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SCOTT RITTER, former UN Weapons Inspector in
spoke at the
Center in Washington DC on April 25, 2003. He was
honest, fearless and
powerful, better than most American Muslims. He
lying to the American people about Iraq's weapons
of mass destruction and
other matters. He said, in the long run America
will not win in Iraq.
Militarily, he said, there was no comparison
between Iraq and the
as far as winning the hearts and souls, the U.S.
is losing all over the world.
THERE ARE REPORTS OF NEW FIGHTING IN IRAQ. The
U.S. says "pockets of
resistance" continue. Some fighting occurred in
Tikrit (April 24). In Al-Kut,
4 U.S. troops were killed and 7 injured in what
was said to be an "accident."
Some reports of fighting are coming from Baghdad
itself. Is it possible,
people ask, that Saddam might be alive and
leading the resistance, or is it
autonomous fighting by
A BRITISH MUSLIM WOMAN'S UNUSUAL PERSPECTIVE on
OSAMA bin LADEN
[by Special Permission granted to New Trend by
By Sarah Louise Baker
It wonít get you much mileage in the playground
if you get into a fight and
you say: "My uncleís George Bush."
Osama and the enemy backs
off. To be the hardest kid on the block you
would get no credibility saying
your grandfather was Tony Blair, but kids who
claim their grandfather is
Osama bin Laden get instant respect, especially
if they have some Middle
Eastern credentials. Iíve heard stories of
schoolchildren saying they were
Taliban and watched the admiration from other
kids. It isnít only Muslim
schoolchildren, although they feel they have a
prior claim. Even British kids
with no claim to have Middle Eastern or Afghan
connections would roam the
playground chanting "We are the Taliban ban ban.
Give us your bananas!"
Playground politics is black and white and it
cuts through to the point. To a
little kid in the playground, Osama bin Laden is
the defender. Mention his
name and bullies back off. Kids like people who
stand up to bullies. Kids
donít watch interviews with Osama bin Laden or
read the analyses of his
psyche in the broadsheets. A Robin Hood figure is
a Robin Hood figure and
thatís plain to see.
They are not unlike the oppressed working people
of the Muslim world who
carry portraits of bin Laden. We have heard from
reporters about the shops
stocked with Osama related goods, like T shirts
and such like. Ironically,
Osama bin Laden would probably heartily
disapprove of this practice of making
images of people and idolizing them.
Who would blame a person living in what now by
the troops of Sharon has
become the rubble of
if he were to look to
Osama bin Laden as a hero?
His situation hasnít changed for the better
despite the concern of people in
the West. There are concerned people everywhere
in the West who march in the
street, write to their Members of Parliament, fax
their Congressmen or write
nice articles in newspapers, but it never seems
to reach the man in the
There are battalions of journalists, students,
and PR people with loud voices
and wide reach who are speaking up for the
Palestinian people but who is
going to help Umm Ali at the crossroads today?
She is on the way to the
hospital for the umpteenth time trying to get a
kidney complaint sorted and
some young kid, the same age as her grandson is
pushing a gun in her face and
saying "No! Get back old woman. No hospital for
Meanwhile, the MP is reading your letter and
answering it with a well-known
formula: "I share your concern about the plight
of the Palestinian people and
I am writing to the Foreign Office to get you a
reply. That should be with
you in fourteen days." Just long enough for Umm
Aliís kidneys to fail.
Brit is also lobbying her MP
and she reads in her
letter. "I share your concern about the plight of
peopleÖ" If Umm
Ali knew that someone was writing to their MP
about her fate she might be
perplexed: "Someone with power? Can he get me
treatment?" I donít think so,
This is why the words of Osama bin Laden seem so
much more relevant to the
people of Palestine. At last, someone seems to be
speaking for them before
the US government and stating the injustices that
they have been enduring
every day, and for far too long now.
There was another Palestinian lady on TV whose
little boy had gone missing.
Arrested? Wounded? Killed? She had no way of
knowing. She could get no help
and no answers. There she was standing in the
middle of the street, panic
stricken: "My son. Where is my son?" she kept
saying, "I canít find my son."
