By Kamal Wadhwa
Shortly after Osama Bin Laden's assassination and burial at sea, the leader of Pakistan's main opposition party broke all parliamentary decorum to offer prayers for Osama Bin Laden's departed soul. Other opposition leaders too joined in this spontaneous show of respect for the fallen Al-Qaida supremo.
Who was Osama Bin Laden and what were his credentials for meriting this great respect in death? Was he a cheap, though deadly, terrorist as the West (led by America) portrayed him? By all accounts, Bin Laden had masterminded the heinous attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York - attacks so cunning in their conception and so deadly in their consequences!
It was not the horrific terror strike and the loss of hundreds of innocent American lives that sparked off such a resounding uproar in America and across the Atlantic, but that America had been struck so devastatingly on its own soil as never before in its history by an Arab bandit so insignificant in build and so enigmatically old in age as to defy conventional description!
We know that Osama had lived in America, that he had a large fortune from his native Saudi Arabia and that he was a devout family man deeply taken up with Islam and its protection. That this frail man was charged with masterminding virtually all the terrorist activities in the rest of the world after the attacks on the World Trade Center merits serious study and investigation by scholars and journalists across the globe.
Pakistan - a loyal American ally - had seemingly acted against its own national interest by conniving to shelter Osama in a military compound within its borders for years together and yet used its military forces on the Pak- Afghan border to bomb Al-Qaida insurgents upon American request. This is ironic.
Pakistan is not a banana republic but it can crumble and collapse into becoming one if American military and economic aid is discontinued to that ill-starred country. Therefore, it is difficult and even appalling to believe that Pakistan had acted in bad faith and duplicity by giving refuge to Osama within its own territory in a secure haven in Abbotabad!
This apparently perfidious act showed that Pakistan was no longer in a position to please Washington because of a growing fear of its own people amongst who Bin Laden had struck a sympathetic chord that could not be easily silenced! In effect, an angry America had touched the very pulse of the Pakistani Muslim electorate that believed Bin Laden to be a true Muslim who had acted in Islam's defense by waging the very terror attacks that had the United States frantically looking elsewhere in the Muslim world for suspects.
Pakistan's show of respect for this fallen criminal and acceptance of his Islamic credentials underscores the desperation of the Muslim world in seeking a confrontation with America even when such a stance would destroy the last hopes of its becoming a strong, sovereign and independent entity able to deal with the West on an equal footing!
Everywhere Pakistan and other Muslim nations are put on the back foot because they cannot rationally and logically explain why they supported a criminal network such as Al-Qaida so covertly and yet so wholeheartedly!
Islam is again put on the defensive in its great cultural encounter with the West as renegade and raunchy cultural forms and practices invade the Muslim home via television and satellite and destroy the quite paradise and peace of mind of the believers. How to escape this assault on the senses is increasingly the primary and dominant question posed to Muslims of all faiths and persuasions as their children defect from their homes to find jobs and employment opportunities elsewhere.
It is the bitter crust of poverty and economic dependency that compels Muslims to watch the execution of a Bhutto or a Saddam in the media without showing any palpable emotion. Washington's carrot and stick approach towards its Muslim friends has worked well in the past and is expected to do so in the future also as evidenced by Islamabad's quick and eager acceptance of the US$300 million package awarded to it for supporting American counter-terrorism operations carried out by the Pak military and other security agencies.
Apart from Osama's appeal as a Muslim zealot and crusader, Muslim youth everywhere had taken pride in his mechanical ingenuity and mastery of Western technology. That terrible and fateful tragedy in New York was mounted by Arab Muslim youths who had learned all about airplanes, navigation and sophisticated instruments. Those two jets crashing into the twin towers of the World Trade Center were clear pointers to Muslim youth that they too could do something with technology at a time when most Muslim nations are struggling with screwdriver technology to build anything at all!
The very great cowardice shown by the Arab leaders in failing to protect Iraq from American depredations has tilted the balance of moral authority onto the fundamentalist Muslim camp. In almost all Muslim countries, even those with a long tradition of secularism and tolerance, the mullahs and clerics are assuming political power solely on the basis of moral credentials. Even with outdated and obsolete beliefs and a lack of proper education, the clerics are active proponents of resurgent Islam among Muslim youth.
America's relentless and ruthless destruction of Iraq in the two Gulf wars on various excuses such as containing that country's non-existent WMD capability was watched on television by millions of Muslims right from Birmingham to Brunei! So great was the sense of helplessness felt by Muslims, particularly when Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other Muslim countries, with some military capability, did not do anything to prevent Iraq's systematic bombardment and elimination as a viable political and economic entity for generations to come!
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died in the Gulf wars along with a million or so infants and fetuses that could not be given life-saving medicines because of American sanctions mounted against that country! Could the loss of hundreds of civilian lives in the New York carnage ever equal the loss of the millions of deaths in Iraq brought on by savage, relentless, day and night American bombing? Did America, or indeed the rest of the West, express any sense of wrongdoing or remorse at these great crimes committed against Muslim humanity?
King Hussein, Mubarak and the Saudi monarchs who were America's staunch allies in the Middle East lost all respect and legitimacy in the eyes of the Muslim Ummah because they had acted against their co-religionists by remaining silent over America's systematic destruction of Iraq. That these leaders were more or less been booted out from power underscores the Muslim belief that protection of the national interest is no longer important when Islam and its adherents are threatened by temporal powers of such great moral corruption as America!!
Only the mullahs and their youthful supporters (such as the Taliban in Afghanistan) have shown the will and the conviction to fight America and the West even at the cost of their own lives. Again and again, wherever Muslim terrorists have successfully struck targets entailing loss of innocent lives, they have sacrificed their own lives in the act. In effect, they have paid for their crimes. No accusing fingers ever could be pointed at them by any civil authority because they have acted from high motives and died as good Muslims!
Osama's burial at sea was a shabby act and an ill-considered one, though one motivated by great shrewdness and political cunning. Had Osama's body been handed over to his own family and relatives for a proper Muslim burial, there was just that possibility that his prospective grave would have become a hallowed Muslim shrine that in time would attract millions of Muslims to pay homage to this great Muslim warrior and soldier who had saved Islam from dishonor and desecration.
To conclude, Washington simply cannot and must not tempt or bludgeon the Muslim world with money or force in order to further its own national interest because it would run up against extraordinary difficulties that would consume enormous resources fighting the moral purpose and integrity of the seemingly irrational mullahs and their supporters for most of whom life has no purpose or meaning outside the boundaries set by Islam.
KAMAL WADHWA is Honors graduate in General Studies in the Humanities from the University of Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]
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