Muslims' reaction to Osama Bin Laden's death

May 02, 2011

President Obama announced the death of Osama Bin Laden Sunday, May 1. Harris Zafar, the national spokesperson for Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, chatted about how the Muslim community is reacting to this news, and answered your questions about possible retaliations.

- Full coverage of Osama Bin Laden's death
- User Poll: What is Bin Laden's lasting impact?
- User Poll: Do you feel safer?

Hi everyone,

I'm ready to chat and look forward to your questions.  I'll try to type as fast as possible and hope to get to everyone's questions.

Harris

 

How do the Muslims and Al'Queda feel about the death of their leader?

First, I need to clarify that Osama bin Laden is NOT a Muslim leader, nor has he ever been.  He is a political leader who aims to spread hate and violence.  Al-Qaeda is certainly going to show a response.  But as follwers of the real teachings of Islam, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community says that their political ideology is completely contrary to the teachings of Islam.

How do you see the future of terrorism in the name of Islam after this event? Do you see more acceptance of your message of peace and loyalty among American Muslims?

I hope to see more acceptance, although I don't know if I can expect it.  Usama did a LOT to damage the perception of Islam, and people don't really trust Muslims anymore.  But groups like al-Qaeda have contributed to that.  So as moderate Muslims, we know we have out work cut out for us, which is why we won't stop advocating for a separation of mosque and state, for freedom of religion and speech, and for loyalty to our country.  We will still use our Muslims for Peace platform (www.MuslimsForPeace.org) to spread Islam's message.

Pakistan has a lot to answer for.  What's worse?: That they absolutely had no idea that OBL was hiding in a compound in an affluent area near Pakistan's military academy and Islamabad, or that elements of the govt/military/intel have known for some time that he was there and were protecting him?

You are absolutely right that Pakistan has many questions they need to answer.  How did bin Laden live in a safe haven of a mansion so near their capitol?  

We have known that the Pakistani government has been infiltrated by radical clarics for decades.  And they succomb to extremists and their radical ideology.  Pakistan needs to take a real close look at itself.  They are one of the only countries to have an anti-blasphemy law and use it to persecute Muslims and non-Muslims

In his life, UBL directed an organization that was responsible for the deaths of more muslims than non-muslims. Given this fact, will non-America muslims be inclined to view his death as a good thing, or the assassination of an Islamic leader by a Christian nation? Thanks.

This is a pertinent question.  There will be some Muslims who will try to paint this assassination as an attack against Islam or some sort of martyrdom of an Islamic warrior.  But this is ridiculous.  Muslims need to realize that bin Laden was not a Muslim leader.  He was a mass murderer who lead an extremist group.  

Moderate Muslims, like the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, want to get to the bottom of this radical plague within the worldwide Muslim community and to bring Muslims back to the true, moderate, teachings of Islam.  That is why we have categorically rejected terrorism of any form for over a century.  

How do you assess the possibility of the Muslim world and the Christian world living in peace with each other?

I am very hopeful that Muslims and Christians can live together in perfect harmony and peace.  The two have so much in common, and we have seen signs of the two living peacefully.  Within the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, we have organized countless interfaith dialogues with non-Muslim groups all over the nation, which have been well received.

 

Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, laid a practical example of this when he established a charter to all Christians and others living as citizens under Muslim rule.  In it he stated:

 

I promise that any monk or wayfarer who will seek my help on the mountains, in forests, deserts, or habitations, or in places of worship, I will repel his enemies with my friends and helpers, with all my relatives and with all those who profess to follow me and will defend them, because they are my covenant…No bishop will be expelled from his bishopric, no monk from his monastry, no priest from his place of worship, and no pilgrim will be detained in his pilgrimage.  None of their churches or other places of worship will be desolated or destroyed or demolished.  No material of their churches will be used to build mosques or houses for the Muslims…I give them my word of honor. They are on my promise and covenant and will enjoy perfect immunity from all sorts of inconveniences … Let this document not be disobeyed till Judgment Day.

