What we’re seeing now in Egypt is something that might be called electoral bin Ladenism. Take the group Gamaa Islamiya, which under its spiritual leader, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, made the first unsuccessful attempt to destroy the World Trade Center in 1993. Today, the organization has formed a Salafist political party with the benign name Building and Development Party. This organization, which like al-Qaeda traces its roots to the Islamist theorist Sayyid Qutb, has 13 seats in the new Egyptian parliament.
Syria will be a test of whether this post-bin Laden Islamist movement can continue to reject violence or will instead be radicalized by the jihadist magnet that is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The successor to bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has tried to use the anti-Assad battle to rehabilitate the al-Qaeda brand — even though it’s another fight that embodies the Muslim-on-Muslim violence that bin Laden came to abhor.
Zawahiri got little traction with his opportunistic “Onward, O Lions of Syria” video in February. But as time passes, al-Qaeda is slowly becoming a more potent part of the Syrian opposition.
And the battle is still raging in Yemen, the place that bin Laden believed offered his best chance of victory.