A Humble Obituary for Osama bin Laden; Part I

This is a guest post by a friend of mine who is a member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT, wiki page here). John has spent time overseas as a CPT member in Palestine and Isreal, specifically in the Gaza strip. As one who has had firsthand interaction with a Muslim people, John offers us his eyes into the dynamics of the Muslim world we often only see through the media. It is indeed humble, as the title suggests, and reminds us of the humanity of bin Laden.

A Humble Obituary for Osama bin Laden
by John Harris, Christian Peacemaker Teams

Osama bin Laden, organizer, crusader, defender, soldier, terrorist, son, husband, and father has died last night at the young age of fifty-seven.  He was assassinated by the US military at a compound in Pakistan after being on the most wanted list for some twelve years.  He will be remembered primarily for his attack on the World Trade Center and US Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

Born to a multi-millionaire businessman in 1957, he soon thereafter became the son of a divorced and remarried mother.  She had been one of twenty-two wives of Osama’s father.  Osama’s father not had only many wives, but multiple wives.  He would divorce the older ones and marry younger ones.  This man later died in a plane crash when Osama was ten.

Osama, having been born into the wealth of his family, found himself to also be a multi-millionaire at a young age.  But he was more attracted to religion and poetry.  He traveled to Afghanistan in the 1980s where he would become a leader in the struggle against the invasion of the Soviet Union.  With his connections to money in Saudi Arabia, he became a leader and an organizer in the rebellion against the Soviet invasion.  He would later work with the US government, receiving economic and military assistance to defend the Afghan people against the Soviets.

Osama bin Laden believed firmly that his religion, Islam, demanded not merely a personal religion, but  an entire way of life.  This included religious/political law, commonly known as Sharia law.  He continued his efforts to extend the influence of Sharia law to Muslim people groups and nations.  He believed, like so many millions around him, that the Muslim world should be able to practice self-determination and not be subjugated to either a Communist worldview or a Western capitalist worldview.  The Islamic system, he believed, was a system from God that guarded against secularism, Communism, and a free-enterprise system that incorporated usury and economic exploitation of the poor.  While supporting what can be called traditional family values, it did away with alcohol, drugs, pornography, abortion, and the like.  Sharia law, to Osama, offered a world of hope in God, a world where God is lifted up and praised, where banks and businesses would not make money off the backs of the poor, and where families could live safely with honest work and pay, able to praise and follow God according to the Holy Scriptures.

With his emphasis, therefore, in Muslim self-determination, he would also campaign against Western influence on the Muslim world.  Eventually, this would lead to his creation of Al-Qaeda, a group whose goal was to establish Islamic governments in the Muslim world and, therefore, to drive out the influence of US and other Western forces who had successfully established a presence there.  In a similar fashion to the conjecture of the Western nations, Al-Qaeda believed in the use of force to conquer its objectives.

Paralleling the ambition of American heroes like Samuel Adams (The Sons of Liberty) John Brown (The Raid on Harper’s Ferry), and Robert McNamara (The Firestorms on Japan, The Vietnam War), bin Laden and Al-Qaeda propagated both the belief and practice that terrorism is justified, even when it includes women and children.  This is his legacy.  Amongst Al-Qaeda’s actions to bring about this self-determination were the 2001 attacks on New York’s World Trade Center and the US Pentagon, a day that needs no explanation to any US reader.

Over 3000 people were violently killed on that day.  These numbers included women, children, janitors, mail carriers, and the like, people Jesus Christ would refer to as “the least of these.”  Ten years later, he would fall to his own death, served to him by those that agreed, in practice, with his methods, but not when used against them.

About John:

When John tells stories about his work with CPT, I am often moved to tears. He has personally witnessed -and been abused by- Israeli colonizers, who have destroyed the lives of innocent Palestinians who have lost their land powerlessly to the Isreali encampments. He’s told stories of these Israeli’s, and that their background is often western: New York, New Jersey, from wherever; cultural/ancestral western Hebrew folk who have moved to Israel. Part of the conflict we read over there is directly fueled by westerners, and not our -perhaps- perceived notions of the generational Israeli “fighting for freedom/oppression/peace/etc.”  or land. That’s another blog post, and he’s much more suited to write it than I. In the end, we all capable of the violence bin Laden displayed, and his reflection points us towards some of our own blindness to it. Likewise, I appreciate the light John sheds on our participation in the broader systemic and political environment, and ugly culpability in bin Laden’s decisions, activity, and actions via terrorism (that last thought is mine, not John’s; although he may share it).

John’s email signature gives us insight of him, as much as it is humorous:

“I believe in capital and private property; everyone should have some of each.” – Peter Maurin

John “Rockin’ in the Free World” Harris is a Pasadenians for Heavy Metal activist, a historical foundation based on the premise that hard rock is necessary for the promotion of humanity.

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~ by Brian Shope on May 3, 2011.

2 Responses to “A Humble Obituary for Osama bin Laden; Part I”

  1. […] A Humble Obituary for Osama bin Laden; Part II John’s obituary continued, which began here… […]

  2. […] Humble Obituary for Osama bin Laden; Part III John’s closing for bin Laden, which began here and […]

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