Like everyone else, we'd pretty much forgotten about Osama bin Laden here in Saudi Arabia. Also, like everyone else - other than those who happen to be specially affiliated with the CIA - I was very surprised to learn of his death. But while mine was tinged with something close to a feeling of triumph - I was not sad to see him go, for reasons I will detail later - different opinions were expressed at my girls' government school here. But not for the reasons which might be expected.
I won't go as far as to say I celebrated his death: human life is human life. At the very least it's unseemly to whoop and sing about the death of an enemy, to celebrate it. Celebrating the spilling of blood: primitive, isn't it?
I digress. There are many who say that the US should not have stooped to his level in killing him; that they should have brought him in for a fair trial; that what happened in Pakistan was no more than an assassination. I'm not going to delve into that today. All I know is that when I went to school and brought it up, I found many who were indeed sad to see him die - but not for the sake of his announced cause.
First of all, many people believe he did not orchestrate the 9/11 attacks in the first place. Conspiracy theory or not, it has substantial backing here. But most tellingly, most importantly, they do not support him for his message of terror and fighting against non-Muslims. The idea of a 9/11 setup is essential here. People are proud of him for 'standing up to America', for an attitude of 'never backing down' to a dictator, for 'pride in the face of colonialism' - not for killing non-Muslims. I reiterate that you will not find a single person who says that killing non-Muslims is okay here in Saudi - well, in my school anyway. That attitude simply does not exist anymore. Even with the strictest imams, non-Muslims are considered to be under treaty, at the least. But what does exist is the idea of FREEDOM-FIGHTING.
In a Facebook post by a very good friend of mine, she compared Bin Laden to Omar al-Mukhtar, the Libyan hero who struggled against Italian colonialism. The lack of differentiation between political and religious interests comes into play here: just as the US's invasion of Iraq was portrayed as a 'crusade', instead of a political move that played into the US's political interests (I admit, I've recently seen Green Zone); just like the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is portrayed as one between Muslims and Jews, instead of a simple case of land theft and ethnic cleansing.
This is the fodder of terrorists.
This is where the work must be done.
It is naive, misguided and simply very wrong to say that terrorism is a black-and-white bloodthirsty fight by Muslims against non-Muslims. That is nothing but complete and utter nonsense. Putting aside that that attitude is hardly justified by the Qur'an or the example of the Prophet Muhammad, if that was the case: why do they bring up Palestine 24/7? Why constantly bring up the thousands of innocent lives lost, the blood shed in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Because by portraying America as the occupier, the terrorist, the crusader (when I brought up the thousands of innocents killed by Bin Laden on 9/11 some girls even retorted with the exact same rhetoric: "What about the innocents killed in Iraq and Palestine?"), terrorists and their groups find support for their immoral activities.
People feel that they are 'fighting back'. The impotent feeling of helplessness created in Arabs by their despotic governments comes into play here as well; to feel that they are doing something to help their 'Muslim brothers suffering in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan' they join these repulsive people and their repulsive cause, and in the meantime cause so much irreparable damage.
That brings me to why I personally am not sad to see him go. Why I replied vehemently to the girls who championed him as 'a representer of us Arabs' with 'if we Arabs are represented by him, we're in big trouble'. Why I insist upon not mourning him; why I look upon his death with a grim feeling of justice being done. Because even with believing he was not behind 9/11 - did Washington really have any proof other than Bin Laden's 'boast of what he saw as a great achievement'? - he did just that. He boasted. Even those who delude themselves - a girl seriously told me "No, he hasn't" when I told her this: it cannot be argued that Osama bin Laden is the single most hated, damaging figure to Islam, Muslims and Arabs today, who does indeed represent Islam, Muslims and Arabs to many Westerners today, unfortunately.
Personally, I think he should've gone on trial so this could be resolved one and for all - not to mention the basic human rights it represents.
But I am not sad to see him go.