Political leaders and media organizations around the world have weighed in on the significance of the death of al Qaida leader and mass murderer Osama bin Laden. Many are hopeful that bin Laden's death spells the end of an era marked by terrorism and extremism and that the future of the Middle East will instead be shaped by the desire of people throughout the region for democracy and economic opportunity.
Al-Qaida's brand of terrorism and extremism has taken a heavy toll on the youth of the Middle East. As Lebanon's outgoing premier Saad Hariri said in press reports, "The history of our nationalism and Islam will never forgive that man who was a black mark for two decades, filling the minds of youngsters with ideas about terrorism, murder and destruction."
In Africa, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki said the al-Qaida leader's death is an "act of justice" for the victims of the Nairobi bombing and commended all those involved in tracking down and killing bin Laden.
Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghassan Khatib said, "Getting rid of bin Laden is good for the cause of world peace, but what counts even more is overcoming the way of speaking and violent methods that were created and encouraged by bin Laden." In Baghdad, government spokesman Ali Musawi welcomed news of bin Laden's death. “The Iraqi people are among the most happy people," he said, "because we are the ones who suffered most from al-Qaida."
It seems that the tide may indeed be turning against the Islamic extremism and violence preached by al-Qaida. The Turkish newspaper Millyet in an editorial said that bin Laden represented a "defeated ideology" and that in the Arab Spring uprisings, Muslims have chosen to embrace democracy.
The youth-led revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia crystallized the irrelevance of al-Qaida and its extremist aspirations "because they achieved so much more than al Qaida ever achieved," Kamal Habib, a former member of the extremist Islamic Jihad movement in Egypt, told the press. Mr. Habib, who now researches Islamist politics, said "Al-Qaida's peak was in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq." But now groups like al-Qaida are facing a real crisis. People don't feel the need to follow al Qaida, if they can achieve change peacefully said Mr. Habib.
That's why it is critical that more leaders in more places move faster and further to open their political systems, curb corruption, and respect the rights of all of their citizens. Then this inspiring moment will truly be a turning point for the Middle East.