Is the Muslim community afraid negative backlash from the Right Wing Conservative Evangelical Christians Republican for not being joyous enough on Bin Laden death? E.G. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Terry Jones, Pat Buchanan, etc.

I'm personally not very afraid of that.  Some people will always have unreasonable expectations.  We condemn any and all attempts to justify terrorism.  As Muslim Americans, we are happy that OBL has been brought to justice. He was not a Muslim Leader, he was a terrorist.  And as Muslims who believe in the Messiah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, we believe all Muslims MUST be loyal to America.  This is the message of peace and loyalty we are trying to spread through our grassroots initiative www.MuslimsForPeace.org

Hello Mr. Zafar, In your opinion, do you believe there will be repercussions towards from groups other than Al Qaida for Osama Bin Laden's death? Or is it only Al Qaida that should be a concern? Thank you for your time and your responses.

Al Qaeda is certainly a group to keep an eye on, as they have already vowed retaliation.  But they are not the only extremist group out there.  Unfortunately, there are several others that have espoused hatred and preached violence.  These groups need to realize that they are breaking the commandments of the Quran, which says that chaos and destruction is not allowed.  We are not allowed to create chaos or terrorize people.  We want our message to reach these groups with the hopes of opening their eyes.

How do you believe we should react to this news, especially in regions with many different religions?

We should be happy that justice has finally been delivered to a man who killed so many people (muslims and non-Muslims alike).  This is a time for unity for us all to come together regardless of race or beliefs.  We are willing to work with other organizations for this common cause.  Please contact us.

You didn't answer the previous question. How do you as a Muslim feel about the death of Bin Laden?

Let me say it very plainly.  As a Muslim, I am happy that a known terrorist like Usama bin Laden has been brought down and his reign of terror has come to an end.  His actions ran counter to the true, peaceful, message of Islam, and he created so much mistrust and misconception of Islam.  I hope other Muslims will realize that he was not a leader of Muslims.  He was only a leader of extremists.

Do you think that since Bin Laden is now gone that it will help the Muslim community a bit come out from under his shadow (though they should never be lumped together)? Do you think we are in a better place now than 10 years ago with opinion of the Muslim community, that, should, God Forbid, Al-Quida strike again, that people would not react in such a hateful way against American Muslims? To me the Muslim community is more visible now than 10 years ago- in a positive way!

You are absolutely right that the Muslim community is much more visible now than it was 10 years ago.  And I'm happy about that.  And although we have made progress towards eradicating this incorrect perception of all Muslims being violent, we know that there is so much work ahead of us.  

As moderate Muslims, we have continuously spread our message of condemnation and try to impart the true teachings of Islam based on the documented teachings of Islam, but there are those who don't want to believe us since they think the terrorists represent us.

I hope that, with time, our fellow Americans can see that we are loyal to our country of residence and that our concern is the safety of our country and fellow countrymen.  As loyal Muslim-Americans, anyone who wishes harm on America is our enemy as well.

Can you please tell us something about what, in you opinion, really motivated Bin Laden and his followers, if it is NOT related with their muslim faith?

I cannot speak for bin Laden since I do not understand his mentality.  What I do know is that his "teachings" are completely un-Islamic.  There is no justification for the cruel acts of violence his followers have perpretrated. His agenda was purely political.  It was never a religious issue for him.  He shrewdly used religion as an excuse to incite emotional responses from people.

So, what is your community's response to his death? How is it different from the rest of the world's obvious celebration?

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is responding with prayer to God that this event will bring about a change in the state of the world.  We are relieved that bin Laden's reign of terror has come to an end, but we also know that his death does not mark the end of this war.  As moderate Muslims, we know our work is still cut out for us to continue to educate Muslims and non-Muslims about the real, documented teachings of Islam.  We want people to know that Muslims truly do stand for peace and loyalty (www.MuslimsForPeace.org)

I noticed the military buried the body within 24 hours in accordance with Muslim tradition. Will this be seen as a sign of respect for the religion and believed to be true by the Muslim community? Also - Does OBL become a martyr with his death?

