Commentary: Bin Laden's death brings some sense of closure

The Lexington Herald-LeaderMay 4, 2011 

Although most Americans and Muslims welcomed news of the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, many don't think his death signals an end to terrorism.

Probably the most we can hope for is that his death will be a salve for those grieving the loss of loved ones on 9/11, and a dampening of the discrimination many Muslims have experienced since then.

"We've killed lots of leaders of al-Qaida before, and they get replaced," said Carey Cavanaugh, director of the University of Kentucky Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce. "The key leaders said there will be others."

But during the past few months, the political winds have been blowing change to the Middle East. And while al-Qaida still exists, the organization seems to be fracturing some, Cavanaugh said.

"There is not a clearly identified leader," Cavanaugh said, "and there may not be for a while."

The United States that bin Laden characterized as being at war with Islam and interested only in Israel has been aiding groups demanding more input into their respective governments in the Middle East. The United States might appear to be encouraging stability and democracy.

Those groups have a different view of the United States and themselves, and they might like having their independence from an all-in-one al-Qaida.

But the United States did make a misstep with the burial of bin Laden at sea, Cavanaugh said. More should have been done, even at the risk of going beyond Islam's 24-hour burial requirement, to bury bin Laden in his hometown with his head facing toward Mecca, Cavanaugh said.

The burial at sea could be a "political minefield," he said.

"It is important that we don't do things that amplify this. I suspect we would have been better off finding a place," to bury bin Laden, Cavanaugh said.

Plus, he added, it opens the door to doubts that bin Laden is dead. In the case of fallen Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, even though the execution was mishandled, the authorities were careful to bury Hussein in his hometown in a fairly simple grave that has not drawn crowds.

As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, the death of the man who plotted that terrorist attack gives us reason to celebrate.

"It shows that when the U.S. sets itself to a task, we do it," said Cavanaugh who is also a former U.S. ambassador.

And as we revel in that patriotism, Ihsan Bagby, UK associate professor of Islamic studies, reminds us that American Muslims and many Muslims throughout the world are pleased with the recent turn of events.

"Muslims share in the celebration of (bin Laden's) death," Bagby said. "Osama bin Laden was an enemy to America and also an enemy to Islam."

Bin Laden's adoption of terrorism was diametrically opposed to Islam, Bagby said, and, hopefully, his death will mean the demise of the use of terrorism.

And, in turn, that should mean an end of the discrimination many American Muslims have experienced.

"Muslims in America, in general, have been indicted by this specter of terrorism," Bagby said. "America needs to know that Muslims are as much against bin Laden as they are."

McClatchy Washington Bureau is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service