Bin Laden Killed: Arab World's Mixed Reaction
As America celebrated the bin Laden killing, the response in the Middle East was more equivocal. Fadel Lamen translates the thoughts of angry leaders, probing columnists and Internet jihadis.
The demise of Osama bin Laden evoked a range of responses in the Arab and Muslim world. While official leaders of Arab regimes welcomed the news, Islamists had mixed views and sympathizers swung between denial, anger, and threats.
These responses demonstrate a cultural complexity, involving a struggle to reconcile ties to the past and a more positive, if uncertain future. (Note the contradictions between the Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Jordan and Egypt, and also the schism between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, which just announced a unity government.)
Poring across all the discussions out there, I culled and translated some of the more interesting, from political leaders, thought leaders, and anonymous posters alike.
Palestinian Hamas leader Ismail Hania: "[I condemn the killing] if it means the continuation of an American policy rooted on arrogance and force. We condemn the killing of the Arab Muslim holy warrior Osama Bin Laden and we pray that God will have mercy on him."
"Even though my feeling says that's not him, I wish him to be in heaven."
Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghassan al-Khatib: "Getting rid of bin Laden is a useful thing for peace all over the world. What's important is to defeat the violent rhetoric and means which bin Laden and others have used and fostered throughout the world."
Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan leader Jamil Abu Baker: "Al Qaeda may suffer up to a point by the killing of its leader Osama bin Laden. But [the West's treatment of the Muslim world will] keep the environment fertile for the birth of another Qaeda or several others."
Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt spokesman Esam el-Arian (in calling for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan): "With the killing of bin Laden, one of the reasons for practicing violence in the world has been removed. The uprising in the Arab world is clear evidence that democracy has a place in the Middle East and the region doesn't need any foreign occupation."
Asad Abdulrahman, bin Laden's acolyte, and the son of blind sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman: "Bin Laden was betrayed by one of his closest people and Ayman Zawahri is the new leader now. [There will be] acts of revenge, especially in Pakistan.
The military spokesman for the Benghazi rebels, Colonel Ahmed Bani: "I hope Gaddafi will face the same fate that bin Laden suffered. The Libyan national transitional council and the revolutionaries are very happy about the killing of bin Laden."
Tariq al-Hamed, editor in chief, al-Sharq al-Awsat: "What they called 'leader of al-mujahideen' was killed in his luxury home and not in the battlefield or jihad arena. Died with his wife and three others unlike the young boys whom he sent to their death one after the other."
Mashari al-Thaithi: "The problem is not who can be killed or captured but the minds and the hearts that are confused. What produced the likes of bin Laden are two major issues that in my opinion left deep scars in the Muslim psyche since the collapse of the Ottoman empire: Are we really Muslims? And what does it mean to be a Muslim?"
Abdulbaqi Atwan, editor in chief of al-Qudus Al-Arabi: "Western leaders think that killing al Qaeda's leader will weaken the organization but the truth may be the opposite. The fact that he was killed with honor and dignity and was not arrested and demeaned according to the opinion of many Jihadist leaders will turn him into an icon and martyr and that explained the U.S. decision to throw his body in the sea so his grave will not be a shrine. The U.S. action is not humane or moral or Islamic."
Ibrahim Derwiash: "This man, bin Laden, that America was trying to get rid of, his presence and shadow, his picture and his presence will continue for generations to come. This man who dragged the biggest power in the world into two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will become the Muslim Che Guevara with his distorted eyes. He will become an icon. In the American psyche, he is Stalin or Hitler. Mass murderer. For his followers, he is a mujahid who lived for Islam and died for it and with his death al Qaeda will not die."
Many of the comments reflect how active his support was in cyberspace. Some pray for God's mercy on him, but most cast doubt on the news of this death.
• "This is not the sheikh of mujahideen—Bin Laden has a gray beard and gray hair. UBL will not color his hair. This is a fabrication by the Jews and the Americans. May God extend UBL's life and hope to see him soon on video giving a speech." • "Even though my feeling says that's not him, I wish him to be in heaven." • "I will not believe the death of UBL even if the U.S. forces confirm it." • "This is not UBL. This is a lie as the story of September 11, 2001, is a lie. All the videos that came out were fabricated and all the photos and videos broadcasted about this operation are old recordings or Photoshopped." • "May God never give him mercy. He was the reason for the death of two of my brothers who worked as members of Saudi police force. He's a terrorist." • "UBL is a terrorist who killed thousands though his dumb suiciders and now he tests the death and join the other terrorists in hell. Our religion of Islam is a religion of peace and love not of the killing and bombing that tainted it." • Some of the jihadist forums pray that the news is not true—and if it is true, they call for revenge. "May God curse Obama," one posting says, warning that American heads will be cut as a result.
Fadel Lamen is a journalist, writer, and Middle East/North Africa expert and cultural adviser based in Washington, D.C. He is a frequent traveler to the Middle East and has been published in Arabic and English newspapers and magazines.