COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
As I studied the face of Osama bin Laden on the front page of yesterday’s paper above the title “Most wanted face of terrorism,” I was disturbed. His face struck me more as a religious leader at the least and a scholar at the most. There is this trace of terseness though to speak of militancy but the general countenance is that of spirituality and introspection. What is projected in his eyes is sadness; not anger or marked hostility or even desperation.
The US government finally caught up with him in what appeared to be a decade of extensive manhunt operation. Bin Laden was reportedly shot in the head during a raid conducted by a team of American military and intelligence operatives on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. That wealthy residence where Bin Laden is believed to have lived in recent years is strategically located on a hilltop at the outskirt of the city, near the PakistanMilitary Academy and close to the Jammu and Kashmir border at the foothills of the Himalayas.
Osama bin Laden was the founder and ideological leader of al-Qaida, an international network of jihadists that have staged terror attacks in the different continents and who carried out the September 11, 2001 bombing at the WorldTradeCenter in New York and the Pentagon. That September 11 attack by these religious militants led to the US bombardment of Afghanistan and the subsequent invasion of Iraq, two countries earlier believed to have close ties with the al-Qaida network.
After the September 11 bombing in the American mainland, the US waged a war against international terrorism; tracking down al-Qaida members and al-Qaida-linked groups around the globe and even going to the extent of declaring a few nationalist groups as terrorist organizations. From that time onwards, terrorism has acquired an all-embracing meaning and with the US declaring who the terrorists are.
Unwittingly, terrorism and not nationalism proved to be the counterpart of imperialism. Nationalism is localized while terrorism, like imperialism, knows no borders. And like imperialism, terrorism does not respect any people or culture. And while the imperialists are motivated by greed for material wealth, the terrorists are motivated by simple destruction of those symbols of the imperialists’ power and wealth.
Terrorist attacks are usually sporadic, a desperate attempt at hitting in piecemeal an all too powerful enemy. And for Bin Laden and the al-Qaida network, the all too powerful enemy is the United States and its allies. The fundamentalism of Bin Laden and his followers was challenged by the encroachment of the West in the Arab world – for oil, for territory like the land occupied by Israel, for war, and for the propagation of a western lifestyle and its corresponding market.
Apparently, lines have been crossed in order for “the most pious son and voracious reader of Islamic literature” to go berserk and methodically plan for the destruction of human lives and properties. These religious militants like the al-Qaida members are not even fighting against Christianity per se like in the days of the crusaders, but against the shadows of mammon. No wonder these jihadists have been transformed into terrorists.
So in the Muslim world, what lines have been crossed in order for young men to launch “suicide attacks” in the name of God? What lines have been crossed in order for individuals who haven’t even started a life to choose death as a way to live? And what lines have been crossed in order for a devoted people to be threatened with survival? In the age of the internet, at a time of great religious freedom, and a civilization advocating for human rights.