By Asghar Ali Engineer
(Secular Perspective May 16-31, 2011)
The United States has claimed, through its own President Barak Obama that Osama bin Laden, the head of al-Qaeda, was killed on 1st May 2011 at the dead of night in his hiding place in Abbotabad, near Islamabad, Pakistan’s own capital. This news has been broadcast, telecast or published all over the world. However, the President also claimed that as per Islamic rites we buried him in the sea without loss of time as in Islam it is not allowed to keep the body for long. He also claimed that his photographs (with disfigured face) were not shown as it would not satisfy the skeptics and instead, would incite feelings among radicals.
How far these claims are justified it is for subsequent investigators to judge. The infowar.com T.V. from USA claims that it is all lie and Osama was killed long ago probably in 2003 but he was kept alive in media to serve American rulers and was revived whenever needed. He was shown killed on 1st May as Obama’s popularity rating had touched rock bottom and also US is going through economic crisis and elections are coming. So Osama was needed again and he was killed, according to the channel, for ninth time.
Whatever the truth the news of Osama’s death created big celebration and thousands of Americans poured out on the street and shouted jubilantly “USA, USA”. as if USA had won the war or some rugby match. It is interesting to note here that how fearful was the most powerful nation on earth of one individual. That is why it is my considered opinion that real power is moral power, not power of arms. More arms you equip yourself with, more insecure you feel. This is true of America too. It has so much weapons that it can destroy this world several times over and yet it feels quite insecure Everything is destructible except Truth and in most of the religious tradition Truth is God.
Though USA has all the weapons it needs for its safety and security but it is weakest on earth as far as moral power is concerned and hence despite all its weapons it feels most insecure and will continue to feel in future too. It attacked Iraq by telling lie that there are weapons of mass destruction and when the truth was exposed it did not even apologize though thousands were killed in this war of lies and two countries Afghanistan and Iraq were destroyed. The aforesaid T.V. Channel also claimed that this time Osama has been discovered in Pakistan as USA is preparing to attack Pakistan to destroy its nuclear weapons.
The way Americans celebrated killing of Osama showed how mass media can manipulate our feelings and thinking to the benefit of ruling classes. It also shows how despite all our ‘progress’ we thirst for revenge and how patriotic feelings are manipulated by the ruling classes to promote its own interests. When it comes to its own interests America becomes ruthless, disregards all morality and sees only in black and white. For it either one is friend or enemy and enemy must be destroyed at any cost.
Once communism was its enemy and did everything to destroy it. Then it chose during Bush’s period Islam as its enemy (though it did not say so as in case of communism) and tried to see that no Muslim country stands up to its power and those who did tried to humiliate and if possible destroy it. Saddam did and was destroyed. America needs Gandhi in 21st century as India needed in twentieth century. America needs to be liberated from its own colonialism. Now it is on spree to destroy Islamic countries.
Thanks to mass media Americans developed fear of communism and considered it an evil and same media is promoting anti-Islamic feelings and they think Islam is an evil and must be destroyed though its presidents indulging Obama continue to say it is not war against Islam. Thanks to mass media there is great deal of hostility to Islam in America. An average citizen of America thinks Islam is a threat and must be contained.
Any country which bases its policies on selfish interests and not on higher morality is bound to create such psychology against one or the other ideology. I would like to quote here Rabbi Arthur Waskow who wrote to me under the title “Bin Laden and Beyond” “How might we address the death of a mass murderer?” and then he goes on to quote from Tohrah. He says The Torah describes Moses and Mirriam leading the ancient People in a celebratory song after the tyrannical Pharaoh and his army have been overwhelmed by the waters of Red Sea. Later the Rabbis gave a new overtone to the story. “The angels,” they said “began to dance and sing as well, but God rebuked them “These also are the work of My hands. We must not rejoice at their deaths”.
Then Rabbi Waskow comments, “Notice complexity of the teaching: Human beings go unrebuked when they celebrate the downfall and death of a tyrant but the Rabbis are addressing our higher selves, trying to move us into higher place….I myself would have been happier to see Bin Laden arrested to stand trial, but assuming the report that he violently resisted arrest is true, I have no objection to his having been killed.”. Now it has come out that Osama was unarmed at the time of killing and that he was arrested and shot later. His twelve year daughter was quoted as witness.
Rabbi Arthur Waskow wants us to rise to angelic level and not celebrate killing of enemy but try to restrain ourselves and consider them too as creation of God. This requires highest level of morality and behaviour not to be polluted by our low animal instincts. It should not be impossible to expect this from people of most developed democracy in 21st century. But our lower instincts and political interests override our morality.
President Obama said that today “justice has been done”. Is it so? In which court Osama was tried even in absentia and proved that he was murderer. Obama became both judge and executioner? Is this the standards of judiciary? In case of Iraq also Bush became the judge and executioner and when it was established beyond any doubt that Saddam never had weapons of mass destruction, no gross injustice was admitted. Just because America is most powerful and has most dreaded weapons in the world.
Now let us examine what will be the consequences on the Islamic world. First of all I would like to emphasize that Obama was the first American President in many years who was looked upon by the Islamic world as someone who would repair all the damage as he made many promises during his election campaign. May be he made these promises in all sincerity but soon discovered he is too small a man before network of American interests. Whatever the truth he not only failed to fulfill his promises but grossly lost his credibility. After all he proved to be no different.
Assuming that Osama was really killed on 1st May in an operation by armed forces he has not achieved much. Osama did have his band of followers but was never popular as he was projected to be. And after what happened in the Arab world in the beginning of this year i.e. 2011 he had completely lost whatever limited following he had and even before that his ruthless violent methods had alienated him.
Al-Qaida (the base) could have endeared itself to Muslims if it had not attacked Muslims and killed thousands and thousands of them in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and in many other countries. Violence has its own dynamics and once unleashed cannot be controlled by those who unleash it and destroy ones own people. And in a period in which highly destructive weapons are available and their use brings mass destruction. Al-Qaida was quite unscrupulous in use of violence and killed more Muslims than what it perceived it to be ‘enemy’.
The peaceful revolution in Morocco and Egypt inspired people of West Asia than Osama’s men ever did. Though things in Libya have gone awry, thanks again to invasion by NATO forces Arab people are committed to peaceful change. In Bahrain, Syria and Yemen despite use of force by their respective Governments, people have not resorted to violence despite extreme provocation. This also has blasted the myth that Islam believes in violence and not in peaceful change.
For years people really did not know whether Osama is dead or alive. Any news about him being dead or alive was taken with cynicism by Muslims and thus had become irrelevant. Except very few Muslims he was neither seen as ‘mujahid’ or ‘martyr’. Eminent Muslims in many conferences across the Muslim world denounced Osama for his use of violence. Even his theory of jihad was rejected as irrelevant to modern times by ulama from several Islamic countries in a conference held in Turkey.
In fact Muslims in these countries felt Osama alive is needed by USA rather than Muslims. And he used to pop up at critical junctures in USA. Now that USA has ‘buried Osama finally he may not pop up again. It is end of the myth or reality whatever it was. Muslim world does not need him anyway. It did not need him earlier too as he brought so much destruction to Muslim world.
A few militants may stand by him but Muslim masses are as much wedded to peace as any other people. Osama now belongs to a bygone era.
Noted Islamic scholar and social activist Asghar Ali Engineer heads the Mumbai-based Institute of Islamic Studies and the Centre for the Study of Secularism and Society.