I was recently asked by a radio station host in California, "What was your reaction, as a Muslim, to the Americans burying Osama's body at sea? Was this appropriate?"
He explained that a spokesperson from Al-Azhar University in Cairo had gone on record by saying, "Islam is opposed to burials at sea, and that if Osama's body was indeed thrown into the sea, then Islam is totally against that."
"Excuse me," I interjected. "Why should Muslims have anything to say about how the Americans chose to dispose of bin Ladin's body? Osama lived and died an ideological life completely divorced from the faith he was born into." I never received the promised follow-up call for the second part of the interview.
Religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect to it. It is fair to say -- he who controls Islam's public face controls the faith. Over the past four decades a gallery of rogues provided Islam a face on the international stage. As a political cartoonist in Pakistan during the eighties and nineties, Muslims were routinely branded mercenaries -- willing to take up any Arab cause for the right amount of money. Post 9-11 Muslims are branded extremists -- considered a people who full-heartedly endorse violence towards anyone who question the tenants of Islam.
Present-day Islam is caught between the specter of Abu Nidal and bin Ladin. Abu Nidal fiercely distorted politics in the 1980s to serve a financial agenda; while bin Ladin distorted religion to serve a political agenda. The letters in their names ironically reproduce the other's name in reverse order. But the men share more than names that are anagrams -- both came from wealthy backgrounds, their respective mothers sharing one husband with a dozen competing spouses. They were also both expelled by Saudi Arabia as unwelcome radicals after having been initially embraced by the monarchy. Whereas Abu Nidal is complicit in inciting a deadly hatred of Israel and Jews for monetary gain, Bin Ladin was guilty of festering a deadly hatred of the West for religious gain. Presented with these divergent views, both the American Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights are far more Islamic than the public face this religion presented the world.
These two terrorists shared in death as well. They were both shot -- "double-tapped" in the chest and head. The "double-tap" is a shooting technique where two well-aimed shots are fired at a target. The intent is to debilitate the target with a first shot to the chest until a second shot to the head kills the target. Abu Nidal was killed by Saddam's secret service while bin Ladin in a CIA-orchestrated operation.
The two men died the way they lived preferring to trade in death instead in the currency of life. The two had numerous opportunities to spend their wealth to relieve the social disparities that exist in their Muslim communities. Instead, extremists like bin Ladin preferred to issue declarations such as, "the United States is occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of its territories, plundering its riches, overwhelming its rulers, humiliating its people, threatening its neighbors, and using its bases in the peninsula as a spearhead to fight against the neighboring Islamic peoples."
Islam's image needs to change from within. This entails Muslims taking the initiative, replacing the gun with reason, the bullet with words. The lone gunman's "double-tap" should be replaced with the people's "double-click." It only takes the "double-click" of the mouse -- an act of pressing a computer button twice, in quick succession, without moving the mouse -- to render declarations like bin Ladin's dead. The first click selects the declaration, debilitating it, while the second click kills it.
Tonight I can report to readers, around the world, that the "double click has conducted an operation that has killed the bin Ladin's declaration. Read with caution -- perhaps a bit too graphic, but very true, "Islam is occupying countries like Pakistan, plundering its riches, overwhelming its rulers, humiliating its people, threatening its neighbors, and using its lands as a spearhead to wage a war against humanity."
If only Muslims could unite, agreeing to sink the public face of Islam down to the dark, unfathomable depths of the ocean.