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Osama and Islam

Published on: May 28, 2011 Written By: Irena Akbar
Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/web-edits/osama-and-islam/

Islamophobia,is not going to die out any soon,even after Osama's death.

It’s a bit late to write about Osama Bin Laden’s death,which happened on May 2. But there’s no sense of urgency either to write about how his end would impact the perception of Islam and its followers. The only immediate consequence of the alleged 9/11 mastermind’s death is that it has offered a sense of closure to the family of the victims of the grisly attacks in New York,a boost to the ongoing US-led war on terrorism,and the exposure of Pakistan’s incompetence or complicity in sheltering him.

But the one immediate fallout of 9/11,Islamophobia,is not going to die out any soon,even after Osama’s death. I remember after 9/11,a lot of my collegemates would ask me,“Do you support Osama Bin Laden?” When some Muslims hit the streets to protest against the American invasion of Afghanistan to hunt down Laden,following 9/11,a lot of television channels ran special discussions,which asked,“Does the Indian Muslim support Osama?” As a young college student,I’d get offended by such questions and would painfully explain that my religion doesn’t justify killings.

Over the years,as more attacks were carried out by Muslim militants,across the world such as in Madrid in 2004 or in London a year later,or more recently in Mumbai in 2009,nobody asked me or other Muslims I know,“Does your religion sanction suicide bombings?” or “Do you support Kasab?” Almost 10 years after 9/11, and after Laden’s death,no one has asked me,“Are you sad Osama is no more?” Significantly,I didn’t expect such a question to be asked either. For,people have come to realise that the common followers of Islam,a religion abused so much by power-hungry militants,are not sympathisers of terrorists. And Muslims,too,specially the illiterate,underprivileged segments which are often exploited by militants,have learnt to see through their violent ideologies. There weren’t any mass funeral prayers for him in India or across the world,except for some places in Pakistan. Arabs,some of whom had unfortunately rejoiced on the streets immediately after 9/11,have moved on,busy as they are for a better cause — democracy.

And yet,Islamophobia,though decreased over the years,still remains,and threatens to show up every time another militant blows up another building or train or car somewhere in the world. As much as the terror machinery thrives post-Osama,so will Islamophobia. It’s not uncommon for common Muslims to be looked at with suspicion at sensitive places,such as at airports,even today. Just as recently as last year,an NRI woman refused to let a plane take off unless a bearded maulana sitting next to her was de-boarded,because,besides his ‘suspicious appearance’,he was telling his wife on mobile phone,“plane udega”.

I had a similar,yet far benign experience,which I mentioned in an op-ed I wrote in The Indian Express ( http://www.indianexpress.com/news/where-prejudice-takes-wing/648520/


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