Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Interview with The Toledo Blade/Osama Bin Laden death

May 3, 2011
Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. Special Forces, but his ideology died before him, several local Muslim leaders said Monday.

“I think he effectively died in the Arab revolution of the last few months when the whole relevance of his call against the West received a ‘no confidence vote’ by the Muslims in the street,” said Ovamir Anjum, the Imam Khattab endowed chair of Islamic studies at the University of Toledo.

Dr. Abed Alo of the Masjid Saad Foundation in Sylvania expressed a similar view, saying the revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and other Arab nations showed that the people’s peaceful actions can be more effective than terrorism.

“The current developments in the Middle East showed that bin Laden’s thinking was not valid. The only reason why such ideologies will attract some people is when there is too much oppression and dictatorships. Now when people think they can change the situation without violence, then this type of ideology will not have much attraction any more,” Dr. Alo said.

“My reaction is that it’s no longer a really big deal except in America and possibly in the Afghanistan and Pakistan region,” Mr. Anjum said. “In the short term his death might provoke some reactions, but on the whole, what has happened in the Arab world already sounded the death knell of bin Laden’s ideology. This puts the final nail in that coffin.”

A number of area Muslims said they were relieved to learn that bin Laden was taken out at his Pakistani mansion hideout.

“He got what he asked for,” said Yehia “John” Shousher of Toledo. “He started out defending against the evil Russian occupation of Afghanistan and then he became a devil himself. ‘

Mr. Shousher and others said bin Laden’s radical and violent actions have given mainstream Muslims a bad name.

“We felt we have paid a price with the victims in New York and other places because of what happened. We never approved what went on, but we paid the price and now we have to fight for respect in the community in which we live,” he said. “What bin Laden did is against our faith and our country and against humanity and 99.9 percent of the Muslim world feels the same way.”

“We are very happy about what has happened,” said Dr. Syed Maseeh Rehman, president of the United Muslim Association of Toledo. “It was like Osama declared himself as the Muslim voice for the world when in fact he does not represent the mainstream Muslims. He is not a scholar. He’s a nobody. He has his own version of Islam and he brought a bad name to everybody — to Muslims, to Arabs, and to human beings. Killing innocent women and children in the name of Islam — this is absolutely not allowed in Islam.”

Dr. Mahjabeen Islam said the al-Qaeda leader’s death raises a number of serious questions, such as how he was able to hide in a heavily fortified mansion that towered over the rest of the neighborhood and which was close to a prestigious military academy. It suggests government collusion, she said.

“As a Pakistani American, I am absolutely furious at the Pakistani government. How much did the Pakistani government know? Clearly something was going on,” she said.

Dr. Islam also fears that bin Laden’s death might trigger violent reprisals among his supporters and other extremists.

“I think his death is going to radicalize his al-Qaeda followers more. … I think his death is going to make it stronger. I think there are going to be vengeful attacks on innocent people,” she said.

Dr. Islam also voiced concern that U.S. officials reported they buried bin Laden at sea. If so, that would be a violation of Islamic practice, she said. It also means that if bin Laden’s body is at sea, there is no way to check the DNA evidence that officials said proved he was the target of the raid.

Ziad Hummos, a member of Masjid Saad, said he hopes the terrorist leader’s death will bring about peace.

“Violence creates violence. I hope this will be the end of killing innocent people around the world,” Mr. Hummos said. “I hope now the world will come to peace and people will come back to their sanity. It is something really important that people respect all human life.”

Imam Ahmed Abou Seif of the Toledo Muslim Community Center also said the events might provide a chance for positive change.

“Getting rid of Osama, that would be a great opportunity for both the Muslim people and the U.S. to work together toward the same goal,” Imam Seif said, adding that the goals are “justice, freedom, and equality.”

Cherrefe Kadri, a Toledo attorney and former president of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, said Muslim Americans feel no differently about bin Laden’s death than do other citizens.

“I don’t know that Muslim Americans should have any different feelings than any other Americans. It’s a measure of justice for all Americans,” she said. “We don’t have any special interest in Osama bin Laden. We never looked at him as a religious leader or a religious figure. If somebody does bad, then I think they get their just due. Hopefully this closes a chapter.”

Staff writer Tom Troy contributed to this report.

Contact David Yonke at: or 419-724-6154.