Obama began to erode bin Laden's power long ago
(ADC Op-Ed in Detroit Free Press)
Washington, DC | www.adc.org | May 3, 2011 - Imad Hamad, Senior National Adviser and Regional Director of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), had the following op-ed, "Obama began to erode bin Laden's power long ago," published in today‘s Detroit Free Press (see full text below).
Detroit Free Press: While Osama bin Laden, the man, was killed over the weekend in a victory for the U.S., President Barack Obama has slowly been defeating the powerful symbol of bin Laden.
To Americans, bin Laden was a symbol of the destruction, murder and evil that befell us on that tragic September morning almost a decade ago. We will never forget our loss on Sept. 11, 2001. Yet bin Laden was able to build his own image with millions around the world by using legitimate grievances.
Many in George W. Bush's administration refused to give weight to the growing appeal of bin Laden's rallying call on what were gross mistakes in our encounters with the Muslim world. Today, many have finally come to realize at least some of bin Laden's grievances mattered immensely. If nothing else, they were serious because they were perceived as such. This slow realization began to, in a metaphorical sense, kill bin Laden's effect.
Early on in his administration, Obama took on the fight not just to bring bin Laden to justice but to defeat bin Laden's power as a symbol. Obama's choice of Al Arabiya News Channel as his first formal TV interview was one such act. Time magazine described the interview as "an unprecedented reach-out to the Muslim world by a U.S. president."
The success continued when Obama unequivocally refuted those who view Islam as a religion for terrorism. Obama's recent Cairo address revealed that he understands the world in a fundamentally different way than his predecessor.
In an ideological battle against bin Laden, Obama's weapon was engagement, and he began to appeal to hearts and minds. Bin Laden talked about Islam to further his own ends. Obama talked about Islam the way Islam was meant to be talked about. It is here that Obama defeated Osama.
The U.S. response to the revolution in Egypt, although not at all perfect, shows how our foreign policy decisions were in great need of reassessment. History will show we were on the right side, and these first steps toward giving some deference to the wants and needs of the Arab masses will undoubtedly bear great fruit.
Here at home, many efforts have helped wash out what bin Laden has used as fuel for his fire. Under Obama's leadership the heavy cloud of suspicion that has often been cast over Arab and Muslim Americans is slowly beginning to fade.
I wish to emphasize "slowly." We are not at all free from the problems of guilt by association, prejudice and rising Islamophobia. Yet the initiatives in dialogue and cooperation made in Michigan among Arab and Muslim community leaders and law enforcement is a model that can be emulated across the country.
We will always remember and celebrate Sunday as the final staggering blow to bin Laden the man. Yet we must continue to work together to erode the remnants that bin Laden the symbol has left behind.