#OBL: "Politically, he died on 25 January"
By the time I woke up the global rolling news was in full mental jacket. There was not much actual material, only the mobile phone footage of the site of Bin Laden's death. I spent the day on the streets of Cairo, interviewing people. They did not seem as breathless as the news people. In fact a great many people were hardly interested at all.
The newspapers here in Cairo had missed the news, except one which squeezed a brief factual account alongside a picture of Osama. On another one the main picture is of a delegation from Britain's RMT union on Tahrir Square.
In the vox pops the overwhelming response has been: I don't believe he is dead. There are no pictures and they ditched the body. That is what anybody who cared to answer on camera said. and while it is a response stronger among the poor, I have now met several well educated Cairenes who say the same.
Many people believed he was already dead, and there is such distrust of the west, for it's alleged duplicity, that even people who go to the American University of Cairo are often not inclined to believe America.
What will sort this out is pictures and evidence. On Jan 25th, here, many mobs of potentially reactionary people were turned around to the revolution by seeing with their own eyes the truth. Interestingly the government here in Egypt has refused to comment all day on the slaying of OBL. Again, while scripted statements from world leaders are sometimes dismissed as pointless, they soon have meaning when they do not happen.
However, the death of Bin Laden is a significant moment. As Bahey Ael a din Hassai, director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Study put it to me just now:
"Bin Laden died last night; but politically he died months ago; with the Arab spring the people of Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Syria and soon I hope Saudi took a step into politics."
The opportunity and the challenge for political Islam here is huge. The constitutional reform has created an electoral process which massively favours the Muslim Brotherhood; and their popularity in poor areas is a source of depression for the secular youth trying to take radical and liberal politics to the people.
However the Brotherhood has begun to splinter: a section of it's youth wing broke away; some leaders are forming a new party. The fundamental issue is this: it is one thing to wield street power by doling out charity to a population that has been dumped on by a wealthy secular elite. But once you are in politics you have to have a position on stuff like the minimum wage, should doctors go on strike, should there be kissing allowed on TV programmed. That is you have to go beyond charity and into the world of compromise and dialogue, because you cannot buy breakfast for 85 million people.
Bin Laden's death is only a signal moment in this regard. Actually the real challenge of political islam is only just beginning.