Some selected responses to bin Laden's tape which caught my eye this morning. There's an English translation up at al-Jazeera's English site, but I should warn people that it's not a very good one and seems exceedingly truncated compared to the Arabic transcript. There actually hasn't been a ton of significant commentary on bin Laden - the Dahab bombing and Palestinian intramural struggles seem to have captured the news agenda (along with Jordan's unveiling of its evidence against Hamas, which I hope to have time to write about this afternoon). Neither al-Quds al-Arabi nor al-Hayat had any commentaries on it today, while al-Sharq al-Awsat had a couple.
For Tareq al-Homayed, editor of the Saudi-owned and anti-Islamist newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat, the most dangerous and important part of bin Laden's speech was "the incitement against Arab thinkers and liberal writers", particularly Saudis. That's understandable, I think. Al-Homayed argues that what's new in the speech is the explicit targeting of liberal writers and media, with "liberal" defined as everyone who is not on al-Qaeda's side. He mentions that the Saudi government has found a "blacklist" of targeted Saudi writers - I actually found such a blacklist circulating on a jihadi chatroom under the name "Secret File of the Unclean Media" and blogged about it a long time ago, but didn't link to it for reasons which should be obvious. Al-Homayed takes the threat against intellectuals seriously, pointing back to assaults against secular intellectuals in Egpyt from Farag Fouda to Naguib Mahfouz.
Mishari Zaydi, one of the best writers on Islamist politics right now, titles his commentary on the speech "Osama the African." He compares bin Laden to a character in a novel by Amin Maalouf, as Osama travels from Jiddah to Riyadh, Khartoum to Kabul, never seeking the truth or caring about where he lives but only caring about trying to change the world. For Zaydi, the intervention in the Darfur crisis is the most significant novelty in bin Laden's tape. Zaydi hears echoes of earlier positions taken by Egypt's Muslim Brothers towards the Sudan in bin Laden's intervention. He also points to the wild inconsistency in bin Laden's stance towards Hamas - after Zawahiri condemned any participation in elections, now bin Laden denounces the international "blockade" of Hamas even though it won elections and represents the will of the people. Skimming over bin Laden's list of concerns - the cartoons, Hamas, liberal writers, etc - Zaydi concludes that it confirms what many people have said: that al-Qaeda will pick up anything it finds in its path which it thinks can up the temperature and suit its agenda. In a fascinating juxtaposition, Zaydi contrasts a recent interview with Hassan Turabi where he repeated how the Darfur conflict could be "solved in one session" with bin Laden's clear desire to escalate the conflict in order to open a new front for Islamic identity wars and confrontations. Zaydi sees an important development in the different paths taken by bin Laden and Turabi in recent years, and challenges bin Laden - who, Zaydi says, clearly follows the Arab press - to respond to Turabi's recent fatwas and stances in order to clarify and sharpen those differences. (If you're interested in Turabi, you should also check out Abd al-Wahhab al-Affendi's fascinating al-Quds al-Arabi piece on Turabi's recent politics.) There's a lot more in Zaydi's highly recommended piece.
If I find any more, I'll tack them on to this post later.