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Religion leaders weigh in on bin Laden's death

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
May 2, 2011 at 12:02 a.m.
Updated May 3, 2011 at 12:03 a.m.

Media and local residents gather outside the house where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was caught and killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Nationwide celebrations ignited Sunday night in response to President Barack Obama's confirmation of Osama bin Laden's death.

Bin Laden, the Muslim extremist leader of terrorist organization al-Qaida, which masterminded the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., was killed by Navy SEALs during a military raid of his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on Sunday. His body was later buried at sea.

Bin Laden's death spurred emotional reactions worldwide from both the leader's sympathizers and those relishing in the success of the Navy's military operation.

Religious leaders and academics in the Crossroads weighed in on the topic Monday, each of them agreeing bin Laden's death was a necessary evil.

Victoria Islamic Center President and Pakistani native Shahid Hashmi said, "Good riddance. I think it's good they got him. I wish they could have caught him 10 years ago. Maybe the war would have ended sooner and our soldiers could have come home."

And Parkway Church Pastor, the Rev. Mike Hurt said "As an American, I can understand the patriotism in the celebrations, but as a Christian, it was disheartening, because I think God celebrates life and wants everyone to have a relationship with Him."

Hurt asserted he understood the range of emotions from those who suffered loss on Sept. 11, but encouraged Christians and Muslims alike to remember bin Laden's death was not a religious-inspired killing.

"This was not an act of religion, it was an act of government."

Sharing Hurt's sentiments, Christ the Victor Lutheran Church pastor, the Rev. Amy Danchik said she was pleased Obama emphasized bin Laden's death was not an attack on Islam during his Sunday night address.

"I appreciated that he said that, because our God is not a God who relishes in death, but hopes to redeem us," Danchik said. "I hope and pray Christians and Muslims continue to sit down together and break bread. And I hope Muslims didn't see us dancing in the streets the same way we saw Muslims dancing in the streets after Sept. 11."

Hashmi anticipates bin Laden's death will likely encourage future attacks on Americans by those seeking to avenge his death and may further weaken relations with Pakistan.

"I think it's going to make it worse" between Pakistan and the United States, he said.

Similarly, Keith Akins, UHV Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice - whose expertise includes religious-inspired and group violence, hate crimes and terrorism - agrees future terroristic attacks may occur.

"A segment of people will think (bin Laden's death) was an unwarranted murder of one of their great heroes who died a martyr's death. Conversely, a segment of people will be glad we killed him and hope this brings an end to ongoing conflict between the West and al-Qaida," Akins said.

But ending a conflict amid religious-based terrorist groups may be more complex than eliminating its principle leaders.

Akins gave an example of non-religious terrorist groups in the '60s and '70s, most of which were communist, and said they could easily be deterred by eliminating the group's leader.

"That doesn't work really well with religious (terrorist) groups. Another person will step in and take over immediately," Akins said.

And even though the United States has successfully circumvented terrorist attacks since Sept. 11, Akins said he would not be surprised if small terror cells begin to emerge worldwide.

"I would anticipate a large increase in minor attacks," he said.

Yet, while the country remains on high security alert, Akins said it's a good assumption to make that U.S. Muslims are not a threat.

"There's absolutely no reason for anyone to start distrusting their Muslim neighbors," he said.

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