Do no mischief on Earth [Quran 7:56, 7:74)
Those with good sense must prohibit mischief on earth (Quran 11:116)
Bin Laden has become a significant moral challenge to Muslims. His alleged association with the perpetrators of 9/11 attacks raises a major question about the relationship between Islam and terrorism. If he is guilty then he incriminates the faith of Islam by using it as a motivation and justification for his actions. If he is innocent, then why is he such a big hero?
If Bin Laden is not guilty of the embassy bombings, of the attack on USS Cole and the attack on America then why do some Muslims admire him? Bin Laden has become a symbol of resistance and empowerment to a community deprived of freedom and opportunities for self-determination. He is a hero to a community that has long got used to living with an overwhelming sense of helplessness. He is a promise that even the weak and the hopeless can strike back.
If my understanding of why Bin Laden is a hero is correct then it means that his charisma is dependent on Muslim acceptance that he is indeed responsible for the various attacks against the US, regardless of the availability of evidence. He is a hero because some Muslims believe that he indeed pulled of all those spectacular attacks against the world’s sole superpower. His heroism and his popularity in the Muslim world is an indictment of him as a terrorist and his supporters as supporters of terrorism.
But Muslims, without any reservations, have condemned the attacks of Sept. 11th as morally reprehensible and unjustifiable. Prominent member of the Ulema (like Sheikh Qaradawi) have also established the unIslamic character of the 9/11 attacks. All Muslims agree that terrorism is unIslamic and deplorable and the perpetrators must be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
Bin Laden has denied any connections to the attacks and many Muslims believe that he is really innocent and are critical of the American establishment for not providing conclusive evidence against Bin Laden before launching a war against Afghanistan.
How are non-Muslims, unsympathetic to the “conditions that engender violence” supposed to interpret Muslim condemnation of the attacks and Muslim hero worship of Binladen? How can Muslims condemn terrorism without also condemning terrorists?
How US media and authorities resolve this dilemma of, Muslim condemnation of the attacks and simultaneous support for Bin Laden, will determine the future relations not only between the US and Muslim nations, but also between mainstream America and American Muslims.
As long as Muslims hesitate to condemn Bin Laden they will be seen as supporters of terrorism. This issue has also become a test of Muslim loyalties to America. When and if the FBI and company do produce conclusive evidence against Bin Laden, Muslim condemnation of the man will be meaningless. As of now many Muslims, including some leaders who have no conclusive evidence of Bin Laden’s innocence have chosen to err on the side of Bin Laden and not America. This may make them popular in some pockets of the Muslim community, but it also makes them suspect in American mainstream.
It baffles the mind to watch American Muslim leaders waffle over condemning Bin Laden as a terrorist who is misappropriating Islamic ideals and incriminating Islam in his campaign of terror. This man has undermined decades of hard work by these very same leaders to make Islam more acceptable in America. The shadow of Bin Laden now looms large on the decades of efforts by these same leaders at building bridges with other faith-based communities. The issue of condemnation stands clearly between American Muslims and the American government. Rather than perceiving American Muslims as a national asset and source for diplomatic expertise that can be deployed in defense of American interests, the establishment sees American Muslims as potential suspects, because they are not confident about where Muslim sympathies lie.
The only reason why there is no explicit condemnation of Bin Laden by major Muslim organizations, who have recently condemned American bombing of Afghanistan, is perhaps their fear of losing support with the constituency that they seek to serve. They fear that if they condemn him, even as a matter of self/public interest (maslaha in Islamic law) they will be perceived as taking sides with America in this war between America and Islam.
We Muslims have to realize two important things; Bin Laden and his tactics, no matter how just his causes, are detrimental to Muslims as well as to the image of Islam. The present suffering of the Afghan people is a direct consequence of their association and support for Bin Laden. Secondly, we cannot hide behind the issue of evidence and hedge about condemning those who murder innocent people, in direct violation of Islamic teachings.
When we say that there is no evidence against Bin Laden, what we really mean is that there isn’t enough to meet the legal standards of American and western jurisprudence. Since when have Bin Laden and Taliban become subscribers of the Bill of rights and amendment 14 (due process) of the US constitution? Just take a look at the way in which Taliban’s courts have meted out justice in the last five years. The video tapes in which Bin Laden says that he supports those who attack the US, the fatwa’s declaring war on the US, his promise of more such attacks, alone should be sufficient to hang him according to the legal practices of the Taliban, and for that matter other Middle Eastern regimes which are notorious for their kangaroo courts.
Why does Bin Laden and not ordinary citizens of Afghanistan deserve the full protection of civil liberties guaranteed by the US constitution? Bin Laden supports the Taliban and he deserves only what they can offer. Hang him to the soccer goal post, where the Taliban have hanged many in the recent past using their medieval techniques of law enforcement.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Bin Laden has nothing to do with 9/11. This man is still guilty of the following acts: He has blasphemed Islam. He has used its sacred principles to incite murder and mayhem. He has declared war on the US and called on all Muslims to murder Americans making Muslims targets for retaliatory attacks. He has exposed millions of Afghans to war, starvation and misery to save his own skin. If he were a hero, he would have surrendered. Not because he was guilty, but to save poor innocent Muslims from the ravages of war.
He has attacked the moral fabric of Muslim life by glorifying terrorism. He is trying to embroil the Muslim Ummah in a global war of death and destruction by calling the American war on Bin Laden as a war on Islam. His use of Islamic values have made Muslims look like terrorists and in most parts of the world people are associating Islam with violence and Muslims with terror. This man does not have the interest of Islam or Muslims at heart. He is an enemy of Islam and Muslims and should be treated as such.
It is time Muslim scholars and leaders fulfilled their Islamic duty (Quran 11:116) and condemned Bin Laden for what he is, and rescued not only Islam but also our misguided youth from the clutches of this mischief monger.