Memo to Osama bin Laden, now dead

Published in Turkey's Today's Zaman, May 3, 2011. Also on Huffington Post. An edited version appears in the Florida Times Union.

Parvez Ahmed

Although rejoicing death is not part of the religious traditions of Muslims, Christians or Jews, I cannot help but feel a sense of joyful relief now that you are no longer capable of plotting your evil. Your elimination as a terrorist threat is a victory for peace and justice. Thousands of people from different nationalities, ethnicities and religions around the world have reacted with understandable emotions. Capital markets have reacted by bidding oil prices down and stock prices up, indicating that they are hopeful of greater stability in the Middle East.

You have caused untold misery to people who had no enmity with you. You have dragged the good name of Islam through the mud by wrapping your heinous actions with the banner of Islam. Your views and your methods have long been discredited by credible and mainstream Muslim scholars. But that did not persuade you from ceasing to poison the minds of gullible and vulnerable youths. You took our children brainwashed them into being maniacs and then used them as weapons against us. And in the end you did not even prove your self-proclaimed warrior mantle. You hid behind a woman and used her as a human shield. You are not a martyr. You are a criminal who deserves to be punished by death, under American, international and Sharia laws.

The cancer that you have left behind will still be with us. We will still have to deal with terrorists like you. But we hope that your death will inject rationality in the discourse about terrorism. It will allow our policy makers and leaders to see terrorism less as a political football and more as a criminal activity undertaken by mafia figures like you. Instead of criminalizing a faith, our leaders will use sensible method to go after the criminals without stigmatizing the faith group they belong to.

We are hopeful that your demise will bring some measure of comfort to all the families who have to contend daily with the loss of their loved ones. We are also hopeful that your departure provides renewed opportunities for building stronger bridges of understanding across faiths and cultures.

As peace loving Muslims, we unequivocally reject terrorism and reiterate that no grievances can ever justify the taking of innocent human lives. Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. Any group that imitates your methods is just as guilty as you are of crimes against their faith and all of humanity.

We are heartened by the fact that no Muslim country took the responsibility of your burial. It is permissible, in fact recommended in Islam to not afford terrorists full burial rites. Terrorists are considered deviants and thus denying them the opportunity for burial rites that seek mercy and forgiveness for the deceased are religiously accepted.

President Barack Obama has eloquently reminded the world that you were not a Muslim leader. He went on to say, "Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity."

In your death you have united us as Americans once more, the same way we were in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Today, like that ill-fated day, people of conscience are once again ready to rediscover the value of peaceful coexistence, so jaded by your rhetoric of war. Even when lamenting or protesting unfair and unjust conditions, we do not want to forget our Prophet's teachings of seeking peace and forgiveness even in the midst of our harshest hardships. Your fellow Arabs are increasingly rejecting your messianic worldview. In Egypt and Tunisia they have peacefully overthrown dictators. What your violence never achieved, their peace did.

It is my hope that your life and death serve as a lesson to all who ever contemplated using the shortcut of violence to satisfy their desires and needs. In your death as in your life, you have failed. You have dishonored your family and the over one billion Muslims from whom you hijacked the good name of Islam.

Editorial in Florida Times Union

April 25, 2011

There is nothing especially unusual about awards or appreciating the good works of outstanding individuals.

But it is unique to have the sponsoring organization celebrating the audience. That is what happened last Tuesday night during "An Evening of Gratitude" by the Muslim community.

The sentiments were so touching, the positive energy in the Hyatt Regency ballroom so powerful, that it left participants grasping for words.

The Islamic Center of Northeast Florida gave a series of awards at the benefit that in a broad sense were aimed at all the people of good will in the community.
And the sponsors made it clear that this good will did not start recently, but from those days about 30 years ago when there was just a handful of Muslims here.

Speakers from the Islamic Center said thanks for the support they have received from Christians, Jews, Hindus and many others. For instance, help was provided to purchase land for a mosque, for architectural work, for legal work.

And during the unfortunate opposition in the community to the appointment of Parvez Ahmed to the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission, many people of good will stood up and spoke out.

As Imam Joe Bradford said, Jacksonville's "gracious nature" turned negative energy into a positive.

John Delaney, president of the University of North Florida where Ahmed serves as a professor, said that his support was easy compared to the incredible patience and grace shown by Ahmed.

Mayor John Peyton said that Ahmed was "amazingly unflappable," that his grace was an inspiration during a grueling confirmation process.

"A lot of good came from this," Peyton said, by mobilizing the right-thinking people in the community.

But shouldn't the right-thinking people speak out? What a tragedy if they had not. Times-Union Editor Frank Denton described the coverage as the "journalism of hope."
To quote the Quran: "By no means shall you attain righteousness unless you give of that which you love" (3:92).

It was a beautiful night that made us proud to be living in Jacksonville.