The world after Osama bin Laden

It is grotesque to see media anchors like Hamid Mir in Pakistan refer to Bin Laden as “shaheed”—as though the man was a martyr in any Islamic sense. What a travesty of belief ! And that there were processions in some places in Pakistan—thankfully not many—led by the “ghairat brigade”—the so-called self-styled “honor-brigade” of right wing Islamists, holding aloft anti-American banners and images of bin Laden proclaiming him a martyred hero.

Now what?” is the question Id venture to say is on most people’s mind following the news that Osama bin Laden has been killed by US Navy Seals in a military operation in Abbotabad, Pakistan. Are we going to be safer, in America, Pakistan, or elsewhere in the world, from large-scale terrorist attacks and lone-ranger suicide bombers now that the founding leader of Al Qaeda is no longer either a real or symbolic threat? Can the death of one man change the future of the entire world?

The jubilant crowds of thousands who started to gather, chanting “USA!, USA!” in the Ground Zero

area of NYC minutes after the announcement was made late Sunday night, or in front of the White House, or in smaller crowds in other cities across America, were portrayed in much of the US media as examples of patriotic citizens feeling relieved that “justice had been served.” Such was the sentiment on display in major sensational news dailies too, with headlines like “Rot in Hell!” in The Daily News and “Got You!” in The New York Post. The spirit of entrepreneurship was on display wrapped in jingoistic sentiments as evidenced on the following items being sold on the streets: a shirt depicting bin Laden with a bloody gunshot wound in his forehead, another showing a soldier carrying an American flag and the words “We Got Him,” while another read, “Hey Osama, Tell Hitler We Said Hello.”

While I think the death of Bin Laden (if indeed he’s been alive all these years and actually killed May 1)-is deserved punishment for one who was admittedly responsible for masterminding the 9/11 carnage of 3,000 American lives and for spearheading the jihadist movement that resulted in countless deaths of civilians both within the societies of the West and within Muslim countries like Pakistan, still, the jubilant reactions of so many people in the USA and the gloating tone of much of its media and political pundits is sickening to observe, especially as no mention is made of hundreds of thousands of innocents killed across Iraq and Afghanistan as result of the American-led “War on Terror.” In similar fashion, it is grotesque to see media anchors like Hamid Mir in Pakistan refer to Bin Laden as “shaheed”—as though the man was a martyr in any Islamic sense. What a travesty of belief! And that there were processions in some places in Pakistan—thankfully not many—led by the “ghairat brigade”—the so-called self-styled “honor-brigade” of right wing Islamists, holding aloft anti-American banners and images of bin Laden proclaiming him a martyred hero –each such misplaced expression of jingoistic pride and defense of religious or national identity felt morally wrong .

What we have to be on guard against is the elevation of one man, Osama Bin Laden, into a metonymic figure of Islamism, whose removal inaccurately signifies either the end of the Islamist threat or its revival. Each of these scenarios gives too much importance to an individual, and avoids asking the deeper question that is the need of the day: what led to the creation of an Osama Bin Laden? In removing him, have we removed the underlying causes of his angst, anger, madness—a crazy rage shared by his many followers who are spawned by the very same violent injustice they in turn unleash on the world? What good does it do to celebrate or mourn his death? Will that fix the problems of the majority of people in this country or in Pakistan or elsewhere, who are victims of joblessness, food insecurity, lack of access to affordable (or any) education, healthcare and other basic human rights? It is time people wake up to the fact that Osama was never the problem— rather, he was the symptom of a deeper rot that will surely destroy the world more efficiently than any jihadist ever could, unless we find common solutions to our shared problems of global inequality, oppression and injustice.

(From Viewpoint Online: Picture also from Viewpoint)

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