Thursday, May 19, 2011

An American Muslim woman's reaction to Bin Laden's death

This is the report of a Muslim woman who went to Ground Zero in New York just after hearing about Osama bin Laden's death: Mona Eltahawy, No dignity at Ground Zero Guardian 05/03/2011:

It was minutes after President Obama's announcement that Osama bin Laden had been killed, and I was heeding a friend's suggestion that we – both Muslims – take candles and stand in vigil where the World Trade Centre stood before Bin Laden's footsoldiers took it down.

So it was a shock to find hundreds of others had turned that hallowed ground into the scene of a home crowd celebrating an away victory they hadn't attended, the roots of which they were probably not there to experience or were too young to remember.

There was always something sickening about tourists taking pictures of themselves posing in front of that big gaping hole called Ground Zero. "Me at site of mass slaughter, NYC" as holiday photo caption is wrong in every language, surely. It didn't take 10 minutes for the frat party atmosphere to sicken me. Olympic-style chants of "USA! USA!" I could just about take as a freshly minted American, as of Friday. But "Fuck Osama! Ole ole ole!" crushed any ambition of dignity for the thousands killed, many of whom had jumped hundreds of storeys to their deaths, their bodies shattered to pieces close to where we stood.
Taylor Marsh linked to this article on Twitter, grumping that "Mona Eltahawy's 'No dignity at Ground Zero' reveals her inability to understand the American spirit."

Maybe. My inclination when I heard about the news was to think about the victims of the 9/11 attacks and others who suffered directly and indirectly from Al Qa'ida's terrorist attacks. I'm not inclined to treat the news of a death like that as an occasion for yee-haw celebration.

But I don't regard all the celebratory reactions as reflecting some unworthy impulse. Bin Laden had been built up by the Bush Administration, both political parties and the media as the Hitler of the 9/11 attacks. I certainly felt a feeling of relief at hearing of his death. It did represent for me something like a concluding moment for the "9/11 period," though obviously not all the alleged perpetrators in custody have been put on trial yet.

And I hope that a lot of people do feel that Bin Laden's death should be something like V-J Day for the War On Terror. Al Qa'ida at its most effect was never "Hitler," never an existential threat to the United States. It's long past time to end the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, pull out of the Libya War before we get more deeply involved and start treating peacetime terrorism like the domestic and international law enforcement problem that it is.

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