The notion of martyrdom is going to be relative.  I don't see him as a martyr.  I see him as a known fugitive who was killed in order to bring his reign of terror and death to an end.  

I need to understand more about what they did with his body, but if it is true that he was buried at sea, that is not a Muslim tradition.  Islam instructs to cleanse the body before burying it in a grave.  There is no notion of a burial at sea.  So if they did do that, I don't know why.  I hope that such an act will not be used as fodder for terrorists to illicit a hateful response.

Do you feel that American Muslims are doing enough to resist and confront the radical elements of their religion (not singling out Islam - we can't forget that other religions have radical elements as well). Thanks.

I know that there are more eyes on us as Muslims to confront the radical element of our faith.  And the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has been making efforts towards this goal for over a century.  Our community exists in over 190 countries of the world and have been reaching out to particularly youth to ensure they don't become victims of such a hateful propoganda.  

So we are making progress, but we need to do more.  There is so much work ahead of us, and we call on everyone to help us toward this cause.

The silence coming from the same community that openly celebrated the 9/11 attacks is deafening. Yes the elected leaders and other progressive Muslim voices will laud the death of Bin Laden but I imagine that the majority of Muslims and Arabs in particular are saddened by the news of his death. He stood up to America and the Arab leaders who were complicit in the suffering of the Palestinians, right?

To sya that the "majority" of Muslims are saddened at his death is incorrect.  We are happy that his time has come and hope that more terrorists also come see their end soon.  

Do you expect reprisal from this news ?

I am indeed fearful of reprisal and do expect a negative reaction from hardline groups.  We have already seen al-Qaeda vowing revenge, and we will likely see more such comments.  Groups like the Taliban and al-Qaeda are hell-bent on their political ideology.  We need to work together and unite to use this event as a catalyst to bring them down.

How can you preach peace when the avowed purpose of Muslims in all but America is to "kill the infidels"? Are American Muslims just deluded, or, to use a Christian word, backslidden in their faith?

Far from deluded....we follow the documented teachings of Islam.  We do not rely on the radical message of some so-called cleric who calls for violence to further his polital aspirations.  The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community follows the real, documented teachings of Islam, and we know our purpose is not to kill the infidels.  I welcome you to learn more about true Islam at MuslimsForPeace.org or alislam.org

Does Israel have the right to exist?

Yes, Israel has a right to exist.  We want both sides to work together to live in peace side-by-side.  The innocent loss of life must stop.  We are for a peaceful resolution and do not ask for the extermination of Israel.

How do Muslims define "peace"?

Take a look at www.MuslimsForPeace.org for your answer.  Peace is a big thing.  Peace within ourselves...peace between us and God...and peace between us and our fellow mankind.

Did many in the Muslim world believe Osama Bin Laden was a terrorists, since he killed Muslims, Christians, Jews and others on 9/11?

Absolutely.  Osama bin Laden was a terrorist, an extremist leader and a mass murderer.  It is a shame that he was never to see the truth of Islam before his demise.  I hope we can save other Muslims from following such a mis-guided path.

Does the death of Bin Laden generally cause Muslims in the Middle East to like or dislike America more?

I think there is a real possibility that hate mongering groups in the middle east may try to misuse this death as a way to incite more hatred against America.  They are shrewd and desperate for followers.  So we should expect that, but do not let this make you think that Muslims are against America.  I am a proud Muslim and know that Islam does not advocate hating or killing anyone or any nation.

As a non-Muslim American, I'm troubled by the news of late-night celebrations at the White House and Ground Zero. While Bin Laden's death does strike a blow to al Qaeda, it's also represents yet another death in a ten-year-long war. Celebration feels odd to me, and I wonder how it will look to Muslims around the world, especially moderate ones with no affiliation to Bin Laden or the United States.

The death of any soul is never really a happy occasion.  At the same time, I understand the sentiment of those celebrating in the streets, considering the atrocious violence bin Laden has perpetrated for decades.  And yes, the images of our celebration will indeed be mis-used by extremists to try to incite more hatred.  But we need to help amplify the voices of those Muslims calling for peace and reconciliation.

