published Sunday, May 8th, 2011

Barrett: On the leap of faith required to detach Islam from Osama

Not since shortly after 9/11 have we been so vigorously assured that Osama bin Laden’s beliefs and actions were categorically unconnected to Islam.

Here is what the Council on American-Islamic Relations had to say after bin Laden’s death: “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. As we have stated repeatedly since the 9/11 terror attacks, bin Laden never represented Muslims or Islam. ...”

Glad to hear it.

A Muslim in Cleveland, Tenn., told the Times Free Press that bin Laden “absolutely, without any doubt ... didn’t represent any Muslim.”


So why the apparent fear that at least some Muslims will get offended or violent if they feel the United States did not handle bin Laden’s corpse according to Islamic burial traditions? And why the ceaseless hand-wringing over whether we’ll enrage Muslims by releasing photos of his dead body? We keep hearing that he’s not a Muslim in any shape, form or fashion, so you’d think the adherents of that religion wouldn’t care in the least about the disposal of his corpse or the release of photos of it.

And yet, to quote The Associated Press, U.S. officials “were reluctant to inflame Islamic sentiment by showing graphic images of the body.” (Shouldn’t that be, “were reluctant to inflame the sentiment of people who falsely claim to be Muslims”? After all, no bona fide Muslim gives a fig for bin Laden, right?)

And from The Washington Post: “[T]he Obama administration worked to avoid offending Muslim sensibilities over the manner of bin Laden’s burial ... .” (Doesn’t the Post mean “the sensibilities of people who slander true Islam by illegitimately claiming it as their faith”?)

Either bin Laden wasn’t Muslim, in which case authentic Muslims should be happy to see proof that he can no longer murder in their name, and should feel insulted that he got an Islamic burial. Or a fair segment of Islam believes he was one of its own, in which case revealing pictures of his corpse or failing to give it fussy burial rites is indeed liable to get innocent people slaughtered.

Hmm. How to resolve that question.

I know! Let’s look at what actually happened after bin Laden’s death.

The Palestinian prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, swiftly called for revenge for the killing of this “Muslim and Arab warrior.”

Ah, someone objects, but Haniyeh is also the head of the terrorist organization Hamas, so he can’t be a real Muslim. Alas, that makes my point perfectly. Hamas named him prime minister after it won a majority of the seats in parliamentary elections. Are we supposed to believe that the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who put terrorists in charge of their government were druids and Lutherans? Do we sincerely doubt that they share Haniyeh’s support of bin Laden, and if they do, do we designate all of them inauthentic Muslims?

These aren’t subtle distinctions, they’re skull-splitting contradictions. Yet they are uttered unremarkably — often in the same breath — as if they were no more mutually exclusive than ham and eggs. We have so forsaken the fundamentals of logic that we honestly entertain the possibility that A can be B, orange can be blue, and, when the stars align just so, two plus two can be marmalade.

That, we declare after removing the pacifiers from our mouths, proves us adept at embracing complexity. We’re nuanced thinkers, we tell ourselves.

Nah. We’re just useful idiots.


Speaking of useful idiocy, recall the 2002 praise of bin Laden by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Bin Laden has “been out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day-care facilities, building health-care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful,” she told some high schoolers. “He’s made their lives better. We haven’t done that.”

There are things it is good not to forget. That kind of remark is one of them.

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nucanuck said...

So Steve,what was/is your point?

May 8, 2011 at 12:42 a.m.
ToHoldNothing said...

He's trying to say that people are claiming that since Osama bin laden wasn't a Muslim, he must be something else. But I don't think anyone is saying that. Bin Laden was a Muslim nominally speaking, but he didn't conform to orthodox Muslim theology or philosophy. Similar way that Fred Phelps is nominally Christian but doesn't conform to orthodox Christian teachings, unless you're hyper-Calvinist and consider that orthodox.

The fact of his Muslim identity, even if he is a radical and heretical Muslim like Fred Phelps is a radical and heretical Christian, means that there are still things that should be considered, such as the method of burial, which in Islam appears to have 2 forms, maybe more with extenuating circumstances, according to particular flexibility of Shariah law. The first method is burial within 24 hours in the ground, the second is burial with the clothes you died in as a martyr. There are probably more details, but I've never spoken of myself as a Muslim scholar. But I hope Steve doesn't consider himself one either.

May 8, 2011 at 2:36 a.m.
Legend said...

Maybe stevie is just one of those freaks that fascinated by the sight of death. And that's the real reason the likes of him want to see pics of dead bodies. For some, the sight of death both shock and thrill.

May 8, 2011 at 8:32 p.m.
Yano said...

Obviously there is a difference between claiming that Osama bin Laden was a Muslim leader, on the one hand, and on the other hand simply saying he was a Muslim. Of course he was a Muslim. That doesn't mean he represented Islam, any more than Timothy McVeigh represented Christianity.

Taking action against Osama bin Laden does not seem to have upset more than a few hundred Muslims around the world. Abusing his corpse, however, by for example posting gross pictures of his wounded body on the Internet, would have offended a lot of people - Muslims, Christians, and Athiests.

May 8, 2011 at 11:02 p.m.
LibDem said...

Wow! We liberals are sooo evil! I can hardly stand to be in the room with myself.

May 9, 2011 at 10:49 a.m.
ToHoldNothing said...

What people do in particular historical and cultural contexts does not necessarily reflect on present historical and cultural contexts except by comparison and contrast that necessarily happens. Not to sound strict hardline relativist, but what Mohammed did was permissible by ancient standards of 'marriage', from what I understand. Of course today we can condemn him, but it's not as if he did it in spite of "God's" law as pertained to marriageable age of women, etc.

And Priest could've been even more offensive to Catholics if it followed the original graphic novel, since it involved demons in contracts with priests, if I remember right

May 9, 2011 at 3:07 p.m.
Leaf said...

Was this article transcribed verbatim from a conversation in a bar at 1 AM ? It's really disjointed. I'm not sure there was a point to it.

May 11, 2011 at 1:58 p.m.
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