Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Should I celebrate Osama's death?

As I ask myself this question, I know there is no easy answer. There is a part of me that is keen to celebrate the culmination of a 10 year search that has lead to 'justice' being done - at least in human terms. After all this man has committed a huge litany of terrible crimes, killing ordinary, innocent human beings with impunity, robbing so many of their parents, children, spouses and all in the name of a militant form of Islam that, as far as I know, is far removed from the true interpretation of the Quran. He has trained a generation of young radicals, many of whom are probably just like me, but who have been brainwashed into believing that dying in the act of killing others is the ultimate sacrifice. He has brought disaster on hundreds and thousands of Afghans and Pakistanis who have been killed in the name of the 'War on Terror' that the rest of the world has perpetrated ostensibly to catch this man. When all the time he was living in the lap of luxury in one of the safest and most upscale locations in Pakistan.

The story of bin Laden is an old one, one that has been played and replayed many times in the history of our planet. It is the story of a wily serpent, who used the resources and training that a great nation could provide and then, when the war was won, turned to bite the hand that fed him. I often wonder how things may have turned out if bin Laden had trained his sights on India and Kashmir. 26/11 may have been just a small fraction of the carnage this nation could have suffered and the rest of the world would have probably just made sympathetic noises and watched on. But in his foolishness, Osama chose to use his terror machine to strike at the heart of American capitalism. And therein was his doom. The fact that he survived the most intense and expensive manhunt this world has ever known, all the while reportedly battling severe health problems, is just a tribute to his amazing, though misplaced, capabilities.

There are thousands upon thousands whose lives have been profoundly affected by this man and his actions. And in some small way, their sorrow is our sorrow as the old wounds are reopened. And surely, for some, there will be a sense of closure, now that the man they had always looked upon as the chief architect of their pain, is gone. But when I saw the scenes of wild celebration, cheering and dancing that  played out on the streets of America, I felt a tad uncomfortable. Was that the right response to this event that has been on the cards ever since that fateful day when the twin towers came down? And it did not appear that many of those celebrating in this fashion had actually been personally affected by that tragedy, though of course, I may be wrong. In fact, all the family members of the victims who I saw interviewed seemed to have welcomed the news soberly, with a sense of relief that 'justice had been done'.

The 'War on Terror' has had many victims. And I believe our humanity and sense of brotherhood have been among those victims. The scenes of exuberant rejoicing may have been as repugnant to the many followers of this man throughout the world as the scenes of Palestinians rejoicing after 9/11. The world had an opportunity to send a message to the misguided young men who form the core of most terrorist organisations. That even at this time, we would not allow our baser instincts of winning and losing to take over and engage in impetuous chest-thumping. Rather, we would reach out to them and offer them a different way to resolve their problems, reacting, if not with love, then at least with dignity. But that opportunity seems to have been missed. And now we await the repercussions, though we pray fervently that there will be none.

As for me, I have to look on this whole saga as an outsider. Of course, as a citizen of this world, I believe that what affects my brother, wherever he may be, affects me. And yet, while I have watched with pain the unfolding drama over the years, I realise that for me, there has been no personal pain or anguish. My patriotic spirit was deeply wounded by the events of 26/11, but again, I suffered no personal loss. My heart goes out to those who have lost their loved ones through the crimes of Osama bin Laden and his ilk. It may not be possible for me to understand their pain or feelings at this time. But from my position as a relative outsider, I do not feel comfortable to celebrate the death of any man. Not Osama bin Laden. Not Ajmal Kasab. Not Saddam Hussein. Death is not to be celebrated especially when torment awaits. I guess I may be biased by the story of the death of one hardened criminal who was forgiven at his dying breath. By One who died with him. And for him.

And as to my dilemma, I think the quote (debatably attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) which has been running around on Facebook is the best answer I can find - I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.


