Obama's Muslim Osama Paradox

Is Osama a Muslim or isn't he?

While America continues to celebrate the timely demise of Osama bin Laden, questions are being asked.  Why can't we see pictures of our enemy's corpse to make good and sure he's gone to his proper place?  Various officials have argued and even announced that we ought to, but President Obama has made his position perfectly clear:

We don't trot out this stuff as trophies... We don't need to spike the football.

It is important to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool[emphasis added]

Historically speaking, this is an odd position.  In all previous wars, America has reveled in ridiculing and goading its enemies, from calling British soldiers "lobsterbacks" to roaring with laughter at the Oscar-winning Donald Duck cartoon "Der Fuehrer's Face."

On the other hand, there were mere millions of Nazis; there are billions of Muslims.  Hence, according to a senior administration official,

We are ensuring [Bin Laden's carcass] is handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition. It's something we take seriously and therefore it's being handled in an appropriate manner.‬

Whyever not?

Is Osama A Muslim?

Appropriate?  What exactly do they mean by that?

After all, we've been told time after time after time that Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda are not good Muslims - rather, that they've hijacked the peaceful religion of Islam for their own nefarious ends.  Obama hammered on this theme in his post-action speech:

We must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam.  I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam.  Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims.  Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own.  So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.  [emphasis added]

Yes, bin Laden has indeed killed a great many Muslims; lots of Muslim leaders have, not least Iran's Ahmadinejad, but nobody doubts he's a Muslim.

The question is, if bin Laden was a murderer of Muslims, an enemy of Islam, why would ordinary Muslims care how he was buried?  If we'd wrapped him in bacon and fed him to the sharks, what difference would it make to them?

Or Isn't He?

Obviously, Mr. Obama thought it would make a difference, or his people wouldn't be so carefully tippytoeing around the question of bin Laden's corpse, its photos, and its treatment.  By his actions, he's putting the lie to his own claim of Osama's non-Muslimness.

But really, what business is it of non-Muslims - and yes, Mr. Obama, unlike Osama, is not a Muslim - to decide who is and isn't Muslim?  In mourning his death, the genuine Muslims of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood called him "Sheikh" which is a title of Muslim authority.  Obviously they think he's not merely a Muslim in good standing, but a Muslim leader - and unlike non-Muslim Mr. Obama, they ought to know.

So by claiming to have treated bin Laden's body with some degree of Islamic courtesy, Obama has made it crystal clear that he knows full well that Osama is, in fact, a Muslim - and that most of not all Muslims see him as one.  Why is he lying to the American people by saying otherwise?  We'd rather hear the truth, even if it's unpleasant.

Why Should We Care?

When Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, was put to death, 99.9999% of Christian white males applauded, even though McVeigh was reportedly one of them.  He actually wasn't - even Wikipedia acknowledges his identity as an agnostic to whom science was his religion - but nobody bothered to say so at the time.  Because it didn't matter - nobody cared.

If McVeigh had been hanged, drawn and quartered, and his entrails torn out and burned, it would have made no difference.  Christians, whites, or males were not about to rise up in fury at the mistreatment of one of their own.  On the contrary, they were the first to demand immediate and severe punishment for his horrific crime.

The crimes of Osama bin Laden are known to every single person in the world, Muslim or otherwise.  Even for Muslims who don't care about dead Christians, bin Laden has bumped off plenty of Muslims too.

If Islam is like all other religions, then bin Laden's claimed religion should make no difference whatsoever - his evil acts put him outside the congregation of any religion.  His vile deeds make him an enemy of all men, a barbarian worthy only of death and ignominy.

That this is not so - that Mr. Obama, contradicting himself, clearly sees Osama as a leader of many, many living and dangerous Muslims who yearn to follow his example - clearly proves that Islam is not like other religions and Muslims are not like other peaceful religious people.  And Mr. Obama knows it.

Then why won't he say so?

Do we really want to know the answer to that question?

Read other Scragged.com articles by Hobbes or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments

"The question is, if bin Laden was a murderer of Muslims, an enemy of Islam, why would ordinary Muslims care how he was buried? If we'd wrapped him in bacon and fed him to the sharks, what difference would it make to them?"

