I'm not one for spurious historical comparisons. Too messy. Too loaded. Where do you stop or start? But here's an interesting one from Charles Glass in the latest edition of London Review of Books:
Bin Laden would do well to study the example of another charismatic preacher who shunned worldly pleasures and condemned the corrupt despots and bogus scholars of his day. Fra Girolamo Savonarola’s sermons against the excesses of the Medici in Florence were as popular as bin Laden’s videotapes and internet epistles are today. Like bin Laden, he longed for the pure, simple life of his religion’s earliest days and the destruction of the worldly magnificence that had accreted to it. Medici and priestly corruption gave him an audience. Florentine zealots expelled the Medici in 1494 and, as the Taliban did, banished all signs of luxury. Like bin Laden, Savonarola refused public office but maintained his influence through his words. A confraternity of young men, not unlike the Taliban’s religious police or Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, broke into houses to seize dice, cards and other amusements that diverted attention from the Almighty. Savonarola’s brotherhood warned women to dress modestly and interfered, via a system of household spying, in everyone’s private life. It did not help his cause that he had condemned the pope and all the princes of Italy for their dishonesty and unChristian behaviour. By 1498, Florence had wearied of religious piety and hanged him.
Glass also makes the valuable point that "many Muslims, perhaps a majority, who admire bin Laden for his resistance to the United States would balk at Taliban rule in their homelands".