Celebrating death: Isn't that what terrorists do?

Yalla Peace: As America celebrates the death Osama bin Laden, we should remind ourselves that we are not like the terrorists.

Americans react to Osama death 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Americans react to Osama death 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
As America celebrates the death of our number one enemy, Osama bin Laden, we should remind ourselves that we are not like the terrorists.
That means we shouldn’t act like they do. Bin Laden claimed he attacked America to achieve justice for the Muslim world, though he was never a spokesman for that world.
Too many Americans on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites are using the bin Laden killing as an excuse to vent their racist hatred of Muslims and Arabs.
On several major sites, such as the “Bin Laden is Dead” Facebook page, too many “celebrants” expressed their glee with words like, “Go back to riding your camels and wearing that dot on your head.” (Dots on foreheads are not Arab or Muslim, of course, but an angry racist would not be educated enough to know that.)
There are worse comments calling for the killing of all Muslims and Arabs on many Facebook pages.
Instead of showing how much better we are than the enemy, some people are showing that they are not much different. Bin Laden’s hatred was racist and vicious. We saw a similar hatred in Terry Jones, the pastor from Gainesville, Florida who burned copies of the Koran, provoking a massacre of UN staff in Afghanistan last month.
Yet while Terry Jones received wide coverage in general, the great things American Arabs and Muslims do in this country go largely unnoticed. The mainstream media sometimes ignore the racist foundations of such celebrations.
For example, the very day that a horde of media was covering Terry Jones taunting Arab Muslims in Dearborn, I was down the street there presiding over the 18th Annual Dinner of Life for Relief, one of the nation’s most reputable charitable organizations detailing all that has been done to support Muslim orphans and those in need across the world with no media coverage, of course.
Americans are largely uneducated about the Middle East. They know little about the Arab world, the Islamic world or the Middle East, yet that lack of knowledge has become the foundation of our American foreign policy. It took us almost 10 years to kill Bin Laden. Former President George W. Bush failed after starting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
We’re stuck in the ongoing war in Afghanistan. A war we are not winning. Bin Laden’s death is not going to change things on that front. We are stuck in a war in Iraq – one we should never have started, but which we can’t leave either.
None of these actions has made America safer; they have only delayed the violence that will surely follow.
The pro-democracy revolutions in the Middle East where citizens are rising in opposition to dictatorships is a stark contrast to the message that bin Laden tried to make with Al-Qaida killing innocent civilians. Change can come through protests and demonstrations when they are founded in moral principle, but change driven by violence and terrorism always ends in violence and failure for the terrorists.
Western nations that are most concerned about Middle Eastern violence should spend more resources on supporting the citizens of the Arab world rather than supporting their dictators and then finding they need to use military violence to bring some of them down.
America could be a stronger and better country if instead of celebrating a military victory with hateful and racist chants against Muslims and Arabs in America – Muslims and Arabs who have served proudly and patriotically in the US military – we tried to educate our children so they can understand how to confront the challenges we face more successfully.
Western nations could start trying to teach their citizens how to understand the true face of Islam, for example, or the political dynamics of the Middle East conflict rather than allowing a media frenzy to lead the people into embracing racist stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims or believing the political spin.
When it takes 10 years to bring a murderer like bin Laden to justice, it says something about our failures in foreign policy and our lack of knowledge about the regions we fear. Some people around the world view America the same way Americans view Al-Qaida, the terrorist organization bin Laden founded. They see us as the terrorists when we strike out at Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and kill his son and grandchildren.
Are we only protecting ourselves, while claiming to be the leaders of the free world?
It was a mistake to bury bin Laden’s body at sea without first providing absolute visual verification of his death. Photographs will not be enough. His life will become a standard for millions of others who will try to attack us the way he did. Unless we can change how we view others.
We must respect all life. We should never celebrate anyone’s death. We should champion civil rights and respond to terrorism, not like terrorists, but rather as the highly civilized people we insist we are.
The proper way to respond to conflict is education and understanding. Israelis and Palestinians would be wise to embrace that strategy for peace. And the proper way to respond to violence is to step up the activism for peace and education about the people we fear or, simply, really do not understand.
The writer is an award-winning column and media consultant. He can be reached at www.hanania.com.