Editor's note: The Pew Center released a survey today suggesting that Osama bin Laden's influence among Muslims was waning. For instance, 34 percent of Palestinians said they had confidence that bin Laden would do the right thing in world affairs. In 2003, 72 percent in the Palestinian territory said the same thing. We asked Warren Larson, director of the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies, who spent two decades in Pakistan, to weigh in on how Christians should respond to bin Laden's death.
I was teaching a class on Islam the morning of September 11, 2001. But, like most Americans, I was too stunned to know how to respond. This morning, almost 10 years later, hearing on NPR that the mastermind of that attack had been killed in a Pakistani town close to where one of our children had been born, the words of Solomon came to mind: "Do not gloat when your enemy falls" (Prov. 24:17).
So I cringed to hear of jubilation in Washington and New York, as it wasastark reminder of how offended we were by some reactions by Muslims on 9-11. President Obama announced the surgical raid by Navy Seals in sombertones, but there were bagpipes playing "Amazing Grace" near Ground Zero and scenes of Americans dancing in the streets. In contrast to celebration, I would like to suggest three alternate reactions.
First, bin Laden has been irrelevant in most of the Muslim world for many years, and his calls for violence have long since been dismissed. This was abundantly clear through the uprisings that have rocked the Middle East this spring. It was never said the revolution was taking place because bin Laden called for it, or that his was the pathway to much-needed change. Throughout it has been an Arab revolution, not an Islamic revolution.
Second, rather than rejoice, we need to pray for Christians in a country that has been so torn apart by terrorism. Since al-Qaeda and affiliates are still very much alive, a chapter may have been closed, but not the book. A Pakistani Christian who is close to our family just recently came under attack. Previously threatened for his publications and his testimony as a former Muslim, less than one week ago the family car was fired on in the ancient city of Lahore and one of his children critically injured. The boy is expected to live, but pray that Pakistani Christians will be salt and light at this crucial time.
Finally, we must bear in mind that bin Laden the billionaire could have spent his life in luxury, but he chose to live in poverty and hardship for a cause, albeit a false one. He lived in caves and hideouts and was constantly on the run. We must ask ourselves: Are we as Christians willing to sacrifice for the cause we say we believe in?
Warren Larson is director of the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies and a faculty member of Columbia International University Seminary and School of Missions.
"Speaking Out" is Christianity Today's guest opinion column and (unlike an editorial) does not necessarily represent the opinion of the publication.
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