Muslim-American groups respond to U.S. special forces killing of Osama bin Laden

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At a Monday morning press conference, Muslim-American leaders reiterated their contention that Osama bin Laden never represented Islam but cautioned America against continuing to use violence in Islamic lands.

Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), somberly expressed relief that justice had been served, but reserved compassion for the “innocent.”

“As a Muslim, as an American, I join all Americans and all people who believe in justice that Osama bin Laden received justice,” said Awad, adding that bin Laden was not an accurate representation of Islam.

“Our thoughts and prayers are always and have been always with the families of those who were killed on 9/11 and those who were killed in the aftermath of 9/11 — we are talking about the innocent,” Awad added.

Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, deputy committee member on the Council of Muslim Organizations of Washington, D.C., reminded the audience that despite bin Laden’s evil, Americans should not respond to his death with jubilation.

“We have been consistent since [9/11] of saying that the act of violence against the American people does not represent Islam,” said Malik. “While saying this, we are reminded of the words from the Vatican. … and others that as people of faith, it is not right that we dance on the grave of even a mass murderer.”

Ibrahim Ramey, director of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, added that while some are relieved that bin Laden has been eliminated, he remains concerned about the ongoing violence in the Middle East

“I am reminded that the tragedy of death and destruction in Afghanistan and the Middle East and throughout the Muslim world is a continuing dilemma and a continuing matter of deep concern for all of us,” Ramey said.

Awad echoed the sentiment, expressing his hope that America will soon end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

“Let’s turn a new page and build bridges of mutual respect and mutual understanding with the Muslim world,” said Awad.

The concern about continued violence in the Middle East remained an ongoing theme. Like his colleagues, Ramey spoke in opposition to the “dialectic of violence” in America’s dealings with the Muslim world.

“Clearly we understood the killing of civilians in the Koran and any ethical system of judgment is something that cannot and should not be tolerated and when it happens in the name of faith, it is the responsibility of people in that faith to utterly and unequivocally condemn that violence — which we did,” Ramey said. “And so in that sense, we see the violence that came full circle around to claim the life of Osama bin Laden yesterday was certainly part of the dialectic of violence that all of us are deeply concerned about. We know that terrorism is wrong and we know that the killing of civilians is wrong, but we want to understand and promote the understanding that war itself in any manifestation is not a solution.”

According to Ramey the path to victory is through social rehabilitation in the region, not violence.

“We are not in the least sorry that he is dead,” Ramey said. “We would urge restraint and caution and perhaps a new path toward global reconciliation and justice building on the part of the United States. That would involve for example building more bridges and schools and more hospitals and clinics more agricultural facilities and perhaps building less, if not zero, bombs and weapons of mass destruction that are part of the political economy of this country.”

Awad also laid to rest some of the concerns about the religious implications of the way in which America disposed of bin Laden’s body by dumping it at sea, to most Muslims his burial method is a minor detail.

“We say this is a trivial issue. It is important in any action like this that the U.S. government is sensitive to Muslim issues,” said Awad. “The most important issue is that this terrorist has been eliminated. We do not care about the details about how he was buried.”

Update: Monday afternoon, CAIR issued a statement calling on Americans to condemn the vandalism of a mosque in Portland, Maine allegedly inspired by the killing of Bin Laden.

“We ask Americans of all faiths to reject intolerance and to send a message of national unity to the rest of the world,” said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper. “We urge state law enforcement authorities and the FBI to investigate this incident as a hate crime.”

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