That's a good question, but I think there's a good answer.

Obama is Commander In Chief and, as such, he is responsible for hundreds of thousands of soldiers.

Inciting the enemy to rage, and in the process getting dozens or hundreds of soldiers killed, is unnecessary. Whether that demonstrates that Muslims are not really peaceful after all (and that most were secretly fond of Bin Laden) is irrelevant. We don't want our soldiers dying just to make that point.

The internet has changed a great deal about how wars have to be fought now. Images of how people are treated, audio/video of policy decisions - everything's available in real time to everyone in the world (including your enemy). Conversely, Donald Duck cartoons were not playing in Germany in the 1940s nor could they be downloaded by Germans from across the pond.

Releasing a pic would have been good to do, but I don't think we should have gone out of our way to ridicule Muslim traditions or deface/dismember Bin Laden's corpse.

As the leading example of freedom and civility to the world, we are better than that.

May 9, 2011 11:51 AM

No, all Presidents know that sometimes the American people have to see an object lesson before they'll be willing to fight with their whole hearts. FDR knew Hitler and the Nazis were evil in the late 1930s, but he could not persuade America to join the war until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor - and even then, he probably couldn't have persuaded Americans to declare war on Hitler instead of just dealing with the Japanese who attacked us. Fortunately, Hitler solved that problem for him by also declaring war on us.

Would it have been better for the US to enter the war earlier? Of course - cheaper, and less bloody. But Americans weren't ready.

Americans aren't ready yet to recognize Islam for what it is, as opposed to "a few isolated extremists" that somehow keep popping up everywhere you find Islam. They'll only believe the truth when they see it with their own eyes. This would have been an opportunity to show them; instead, Obama preferred to continue to conceal it, as did W before him.

May 9, 2011 12:13 PM


That's a poor analogy.

1) In WW2, the enemy was clearly defined as a nation with borders and a homogeneous group of citizens. It was us versus them, and "them" was easy to understand. No Islam "country" attacked us on 9/11, at least not specifically. You could make a case for Afghanistan since its ruling class was the Taliban, but we've dealt with that as best we're going. Besides, Bin Laden disappeared from there long ago and the place he has been staying is supposed to be our allies.

The reason this matters is because you can't wage war, logistically, against believers instead of governments. Who do you shoot? Where do you go? Having to fight people means you have to fight countries and governments because everyone lives in some kind of society. Who *IS* Islam? There are more Islamic people in the United States than there are in some entire Muslim countries.

If Islam is, itself, the enemy then we have several million of "the enemy" living here among us. So the first order of business would be to shoot/detain every American Muslim.

2) Object lessons work both ways. By providing one to the American people, you're also providing one to everyone in the Middle East thanks to the internet. Given that fact, who do you think will learn more from the object lesson and fight because of it - fat lazy Americans or poor arenaceous Middle Eastern Muslims?

If conservatives believe that Islam is the enemy, then I'd like to see a clear direct message from conservative leaders calling for the abolition of mosques, instant deportation (of any and all practicing Muslims) and a Constitutional amendment making Islam illegal.

May 9, 2011 12:38 PM

I don't think we need a special Constitutional amendment. Sedition and treason are already illegal even if we don't enforce them anymore, as is participating in a group sworn to the overthrow of the United States' form of government. Is that not precisely what any calls for Sharia law are?

It wasn't illegal to be of German ethnicity in America; nor should it be illegal to be of Arab descent. What matters is what's in your heart. People who believed the Nazi ideology were automatically enemies of America and traitors, whether of German descent or not. When war came, they had to make a decision and give one of them up; they couldn't coexist.

Osama bin Laden declared war on us in the name of Islam, an ideology just like Nazism was. Calling it a religion makes no difference. People who claim the same ideology need to clearly decide which side they're on.

No, not all Germans were thrown out of America - but you can bet they were carefully investigated and German social clubs got a careful looking-at. That's where we should be with mosques - nothing unConstitutional about that, but any "aid and comfort to the enemy" or inciting to violence should be swiftly and harshly punished.

