Is Osama Bin Laden following Islamic orthodoxy?
To begin with, Islam does allow the murder of civilians. Perhaps in Islam’s view they are not "innocents"? Here are some examples of the civilians that Muhammad and the early Muslims had murdered:
The Qur’an does command the killing of pagans not willing to embrace Islam:
Muhammad’s closest friends murdered apostates:
I could go on. Osama Bin Laden (OBL) has abundant historical and textual support to teach that Islam commands the killing of certain civilians. Muhammad did it, the "Righteously Guided" Caliphs did it, and respected Muslim scholars have sanctioned it ever since. The Islamic teachings that allow these murders are theological, and are to be applied in a social, and political, context. Islam is after all both a spiritual and political religion; there is no separation of church and state in Islam. Islam allows the murder of civilians who oppose Islam be it by voice only.
However, OBL does NOT have the historical and textual support to teach that Islam commands theindiscriminate killing of any non-Muslim civilians or of Muslims who disagree with him. That is where he has failed and transgressed the Islamic limitations. In that light many Muslims have been repulsed by OBL’s excesses and are now turning against him. (Since there is a dark and violent, element inherent in Islam, it is to be expected that once the bloodletting gets started it will transgress Muhammad’s rules: the spirit of murder knows few man-made bounds).
Islamic teaching prohibits the deliberate targeting of women and children but allows their deaths as collateral damage. What the Muslims did in Beslan would not be accepted by Muhammad, but he would bless and sanction the 9/11 attack. Muhammad destroyed his enemies financial strength during his conquests. He killed or massacred males from puberty on up, but he enslaved women and children.
Attempts to re-interpret and modernize Islam have existed, and failed, for hundreds of years. It is not surprising to find Muslims wishing to soften Islam’s harsh and brutal edicts. However, the four major schools of Islam, Hanfi, al-Shafi’i, Maliki, and Hanbali (->Wahabism), have closed the doors of ijtihad and they are not re-opening them. Read about it in more detail here.
A parallel tendency is to deflect the more disturbing portions of the Qur’an, such as its countenancing of slavery, by resorting to the strategy of temporal contextualizing. “Perhaps Allah in his wisdom knows that socio-cultural progress is better achieved by evolution than by revolution…Perhaps we have to keep in mind the psyche of a desert society of the distant past.” But the Qur’an is accepted by all true believers as an uncreated text, its physical embodiment only a reflection of the eternal original. It cannot be located along the timeline of a gradual progressivism. “Today I have perfected your religion for you,” reads Koran 5:3
Muslims make up about one-fifth of the world's population, but in the 1990s they have been far more involved in inter-group violence than the people of any other civilization. The evidence is overwhelming. There were, in short, three times as many inter-civilizational conflicts involving Muslims as there were between non-Muslim civilizations.
...Muslim states also have had a high propensity to resort to violence in international crises, employing it to resolve 76 crises out of a total of 142 in which they were involved between 1928 and 1979...When they did use violence, Muslim states used high-intensity violence, resorting to full-scale war in 41 percent of the cases where violence was used and engaging in major clashes in another 39 percent of the cases. While Muslim states resorted to violence in 53.5 percent, violence was used the United Kingdom in only 1.5 percent, by the United States in 17.9 percent, and by the Soviet Union in 28.5 percent of the crises in which they were involved...Muslim bellicosity and violence are late-twentieth-century facts which neither Muslims nor non-Muslims can deny