June 12, 2009 - Burnsville, MN - Muslim women sat and some children read books on the floor as Imam Ezzeddeen Taha spoke during a prayer service at the new Islamic Institute of Minnesota Mosque.

Flores, Elizabeth, Dml - Star Tribune

Muslim Americans 'relieved' bin Laden is dead

  • Article by: SUSAN HOGAN
  • Star Tribune
  • May 2, 2011 - 10:28 PM

As news of Osama bin Laden's death spread, American Muslims expressed their relief. The murderous acts of 9/11 and the propaganda spewed by Bin Laden and his minions had distorted their religion and changed their lives for the worse.

Instead of being perceived as followers of a peaceful faith, American Muslims had to defend themselves against charges that their religion promoted violence. They also became targets of harassment, bigotry and violence that continue to this day.

"For us, really Bin Laden has been viewed as a cancer within our Muslim community," a New York imam told reporters. Bin Laden was no hero to most of the world's Muslims, either, according to a new Pew Research Center poll.

But any hope that the terrorist's death would make American Muslims less of a target of hate was short-lived. Only a few hours after the news broke, a Maine mosque was covered in anti-Muslim graffiti.

"Osama today, Islam tomorrow," were among the spray-painted words. Hours earlier, President Obama had reiterated to the world that America was not at war with Islam.

"Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims," Obama said. "Indeed, Al-Qaida has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own."

This is a point that anti-Muslim hate groups fail to grasp. A West Point study said 85 percent of Al-Qaida's victims around the world between 2004 and 2008 were Muslim.

In the United States, American Muslims today are more likely to be victims of hate crimes or harassment than they were before 9/11, according to one study. In recent months, arson fires ravaged mosques in Tennessee and Oregon. Other states promoted misguided anti-sharia-law measures.

Also fanning the flames of anti-Muslim bigotry: The congressional hearings launched by U.S. Rep. Peter King on so-called domestic Islamic terrorism and Qur'an burnings by a Florida pastor.

While Bin Laden's death might have brought momentary relief, sadly it may do little to curb anti-Muslim hate. Muslim Americans say they still need to be ever-vigilant in their efforts to reach out to educate.

Susan Hogan is a Star Tribune editorial writer. She specialized in Islam in graduate school.

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