The killing of Osama bin Laden on Sunday has sparked debate around everything from his burial, to a new role for the United States in Afghanistan, to releasing photos and whether or not Pakistan played a role in hiding the al-Qaeda mastermind.
In Madison, Wisconsin, three students spoke out about how Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda and the Taliban have affected their lives, and what his death could mean for them now.
Sultan Almudyan, a student from Saudi Arabia who has attended Edgewood College since 2007, expressed joy and relief at the news of bin Laden’s death. It “is very significant because to me personally it proves that Justice will win in the end and I think it will change the image about Muslims,” Almudyan said. “Saudi Arabia sends many students to the USA to let people know about Saudi Arabia and Islam,” he said, but he feels it is often hard to relay a positive image about his country and religion when September 11 attacks and current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are still on people’s minds. Almudyan said he is treated differently as an Arab man, both within the United States and when traveling.
Hashim Ali, a 23-year-old Pakistani man currently studying in the United States, agreed. “Every time I come to the United States I stay four to six hours in security. I’ve always blamed Osama and the 9/11 attacks for all of this, all of the distrust and hours waiting around whenever I travel to the US or Europe,” he said. Though he wishes there would be less restriction now, he said he is not getting his hopes up. “Al-Qaeda is not finished,” he said. “Osama was the mastermind, but al-Qaeda is not done.”
Similar frustrations were expressed by Jamsheed Amiri, a 22-year-old student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who lived between Afghanistan and Pakistan until age 10. “I will always be discriminated against in airports. For example, when I went to the Bahamas they had to pat me down and no one else, just because they see that I am from Afghanistan,” he said. “I was treated differently after 9/11. Every Muslim around the world was. Even though I was young and only in 7th grade, my peers and even adults in school looked at me differently. I felt like they thought every Muslim in the world was at fault for what happened. They classified all of us as terrorists, even though Islam is a very peaceful religion.”
As far as life after bin Laden’s death, both Ali and Amiri said nothing would change for them immediately. “My dad was even afraid and nervous for me to do after school activities like play basketball for my school or go hangout outside in the parks, because of the hatred toward the Muslim population,” Amiri said. “I don’t consider Osama bin Laden’s death a step forward for American Muslims, because not much will change, the images of 9/11 and stereotypes are already ingrained in people’s minds.”
Ali agreed and said he is worried things could actually get worse now that bin Laden is on people’s minds again.
He also expressed fear of retaliation from bin Laden sympathizers and involvement of the Pakistani government. “Abbottabad is 20 minutes from the hotel my dad owns,” he said, speaking of the city where Osama bin Laden was living in a sprawling compound. “It is a military city. He was living in a mansion surrounded by barbed wire. How could they not have known?” He compared it to the United States, saying, “Could you imagine someone living in a mansion in DC with barbed wire surrounding it and the military not wondering or knowing who lived there? It makes sense that they were protecting him.” He said now the question on his mind is whether the United States should trust Pakistan or fear retribution from Jihadists. “Traditionally, Pakistanis do not like the United States. But, they hate Osama bin Laden because of terrorism inside the country that he caused. The middle class will be happy that the United States got him, but the lower class won’t be happy, they have many more Jihadists and bin Laden supporters, and they will view him as a martyr and possibly want revenge,” he said. Amiri agreed, saying “This is going to put a damper on the relations between Pakistan and the US.”
Amiri said Afghans would in general be happy that Osama bin Laden is dead, as they also hate him for destroying their country in many ways, but he does not think it will change anything in Afghanistan. “I believe it has a good timing on what is going in the middle east right now with all the riots, but other than that, the US is still in Afghanistan and with the discovery of natural resources there and obviously all the oil, they wont be leaving any time soon. Plus, the unstable government that is in place in Afghanistan, if the US leaves nothing will be accomplished politically in Afghanistan.”
He said Afghanistan holds the ideal military location between Iran and China, and that combined with natural resources will keep the United States in the country for years to come. “It is not a big victory in Afghanistan, or the war on terror, but I do believe it is good closure for the military and their families and all of the 9/11 victims.”