A few weeks ago, President Obama informed us that Osama bin Laden, the internationally recognized founder of Al Qaeda who will be forever associated in our collective consciousness with the terrorist attacks of 9/11, had been killed in a clash with American troops.
The news was greeted by a chorus of cheers and tears from crowds throughout the country.
Unfortunately, while there are few people as richly deserving of death as bin Laden, I partake of none of the jubilance that has enraptured my fellow countrymen and women.
Let me be blunt: contrary to what many now seem to believe, the killing of bin Laden is anything but a game changer in favor of the United States. Symbolically, it is a huge victory for our country, to be sure. But substantively speaking, in reality, it is actually a potential loss.
As usual, and in spite of all of our railing against the evils of “ethnocentrism,” we in the West refuse to come to terms with the stone cold fact that the Islamic perspective on the world and our own are not only mutually distinct, but mutually antagonistic. Make no mistakes about it: the killing of bin Laden is most certainly not being viewed as a setback for his numerous disciples and comrades both within Al Qaeda and beyond.
For well over a decade, for the sake of Allah and in the same courageous spirit of the Prophet, bin Laden has devoted every quantum of his energy to combating the Mother of all infidels, the Great Satan herself, the United States. Now, after all of this time, the most powerful agent of evil in our planet’s history has finally—finally!—slain him.
At this moment, less than 24 hours after news of his death erupted, this is the narrative regarding bin Laden’s fate that is already well on its way to ensconcing itself in the minds and hearts of Muslims the world over. To be certain, this ever evasive terrorist is unimaginably more of a danger in death than he ever was in life. During his time on Earth, Muslims viewed bin Laden’s as the face of Islamic resistance to Allah’s enemies. Now, his persona will emblematize the highest martyrdom.
Observing the reaction to this event, it is hard to escape the sense that I have been hurled into an alternative reality of a sort. The very same motley crew of leftists in Washington and the media who continually decried as “imperialist,” “immoral” and “illegal” our previous president’s efforts to prosecute “the War on Terror” are now as giddy as schoolgirls. Even mobs of college students—characteristically the most outspoken agents of “imperialism,” “intolerance,” and “militarism”—have suddenly become unabashed jingoists as they feverishly chant “USA!” from the rooftops (they can’t all be Young Republicans, can they?).
Particularly ironic is that those leftists who complained that President Bush’s foreign policy prescriptions were actually instruments for recruiting more terrorists fail to see that even our (admittedly foolish) military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan will not prove as alluring to aspiring jihadists as the killing of Osama Bin Laden for which President Obama is now taking credit.
In fact, few people on either side of the political divide appear to grasp this.
If ever we needed proof that Obama is not a Muslim, his remarks concerning the killing of bin Laden is it, for no one remotely familiar with the nature of the Islamic psyche could for a second seriously entertain the thought that bin Laden’s death signifies a weakened Al Qaeda or even the slightest advance in the “War on Terror” (or whatever we’re calling it these days). And this is the point: nearly ten years after 9/11 those in both of our national political parties remain in willful ignorance of the painful fact that, President Obama’s contention to the contrary notwithstanding, we most definitely are at war with Islam. This isn’t to say that we are at war with all Muslims; but those with whom our conflict consists are most definitely not aberrations from an otherwise dovish religion. Rather, they are acting in accordance with a literal, not radical or extremist, reading of their faith.
Osama bin Laden did not highjack an otherwise peaceful religion, and he is not a proponent of “radical Islam” or “Islamism”; these are categories that Westerners created in order to avoid the reality that bin Laden is an orthodox or traditional Muslim. And his legions of followers are no different in this respect. As such, they will be no more deterred by his death than the first Christians were deterred by the crucifixion of Christ. In fact, just as the early Christians were actually inspired by both the passion of their Lord as well as the example of martyrdom set by other Christians, so bin Laden’s disciples will be inspired and emboldened by his example.
Considering the corruption that the Christian mind has suffered in our secular, materialist age, it is not surprising that the religious conviction of a bin Laden should be foreign to contemporary Westerners. Yet the sooner we grasp that, unlike our twentieth century conflicts, the present conflict is fundamentally religious in character, and unlike that of our previous enemies, the motivation of bin Laden and company is theologically-centered, the sooner we may recognize that as long as Islam remains with us, so too will the violence that attends it.
Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.