  1. Yuvaraj DavidsonMay 4, 2011 at 2:03 AM

    I was also pondering with this question since I watched the celebrations at ground zero. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. The Black MambaMay 4, 2011 at 3:02 AM

    Unfortunately, one of the downsides of the so-called War on Terror is that it has in itself created an opposition to terrorism that is based on violence and retribution. I'm sure these people will not hesitate to take the law into their own hands and lynch a person that they think has potentially committed an act of terror - potentially being the operative word here. Act first, think later and justice and the law be damned!

    Also unfortunately, this applies more to Americans than others. Especially because a lot of Americans think that the world begins at the East Coast and ends at the West Coast of America. I remember a saying - "War is God's way of teaching Americans Geography".

    Even more unfortunately, most westerners now paint all Muslims with the same brush and consider the sins of some to be the sins of all. To some, this feeling of loathing extends to all Asians, regardless of religion or degree of moderation.

    Hate begets hate. Where does the cycle end?

    Unfortunate. But true.

    - The Back Mamba

  3. its a nice write up with entirely different perspective and opinion, i appreciate your thoughts and agree in totality....

    what i like most here is your opinion about about the Islam and the Holy Quran, unfortunately people across the world and back in India have an opinion that Laden represents every single Muslim and each one of them supports his cause, and this hurts me and I am sure majority of Muslims are like me across the World and back in India who never suported him or his ideoligy.

    ( plz do check ur mail inbox )

  4. 'seventy times seven'

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  6. If I process what you said as a Christian you are spot on,loved the quote at the end.But living in America, I think it is more a celebration of the military operation and the success of it .
    Coming to think of the many people who lost their loved ones in war the of terror after 9/11. In many ways a confidence restored, and a closure to many.
    Honestly here is my thoughts I will ask myself a question "Would celebrate if somebody in history who had had a similar profile died?"
    Sometimes in the lens of history we get a clearer perspective, they say hindsight is 20/20 , than when I am caught in the moment of it.

  7. Personally, I am glad that he is dead – he can no longer take innocent lives. I am also impressed by the way the American commands conducted the raid, and by Obama’s handling of the post-op period.

    At the same time, I found it disturbing to watch people partying on the streets celebrating the event. As you have correctly pointed out, most of the families of the actual victims of 9/11 were sober in their reaction – they were simply glad that justice has been done. On the other hand, those dancing on the streets and cheering as if their favourite sports team had won a game, were mainly ‘bystanders’ – those who were not personally affected by the tragedy other than having had a rude shock on realizing ten years ago that their part of the world was not as invincible as they had always believed.

    Much as my heart goes out to the Americans who suffered because of 9/11, I also believe that the attack itself was hardly surprising, given that the rest of the world had been going through such happenings for a quite a while before 2001. Only, when it happened to others, it didn’t seem to matter.

    This has some parallels with the Indian 26/11 too – there was a higher sense of outrage just because of the high-profile targets, even though there have been many other attacks elsewhere in the past. Is it that the pain of ‘lesser’ people is easily forgotten?

    What about the pain of people of Afghanistan? After all, it was the Americans who recruited, trained and equipped the fighters during the cold war. And dumped them like hot potato once the war was over. If the Americans had stayed behind for a while and tied the loose ends of that conflict, perhaps the story of South and Central Asia would have been written differently.

    As for the cheering, while I am reluctant to judge how another person reacts to an event of this magnitude, it makes me fearful for the future. Extremism and acts of violence only increase by indulging in knee-jerk reactions.

    War itself is a sad part of reality. There’s absolutely nothing about it that I would want to cheer, not even my own victory – I would instead mourn the fact that I had to participate at all, that I was not wise enough in the beginning to prevent the circumstances that led to the conflict.

    Perhaps this is a time for all of us to hunt our inner Osamas – to examine our own beliefs and see if we too are making the same mistakes of manipulating others or trying to inflict our way of life on someone else’s value system. That too is a terrorism of a kind.