From a Muslim perspective, I'll admit that it's hard not to feel a little cynical hearing bin Laden's most recent death announcement, given we've been reading his obituaries in Muslim periodicals from time to time over the last decade. Go figure: Turns out al Qaeda's honesty parallels their pacifism.
However, it looks like he's finally gone, with DNA evidence of his passing and his body buried at sea; too much of a pariah for any nation on earth to accept his remains. And believe me, he deserved no better.
Muslim prophecies warned of an Arab skinned Arabic speaking demon-hearted "caller to the gates of hell," and there's little question Osama fit the bill. Tall, powerful, rich, charismatic, moving in the highest circles, he could have done much good had he chosen to do so. Instead, he chose a path of progressive destruction, becoming responsible for the deaths of millions of innocents, both Muslim and non-Muslim alike.
His influence certainly seemed otherworldly. Condemned by Muslim clerics, leaders, scholars, pundits, intellectuals and grassroots organizations and individuals alike everywhere, he still became the voice of the worst Islamist abuses, promoting a vision of ethno-religious hegemony completely at odds with Muhammad's historic Islam, but capable of capturing the imagination of the angry, the uneducated, and the abused and dispossessed throughout the Muslim World.
And when radicalized Muslims amplified his rhetoric and repeated his evil deeds, they created a whole new concept of "franchised" terror.
It's difficult to conceive of a worse Muslim curse or Islamic affliction than bin Laden. Seeking to drive a wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims in America, he ignited a firestorm of retaliatory destruction that has decimated entire Muslim nations. Seeking to promote his own atavistic brand of Islam, he compelled unparalleled Muslim-on-Muslim violence and destruction as well.
Every cause he supported lost credibility because of him, and simply by association he single-handedly besmirched the character and faith of every Muslim who has ever lived.
But frankly, I'm tired of condemning bin Laden to "prove" I'm not radical, because honestly? He's radicalized the rest of you, too. Look at what happened to egalitarian freedoms in the so-called "civilized" world under bin Laden's influence. Mosques are being banned, burned and attacked everywhere, Muslim rights and freedoms are being limited everywhere, and every Muslim stands accused of being a potential terrorist.
In fact, Muslims are accused of being responsible for terrorism itself, despite the FBI and Interpol documenting that 99 percent of terrorists have never been Muslim.
Because of bin Laden, rights and freedoms are disappearing throughout the Muslim and non-Muslim world alike, in wave after wave of scarce-concealed ethno-religious rage. Everywhere, and in every community, neighbors view each other with greater suspicion.
Upon learning of his demise, the sons of an evangelical Christian friend of mine were disappointed because they'd dreamed of growing to be the assassins who "got" bin Laden. Meanwhile, I know Muslim youths in my own community with aspirations almost as extreme, and I know that those same stories are repeated around the world.
Frankly, I think the most amazing thing about bin Laden is, that even though he sought to divide us he actually united us because his call to hell-bent conflict was heard, heeded and answered by us all.
But here's the thing: All bin Laden really did was make us more selfish. Because of him, Muslims became fixated on their own grievances to the exclusion of all else, and non-Muslims became fixated on their own security, regardless of the human cost paid by others, throughout the world. But the good news is fixing selfishness is one of those things religion is good at!
In Judaism, Christian and Islam in particular, you'll find the same truth promoted: that you can't be a good Jew, a good Christian or a good Muslim if you don't crave for your neighbor what you want for yourself. And it's pretty amazing we've never applied that directly to the cause of world peace because it makes an amazing amount of sense.
Because I think the simple truth bin Laden made us all forget is that peace can't possibly be imposed by enforcing our own ideologies on others or by building walls between us or by engaging in foreign wars anywhere because that inevitably just ruins our neighbor's peace instead.
My bottom line? If we all truly want peace for ourselves and in the world at large, the clearest path there is ensuring peace for our neighbors first, here, there and everywhere.
Honestly, I think we all know that for peace to be real, it has to be shared.
So thank God bin Laden's gone, and Assalamu-Alaikum, Shalom Aleichum and God's Peace be with you all.
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