Barrett: On the leap of faith required to detach Islam from Osama

Barrett: On the leap of faith required to detach Islam from Osama

May 8th, 2011 by Steve Barrett in Opinion Columns

Not since shortly after 9/11 have we been so vigorously assured that Osama bin Laden's beliefs and actions were categorically unconnected to Islam.

Here is what the Council on American-Islamic Relations had to say after bin Laden's death: "We join our fellow citizens in welcoming the announcement that Osama bin Laden has been eliminated as a threat to our nation and the world through the actions of American military personnel. As we have stated repeatedly since the 9/11 terror attacks, bin Laden never represented Muslims or Islam. ..."

Glad to hear it.

A Muslim in Cleveland, Tenn., told the Times Free Press that bin Laden "absolutely, without any doubt ... didn't represent any Muslim."


So why the apparent fear that at least some Muslims will get offended or violent if they feel the United States did not handle bin Laden's corpse according to Islamic burial traditions? And why the ceaseless hand-wringing over whether we'll enrage Muslims by releasing photos of his dead body? We keep hearing that he's not a Muslim in any shape, form or fashion, so you'd think the adherents of that religion wouldn't care in the least about the disposal of his corpse or the release of photos of it.

And yet, to quote The Associated Press, U.S. officials "were reluctant to inflame Islamic sentiment by showing graphic images of the body." (Shouldn't that be, "were reluctant to inflame the sentiment of people who falsely claim to be Muslims"? After all, no bona fide Muslim gives a fig for bin Laden, right?)

And from The Washington Post: "[T]he Obama administration worked to avoid offending Muslim sensibilities over the manner of bin Laden's burial ... ." (Doesn't the Post mean "the sensibilities of people who slander true Islam by illegitimately claiming it as their faith"?)

Either bin Laden wasn't Muslim, in which case authentic Muslims should be happy to see proof that he can no longer murder in their name, and should feel insulted that he got an Islamic burial. Or a fair segment of Islam believes he was one of its own, in which case revealing pictures of his corpse or failing to give it fussy burial rites is indeed liable to get innocent people slaughtered.

Hmm. How to resolve that question.

I know! Let's look at what actually happened after bin Laden's death.

The Palestinian prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, swiftly called for revenge for the killing of this "Muslim and Arab warrior."

Ah, someone objects, but Haniyeh is also the head of the terrorist organization Hamas, so he can't be a real Muslim. Alas, that makes my point perfectly. Hamas named him prime minister after it won a majority of the seats in parliamentary elections. Are we supposed to believe that the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who put terrorists in charge of their government were druids and Lutherans? Do we sincerely doubt that they share Haniyeh's support of bin Laden, and if they do, do we designate all of them inauthentic Muslims?

These aren't subtle distinctions, they're skull-splitting contradictions. Yet they are uttered unremarkably - often in the same breath - as if they were no more mutually exclusive than ham and eggs. We have so forsaken the fundamentals of logic that we honestly entertain the possibility that A can be B, orange can be blue, and, when the stars align just so, two plus two can be marmalade.

That, we declare after removing the pacifiers from our mouths, proves us adept at embracing complexity. We're nuanced thinkers, we tell ourselves.

Nah. We're just useful idiots.


Speaking of useful idiocy, recall the 2002 praise of bin Laden by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Bin Laden has "been out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day-care facilities, building health-care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful," she told some high schoolers. "He's made their lives better. We haven't done that."

There are things it is good not to forget. That kind of remark is one of them.