–guest post by Sylvia Fowler
After Ossama Bin Laden became infamous for being the head of Al Qaida and promoting hatred of and war against America, I reflected with a turning stomach that I must have passed him, by car, probably many times in Saudi Arabia. We all lived in the same city, Jeddah, for many years. The rest of the Bin Laden family lives there still when they are not in America or Europe. (They put a lot of effort into distancing themselves from Ossama in the wake of his atrocities and monstrous role in the terrorist world.)
It makes me shiver to think how close I have been, unknowingly, to terrorists, yet that is life. You never know who you’ll run into or be associated with, unwittingly, anywhere on earth.
In Jeddah, my ex husband once took our only son at the time to a small local grocery store, and when he came back, exclaimed to me, “Guess who we saw!”
“Who?” I asked.
“Idi Amin. He was in the vegetable section.”
We are all close to saints and devils; we might pass them every day, and maybe we help create a few.
Ever since the first text message came on my phone, with the words, “Ossama is dead!” I have been thinking about what Ossama Bin Laden meant to me. He represents a repressive, oppressive, tunnel-vision version of Islam that relies heavily on lack of reading from its followers (by “reading,” I am talking about reading widely and understanding, not just memorizing one book without reflection). As an American Muslim, I have been under the impression that Al Qaida–without making any clear declaration–wants the rest of the world to convert to Islam, at which point, presumably, it will let the world (but mainly its target, America) live in peace.
Sometimes people have asked me, “How can you still be a Muslim, given what you know and what is happening in the world?” My answer is that I am not willing to abandon my faith–no more than I would my family or country–because others who share it behave like demons. However, I would be remiss not to comment.
I do not believe Al Qaida itself is aware of its own true motivations, none of which are spiritual. It would take calm thinking–developed by wide reading and practice of critical reasoning–to be aware of the motivations that trigger any human being into good or bad action. Such thinking must be as devoid as possible of egotism or identity complexes.
Jealousy, hatred and greed motivate individual tyrants and tyrannical groups alike. Tyranny is based upon squelching of human life and human needs without diplomacy or tolerant compromise. It is unthinkable that any person or group wallowing in such acts could have anything to do with spirituality, which by definition identifies with denial of self (i.e. all catering to the self in the realm of the material or ego, which would naturally abolish jealousy and greed–thereby eliminating the most robust seeds of hatred).
Terrorist groups may pretend to declare war on capitalism, materialism, and godlessness, but it is nothing but lip service. Terrorist leaders count on the fact that lack of dialogue and reading has murdered the ability to reason among their followers–those who still think that Al Qaida or the Taliban have anything to do with the spirit.