Osama bin Laden has used videotapes as the mainstay of his publicity campaign to convince the Muslim world of the worthiness of his cause and the necessity of his methods. His videotapes had made him a subject of folklore.

But finally a videotape has proven to be his undoing.

A videotape found in a house in Jalalabad was released by the Pentagon today, and this tape erases any doubts about bin Laden's involvement in the Sept. 11th attacks. Prominent American Muslim organizations like the Council on American and Islamic Relations (CAIR) have come out stating that there can be no more doubts about bin Laden's involvement in the dastardly attacks. CAIR also expressed its horror at bin Laden's comment that the act itself had benefited Islam.

The tape is probably better than anything the American administration could have wished for. It not only indicates that bin Laden had intimate knowledge about the planning of the attacks, but also was more aware of the details than the actual perpetrators themselves. The tape clearly suggests bin Laden's role as the mastermind behind the attacks.

The tape also gives an insight into the moral character of bin Laden. His callous attitude toward innocent casualties is appalling. How can someone claim to be a devout Muslim and yet be so insensitive to human pain and suffering?

One of the most disturbing elements of the bin Laden phenomenon is his popularity among disenfranchised Muslims. He uses just causes to justify unjust methods and systematically corrupts the interpretation of Islamic ideals such as adl (justice) and jihad (just struggle). He glamorizes terrorism and is clearly a disastrous role model for Muslim youth in search of dignity and social justice.

Bin Laden's use of the concept of jihad is false, and is a gross misinterpretation of Islam. Jihad is not a war by any means against unbelievers. The theory of jihad (struggle in the path of God) forbids violence except when 1) Muslims are not allowed to practice their faith (freedom of religion is threatened) 2) when people are oppressed and subjugated (in pursuit of freedom) and 3) when people's land is forcibly taken from them. Islam specifically forbids suicide (Quran 4:29) and the killing of civilians, women and children (Bukhari: Book of Jihad).

Moreover, the Quran forbids fitnah (mischief; 7:56, 7:74)--and classical Islamic jurists have clearly argued that Hirabah (terrorism or war against society) is strictly un-Islamic and forbidden. The Quran also states that is a person kills one innocent soul, it is as if he has killed all humanity. And he who has saved one soul, is as if he has saved all humanity (Quran 5:32).

There is more than enough evidence in Islamic sources to expose the fundamentally erroneous nature of bin Laden's theology.

Hopefully, this tape will achieve two desirable objectives. One, it will convince most of the doubters about bin Laden's guilt. Two, it will give pause to the supporters of Bin Laden, who may finally realize the gravity and inhumanity of his methods.

One cannot indulge in such enormously devastating attacks without allowing the kernel of morality, goodness and humanity within oneself to die. I hope and pray that no one else follows in the footsteps of bin Laden.

There will still be those who will deny the evidence the tape advances. They will probably claim that for those who could orchestrate an attack like the one on Sept. 11th, it will be a small matter to produce a tape like this one using a bin Laden look alike and poor quality video and audio. It may also lead to an entire industry of conspiracy theories seeking to explain away the tape. We can only sympathize with such naiveté.

In a sense, such extreme deniability is indicative of the people's belief that no Muslim could commit such a horrible attack, especially in the name of Islam.

Muslims everywhere must realize that extremism among some Islamic activists has indeed reached inhuman proportions. In the name of Islam and for the benefit of Islam, these extremists are prepared to commit murder and mayhem. It is absolutely imperative that Muslims who care about humanity in general and the image of Islam in particular unleash a campaign against extremism in the Muslim world. We have to become intolerant towards intolerance and give no quarter to any form of verbal, theological, or political extremism.

Bin Laden has left a horrible scar on Muslim history. We must work hard to erase it. We can do that by reviving the Quranic principles of Ihsan (moral excellence) and Rahmah (mercy/tolerance) in our social and political interactions within and without the Muslim world.

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