U.S. Muslims hope for better days after bin Laden

CHICAGO Mon May 2, 2011 4:29pm EDT

Newspaper headlines and clippings are posted on a wall inside a staff office at the White House in Washington May 2, 2011, the morning after U.S. President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Newspaper headlines and clippings are posted on a wall inside a staff office at the White House in Washington May 2, 2011, the morning after U.S. President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

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CHICAGO (Reuters) - American Muslims welcomed Osama bin Laden's death, hoping it would help cast off a stigma attached to their community since the September 11 attacks.

"It's the best thing that has happened. Everyone is celebrating," said Sam Elhaf, 44, capturing the mood in Dearborn, Michigan, the largest U.S. Muslim community.

But Muslims have grown frustrated that their condemnations of bin Laden and al Qaeda have gone unheard as some Americans associate Islam with his message of violent jihad.

"It has been a nightmare to try to constantly explain to ordinary Americans that we are not associated with bin Laden. We have tried very hard to convince people that Muslims are not one monolithic group standing behind this monster," said Imam Muhammad Musri of the Islamic Society of Central Florida.

"We were also victims of bin Laden's ideology of hate," he said. "The man hijacked our religion, committed crimes in the name of our religion and caused the greatest damage to the American Muslim community and Islam."

Musri and some other Muslim leaders said bin Laden's killing Monday by U.S. forces in Pakistan gave American Muslims and other Americans an opportunity to correct misunderstandings and bridge differences.

"Muslims ... continue to be victims in the growth of Islamophobia here, so the taking out of bin Laden, certainly at a symbolic level, in the short-term, takes the pressure off," said John Esposito, professor of religion and international affairs at Georgetown University.

There are up to 7 million Muslims in the United States and many have felt the sting of being unfairly lumped in with Arab Muslims who plotted and carried out the deadly 2011 attacks.

HATE MAIL

Sunday night's announcement by President Barack Obama that bin Laden had been killed by U.S. forces set off a fresh round of spiteful telephone calls to a Muslim civil rights group.

"Since his death was announced we've received a number of hate calls, most expressing joy that he was killed and referring to him as 'your leader,'" said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Sayyid Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America, the largest U.S. Muslim group, said spontaneous cries of "USA, USA" during street demonstrations outside the White House and at other gatherings around the nation were understandable.

"Americans have been talking about him, learning about him from these deadly acts," Syeed said.

In New York at the site of the fallen World Trade Center towers, Toronto pharmacist Amin Jaqani said he was thrilled.

"We're ecstatic. After seeing the news, we had to go to Ground Zero to pay our respects. We're just as ecstatic as the people of New York City," said Jaqani, 39.

"This is a good day for Muslims everywhere," said Mahmood Rahman, a New York City cab driver.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council said the democratic protests that have shaken the Middle East in recent months have exposed bin Laden's violent message as bankrupt.

"We hope this is a turning point away from the dark period of the last decade, in which bin Laden symbolized the evil face of global terrorism," said its president, Salam Al-Marayati.

Majed Moughni, a 40-year-old Dearborn attorney who burned an effigy of bin Laden in his backyard on the eve of September 11 last year, said he was worried about reprisals.

"It's a double-edged sword," Moughni said. "I am happy that he is gone, but I'm terrified of the consequences -- of what his people are going to do in response."

(Additional reporting by Dan Trotta and Aman Ali in New York, Tabassum Zakaria in Washington, Kevin Gray in Miami, Teri Murphy and Bernie Woodall in Dearborn; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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Comments (3)
SharonPretty wrote:
I thought the crowds shouting out “USA, USA” outside the White House were distasteful and unnecessary. Then self-restraint, decorum and good form was never the American way. These graceless half-wits should take a leaf out of book of the President whose dignified announcement of the death of bin Laden showed us how we should conduct ourselves at such moments.

May 03, 2011 11:37am EDT  --  Report as abuse
John_Muhammad wrote:
OBL’s death, sadly will not change anything the US does in the Middle East. For years his name was just a red flag to wave to stir up Joe the Plumber when his interest in the war waned a little. OBL chose the path of violence in his life, and knew he would probably dies violently one day. As the old saying goes: live by the sword, die by the sword.

My concern now is the manner of his ‘burial’ (definitely not in accordance with shari’a, despite the bleatings of the White House), and how this is going to be perceived as a slap in the face to observant Muslims. As bad a character as OBL was, as a Muslim he was still due certain rights after death and we as Muslims were- regardless of our personal opinion of him- required to bury him just the same as every other Muslim. That was taken away from us, and it is my fear that the more extreme elements in the Muslim community will use this as a call to action to commit further acts of violence.

May 03, 2011 8:27pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
USAfortitude wrote:
I am confused. Why did he deserve a traditional burial? Did he give the thousands of Americans that he killed the same respect? Also why do we care if there is any backlash or repercussions for al-qaeda ? Why must we live in fear of an attack. We have to change things that we do in our live to not offend the Muslim terrorists. We are told not to speak poorly of them for fear of retaliation, they should fear us. I am a father of four and I would gladly go to war for my country to protect my family and their freedoms. America as a nation has grown far too weak and gutless. I am not speaking of our men and women who fight for our freedoms but the politicians that use them as pawns. Forget about being civil and fight against those with the same care and tact for their people as they have shown us. I have lost seven friends to this war and I am grateful that they were willing to stand up and defend this country with their lives.

May 04, 2011 1:47pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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