Students, faculty discuss significance of bin Laden’s death

Kassondra Cloos
News Editor, The Pendulum

Elon University held a discussion panel Monday night in response to the recent death of Osama bin Laden. The event, titled “Forum on the Death of Osama bin Laden, Reactions at Elon and Around the World and Future Implications,” featured both faculty and student panelists who gave opening statements before answering questions from the audience.

The panelists focused mainly on the motivation behind global celebration of bin Laden’s demise and the implications that bin Laden’s death has had and will have on the future of terrorism and al-Qaeda.

Panelist Toorialey Fazly, a first-year student who was born and raised in Afghanistan and recently worked as an aid to Hamid Karzai, emphasized bin Laden’s death is not only significant for the Western world, but also for Muslims and those in the Middle East.

“As President Obama said that our war is not against Islam and Osama bin Laden was not a Muslim leader, I want to join him,” Fazly said. “Every day there are at least two to three suicide bombers in Afghanistan who target and kill the elites, teachers, imams, doctors, teenagers, women and children who are all Muslims and who are all civilians and have no connection to any political party.”

Although people all around the world have openly celebrated bin Laden’s death, including the rally of hundreds of Elon students that began less than an hour after Obama’s speech, many other Elon students and faculty have voiced disapproval and shame of this celebration. Panelist Thomas Arcaro, professor of sociology, said it was difficult for him to look at pictures of students celebrating the death.

But panelist senior Andrew Black, who has studied al-Qaeda for his Lumen project, said he himself participated in the “flash mob” because he was rejoicing.

“I’m ok with going in that direction,” he said. “We all know someone who lost somebody on 9/11. There are thousands upon thousands of Americans and Afghanis and Pakistanis and Iraqis who are feeling the same emotion. We can’t quiet it with, ‘ok, what are the implications of taking a life?’ This is a person who has taken thousands of lives.”

Panelist Safia Swimelar, assistant professor of political science, said she originally thought that because the current generation of

Elon students was so young during the attacks on Sept. 11, it would not affect them as much. But now she’s realizing, she said, that their young age affected Elon students more because their childhoods were dominated by the fear of terrorism.

But bin Laden’s death does not signify the end of terrorism or even the end of the United States’ mission overseas in Afghanistan.

Stephen Thompson, assistant professor of military science, said there was never an objective to leave Afghanistan immediately upon eliminating bin Laden as a threat.

“It was never really a policy that upon the dispatching of Osama bin Laden we were going to close up shop,” he said. “That decision is going to be based largely on how our allies are comfortable handling their security as well as what our commanders on the ground are saying.”

Other panelists included faculty member Stephen Bloch-Schulman, associate professor of philosophy.

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