thus the burden of responsibility for Israel advocacy and resistance to sacrificing it on the altar of expediency now rests with our American Jewish supporters."

      http://israelinsider.net/forum/topics/isi-leibler-obama-and-the?xg_source=shorten_twitter

      Israel must 'grow up' as a nation and learn to get along with it's neighbors through diplomacy. Special treatment only creates more hostility, making them, and US a target!

      March 10, 2011 at 9:16 am | Reply
  10. Krista Moran

    Read Jerusalem Post- "Social workers find their voice as strike enters day3"
    http://t.co/7CjqaeX via @Jerusalem_Post
    OVERPOPULATION OF WEST BANK=SQUATTERS RIGHTS?!?!?!?!
    I just found my voice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    We need TRUTH if we are to have a TRU Democracy!
    KM

    March 8, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Reply
  11. Bud Tree Jr.

    Faahreed states; "Since 9-11, al Qaeda has been unable to launch a single attack in the United States. Small groups of people inspired by it have managed a few smaller attacks in cities in the Middle East and Europe."

    Are you high?

    March 15, 2011 at 11:00 pm | Reply
  12. Frank Mondana

    Another person using that word again. I want to find the guy or girl in the media who, about 5 years ago, used the words "irrelevant/relevant" and slap them repeatedly about the face and neck. It's yet another example of someone cracking open a thesaurus and picking a word that sounds meaningful.
    Before those 5 years, "irrelevant" was used only by the Borg in Star Trek. Sci-Fi (or SyFy) was the proper place for both it and its opposite and should have stayed there.
    You know why? Because they are extremely SUBJECTIVE. What is relevant to you may be irrelevant to me. This is true no matter how big or small a topic may be. To make the claim of relevancy concerning just about anything is arrogant at the very least. Especially using it with regards to a religious group such as Al Qaeda. To them, they are relevant and always will be. Just telling them they are no longer relevant is irrelevant to them.
    The media just loves buzz words, no matter relevant they may be.

    May 10, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Reply
  13. Jon Readman

    Very well said points Fareed a thorough and excellent Analysis. Al-Qaeda is dead.

    August 6, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Reply

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