Leaders cautiously optimistic after bin Laden killing

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN – Local reaction was guarded but still excited last week to news of the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The al-Qaida leader was killed May 1 following an order given by President Barack Obama after receiving information on bin Laden’s whereabouts. He was shot twice in the head following a shootout with Navy SEALs in a compound surrounded by 15-foot-high walls in Abbotabad, Pakistan, 31 miles northeast of Islamabad, the nation’s capital.

Tarek Baydoun, an attorney at a Detroit-based law firm, welcomed the news.

“I thought, ‘Great,’” he said. “This is something long overdue.”

Dearborn police Cmdr. Thomas Teefey said his department has been advised to “increase diligence” in case of possible retaliatory attacks that some experts believe could happen as a result of the killing. So far, however, everything has been business as usual, he said.

Imad Hammad, regional director and senior national adviser of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, agreed with Baydoun.

“It was indeed a good day for America and the world,” he said. “The world is much safer without him.”

Hammad said he doesn’t believe Pakistani leaders may have known bin Laden was in their country, and that it is premature to speculate without seeing all the facts first.

“Such an operation would not have been successful without the full cooperation of the Pakistani government,” he said.

Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini, resident scholar at the Islamic Center of America, said celebrations by American Arabs have arisen from a sense of justice being done rather than rejoicing over a death.

“The Muslim community is relived to see this man eliminated,” he said. “He was viewed as a terrorist and a thug. The blood of innocent people was on his hands.”

He added that bin Laden had “hijacked” the image of Islam and distorted it.

“Muslims in the West were suffering,” Al-Quazwini said. “Our loyalty was being questioned.” Hammad agreed, saying that he hopes now that the “guilt by association” is done.

Baydoun believes the elimination of bin Laden will take pressure off Obama’s foreign policy and allow the United States to start reducing overseas troop numbers and defense spending. He said the threat from al-Qaida may not be as large as initially feared, and that the group has become a “small, low-power adversary.”

Baydoun said last week’s news should met with guarded optimism.

“It’s definitely good news,” he said. “But it’s not the end of his brand of extremism.”

Hammad agreed.

“Winning one round does not mean winning the war,” he said, adding that bin Laden’s death does not eliminate the ideology he represented. Hammad said the fact it took so long to get the al-Qaida leader shows he was not to be underestimated.

“That it took 10 years to take him out is a testament that he was a shrewd enemy,” he said.

Hammad summarized his feeling on the matter, saying, “The mission is done. Our heroes did it.”

(Daniel Heraty can be reached at dheraty@bewickpublications.com.)