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Worldwide perception of Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden was fairly obscure in the West prior to 2001, but became a household name as the man behind Al-Qaida and the September 11 attacks on the USA. This was the first major incident of foreign terrorism in the United States in generations.
Despite massive military action and a reward now over $50 million, Osama bin Laden remains known worldwide for his position at the forefront of al Qaida.
World views are highly polarised. Most people in the West tend to view bin Laden as a heinous fanatic and mass killer, while many radical Muslims in the Middle East and Asia tend to view him as a righteous and principled fighter against Western (political, spiritual and economic) oppression. However substantial numbers in both regions differ from these generalities.
As a result of the September 11 attacks, and fueled by patriotism, outrage and the media, perceptions in the West run somewhere in between immensely positive and extremely negative. This is fueled by the manner in which he is portrayed by the media, which is usually quite one dimensional, in his role as the fanatic Islamic, almost demonised, and architect of the worst terrorist incident in US history.
It's not irrelevant to note that prior to September 11, major disasters of this scale were virtually unknown to Americans, who were largely shielded from the immediacy of military attacks by the media. Up until that time such incidents were remote and occurred elsewhere. Since the September 11 attacks struck out of the blue and with such devastation, the attacks hit hard psychologically on the U.S. population, and the response and perceptions are likewise very strong.
Amongst other views, some see him as a power-hungry man who is using religion as a motivator and an excuse to attack other countries. Probably, more see him as a religious fanatic who wantonly kills innocent people beyond number to achieve his political and religious goals, and is also a major threat to the peace and stability of the world and to their country and fellow citizens specifically.
For some people, ridicule is seen as a means of expression, so anti-Osama bin Laden merchandise, including toilet paper rolls and urinal cakes with his face on it, can be bought within the United States.
Some Americans and Europeans do sympathize with him or his motives, accepting to some degree certain of his accusations and feeling there has been wrong on both sides.
Minority perceptions in the West seem to be that the US has strongly allied itself with, and armed, his traditional enemy, Israel, and that in large measure the West was responsible for its own harm by acting arrogantly, imperially, and without care, dominating other countries and interfering in an ill-advised manner for its own political ends, and that in some measure it was a natural response to expect for such behaviours.
Subsequent to September 11, anti-Muslim sentiment has increased generally in the West, and many Muslim communities in these countries have been reviled, attacked or publicly distanced themselves from bin Laden, and from the means he employs, in the attempt to underline their disapproval and wish for peace. Many of these feel themselves hurt and at risk of being "tarred by the same brush" by association.
Bin Laden is often seen as "the man" to get to destroy Al-Qaida, however this is not altogether accurate. Although it would be a major victory in the West, and an undoubted major psychological and military coup against terrorism, many other important leaders are involved in such attacks. Some of these have been captured or killed (Mohammed Atef and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed). However several others such as Ayman Al-Zawahiri remain at large.
Islamic countries in the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia
(Note: This section is awaiting a fuller rewrite, and is not yet adequately presented)
Before the September 11th attacks, many Muslims in the Middle East and central Asia had come to admire bin Laden for his charity work and his defense of Islam. Some extremist Muslims in those regions sympathize with Osama bin Laden and sometimes protest actions taken against bin Laden by the United States.
However, this support is not unanimous or unwavering: he has been expatriated from his home country of Saudi Arabia and was disowned by his family (who now use the English spelling Binladin).
Moderate Muslims in those regions look down at bin Laden as too extremist, and do not support his tactics for getting the U.S. to change its foreign policy.
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