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Professor: Bin Laden and Gandhi share similarities

If it weren’t for the media, Osama bin Laden may never have received the attention he has now, said Darrell Fasching, a USF religious studies professor.

“Worldwide cable news amplifies terrorism and gives terrorists a double victory,” Fasching noted. “Today’s terrorists are experts at using Western media against us.”

During the Globalization and Security Symposium held Tuesday in the TECO room in the Education Building Fasching discussed the similarities and differences between bin Laden and Mahatma Gandhi.

“Bin Laden is a dark emulator of Gandhi,” Fasching said. “A mirror image.”

While it may be difficult to see the similarities between Gandhi and bin Laden, Fasching said they’re not that far off and are, in some cases, quite striking.

“Both are rhetorically charismatic,” Fasching said. “Both call for a guerilla warfare against colonialism and Western domination.”

However, Fasching said the methods Gandhi and bin Laden advocated in order to achieve these goals couldn’t be more different: Gandhi preaches non-violent civil disobedience while bin Laden preaches the killing of civilians.

But, Fasching said, both didn’t hesitate to use the global media to spread their messages. Gandhi used the radio and press, Fasching said, and bin Laden uses cable television.

However, bin Laden and his terrorist network are arguably more reliant on the mass media to further their cause than Gandhi was. Indeed, Fasching contended that without cable, al-Qaida wouldn’t even be imaginable.

But, unlike Gandhi, Fasching said bin Laden has not achieved his goals, such as forcing America to remove its military bases from what he considers Muslim holy lands.

While Gandhi succeeded in ending British colonial rule in India, Fasching said the mission was a religious failure because he didn’t succeed in uniting the country’s Hindus and Muslims.

Senior Harmony Whidman said she was impressed by Fasching’s ability to draw parallels between Gandhi and bin Laden.

“I think he makes a very compelling case on connections between the two,” Whidman said.

In terms of the Bush administration’s policies, Fasching identified two approaches he said counter the teachings of Gandhi. One he labeled “The myth of the Lone Ranger” – a foreign policy that tends to ignore the world community – and the other he termed “The myth of cosmic dualism” – the classification of Iran, Iraq and North Korea into the so-called “Axis of Evil.”

“We need to be proactive,” Fasching said. “We need to build bridges of understanding.”