Galip İsen: DE MOORTIUS NIL NISI MALE? [On the death of Osama bin Ladin]

osama bin laden dead

Osama bin Laden, who was killed by the US on Monday 2 May. Photograph: AP


Now that Osama bin Ladin is killed, I?m certainly not going to quote ?Dubya? Bush and say ?the world is a better place?, as he did when he?d hanged Saddam. Let us not beat around the bush (not Dubya Bush this time) or mingle words and say it straight: feeling joy or grief over Bin Ladin?s fate depends all on the ?side? you are. From where I stand, the scoreboard reads as did that placard hung on a lamppost in Times Square early this morning:  ?Obama: 1 , Osama 0?. Come a year from now, this victory could have been played into an election-winning tune but I am sure President Obama is immensely pleased with the outcome anyway… Glee well deserved.

So, categorically, I am on the reveling side. Taking a further step from initial rejoice over his death, I would have been much happier in a world where no Osamas could find ground to spread roots… a world where all the funds spent to hunt him and all the monies his atrocities cost could be dedicated to preventing Osamas from becoming anything more than common criminals anywhere.

Still though, it would not pay to forget that in the eyes of millions, Osama and his thugs were/are warriors, freedom fighters or more vehemently, soldiers in an army that fought/fights for the glory of Allah and Islam. They are fighting to instate the justice of heavens that was disrupted by the advent and intervention of heathen Western powers, their collaborators and Israel, the devil?s paw. If you are felled on your rush to God?s service there is no death in death for you. You become a shaheed (literally, ?witness?, of course, to the greatness of Allah) and an eternal guest of paradise. As a shaheed, you are blessed and holy, someone to envy, someone to follow.

In that aspect, the placard in Times Square is wrong. In death, too, Osama has probably scored, though in our view, an off-side shot: he has indelibly carved his name in gilded letters among the luminary shaheeds of Islamic jihad.

I can?t deny that I automatically started to grin when I heard the news this morning. Yet, like it or not, on the ?other? side, as of today, Bin Ladin has become a holy martyr whose biography in blood will likely be blown to legendary proportions soon, by millions who honor his macabre exegesis of Islam. Osama represents a culture that venerates death. Along this mental fault line, violence is facilitated by a general disregard for life and human dignity, sacrificed to some transcendental, hyperstatic objective which may be politico-ideological (the state, nation etc.), psycho-cultural (honor, shame, heroism, family etc.) or plain stupid (e.g., a football team) as well as religious in the garb it carries. The rank poverty and oppression raging even in the richest Islamic countries still gives considerable credence to the dubious ?holy war? the mujahedeen claim to wage. Unfortunately, among the followers of a faith that spans a geography of discontent, the resistance that Bin Ladin epitomizes did render him and his ilk heroic saviors, however bogus their oratory sounds to us.

I could not help grinning like a monkey this morning. Looking from ?our? window, Osama?s death was in the least, a huge boost for morale. It also signified that ?we? did not bow before attacks of terror, we persevered and we brought home our revenge. We also conveyed our readiness to counter possible retaliation from the side of evil and willingness to pay its costs ? held to the whetstone of logic though, preferably, from someone else?s account.

Still however, before letting the bells toll for our triumph, let us just wait a few months and see how many newly born Arab and Muslim boys will be named Osama. Thousands of Osamas nominated after 9-11 are school children now.

The sweet sense of reprisal and the elation I felt could still not stiffle the disquieting nudge, warning me that the riddance of Osama did not exactly correspond to a real boon, strategically speaking. Bin Ladin, allegedly ailing badly anyway, even occaisonally contended dead-by-insinuation by various pundits since 9-11, was to a large extent, effectively defunct, if not biologically extinct. His charisma still captured; but even that generated from the frustration of droves efficiently translated to anger and channeled to quarters labeled as enemies of Islam, some of which were in fact, Muslim themselves. Osama manipulated rather than maneuvered an amok rage that made eased his flock?s heart pains. Lately, his evil was constringed to active war zones alone. On the other hand, Al Qaida, his supposed organization, was so structured that it could and still can peddle its vice without being dependent on any single individual, including Osama their Icon.

Do not get me wrong, I too, am glad to taste the wine of vengeance. I have not forsaken the devastation of New York on 9-11. I am still haunted by what I watched on TV, I can fathom what hell it would have been to live through the ordeal.

The question bugging me though, is whether ?my/our? sensation of indemnification and closure may ever be translated into a universal language. Whether, where the ?others? are concerned, ?we? can derive a cause out of ?our? victory that accords ?them? some relief ,too, that at least some part of the war is over; instead of letting ?them? arm ?themselves? with still another belligerent motive for the vindication of the lost hero. After all, whether a shaheed, a hero, or even a prophet, Bin Ladin promised little else to his disciples and cohorts except death, war, blood, sweat and tears.

Might this be an opportunity to exchange a yearning for accessible rewards and bounties this world offers with the remote promise of so many virgins in heaven?

That almost sounds utopic but is not in the least impossible, and surely  precedes in significance and impact the yields of the 10 year hunt for Osama.

Many Osamas will be born in the following months. Many of them will be raised in the same guagmire of the cataclysmic culture that reveres death  plaguing the lands which nurtured Osama bin Ladin. Some younger Osamas will likely take to arms, to wage jihad against ?us?. A few, maybe too few will, of themselves, question the value of invented controversies, no matter how deep and how far their roots go in cultures and in time. The majority will succumb to the specious, numb comfort of blind faith.

We, who have shed our tears of grief as our fellows were killed and maimed and as our towers were felled have every right in the world to exult over the termination of our arch enemy Osama bin Ladin. In a way somewhat obscured by the memories that made us vengeful, we can feel we have won.

Ours is not a culture that reveres death. So when delighting over death, albeit that of a demonic foe, it seems we should not abandon our moderation. For there is no death that does not cause grief to someone, somewhere which is the seed of further hate. By moderation in our joy, we can open the window in the souls of those who now grieve for Osama, the window through which myriad questions will blow to disrupt the specious, numb comforts of blind faith and the hate that puts the false sheen of righteousness on bigotry.


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