What does the death of Osama bin Laden mean to Indian Muslims? How do Islamic scholars see the world's biggest terrorist? A range of views emerged in conversations with a cross-section of Muslim intelligentsia. Yet one emotion seemed to override all others: Islam can never condone the perversities of Osama, and certainly not Indian Muslims who have carried the terrorist tag because of this one man. One budding Muslim writer retorted: why do you even ask us about him?

Jamia Millia Islamia Vice-Chancellor Najeeb Jung said there was no reaction to Osama's death on his campus or in the nearby Muslim neighbourhood of Jamia Nagar. “This is a reflection of the Indian Muslim's disinterest in Osama.” Mr. Jung also rejected the notion that Muslims elsewhere could feel sympathy for Osama, except perhaps in pockets of Pakistan. The VC said Osama was killed at a time when even the al-Qaeda had begun to speak in disparate voices. “Sections of the al-Qaeda would be happy to have a new leadership.”

Fatwas against Osama

Maulana Syed Athar Dehlavi, Chairman of Anjuman Minhaje Rasool, said Osama had defied and defiled Islam with his statements even before the horrific 9/11 attacks and this was why the Minhaje Rasool issued a fatwa against him as early as 1998. “We were not only the first Muslim organisation to issue a fatwa, we also appealed to Ulema the world over to issue fatwas against him.” The Maulana, however, added that Muslims will always hold the United States as guilty as Osama for creating him.

Manzoor Alam, who heads the Institute of Objective Studies, pointed out that far from being a fakir, Osama did not even have a degree in Islamic theology. He was never treated as knowledgeable on the Koran and Sunna, and across the Muslim world religious leaders held him in scorn. Fatwas were issued against him by such authorities as Ibn Baaz, the great Mufti of Saudi Arabia, and Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the popular Egyptian theologian.

Dr. Alam was emphatic that Indian Muslims would remain unaffected by any post-Osama radicalism: “Our youth have stayed clear of al-Qaeda and have shown time and again that they believe in the Indian Constitution.”

“Democracy, the sole option”

Scholar Mushir-ul-Hasan said Osama had no relevance in today's world: “In the light of the democracy movement in the Islamic world, it is very clear that the only option for Muslims lies in the democratic process and not in terrorism.” He argued that historically whenever Muslims had been allowed to exercise their option, they had chosen democracy. However, once the options were foreclosed by colonialism and western power, it appeared as if Muslims had become susceptible to the terrorist rhetoric: “Now that the global landscape has changed, these ideas deserve to be consigned to the dustbin of history.”

Columnist Aijaz Ilmi said Osama wanted to give divine sanction to his message of terror which was nowhere in the book. As for Indian Muslims, more than anyone else they were bound to be thankful for Osama's death: “Muslims have been demonised because of Osama and 9/11.”

Young writer Tanweer Alam was upset that Muslim reaction was sought whenever the subject of Pakistan or terrorism came up: “Whether it is an India-Pakistan cricket match or a terror attack or now Osama, we have to be on test. Why should our reaction be any different from that of Hindus? This only reinforces the perception that Indian Muslims are not part of the mainstream.”

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