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The Assassination of Bin Laden: A Comparative Look at the Official Response and “Popular Opinion”

The Arabic-language press heralded the positive reactions of leaders of Arab countries to the assassination of Osama Bin Laden. The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, senior Saudi officials, and officials from countries such as Yemen and Iraq were among those condoning the act. For the most part, columnists in the established Arabic-language press aligned themselves with these Arab leaders.

Some publicists expressed disapproval of Bin Laden’s actions and ideas, others strongly condemned him, and still others praised the assassination. However, the official Arab press is not the only arena for public discussion of matters concerning the Arab street. Open, online public opinion polls and discussion forums have made the Internet an additional public arena for lively discussion of such issues. Some say that this arena even allows for a freer discussion, in which legitimacy is accorded competing political, religious and cultural interpretations.

This article will attempt to identify the differences between these two arenas, as reflected in responses to the assassination of Bin Laden and attitudes towards his ideas. It contains both a qualitative and a quantitative analysis of the discussion in these arenas, in an attempt to divine the principle themes raised following Bin Laden’s assassination, and the extent of sympathy for the man and his ideas.

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