Eastern reactions to bin Laden’s death

As The Waltonian was being prepared for publication on Sunday, May 1, the news came in: Osama bin Laden, leader of the al-Qaeda organization and driving force of the 9-11 attacks, is dead.

According to a statement by Pres. Barack Obama later that night, a small force of American soldiers descended upon Osama’s hiding place in Abbottabad, Pakistan, just outside of the capital of Islamabad. “They killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body,” he said, as reported by Al Jazeera.

The president then went on to say that “the death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date against al-Qaeda.” This is a feeling held by many in the media, including CNN National Security analyst, Peter Bergen.

“We have dealt a crippling blow to al-Qaeda the organization,” Bergen reported on CNN. Bergen had interviewed bin Laden in 1997 when the terrorist leader had announced his jihad against America.

The media, however, are not the only ones with things to say about bin Laden’s death. Eastern professors and students have their reactions as well.

“I don’t think his death means too much of anything with regard to al Qaeda,” head of the history department Dr. Gary Jenkins said. “Al Qaeda is such a diffused organization that operated in so many different countries, and there are so many radical groups in Islam [that] there is no such thing as a single Islam anymore. They are blades of crab grass – we need to get at the roots.”

Dr. Kevin Maness, assistant professor of communication studies, agrees that there is more to bin Laden’s death than meets the eye. “I’m hearing broad agreement for the claim that bin Laden’s death has tremendous ‘symbolic value,’ but if that’s its main (or only) worth, then I wonder if his symbolic value for the US and its allies will be any greater than his symbolic value—as a martyred hero—for opponents of the US,” Maness said in an email interview.

Faculty members are not the only ones to see the significance of bin Laden’s death. “At first, I was in disbelief,” first-year political science major Max Holland said. ‘Then it slowly dawned on me what his death means for us as a country and as Christians.”

“I think it’s strange that we’ve so long associated him with the face of terrorism that they’re celebrating the end of terrorism, but that’s not the case,” senior Victoria Watts said. “It will carry on much longer.”

Overall, there seems to be general agreement over the need for caution. “Right now we must be hyper-vigilant as I expect attacks might occur as vengeance is sought,” head of the political science department Dr. Kathy Lee said in an email interview.

“For those who lost loved ones on 9/11, the death of Osama bin Laden probably brought some relief,” Lee continued. “While at one level I understand the reactions of the crowds who were exuberant outside the White House and at Ground Zero, I think we need to be quite sober, recognizing that we still must seek to understand the root causes of terrorism and strategize to address those causes, while also maintaining our own national security.”

Maness had a similar view as Lee’s. “I can understand a sober sort of relief, which I guess describes my feelings well enough, but to feel elated by anyone’s death strikes me as sad and un-Christian,” he said. “Love and humility should characterize our response as Christians.”

“We can’t celebrate death; that’s wrong,” Holland said. “I think we need to say that yes, evil’s been brought to justice, but we also should be proactive with our culture, promoting justice and goodness. It is okay to feel relief and be glad that his injustices were ceased, but we should proceed wisely and cautiously.”

So how should we of the Eastern community respond to bin Laden’s death?

“As members of the Eastern University community, of course, our response should be a deeply Christian response, varied in its personal forms, and as public as possible so that we can model Christ to the world around us,” Maness said. “Since we are all students here, we should be especially diligent in learning about not just OBL’s death but all that led up to it and all that follows.”


Sources: CNN.com, Al Jazeera

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