During the waning midnight hours of a late Sunday evening on May 1, 2011, United States President Barack Obama walked into the East Room of the White House to announce to the entire world that Osama bin Laden had finally been killed in Pakistan. Throughout the 10 years since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, although there has not been much cause for celebration for our global village, the vast majority of our planet was finally able to breathe a sigh of collective relief when President Obama confirmed the death of Bin Laden by Navy Seal special forces at a dusty mansion on the outskirts of Abbottabad, Pakistan near the capital city of Islamabad. In addition to the vast majority of Americans who were relieved at the news of his ultimate demise, there were also more than 1 billion Muslims around the world collectively breathing a sigh of relief because Osama’s ungodly terrorist mischief had finally come to an inglorious end. For many Muslims, there had been no one single person in nearly 1,500 years of our religion’s modern history who has ever destructively misused and ignorantly hijacked our beloved religion more so than the dastardly terrorist Osama bin Laden himself.
“We must reaffirm that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam,” President Obama told the world during his historic address May 1. “I have made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. … Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader. He was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al-Qaida slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.” To highlight the fact that Muslims have been the greatest numerical casualties of al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden, the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point once released a stunning report, which found that Muslims have accounted for a staggering 85 percent of the total number of casualties from al-Qaida attacks throughout the world from 2004 to 2008. Even more astounding was the fact that from 2006 to 2008, the total percentage of al-Qaida’s victims who were Muslim skyrocketed to an almost unbelievable 98 percent of the total global casualty figure.
During his famous June 2009 speech to the greater Muslim world at Cairo University, President Obama highlighted the common themes of humanity found within the three major Abrahamic religions. He said that, “The Holy Quran tells us, ‘O mankind! We have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another. . . . The Talmud tells us: ‘The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.’ ” Finally, he said that, “The Holy Bible tells us, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.’ . . . The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God’s vision. Now, that must be our work here on Earth.”
Although the death of Osama bin Laden will not be the complete end of extremism around the world, there can be no honest and reasonable observer who could ever deny the fact that this successful mission was most certainly the proverbial “cutting of the al-Qaida snake’s head” and the beginning days of the Post-Osama Era. Although there are certainly lowlevel franchisees who will try to continue to create mischievous havoc throughout the world, the killing of al-Qaida’s symbolic godfather during President Obama’s watch cannot be emphasized enough to the global public. Again, since we Muslims have numerically represented the largest number of casualties of al-Qaida’s ungodly terrorism, it should be noted again that Muslims across the planet were also breathing a collective sigh of relief at the news of his demise. As millennial Muslims transition ourselves into a Post-Osama Era of grassroots nonviolent political action (a la The Arab Spring) in many parts of the Middle East and greater Islamic world, we can take comfort knowing that our future generations will be able to sleep peacefully at night because the boogeyman formerly known as Osama bin Laden will thankfully no longer be on this earth to haunt their childlike dreams ever again.
As we have seen from the peaceful Arab Spring nonviolent grassroots pro-democracy protests throughout the Middle East and North Africa, our next generation of young Post-Osama Muslims are beginning to understand that only peaceful nonviolent movements can effect positive sociopolitical change within any corner of the world. Over the last 10 years, we have seen that the bankrupt ideology of “Bin Ladenism” has not helped build one school, educate one girl or build one water purification center to help better any society around the world. Since our younger millennial generations of all colors and races around the world are empirically the least racist generation of children that our world has seen since time immemorial, we can help further cultivate our next generations of boys and girls to fully embrace those who are different from themselves as well as the concept of The Golden Rule, which beats at the heart of all major world religious traditions, including the three major Abrahamic faiths of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Going back to May 1, 2011 – when we finally heard the official confirmation of Osama bin Laden’s death coming from President Barack Obama as he addressed the world from the East Room of the White House that one fine evening – I remember uttering five words to myself as I exhaled a sigh of relief. “Welcome to the Post-Osama Era.” §
Arsalan Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, contributing editor for The Islamic Monthly and author of the new book “Islamic Pacifism: Global Muslims in the Post-Osama Era”.