DEARBORN, Michigan — Arab and Muslim Americans Monday celebrated the death of Osama bin Laden saying justice had been served, but remained wary of any Al-Qaeda reprisals, and said the scars of 9/11 run deep.
A crowd gathered outside the Dearborn city hall shortly after the news was announced Sunday night, chanting “USA! USA!”.
“We are very happy to hear the news that he has been eliminated,” said Osama Siblani, publisher of the Arab American News.
“This man is not a Muslim. This man has killed more Muslims than Americans — tens of thousands of people,” Siblani told AFP.
“People are very excited that this happened because they want this sad chapter to be closed. They understand more than anyone else how much damage this man has done to the Muslim world and to the Arab world.”
Dearborn is home to one of the largest concentrations of Arab and Muslim Americans in the United States, and acutely felt the anger unleashed against Muslims in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks masterminded by the Al-Qaeda leader.
Community leaders greeted the news with a sigh of relief, but cautioned residents to remain on their guard against a potential Al-Qaeda backlash.
“We have reached a very important goal, but the struggle continues,” Siblani said. “There are extremists out there that want to do us harm — all of us. We are going to be vigilant and we’re going to report anything that is suspicious.”
Dawud Walid, who heads the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he was also happy to see “justice served” and was thankful that US President Barack Obama reiterated that the United States will never be at war with Islam.
“Anyone who views Osama bin Laden as some type of holy martyr is severely misguided,” Walid told AFP. “There is nothing holy or righteous about what bin Laden represented.”
Walid said he hoped bin Laden’s elimination will help the United States heal from the terrible scars of the terrorist 2001 attacks, in which almost 3,000 people died, but cautioned against “euphoria.”
“We’re satisfied that justice was served, but it’s still a sober moment for our country,” Walid added.
“There are family members who lost loved ones in 9/11 or have lost loved ones fighting in active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan who are reliving the pain right now.”
Bin Laden’s death also won’t be enough to eliminate the Islamophobia and paranoia that has infected the United States and led to an erosion of civil liberties, Walid said.
“The ultimate goal of terrorism is to make us afraid and change our way of life as Americans,” Walid said.
“We as Americans, we don’t want to make bin Laden more powerful in death than in life… If we become more fearful and more suspicious of each other, then bin Laden is still terrorizing us from the bottom of the sea.”
Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic relations (CAIR), agreed that bin Laden “received justice yesterday” adding the Al-Qaeda leader had “never represented our community of Islam or the Muslims.”
“We urge our government… to put extra efforts into ending the war in Afghanistan and in Iraq,” he told journalists in Washington.
The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) greeted bin Laden’s death with “an immense sense of relief.”
“We hope this is a turning point away from the dark period of the last decade, in which bin Laden symbolized the evil face of global terrorism,” MPAC President Salam Al-Marayati said in a statement.
“His actions and those of Al-Qaeda have violated the sacred Islamic teachings upholding the sanctity of all human life. His acts of senseless terror have been met with moral outrage by Muslims worldwide at every turn in the past decade.”
The widespread democratic protests sweeping the Middle East have “demonstrated the power and effectiveness of peaceful protest” and exposed bin Laden’s pro-violence messages as “bankrupt and misguided,” the Washington-based group said in a statement.
“We support President Obama’s statement that bin Laden was ‘not a Muslim leader, he was a mass murderer of Muslims,’” said MPAC Senior Adviser Dr. Maher Hathout.
“We stand together with all Americans and all peace-loving people around the world in remaining vigilant against any and all threats against our country.”