As Bin Laden's death is not the end of this war, Americans should embrace those who are committed to keeping America safe

What are the chances of a muslamic revolt against the USA?

Islam requires us Muslims to be loyal citizens in the country of our residence.  That is why we have initiated our "Muslims for Peace" and "Muslims for Loyalty" grassroots campaign to educate people about this Islamic requirement of loyalty to our country.

So all Muslims living in America have a religious obligation to be loyal to the United States.  We cannot cause disorder or chaos in this land.  We are here with our fellow Americans to protect this nation.

Do you expect a backlash within the student groups at American Universities? Especially within the MSU, Muslim Student Union?

I don't think so, and I really hope that won't happen.

it seems pretty obvious that the pakistanis were complicit in hiding bin laden, and,as expected, can no longer be trusted. my reaction is good riddance, and i hope his virgens have pitchforks and use them if he does not serve them well.

My family is from Pakistan, and I have visited that country myself.  There are Pakistanis who are normal, peaceful Muslims.  But yes there are those clerics who have hijacked that government through intimidation.  So the government of Pakistan does need to answer questions and needs to start overriding their archaic laws that mix religion and state (namely their anti-blasphemy law)

There are so many great questions, but unfortunately I cannot get to all of them.  But I want to help you get your answers.  Please call 1-800-WHY-ISLAM or e-mail us at info@MuslimsForPeace.org for more questions.  I will answer just a couple more now, but please reach out to us so we can continue this dialogue.

I'd still like to know whether you as an Ahmadi can claim to represent the feelings of most Muslims, when the majority of Sunni and Shia Muslims attack your people and believe you to be heretics.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community knows full well what these extremists are capable of, since we have faced bitter persecution from them.  Since our values and messages are based purely on the documented teachings of Islam, we simply speak for what Islam teaches.  Go to the source.  Since our message is in harmony with the source (the Quran), then you know we speak for the true moderate teachings of Islam.

We are one of the only single international Muslim sects in the world that exists in over 190 countries of the world all united by one central spiritual leader.  

I'm a university student with a minor in history, and I'm curious as to what Ahmadiyya teaches on the subject of jihad. The reason I ask is that I hear the word used quite frequently in the context of violence against other human beings, but I took a course last semester in which we studied the Qur'an, and I came away with quite a different understanding. Is this violent understanding of jihad that has become so visible, in your belief, a perversion of the intent of the teachings of your faith?

Yes, there is so much misunderstanding of Jihad.  The greater Jihad is the struggle within one's self to rid ourselves of impurities.  The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community emphatically declared that an aggressive “jihad by the sword” has no place in Islam. In its place, he taught his followers to wage a bloodless, intellectual “jihad of the pen” to defend Islam. To this end, he penned over 80 books and tens of thousands of letters, delivered hundreds of lectures, and engaged in scores of public debates. His rigorous and rational defenses of Islam unsettled conventional Muslim thinking.

For more detailed information, go to http://www.alislam.org/terrorism.html

I'm sorry everyone.  Time has come to a close and I cannot answer all these great questions.  Once again, please call 1-800-WHY-ISLAM, visit our website (www.MuslimsForPeace.org) or e-mail us at info@MuslimsForPeace.org to have all your questions answered.  I hope to come back again soon.

In This Chat
Harris Zafar
Harris Zafar serves as National Spokesperson and National Director of Youth Outreach for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. In this role, Harris leads the effort to role-out the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s nationwide Muslims for Peace initiative across the 60+ youth chapters throughout the country, as well as to encourage Muslim youth to speak out about the true, peaceful and tolerant teachings of Islam. Harris is a frequent speaker and lecturer about Islam at conferences, universities, schools, churches and other public events. He is also an award-winning member of the Muslim Writers Guild of America. An American-born Muslim, Harris frequently writes about Islamic issues in various publications.
Recent Chats
  • Next: