Recently, I’ve been reading Khartoum: the Ultimate Imperial Adventure by Michael Asher, who has linked between 9/11 events and the Mahdist revolt in Sudan. I write this considering the public resentment and even hostility to the former regime led at its inception by Dr. Alturabi who initially established what is known as an Islamic Charter Front, Islamic Movement before it split into the National and Popular Congress. The link Michael Asher’s draws between 9/11 and the Mahdist state is serious because such an exaggerated and antagonistic analysis tarnishes the international image of Sudan and helps to keep its name in the list of state sponsors of terror maintained by the U.S, which began an incessant war on terror following the 9/11 incidents. In Khartoum: The Ultimate Imperial Adventure , Michael Asher describes the tragedy of 11/9 in New York as a settling of scores for the ten thousand dervishes who fell under Kitchener’s guns, just over a hundred years before. It implies that Alturabi took revenge for the ancestors of his brother-in-law Sadig Al Mahdi, grandson of Muhammad Ahmed Al Mahdi. It is a ridiculous allegation as Sudanese are tolerant and their posterity do not hold any hatred towards those who are culpable of perpetrating massacre against Mahdist revolutionaries, let alone vendetta or retribution, which are prohibited by Islam, which advocates for mercy and forgiveness. Michael Asher’s vindictive hypothesis is mainly based on Osama Bin Laden’s stay in Khartoum and his meeting with the late Dr. Alturabi. Osama Bin Laden’s visit to Sudan was variously reported as having happened between 1991 and 1996. So how could Alturabi have helped Bin Laden in constructing Al Qaeda before 1991 or in 1994 or the three subsequent years? On the other hand, Al Qaeda was founded not in Khartoum, Sudan but in Peshawar, Pakistan in 1988 by some of Arab insurgents enlisted in the fight against the Soviet Union. If Michael Asher claimed that Al Qaeda was established in 1988 or a year before, we would have assumed his reliance on intelligence information about contact between Alturabi and Bin Laden. Within a historical context, it is more convincing that the ten thousand casualties Mahdist troops fell in retaliation for the death of Gordon Pasha under siege in Khartoum as well as the defeat of the 11,000 troops of Hicks Pasha’s column at Shaykan by the Mahdi. It is as if Michael Asher wanted to divert the flow of the Nile to the Mississippi! Asher’s premise makes me wonder whether some British people still feel some bitterness. In an interview by Aljazeera net published on 2nd May,2011, Shaykh Ibrahim AlSanusi, Bin Laden’s friend, stated that Bin Laden respected Sudan’s law, committing no aggressive act while he was in the country. Alsanosi added that Bin Laden had grown soya crops and contributed to building roads. Al Jazeera’s famous programme Century Witness interviewed Alturabi and in his testimony filmed in 2010, he confirmed that Bin Laden came to Sudan in 1991 as an investor. He disclosed an attempt to assassinate him was made by an extremist Salafist group which tried even to target him. Alturabi pointed out that at the request of a Sudanese security expert (later on Sudan’s ambassador to the U.N) Washington refused to seek an extradition because Osama Bin Laden had committed no crime. However, Western pressure on Khartoum increased. Ultimately, Bin Laden was the deported to Afghanistan on board a Sudanese Airlines plane. Did the U.S and allies Feel Bin Laden could launch, as Michael Asher supposes, a reprisal operation for the sake of the martyrs of Mahdist revolt in Sudan? And that intelligence capacities were unable to determine where and how could such a thing take place? The question that raises itself: did America, like Great Britain in dealing with Mahdi, underestimate the latent power of Al Qaeda? Some observers think that if Bin laden had continued living in Sudan, he would have remained aloof from politics. The Sudanese officials close to Bin Laden remembered him as a humble ascetic, inclined to talk about the need for reforms in Saudi Arabia and expressing his dissatisfaction over princes’ squandering of public funds. No one of those interviewed even alluded to the prospect of Bin Laden taking revenge for the martyrs of Mahdist revolution. In 2015, in an interview by Center for Strategic and Diplomatic studies, Sadig Al-Mahdi, Mahdist National party leader spoke about how Bin Laden emerged as a dissenting voice in the aftermath of U.S Desert Storm operation in the Gulf. Altaghyeer, A Sudanese newspaper in 2013 published his address in Philippine during a ceremony for awarding him there Gusi peace prize. About AlQaida and its growth, he said “….. initially, started in Afghanistan to break free from the Soviet Union hegemony and then sprouted after being fed on domestic grievances such as social , political oppression ,external injustices like an imperialistic domination , the pending fate of Palestinians under the Israeli occupation, corrupt , venal domestic national regimes and failure of ecumenical moderate systems to meet their commitments. He concluded ” Regardless of their historical and sectarian rift , Muslims are polarized by two trends: an Islam seeking the revival of radiant past ,an Islam striving to find a new expression ,a new formula that recognizes the free will, human rights, religious diversity , peace and justice as a foundation for a universal co-operation.
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