Doubtless Bin Laden was a killer, a terrorist and a fundamentalist, and there are probably thousands more like him around the globe. But rightly or wrongly he was also a freedom fighter, a messiah figure, a revolutionary, and a political leader for thousands who were willing to die at his command.
Ramayana is one of the great Indian epic which rotates around the conflict between Rama (Hindu god) and Ravana (a villain). Ravana posited a systematic challenge to the kingdom of Rama by abducting his wife, Sita. To reunite with his wife, Rama attacked Ravana with his newly mustered army. But the biggest challenge was really to kill Ravana. Each time Rama chopped his head off there came another one, finally after ten attempts he figured out the very source life in Ravana and was able to kill him.
Similarly, killing Bin laden is like chopping one head off, another one will pop out soon i.e., killing Laden is like killing the symptom of the disease and not the disease itself.
Matter of fact is that the disease is still there, and sooner or later it’ll produce another symptom, in a form of another charismatic fanatic. By killing a fundamentalist we can’t kill the fundamentalism. By killing a terrorist we can’t kill the terrorism itself. We cannot overcome or destroy ideological power by military power. But we can fuel military power by ideological means. It seems like we live in a terrorist-organic world which keep on producing terrorists and criminals, whether nationally or trans-nationally.
Because, our answers will depend on the kind of questions we will ask, which could mean if we want wrong answers, we will ask wrong questions. Events such as this provoke us to ask deeper question – why fundamentalism? What is the cause behind Islamic fundamentalism? What generates this kind of fundamentalism? What is the source of fundamentalism?
Only forty or fifty years back Afghanistan was probably the most secular country in The Middle East. What went wrong? Before we start condemning Islam as a violent and fundamentalist faith we must make distinction between Islam as religion and Islamism as a fundamentalist political ideology. I see fundamentalism is based primarily not on the religious conviction, rather on politicizing the religious conviction to meet ideological and political ends.
At the forefront of our minds today are the obvious signals of violence – the terror and crime, civil unrest, and national and international conflict. Is there a need for us to look beyond visible and obvious violence? Can we possibly, for once move away from the violence performed by a visible and identifiable agents or people?
There is another form of violence, a silent violence, a symbolic violence and a rhetorical violence, that embodies itself in language and various other forms. Violence, before it is physical, it is rhetorical. And it is that rhetorical violence which materializes itself in a physical violence. No one is a born terrorist or suicide bomber. No one is a born criminal or a murderer.
How can we fight such kind of violence that is so embedded in our society that we don’t even notice it? And often people who fight terrorism, end adapting and operating from that same premise as their opposition, they end up sacrificing precisely what they want to defend. People who fight to establish democracy end up being anti-democratic and act as dictators. Both terrorist and anti-terrorist groups fight to establish freedom and it is precisely that freedom they both end up forsaking in the process.
Religious Islam must not be equated with fundamentalist Islam, neither should we hold ourselves back from understanding the causes, that generates, both Islamic fundamentalist and Islamic fundamentalism. Remember anyone who pursue this task without making such distinction is “charged guilty of Oreintalism”, as suggested by Edward Said.
Bin Laden will be remembered in somewhat opposing ways, both as a terrorist and as a freedom fighter, as a murderer and as martyr.