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Osama’s death: Nothing to celebrate

THE world was taken by surprise on 2 May 2011 with the announcement that Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had been killed. Some mourned, whilst others cheered. And to a few, the death brought closure to the 11 Sept 2001 attacks on New York’s World Trade Centre.

But what was the thinking behind US President Barack Obama’s act to endorse the killing of Osama? Was it a simple act of revenge? Or did Obama think that without Osama, the Al-Qaeda network would somehow be crippled or at least deterred from further acts of terrorism?


Obama and his national security team receiving an update on the mission to kill Osama, 1 May 2011 (© The White House | Flickr)

I hope and pray that revenge was not the primary motive to take out Osama. Somehow, I would like to believe that the President of the United States would act more strategically than to rely on his base instinct for revenge and re-election. Surely of all presidents, this one would have understood the need for reconciliation as opposed to revenge.

But if the primary motive was to cripple or deter Al-Qaeda, then surely the entire manoeuvre was misguided, to say the least. After all, stories and accounts of communities thriving after the demise of their leader are certainly not alien to us.


Take the Abrahamic faiths, for instance. According to the Jewish Torah and the Christian Bible, the patriarch Moses led his people out of Egypt to the “promised land”. Nations feared them when rumours of the Egyptian plagues made the rounds. Added to these rumours were incredible stories of how Moses could even command the sea to split in two.

Even Moses, however, had to face up to his own mortality. He died before the Israelites entered the promised land. But according to the stories, his death did not stop the Israelites from conquering the land of Canaan and inflicting terror on the residents there. And a new leader, Joshua, arose from their midst and brought down the walls of Jericho.


Then there’s the account of Jesus Christ. Preaching a message of love, forgiveness and repentance, he was said to have healed the sick, raised the dead, and carried out untold numbers of miracles.

A portrait of

An illustration of Simon Peter denying Christ, by Gustave Doré (public domain | Wiki Commons)

But just as he was in his prime, he was betrayed and crucified. His followers dispersed in fear. His protégé, Simon Peter, denied him three times. The multitudes who were taught, healed and even fed by him, decided to call for his crucifixion. His movement came to a halting stop, destined to be reduced to insignificance.

But his death was not the end of the story. Three days later, rumours started to spread that he had in fact come back to life. Some claimed to have seen him. Suddenly, his cowardly band of followers who ran away helter-skelter became emboldened. Simon Peter found his voice. They [then] called themselves followers of The Way, and they grew in strength and numbers even when Christ was no longer physically there.


And then there is the last of the Abrahamic faiths, namely Islam. The Prophet Muhammad achieved much in his lifetime. He transformed an idolatrous and polytheistic nation into a monotheistic entity. He uplifted the status of women. He brought good news to the Arabs. From being an outcast, he returned to Mecca a triumphant prophet and ruler.

However, upon his death, no definite successor was identified, prompting a division amongst his followers which persists until today.

Yet, despite the tussle to succeed him, Islam did not fade away. The movement survived the demise of its founder. In fact, the movement expanded and grew, stronger than ever, and reached heights that exceeded the achievements during the lifetime of the Prophet.


Here’s the fact. A group of people on a divine mission does not cease upon the demise of its leader. On the contrary, the leader’s demise could even cause the movement to grow stronger, as members unite in grief. Grief is, after all, a powerful and uniting emotion for people who have collectively shared in its process. This is a unity forged in the crucible, and able to withstand future challenges.

Osama bin Laden (public domain | Wiki Commons)

Osama bin Laden (public domain | Wiki Commons)

So, should anyone celebrate the death of Osama? Think again. His death may very well turn out to be the lifeline for those who shared Osama’s ideologies. After all, wasn’t it one very revolutionary man who once said, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

Let the rejoicing world be warned that there may be many more Osamas who could arise.

Chan Kheng Hoe would not be caught dancing in the streets to celebrate Osama’s death. And that’s not only because he cannot dance.

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10 Responses to “Osama’s death: Nothing to celebrate”

  1. Anthony Rivers says:

    Wow. Talk about comparing apples to oranges. Surely there was a better way to express your point than comparing Osama and his followers to Hebrews following Moses, Christians following Jesus and Muslims following Muhammad. This is tasteless and unnecessary journalism.

    • Tim Ong says:

      I agree with Anthony Rivers and Motu. Grouping Osama bin Laden together with Moses, Jesus and Mohammad is not only unnecessary but tasteless. What was the author trying to do – make a saint out of him?

  2. kamal says:

    Why should the President of the US be any different than the ordinary person? If they feel that the death of Osama would bring closure than by any means and for any reason his death would be justified.

    But Osama the man and his politics needs to be put in context. Here, the author’s asociation with leading figures in the Abrahamic Monotheistic traditions in my opinion is rather shallow and perhaps in bad taste.

