published Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Chattanooga area Muslims say bin Laden was 'a bad guy'

STATEMENT FROM THE ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF GREATER CHATTANOOGA

“The Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga (ISGC) shares the feelings of every American about Osama Bin Laden being brought to justice. We have always maintained that Bin Laden and his network do not represent Islam or Muslims in any way. We further pray that this will bring some closure to the families who lost loved ones on that day.”

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)

“We hope his death will bring some relief to all the families, of every faith and walk of life, who lost loved ones on 9/11 and in every other terrorist attack orchestrated at the hands of Osama Bin Laden.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)

“We join our fellow citizens in welcoming the announcement that Osama bin Laden has been eliminated as a threat to our nation and the world through the actions of American military personnel.”

Azhar Sheikh felt a sense of relief when he heard the news that Osama bin Laden was dead — one less person to be concerned about, he said.

“[He was] a guy who was a mass murderer, responsible for, directly or indirectly, the deaths of thousands of people,” said the Cleveland, Tenn., resident and Pakistan native.

And Sheikh was not alone as Muslims in the Chattanooga area and worldwide reacted to news of the death of the al-Qaeda leader who was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., nearly a decade ago.

“That is the sense that I’m getting from talking to people back [in Pakistan] and here in the community as well,” he said. “Regardless of race or religion, he was a bad guy.”

For Naseer Humayun, a Dalton, Ga., resident, bin Laden’s killing is even more personal.

“I have firsthand experience. I’m an Ahmadi Muslim — a minority group in Pakistan — and my mosque was attacked in Lahore, Pakistan, by al-Qaeda and the Taliban. More than 85 people were killed less than a year ago,” he said.

His family is from Karachi in Pakistan but his wife’s family is from Lahore and her uncle was injured during the attack, he said.

On Sunday, President Barack Obama reiterated that the United States is not at war with Islam.

“Bin Laden was not Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims,” Obama said.

Sheikh couldn’t agree more.

“Absolutely, without any doubt he didn’t represent any Muslim,” said Sheikh.

Kabah Raheem, a prayer leader at the Chattanooga Islamic Center on Central Avenue, said Muslims are on the side of justice.

“To kill innocent women and children is wrong,” he said. “We are for justice and, as Muslims, we are not to take innocent lives.”

Humayun said “[terrorists] are targeting anybody that doesn’t agree with them, whether they are Americans, Pakistanis, Muslims or non-Muslims.”

Both Humayun and Sheikh moved to the United States from Pakistan in the 1990s. Raheem moved to Chattanooga from Chicago in the ’70s.

Professor Fouad Moughrabi, head of the department of political science at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, said the killing of bin Laden is a non-event to the Arab world.

“His importance has been exaggerated by the United States and its war on terror,” Moughrabi said. “With the exception of perhaps a couple of hundred people who subscribe to his ideology, the majority don’t buy into it.

“They attacked the United States, the United States has tried to find them for a number of years, now they got him, killed him and that was it, end of story as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

Although, he added, bin Laden’s death means a lot to the survivors of 9/11 victims.

U.S. officials said bin Laden’s body was buried at sea within 24 hours of his death in accordance with Muslim tradition, and Sheikh said he can understand the logic under the circumstances.

“They don’t want his burial ground to become a monument or shrine,” he said. “Which country would like to have him buried in its backyard?”

Bin Laden’s death on Pakistani soil “is a very small footnote” in the ongoing relationship between Pakistan and the United States and the history of both countries, Moughrabi said.

“It’s a very complicated story,” he said.

Still, the question of whether the Pakistani government was involved in aiding bin Laden is on the minds of many.

“I think there are elements within the Pakistani government or intelligence community who may be sympathizers,” said Humayun. It’s been in the news, there’s no denying that.”

Sheikh thinks the Pakistani government is doing a lot to fight terrorism.

“Could they do more? I’m sure they could,” he said.

But he doesn’t think the government, at the highest level, could be knowingly involved in protecting terrorist groups.

about Perla Trevizo...

Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...

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