What use are her chair-bound supporters in the
West whose only weapon is the
send button and the online petition? Three weeks
later we find 6000 people in
30 countries cared about this woman and others
like her. But did they get her
son back for her? Did they get all the other
imprisoned people out? Did they
foil the trigger-happy Israeli soldiers or send
back their tanks which stalk
the street like malevolent dinosaurs?
Not yesterday, the day before, or even today did
our concern reach them.
Concern is cheap, as cheap as Muslim lives have
become. The currency of a
Muslim life only seems to go up when an avenger
speaks and faces the enemy as
an equal. When the mission of the Prophet (pbuh)
was in its infancy the small
group of believers consisted mainly of women,
young people, the poor and
slaves who were looked down upon. The tune only
changed when Hamza, the
Prophetís uncle, known for his charisma and
popularity, appeared and declared
that he too was for his nephewís religion.
But for now we are beholden to the machinations
of the foreign office and so
it is left to the children of Palestine to take
the struggle of the whole
Ummah on their tiny shoulders. They know that
somewhere, rich powerful men
with wealth and resources, men who care about
them, are doing their best with
a mouse, and are waving flags on their behalf.
But for today, still no sign
of the cavalry coming. So better take up this
So when someone like Osama bin Laden, who
inspires such fear in the most
powerful governments in the world, speaks up for
those people, no wonder they
see him as their hero. No wonder they think their
savior has arrived. And no
wonder concerned young men from all over the
globe flock to lend their
This was what most people understood to have been
al-Qaeda before September
2001, when they were very little spoken of in the
media. What we call the
first base al-Qaeda were the militia who were
called upon to fight on behalf
of the Muslims in
and Kashmir, all of whom were
suffering horribly. Those were people who needed
emergency help and who
couldnít wait for MPs or committees to get their
act together. I assume these
are the mujahideen constantly referred to by
Osama bin Laden in his many
talks. He seems to know many of them by name,
their home countries and
As for what we might call the "off-base al-Qaeda"
who, according to the
media, seem to have their finger in every pie,
are they of the same ilk?
There are those who claim to be devoted Muslims
but who drink and womanize,
or the petty criminals who falsify papers and
milk the benefit system and say
they are Osamaís boys in the same hushed tones
that fantasists claim they are
working for M15 to impress girls.
Does Osama bin Laden have any idea how many
people claim to be with him?
Enough to populate a small country I would think,
almost as many as those who
are now trying to distance themselves from him
for fear of being branded as
extremists or terrorists. They only have to look
at recent history during the
McCarthy era to know that, no matter what they do
to avoid that label, it
just doesnít work. They take you out row by row.
As for me, there is a verse of the
which I know brings solace
to all the suffering Muslims who pass before my
eyes daily and whom I have
failed to help adequately. The translation of the
Or do they think they will enter the garden (of
bliss) without such (trials)
as came to those who passed away before you? They
encountered suffering and
adversity and were so shaken in spirit that even
the Messenger and those of
faith who were with him cried: ĎWhen (will come)
the help of Allahí. Ah!
Verily the help of Allah is (always) nearí.
This Allah has promised, and Allah never breaks
his promise. When those who
have suffered greatly in this life are shown
Paradise they will be asked if
they ever knew a momentís suffering and they will
say no, they never did,
whilst those who enjoyed all the pleasures, if
shown the fire, would be asked
if they ever knew a momentís pleasure and they
would say no, they never did.
Whatever Muslims make of Osama bin Laden, they
will be of one voice about one
thing: his prayer that we may meet Our Lord
during an hour when He is pleased
Sarah Louise Baker is a Muslim British novelist
who lives in Edinburgh,
Scotland. She embraced Islam while working in
Japan in 1990. Her novel, From
Utah to Eternity, on Islamic conversion, was
based partly on personal
experience. She just finished a book about
everyday experiences of wearing
the hijab (the Islamic headscarf). You can reach
2003-04-26 Sat 08:38ct