American Muslim Students React to Osama bin Laden’s Death

May 3, 2011 9:07pm

 ABC News on Campus reporter Reshma Kirpalani blogs: On college campuses across the nation students learned of Osama bin Laden’s death, and the country celebrated.  However, sentiments are split among Muslim-American students over the death of the infamous terrorist and the subsequent perception of Islam among non-Muslim Americans. Above: On a Sunday evening in fall 2010, students pray at the Nueces Mosque at the University of Texas. As is custom in all mosques, men and women pray separately with several sheer curtains dividing the two groups. / Photo by Reshma Kirpalani Georgia State University sophomore Arubah Khan was studying on Sunday night when she saw a friend's Facebook post: a link to Obama's speech on his Twitter page.  Nearly one-third of Americans found out about bin Laden’s death through Twitter according to Mashable.com. Khan watched the President’s speech via an Internet livestream. Despite Obama’s reassurance to the American public that “the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam,” Khan is skeptical about American attitudes towards Islam. “I’m glad that President Obama said that but I don’t think that generally people will actually listen to it. A lot of people still view this war on terrorism as a war on Islam,” she said. The young Muslim-American, who was just 10 years old on  9/11, is unable to shake the memories of past jibes about bombs in her backpack by her high school peers. “I think that the greater (American) population still believes that … eliminating terrorist activities is the elimination of ideologies that only Muslims have,” said Khan.
University of Texas alumni Anwaar Huk likewise expresses caution rather than hope about bin Laden’s death, “Personally, I don't think this event, by itself, will change the cultural attitude of Americans towards Muslims,” Huk said. “Despite the horror that [bin Laden] himself was, what's more important is not to just kill him but to eliminate that ideology of hatred and bigotry that he represented.” Hussein Rashid, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, recognizes this sentiment of bin Laden as a larger than life threat among Muslim-American youth – similar to his generation’s experience during the Cold War. “We’re now getting a group of young adults whose first conscious memory was formed by Osama bin Laden.  Their biggest enemy has always been Al Qaeda and bin Laden,” Rashid said. The older American Muslim students who spoke to ABCNews.com were more likely to be infused with optimism.   Columbia University graduate student, Haroon Moghul views bin Laden’s death, in tandem with the Arab Spring revolutions, as “proof of something better around the corner.”
Moghul views the peaceful, democratic revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt as demoralizing precursors to the downfall of al Qaeda and its universal masthead: bin Laden.  “Bin Laden actually died in Tahrir Square,” Moghul says. “His death came on the heels of his irrelevance in the wider Muslim world.” University of Washington law student Shamiq Hussain echoes these sentiments. “People are considering this with the Arab Spring revolutions and seeing that as a double blow against al Qaeda, zapping their moral argument that their way is the way to achieve change,” Hussain said. One thing most Muslim-American college students do agree on is bin Laden's death as his due comeuppance. University of Chicago graduate student Farhad Dokhani said, “I feel a sense of relief and am glad that Osama bin Laden will no longer be around to cause harm to any other innocent people.”
Hussain believes that the American population felt and expressed a due sense of retribution at bin Laden’s death – one that he supported. He said, “I was happy that an evil man was dead.” The Kamran’s, University of Texas alumni and a young Muslim-American couple, listened to Obama’s announcement of bin Laden’s death the old-fashioned way: on the radio, in their car, a rainstorm pounding on the roof of their Mazda and freshly bought Walmart Supercenter groceries taking up residence in their trunk.  “I was like woah, a second at the grocery store and this is what you come back to!” said Sobia Kamran.  The young couple remained in the driveway of their apartment in Arlington, Texas while listening to Obama’s entire speech in their car. Kamran treads the fine line between future hopes and past realities, saying, “It seems as if all the families who suffered during 9/11 will finally reach closure and will hopefully unite. However, the process of recovery for those families and our nation still has a long ways to go.” 

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