Journalist, Producer & Researcher

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Does Osama Bin Laden's Death Signal the End of Al Qaeda?

Osama bin Laden's death is not the end of al-Qaeda and it is not by far the end of terrorism.

Hundreds of people have been seen celebrating across the world this week. The majority are American people who can finally bring closure to what happened on 9/11. Many across the world think the war on terror is over. Some are breathing a sigh of relief, thinking airport security checks are in the past and the war in Afghanistan is finished, while others are expressing their concerns over his death and building up conspiracy theories.

Al-Qaeda is not dead

While many are so eager to believe Osama bin Laden’s death is the end of al-Qaeda and terrorism, this is far from the case. Since 9/11, al-Qaeda has been overly exaggerated by western governments and media to be major players in the global network of Islamist extremism. The truth is al-Qaeda as a group is merely a brand. Its goal is to revive the Islamic Caliphate by taking down Muslim governments and replacing them with Islamic states. This ideology existed long before al-Qaeda; bin laden has simply made this ideology globally known and attracted supporters through 9/11.

His death is not the end of this ideology and it is not by far the end of Islamist extremism. He leaves behind a core set of followers who will continue to see him as a martyr and eagerly follow in his footsteps.

In his address to the nation confirming bin Laden’s death, President Obama promised to continue to work to dismantle al-Qaeda’s network. Even if this is accomplished, the ideology of al-Qaeda will continue to exist until the root causes of the problem are addressed.

Root Causes of Extremism

The root causes are occupation and oppression. For years now, the Middle Eastern people have suffered at the hands of western intervention and dictatorships. Battered by years of corruption, poverty, unemployment and oppression, Islamist groups have become an outlet for civilians, particularly the youth, to express their anger and take action. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan administered by George Bush and Tony Blair has only further served as a major recruitment tool for al-Qaeda. According to Chris Hedges, former al-Qaeda correspondent for the New York Times , Bush and Blair’s response to 9/11 was exactly what al-Qaeda wanted. The decision to take down the Taliban gave al-Qaeda a motivation and reason to recruit for their cause. Al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups have always used western intervention as a justification for their actions. As a result, there exists today, affiliates of al-Qaeda scattered all across the world wanting and hoping to achieve something as major and disastrous as bin Laden.

While the world continues to think the war on terror is over, al-Qaeda’s ideology, with or without bin Laden will still continue. Until the root causes of the problems of extremism are finally addressed by western governments, only then can anyone say terrorism is being combated.


Clarke, Richard. ‘‘ Bin Laden’s Dead. Al-Qaeda is not” The New York Times. 2 May 2011.

Burke, Jason. ‘‘What is Al-Qaeda?’’ The Guardian. 13 July 2003.

First published by Suite101

Copyright Reyhana Patel. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.