    Osama is no inspiration for the greater good. Maybe some aspire and share his vision whatever it may have been. To understand Osama and what he did,I think requires us to understand post-colonial politic-not religion.

    As for Osama’s followers continuing their threat to world peace and by association- the resurrection of faith after Jesus, or the division aong the faithful after Prophet Mohammad or the violence after Moses, leaves more question.

    Apocalyptic themes is hardly Osama inspired- an end to the free world is a common theme in 20th century politics, mangga and superhero comics. Osama wasn’t the first global terrorist/threat to the free world- before that there was the Turks, then Hitler’s Germany, east-Japan, and post WW2 fear of a world domination by Communism.

    What does Osama have in common with Moses, Jesus or Mohammad? What great global legacy has Osama left behind? Remember before the Twin Towers bombing there was the Oklahoma bombing carried out by a decorated retired American soldier- Timothy McVeigh. The IRA has probably got more sustained bombing activities in the UK than any Al-Qaeda operation.

    Hence, the religious slant here I feel is misguided and simplistic. There was a speech I remember reading by a British officer to his troops before the attack on Iraq. He reminded them that they should respect Iraq because it was the land of Abraham. But no one in their right minds would have associated the speech with a holy war. It wasn’t.

    Similarly here, lets understand that politics today is not shrouded in religious conspiracy but one driven by very 21st century interests. If there is anything that we can draw on from here from the Judeo-Christian tradition it’s that, acts of human violence against each other have continued un-abbated (as recorded) for at least the last 5000 years. But, while history and the holy books may document violence, these Prophets also left behind a lasting legacy that encourage perpetuity of society through good conduct with one another- and so we have among other things, the recognition of all humans under the banner of Islam as brothers rather than tribal affiliation and the elevation of women in Islam and Love in Christianity (I do not know enough about Judaism to make a generalisation).

    Does Osama leave us with any such legacy? Has he commanded over the values and dogma of millions shaping societies over centuries? The answer is no. Osama leaves us with a rather different and perhaps less dramatic legacy.

    But I have no intentions of judging the man, rather I simply want to say that this article lacks depth, and such a linear association of Osama with Moses, Jesus and Mohammad reflects the author’s prejudice more than anything else.

    But I do agree with the author, the death of one [person] rarely spells an end to his/her designs.

  3. MOTU says:

    Why why why was Osama mentioned in the same breath as Moses, Jesus and the Prophet Muhammad??? =(

  4. Bad Rabbit says:

    I understand the author’s viewpoint on this issue, but I think he’s missing one obvious point.

    Jon Stewart ,the American comedian, a New York resident, could not conceal his happiness that Osama bin Laden was dead. He admitted that he was personally too close to the story to be objective but he said one more thing. He pointed out that for the rest of the world, for the last 10 years Osama bin Laden had been the face of certainty [in] the Arab Muslim world. But now, thanks to the people of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria, that face has changed.

    The reality is that Osama and al-Qa’ida have failed [in] their desire to create a Caliphate (this is not me saying this, Osama is on record as demanding it) in place of the governments of places such as Egypt. But in the end it was the Egyptians themselves who did what Osama and his armed men and military strategies could not.

    He had become left behind by the movement of history, the only sadness about his death is that he won’t get to see how his message, his vision and his dreams had become irrelevant.

  5. Ghost of bin Laden says:

    You are right! I am exactly like Moses and Jesus and Muhammad!

    Obama and the Americans had absolutely zero right to assassinate me!

    I would like to thank the writer for taking up my cause.


    • Alan says:

      LOL! Osama. Talking to you is considered heretical in my religion, if you’re indeed dead.

      Never mind about that, I’m sure it’s better for the US government to arrest you and give you nice treatment rather than kill you. Your ideology has made all Muslims look bad that even the non-Muslims (e.g. Malaysians) that you despise have to take lots of time to explain that the “Malaysian Muslims are NOT Terrorists”. Please have a nice sleep, k? At least you don’t need to worry when’s your next meal’s coming.

  6. Audi says:

    The way that the author chose to present Osama may be baffling to us, but to a sizeable part of the Muslim community, Osama was a hero for actually having the guts to stand up to the bully that is the United States.

    Giving Osama a quick demise, without carefully exposing the fallacies of his ideas and actions will inevitably make him a saint for some.

  7. Adam says:

    I don’t find anything wrong with the writer mentioning Moses, Jesus, Muhammad and Osama in the same context. They were all influential people and he only wants the world to see what a grave mistake Obama has committed, if Osama is really dead. After all, it was CIAs who went from “friends” to “enemies” with Osama. No 9/11 would have taken place if it wasn’t for what the CIAs did. So there really is nothing to celebrate and Obama is no hero.

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