News / Middle East

Reaction in Middle East to Bin Laden's Death is Muted

People read newspapers at a news stand carry headlines
People read newspapers at a news stand carry headlines "Osama bin Laden killed." in Hyderabad, Pakistan on Monday, May 2, 2011.

The reaction to Osama Bin Laden's death has been largely muted in the Muslim world.  While some fundamentalists are angry he was killed by U.S. commandos, most people appear to want to put al-Qaida and its violent methods behind them.

The Islamic Defenders Front, an Indonesian fundamentalist group, held a prayer service for Osama bin Laden.  

But this view is not the norm in Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population. In 2002, an al-Qaida affiliate, Jemaah Islamiyah, carried out a bombing in Bali that killed more than 200 people.


At the Kelapa mosque in Jakarta, people praised the U.S. action.

"It is quite good for the entire world because bin Laden is a terrorist," Indonesian resident Darma Widjaya said.

"When I heard that Bin Laden was killed, I was very happy because the number of terrorists like those that haunt Indonesia is decreasing," Ellen Sitorus said.

Bin Laden was killed early Monday in a raid by U.S. commandos in Pakistan.  In Cairo, Egypt, reactions to his death were also mixed.

"I'm not really happy but at least something good happened.  I hope this will be better for everybody," said one person in Egypt.

One Cairo resident believes the way the al-Qaida leader's body was disposed of at sea was not in accordance with Islam and he predicts that will harm America's image here.

But the strongest objections were raised over the way some Americans celebrated the death of the world's most notorious terrorist.

Sheikh Assem Abdel Maged is a leading member of the militant group Gamaa Islamiya.  "The joy expressed by Americans towards an operation that involves killing and bloodshed of more than one person presented a real shock to the Arab and Islamic public opinion," he said.

Egypt's Muslim brotherhood says it's now time for the American military to leave Iraq and Afghanistan.

But there has been no outpouring of grief for a terrorist who saw himself as a Muslim leader.

Michele Dunne is a Mideast specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "I think most people in the Arab world don't find bin Laden or al-Qaida very relevant to them anymore," she said.

Dunne says the uprisings in the Arab world have shown that change is possible through other means.  "The kind of model of violent change that al-Qaida represented and the idea that leaders had to be overthrown either in religiously motivated revolutions or through assassination, through violent means, it just doesn't seem very timely to people anymore," she said.

Dunne also says Bin Laden had lost much sympathy among Muslims long before he was killed, and now relatively few are mourning his loss.


Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

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