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Dr. Warren Larson is the director of the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies at Columbia International University, and for 23 years was a missionary to Pakistan. He shares his thoughts on the death of the leader of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden. For more on Larson and the Zwemer Center visit: www.ciu.edu/muslimstudies.
“Do not gloat” over bin Laden’s death
I was teaching a class on Islam the morning of September 11, 2001. But like most Americans, I was too stunned to know how to respond. This morning, almost 10 years later, hearing on NPR that the mastermind of that attack had been killed in a Pakistani town close to where one of our children had been born, the words of Solomon came to mind: “Do not gloat when your enemy falls” (Proverbs 24:17).
So I cringed to hear of jubilation in Washington and New York, as it was a stark reminder of how offended we were by some reactions by Muslims on 9-11. President Obama announced the surgical raid by Navy Seals in somber tones, but there were bagpipes playing Amazing Grace near Ground Zero and scenes of Americans dancing in the streets. In contrast to celebration, I would like to suggest three different reactions.
First, bin Laden has been irrelevant in most of the Muslim world for many years and his calls for violence have long since been dismissed. This was abundantly clear through the uprisings that have rocked the Middle East this spring. It was never said the revolution was taking place because bin Laden called for it, or that his was the pathway to much-needed change. Throughout it has been an Arab revolution, not an Islamic revolution.
Second, rather than rejoice, we need to pray for Christians in a country that has been so torn apart by terrorism. Since al-Qaeda and affiliates are still very much alive, a chapter may have been closed, but not the book. A Pakistani Christian who is close to our family, just recently came under attack. Previously threatened for his testimony and publications as a former Muslim, less than one week ago, the family car was fired on in the ancient city of Lahore and one of his children critically injured. The boy is expected to live, but pray that Pakistani Christians will be salt and light at this crucial time.
Finally, we must bear in mind that bin Laden the billionaire could have spent his life in luxury but he chose to live in poverty and hardship for a cause, albeit a false one. He lived in caves and hideouts and was constantly on the run. And we must ask ourselves: Are we as Christians willing to sacrifice for the cause we say we believe in?