Arab Americans, Muslims rejoice at death of bin Laden

Detroit Free Press/May 1, 2011

Detroit - Muslims and Arab-Americans across this area - one of the largest and oldest Arab-American communities in the USA - rejoiced at the news that Osama bin Laden was killed.

"The world is definitely a better place without the patron of all terrorists," said Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini, head of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Mich., the largest mosque in a city with the highest concentration of Arab-Americans in the country. Qazwini called bin Laden "the world's most infamous thug."

"It is so comforting to see justice being served while the families of the thousands of his victims rejoice," he said.

Ibrahim Aljahim, 29, of Detroit, said of bin Laden: "He never represented Muslims or anyone else."

"It's a great thing," said Aljahim, head of Arab American Outreach. "We're very happy. He hurt Muslims more than any other religious groups."

In his address late Sunday, President Barack Obama echoed similar thoughts, saying: "Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader. He was a mass murderer of Muslims."

At the same time, some Arab-American leaders cautioned that the battle against extremism is not yet over.

"As gratifying as it is to see this, we should continue to be on alert," said Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. "Executing the symbol of bin Laden does not execute the ideology (of extremism). It's a vital mistake to focus on the person and ignore the ideology."

Arab-Americans and Muslims felt the effect after bin Laden's Sept. 11 attacks as federal law enforcement shifted its focus toward counter-terrorism, leading in some cases to extra scrutiny here because of its Muslim community. But bin Laden was generally reviled in that same community.

"We welcome the elimination of Osama bin Laden and the threat that his terrorist leadership posed to the people of the world," said Dawud Walid, head of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Amanda Andreski, 19, of Royal Oak, Mich., faces final exams at George Washington University, where she is a student.

But after hearing the news that Osama bin Laden was killed, she and many others poured into the streets in Washington, around the White House in celebration.

"U-S-A! U-S-A!" people chanted, she said by phone from the streets in the nation's capital. "This is amazing. People are coming here from every direction. It's insane!"

Some even climbed trees and lamp posts in excitement. Others chanted "Obama got Osama" and broke out in patriotic songs, Andreski said.

"Every song that has 'America' in it was sung," she said. "Pennsylvania Avenue is packed with people and even more are coming."

Drivers are "honking and blaring their horns," she said. "People are so patriotic."

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