Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Who Was Osama bin Laden?

Whoever the poor soul was, whom the US assassination team “buried at sea,” it most certainly was not Osama bin Laden. Still, now would not be a bad time to lay to rest our questions about the Grandfather of Islamic Internationalism. The FBI admits that they have no evidence that bin Laden had anything to do with the 9/11 attack. There is also no clear evidence that he was involved in earlier bombings in East Africa. He left Sudan because the US threatened to bomb if they did not expel him. Why were the Powers-That-Be so afraid of bin Laden? The US was afraid that he might unite more people around the world with his humanitarian projects and ability to internationalize causes by addressing "the Ummah." This was an entirely new approach to fundraising at that time. Osama was owner of a construction company. He rebuilt war torn and underdeveloped countries. He was in Sudan at his own expense, building infrastructure for the poor and oppressed, with government permission.

It is important to understand this great historical figure and his jihad mission. Osama bin Laden was a close associate and student of respected Palestinian theologian, Abdullah Azzam, who coined the term “al-Qaeda.” Azzam's work elaborated upon the ideas of Sayed Qutb, the Egyptian founder of modern Arab-Islamic political religious thought. Qutb is comparable to John Locke in Western political development. Both Azzam and Qutb were serious men of exceptional integrity and honor. Qutb predicted that the struggle between Islam and materialism would define the modern world. He embraced martyrdom in 1966 in rejection of Arab socialist politics. Drawing upon Qutb's ideas, Azzam preached mutual responsibility for each other among all Muslims worldwide. Azzam successfully organized an international volunteer effort to defend Afghanistan from the Soviet Union throughout the 1980s under the banner of Islam and with the US as an ally. He was killed in 1989.

The 1980s and 90s were a magical time for Muslims. Invigorated by this new philosophical international unity of Islamic causes, and with America's blessing, an international financial system of Islamic charity was created. All of us who were alive at that time remember how we cried for the Afghanis and opened our wallets, we cried for the Palestinians and opened our wallets. We cried for the Bosnians and opened our wallets. Some of our husbands even left us to become martyrs. The nationalist boundaries between Muslims were erased. Foreign Muslims and Black American Muslims were educating each other about politics and history. On an international scale, Muslims were competing with Jews over the international financial system and the outcome of world events. A true pan-Islamic internationalism was created. We were the kings and queens of the world, to quote the Titanic.

A new, multicultural Islamic culture was born in America. When Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965, he left behind the hope of multicultural, international Muslim unity. As long as American Blacks remained isolated, they would still think like oppressed people. But when they went to Mecca and prayed side by side with a world community, they came in contact with all of human civilization. During the 1970s, Islam took a stronghold in America. Halal meat shops were opened, Islamic schools were created. As more foreign students came to America for education they mingled with each other and with the locals. African Americans adopted the Arabian style niqab and the Pakistani shalwar kameez. Pakistanis adopted the Arab style hijab and jilbab, while others adopted the Euro-Turk skirt with blazer look. Because Islam was such a fun social unifier in college, young people brought their enthusiasm to their cousins back home, who then started to cover more and pray more. We all wanted to make huge personal sacrifices to save the world.

To a large extent it was America's support of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan that created the spiritual fire behind the Islamic Renaissance of the 1980s. In the Battle of Jaji in May 1987, Osama's Muhajideen army of only 50 members resisted 200 Soviet and Soviet-backed Afghan troops for one week, taking 12 losses. Under the watch of the Arab media, the Mujahideen protected their complex system of tunnels and caves near the Pakistani border, named al-Masada, from Soviet capture. Osama bin Laden became an internationally respected war hero, while the Afghan freedom fighters became revered in America as “the bravest men in the world,” according to former CIA agent and author, Eric Margolis. Every Muslim in the world, it seemed, wished they too could die for the sake of Allah. Every girl wished she could marry Osama bin Laden, even if he was already quite busy.

In 2001, the US used napalm and oxygen-sucking bombs to “smoke out” Osama's “Lion's Nest” of tunnels. They even sprayed acid from the sky to disfigure the faces of the martyrs afterward.

Hundreds of pilgrims visit Kandahar’s Arab cemetery daily, believing that the graves of those massacred in the 2001 US bombing of Afghanistan possess miraculous healing powers.

2001 was not the end of the Muslims, but it was the end of a glorious era, where martyrs competed with one another for bravery and ordinary people competed with each other with charity. We were going to defeat evil in this world today, we thought. Now we know this is only the beginning of the struggle.

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