Defend our American beliefs, and maybe there will be a safe, harmless American Islam purged of violence and barbaric beliefs.

May 9, 2011 12:52 PM

"...and German social clubs got a careful looking-at. That's where we should be with mosques..."

That statement proves my point.

If you truly believed 100% that "Islam is the enemy" why would mosques only need a looking-at?

By saying that we only need to monitor them, you're agreeing with me that not all Muslims are bad Muslims.

If an ideology is bad through-and-through, without exception, then what are you monitoring? If it's inherently bad, burn it to the ground.

The point of monitoring them is to determine WHICH are bad (which implies that not all are (which then implies that Islam itself is not really the enemy)).

May 9, 2011 12:59 PM

Not all people who claim to be Muslims swallow the whole whale, any more than all people who claim to be Christians obey what their church teaches - just look at Catholic abortion rates for an example.

One of the Scragged articles a while back had the perfect quote:


Mosab Hassan Yousef, son of one of the founders of Hamas, gives warning:
"Most Muslims are ignorant about their religion. Once they understand Islam, they become terrorists. Read chapter 9, verse 9, or verse 9.5, or 9.111: the Koran is the war-manual for Islamic terrorism."

May 9, 2011 1:44 PM

True, but then should we believe that if most Christians really believed in/followed real Christianity that bad things would happen?

There are plenty of passages in the Bible that, taken out of context, provide an excellent manual for violence against various groups of sinners and non-believers. The Israelites were told by God to stone homosexuals. They were told to wipe out men, women and children in battle.

I know the context that those passages SHOULD be read in, but does everyone else? If Christian friends of mine begin acting on those passages, now in modern times, and decrying those that don't, how am I portrayed by other cultures?

You may have set up a moral equivalence there without realizing it.

I'm not trying to be argumentative just for contrarian sake. I have struggled with the right answer here for a long time.

At the moment, I do not believe that Islam itself is the enemy because I cannot accept the implications. Beyond the fact that a war on Islam is not winnable, it's not even really definable. Which Islam? As with Christianity, there are different types of practice. In the US and Europe, there are millions of peace-loving regular citizens who practice Some Islam On Holy Day but don't really let it affect their lives. To try to abolish Islam all together is to make war on *those* people. I cannot except that it is worth that, or that that is the right thing to do. As a Christian, I can easily foresee the same set of actions being taken at me because of a loud-but-small group of angry irrational "Christians" who act similarly. I would decry them, but would my voice be heard?

May 9, 2011 2:04 PM

I don't think it's probably necessary to try to abolish Islam altogether, at least not from the get-go. But at the very least, any Muslims who have already been permitted into Western countries need to be told in no uncertain terms that they need to pick a side, and stick with it.

Here's another article and knowledgeable quote you might find revelatory:


“The word ‘Islamism’ suggests that there is a moderate Islam and a non-moderate Islam,” [Geert Wilders] told me during an interview in Toronto on Sunday. “And I believe that this is a distinction that doesn’t exist. It’s like the Prime Minister of Turkey [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, said ‘There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam, and that’s it.’ This is the Islam of the Koran.”

“Now, you can certainly make a distinction among the people,” he adds. “There are moderate Muslims — who are the majority in our Western societies — and non-moderate Muslims.”

“But Islam itself has only one form. The totalitarian ideology contained in the Koran has no room for moderation. If you really look at what the Koran says, in fact, you could argue that ‘moderate’ Muslims are not Muslims at all. It tells us that if you do not act on even one verse, then you are an apostate.”

Nowhere does the Bible contain anything remotely like that. So there is no moral equivalency such as you fear.

May 9, 2011 2:41 PM

I believe this is in keeping with the effort to split Islam into a segment that disallows violence vs the historic by the book Islam. Much as there are Jews who are born Jewish but not practicing Jews, there would become or already is a group of Muslims who are of Muslim decent but not practicing the ancient forms of violent Islam. Whether it succeeds or not, who knows. But I do think it is worth trying. One of my customers has elected to do exactly that.

The other point is that much of our intel on violent groups come from Muslims who reject violence. We need them on our side.

May 11, 2011 8:12 AM
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