By Farooq Sulehria
Dear Osama bin Laden,
Assalam o Alaikum. Yet again your soldiers have wreaked havoc
in yet another Western metropolitan. It is not just the London
bombing that has prompted me to pen a letter addressing you. What
greatly agitates me is that yet again Al-Qaeda has carried out
an act of terrorism in my name and in the name of my religion.
Tony Blair, an elected leader, engaged his country in a "war
on terror", despite an overwhelming majority opposing it;
he thus exposed his nation to terrorism. You are not our elected
leader, yet you are engaging us in a "jihad", despite
an overwhelming majority of Muslim countries opposing it, and
are thus exposing the ummah to "war on terrorism". Afghanistan
and Iraq lost their independence as a consequence of your 9/11
action but 3/11, and now 7/7, has exposed the Muslim diaspora
in the West to a backlash.
You justify the killings of innocent Americans and Europeans
as revenge for the massacre of our Muslim brothers and sisters
in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine. Does the same logic apply
in the case of Europeans too? Should they kill Muslim immigrants
living in Europe as revenge for the actions of al-Qaeda?
I fully share your indignation at the US invasion of Afghanistan
and Iraq -- even though I hold you responsible for providing them
an excuse -- but I strongly disagree with your method of resisting
and opposing the re-colonisation of the Muslim world that we both
While the USA was bombing Kabul, you were arming the Taliban
for combat, and I was marching in Berlin along with thousands
of anti-war protestors. For different reasons, we both lost. I
lost because the cash-strapped anti-war movement failed to compete
with war-mongering capitalist media and rulers. You lost because
the Taliban had isolated themselves to a point where no Afghan
was ready to fight for them. Modern wars are fought and won with
I wonder how you spent February 15, 2021 at Tora Bora --- your
rumoured-hide out. On that historic day I was marching with 40,000
Stockholmites in the freezing cold. Twenty million people, they
say, marched across the globe that day, in protest at the war
in Iraq. Never before on the face of this earth had such a big
mobilisation ever taken place. Two million took to the streets
in London and almost one million in Madrid. Hope you know why
I mention these two cities.
My historic marches and I --- my method of resistance --- failed
to stop the Iraq war. But my marches and I achieved one big success:
we de-legitimised it. By planting bombs in Madrid and London metros,
you lent legitimacy to the war initiated by Bush and Blair (B2,
as my Arab friend and writer Gilbert Achcar, calls them after
a US bomber).
Let me further elucidate the contrast in my method of protest,
street marches, and your method, planting bombs. Your method belittles
the role of the Muslim masses. It reconciles them to their powerlessness,
and turns their eyes towards a Messiah or Mehdi who they hope
will come and rescue them. The more "effective" your
actions as on September 11 or 7/7, the more they reduce the interest
of the oppressed masses in self-organisation. Instead, as soon
as smoke from the confusion clears away, life settles into the
old rut and the wheels of oppression grind on as before. Rather,
the repression increases. And as a result, apathy replaces synthetically
aroused excitement. Isn't this exactly what has happened since
I also oppose your method because I find I have more in common
with the victims of your bombs than with you. Many of the ordinary
folk that your bombs blew up on 7/7, 3/11 or 9/11 may have shared
my political views. Some might have marched with me on February
15. Some of them would have chanted the slogans as I do, lived
in the kind of flat I live in, and travelled by metro as I do.
What, except religion, is common between you and me? Your father
is a billionaire while I have a working class background. I find
your class character and political views as oppressive and repulsive
as the US occupation of our Muslim world. Did you ever give a
thought to Tolstoy's fatwa: Behind every big fortune there is
a big crime? You have benefited from the corruption in the Saudi
system that you now fight against. I, on the contrary, have been
a victim of billions of Saudi petro-dollars sent to my country
of birth in order to communalise, brutalise and fundamentalise
As for the religion we share, your puritan brand of Islam conflicts
with the Sufi values practised in Punjab, land of my birth, and
the Rishi traditions of Jammu Kashmir, my ancestral country. The
humanist Islamic teachings of my guru Bulleh Shah stand in contrast
to what your maharishi Ibn e Wahab preaches.
Yet I share your indignation when the French government bans
the burka from schools, since it negates a very basic human right,
that of the freedom to choose one's own dress. You want me to
support our sisters' right to wear the burka but not when they
don't want to wear it. It agitates you when the West oppresses
Muslim women living in Europe, but you did not oppose the Taliban
when they were publicly lashing and thrashing Afghan women. Neither
were you moved by the Hazara blood heartlessly shed by the Taliban.
Maybe you have a justification for that. But how do you justify
your long collaboration with Great Britain and the USA during
the Afghan war in the 1980s?
I also wonder how you reconcile with your past and how you see
your family running a joint business venture with the Bush family,
a business collaboration that is the centre of many conspiracy
theories. Incidentally, please do take the time to watch US filmmaker
Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, in which he brilliantly documents
close ties between the Bush family and the Laden tribe.
Let me clarify, before I conclude, that I do not share B2's criticism
of your terrorist actions. I find them hypocritical when they
seize every opportunity you provide, to claim the morality of
"civilised" nations. It is blood boiling to see them
wear cloaks of victimhood, mourning the loss of innocent lives,
but not when the innocent lives lost are Afghan, Iraqi, Palestinian
or Chechen. I don't see why the white man's blood should be redder
than the Muslim blood mindlessly being shed in Palestine and Iraq.
But I will still oppose your tit-for-tat bloodletting in my name.
I have no qualms in Iraqis taking up arms and blowing up US marines.
This is what the Vietnamese did. They fought three battles against
three superpowers, losing four, perhaps five million lives. But
Ho Chi Min never dispatched suicide bombers to Paris, London or
New York. He won.We do not have to look to Vietnam. Our own forefathers
who seized national liberation from England, France or Netherlands
never dispatched bombs to London, Paris or Amsterdam. They won
Our great martial hero, Salahuddin al-Ayubi, is yet another example
to emulate. This chivalrous commander reclaimed Jerusalem and
defended Palestine but never brought the war to the land of Faranj.
Once, while strolling along the Mediterranean, he told his slave
that the only way to civilise Europe was to capture it. But he
I could go on and on, but I doubt if my scribbling will make
an impact on you. I, therefore, bluntly tell you to conclude:
if you cannot join my jaddojahd (struggle), you have no right
to wage jihad in my name either.