It is a sentiment, I believe, that is shared by millions of other Muslims around the globe whose lives and core sense of identity have forever been damaged by wrongly being associated with the calamity that was Osama Bin Laden: Bin Laden is dead! What music to our ears! And yes, I am a Muslim who says this with no ambiguities.
The newscasts and analysis about this long-hoped-for and long-awaited triumph will forever be imprinted on our collective American psyche. But this will be imprinted on the Muslim-American psyche in more complex ways than on that of non-Muslim compatriots.
President Barack Obama’s memorial service to the 3,000-plus Americans of all faiths who perished in 9/11 and their families was a moving occasion. This memorial served as yet another acknowledgement of the shared trauma of this tragedy in our collective memory.
Bin Laden’s death represents a triumph over a group that has transformed our sense of security. For Muslim-Americans, 9/11 led to a fractured nation and a fractured world. Muslim-Americans became identified as outside of the imagined American community. Our collective attitudes and beliefs about the Islamic world (a world with more than a billion people), and about Muslim-Americans is forever defined by al-Qaida’s terrorist activities and rhetoric.
Attacks used to justify the invasion of Iraq
Bin Laden’s 9/11 attack was part of the justification the United States used to invade Iraq, an invasion that continues to devastate this nation. The Iraq war has led to the senseless death of what some estimate to be over 100,000 people in the last 10 years and the continued displacement of millions. Bin Laden and al-Qaida are also ultimately responsible for the thousands of civilians who have either died in al-Qaida hands or in American hands in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Moreover, the tortures in Guantanamo Bay and the infamous renditions and torture in foreign prisons of alleged al-Qaida affiliated prisoners, the racial profiling that is subjected to Muslim-Americans who have collectively become guilty until proven innocent, the FBI infiltration of mosques, and the sense of siege that many Muslim-Americans feel would not have occurred without Bin Laden’s attack of 9/11 — or at least would not have occurred to the same extent.
And once again, the corrupt and weak governments in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia, among other Muslim nations, have failed to capitalize on the triumph that Bin Laden’s death represents to undermine extremist movements in these nations and around the globe.
A triumph for all who’ve suffered from his extremism
Bin Laden’s death represents not only an American triumph, but a triumph for all those who believe in building a more humane and just global community, a triumph for all peoples who have suffered from his extremist politics. Winning against al-Qaida and paying homage to the hundreds of thousands of people of all nationalities who died because of its twisted politics require that we cease our support for weak and corrupt governments like those in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Their leaders utterly fail to work for their citizens’ best interests and security, a failure that ultimately also compromises American interests and security.
Cawo M. Abdi, PhD, is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota.