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I’m no supporter of Osama bin Laden but the assertion that his killing ‘marks the triumph against global terrorism’ is ‘laughable and absurd’, writes Mphutlane wa Bofelo. Why won’t the West recognise that it is its own disregard for the lives and worldviews of people in the Global South that fuels rage and resistance against it?

The ignoble manner, in which America dumped the remains of Osama bin Laden into the sea, highlights the ethnocentric, obnoxious and xenophobic disregard and disrespect for the lives, worldviews and cultures of peoples of the Global South. This is exactly what lies at the heart of the rage of the Global South and the Muslim world against the United States of America and the rest of the Global North. The fear that the burial place of Osama bin Laden would turn into a shrine stems from the proclivity to obfuscate or obliterate the historical consciousness and collective memory of the peoples of the Global South. It amounts to denying people the right to keep monuments and memories of people and events for posterity.

This is equal to refusing people the freedom to put events into perspective and make their own choices and decisions regarding who their heroes are. It is, actually, denying people the right to narrate, record, tell and interpret history in their own terms. It is taking away their latitude to communicate with their dead and their past in their own language, informed by their own beliefs and readings of their own historical and material realities. It is playing God, deciding who must live or die (forever), which name, spirit and ideals the people should keep in their hearts, minds and live and whose poster must hang in the bedrooms and boardrooms of the peoples of the world. We all must worship and forever remember and extol the gods and goddesses of Hollywood and style our arts and lives after this ‘holyweird’ and only sport T-shirts of heroes that are made for us by the US. We CANNOT decide our s/heroes and build our own monuments.

The empire MUST either tell who our s/heroes are or build false monuments in the name of our (real) martyrs and s/heroes. The empire made bin Laden, and discarded him when it suited its interests. It allowed him to live in ‘hiding’ for as long as it desired and ‘located’ and killed him, when it thought the time was ripe. Now we are told it is the end of history. There will be no more terror in the world. But the terror of rampant poverty and raging disease, widespread homelessness and joblessness, police brutality, corporate greed and state corruption, gigantic inequalities, blatant racism and vile sexism has been there and will not go with the death of bin Laden.

I am not one to wear an Osama bin Laden T-Shirt. I don’t believe that his patriarchal, exclusivist, mediaeval vision of how society should be organised could ever present a humane alternative to the barbarism of market supremacism and white racism. But I equally find laughable and absurd the assertion that the killing of Osama bin Laden marks the triumph against global terrorism. This postulation only serves to gloss over the underlying factors behind global terrorism. It ignores the historical and econo-political factors that account for the rage of the peoples of the South, the Muslim World and all freedom loving people towards America and all the regimes and regiments of global capitalism. Osama bin Laden represented the idea of resistance to the supremacist hegemonic tendencies and practices of the United States and the Global North. That idea will not die with the death of Osama bin Ladin. In fact, his death may open the way for the more progressive, radical Muslim and non-Muslim voices to occupy centre stage in articulating that rage in more nuanced and programmatic manner.


* Mphutlane wa Bofelo is a cultural worker and social critic.
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