Why do people follow Osama bin Laden? Could it be that they see him as expressing what they themselves believe? Could it be that what Osama bin Laden says has an element of truth to it, which Americans fail to see, and that what he says simply makes a lot of sense to some people?
I think the answer to these questions is undoubtedly: Yes; what Osama bin Laden says does make a lot of sense to some people and these same people also see him as someone who can articulate—well—that which they themselves believe.
I vehemently despise the taking of innocent human life—life is precious—and I believe that those who intentionally take innocent lives through acts of murder, terrorism, and war should be prosecuted for their horrendous crimes. But I can also appreciate Osama bin Laden's positions and his arguments, and I can also admire him, his cause, and the dedication he has to that cause.
Osama bin Laden and his followers are strict adherents of a specific, Arabian sect of (Sunni) Islam known as Wahhabism, which takes its name from its founder: Muhammad Ibn Abd al Wahhab, who believed and taught that the Qur'an and the sayings and life-example of the prophet of Islam (i.e., Muhammad) should be adhered to quite literally.
Most Muslims, however—being human—don't like this literal application of the Qur'an and the life of the Prophet Muhammad; any more than most Christians—being human—like a literal application of the New Testament and the life-example of Christ. Most believers—whether Islamic or Christian—prefer doing as little as possible in order to gain eternal life; despite what the founders of their (respective) religions have said.
Osama bin Laden and the Wahhabists believe they should take the teachings of the Qur'an and the life-example of the Prophet Muhammad very seriously; and I greatly respect them for doing so. Likewise, I, too, take the teachings of the New Testament and the life-example of Christ very seriously. So, Osama bin Laden and I do have something important in common: we are both believers whose actions are based upon our beliefs, which we take very seriously (much to the dismay of those foolish atheists, antitheists, and free-thinkers).
We have many other things in common as well, such as the belief that it's wrong for the U. S. to put its military forces in Arabia; that it's wrong for the U. S. to prop-up the current regime of the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia; that it's wrong for the U. S. to invade and occupy Muslim lands which, traditionally, have been a part of the Ottoman Empire—until the end of World War I—for hundreds of years (1299-1923); and that it's wrong for the U. S. to support the Zionist state of Israel and its murderous oppression of the Palestinian peoples.
Actually, I probably have more in common with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda than I do with most Americans—including, especially, American Christians—except for his/their wanton, murderous disregard for innocent human lives, which I detest. And that, of course, is the deal-breaker with me. If I were going to blow up a building—as a symbolic act of political violence—I would at least phone ahead in order warn everyone to get out of the building before I set off the bomb. This is what the old Irish Republican Army often did and the symbolic, political statement they wanted to make was still made yet no innocent people were killed in the process. In truth, I don't like the use of bombs in acts of political violence anyway; because they are just too dangerous and someone can easily—and unintentionally—be harmed by them (i.e., there's no such thing as an explosives expert).
Unlike most Americans, I've seen many people die a violent death—including someone who was killed in an explosion. Perhaps this is why I have such a great appreciation for life, and perhaps this is also why I so detest the heartless taking of innocent human lives? (I suppose we'd have to ask a psychiatrist about this . . .)
So, while we love to demonize Osama bin Laden, he is—to some people—the spokesman of their beliefs and a man to be admired. A point once made by Osama bin Laden, which really resonates with me, was the accusation of terrorism he once made against America regarding our treatment of the Japanese peoples during World War II. And I'm not talking here about the concentration camps many Japanese-Americans were interred within, which is bad enough, rather, I'm speaking about America's decimation of two, large Japanese cities (i.e., Hiroshima and Nagasaki), which incinerated tens of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.
I think Osama bin Laden makes a valid point here. Does he not?
Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda believe they are justified in killing innocent Americans and Israelis because we struck the first blows; killing innocent Iraqis (during the Gulf War) and Palestinians, respectively. Al Qaeda was never a threat to the U. S. until that time (i.e., 1990) and al Qaeda will cease to be a threat the moment we decide to do the right thing: leave the Muslim world to sort-out its own problems; stop our support of Israel; and apologize to the Muslim world for what we've done to it. In other words, America needs to come clean and repent of its evil deeds and its hypocrisy.
If we say that we believe in justice, liberty, and freedom for all who are oppressed; and if we say that we believe it is wrong to take innocent human lives, then we need to start acting like it.
Until then, people like Osama bin Laden, his followers, and myself will continue to call America to account for the evil we have done and the evil we continue to do unto this very day—with no foreseeable end in sight.