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Myriad Arab Reactions to Death of Osama Bin Laden

In contrast to the vast relief exhibited by most people in the Western world, Arabs have reacted in many ways to the death of Osama Bin Laden.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 5/5/2011, 11:32 AM / Last Update: 5/5/2011, 12:15 PM

Flash 90

In contrast to the vast relief exhibited by most people in the Western world, Arabs have reacted in myriad ways to the assassination of chief al-Qaeda terrorist Osama Bin Laden -- and some have issued death threats to U.S. President Barack Obama.

A Muslim cleric at Jerusalem's Al Aqsa mosque vowed to avenge the international terrorist's death in a YouTube video he uploaded to the Internet this week.

“The Western dogs are rejoicing after killing one of our Islamic lions,” the imam ranted. “From Al Aqsa mosque, where the future Caliphate will originate with the help of G-d, we say to them the dogs will not rejoice too much for killing the lions. The dogs will remain dogs and the lion – even if he is dead – will remain a lion.”

In a clear threat against the American president, the cleric continued, “You personally instructed to kill Muslims. You should know that soon you'll hang together with Bush Junior... We are a nation of billions, a good nation. We'll teach you about politics and military ways, very soon, with G-d's help.”

The video was quickly removed from the Internet due to violation of the YouTube site's terms of service.

Saudi Reactions
In contrast, the official response of the Saudi Arabian government made it clear that Riyadh, at least, was relieved Bin Laden is dead.

The statement “expressed the "hope of the Kingdom... that the elimination of [the] Al-Qaeda leader will be a step towards supporting international efforts to combat terrorism and to dismantle its cells, as well as the elimination of deviant thought that stands behind it, especially as the people of the Kingdom have been among the ones most targeted by this terrorist organization through its crimes, killing of the innocent people, which is forbidden by Allah, the terrorization of the innocent people, and the destabilization of the security and stability of the society...”

Nevertheless, not everyone in Saudi Arabia felt the same. Many of the grassroots population expressed disbelief and sorrow, according to a report published this week in the National Post.

“I feel that it is a lie,” said one man in Riyadh who declined to be named. “I don't trust the U.S. government or the media. They just want to be done with his story. It would be a sad thing if he really did die. I love him and in my eyes he is a hero and a jihadist.”

A number of other Gulf states were silent on the matter, other than reporting the bare fact of Bin Laden's death.

Yemen, UAE and Elsewhere in the Region
In Yemen, where Bin Laden's satellite, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is active, one official cautiously expressed optimism to CNN – albeit on the condition of anonymity. Calling the assassination a “truly historic moment,” he said, “We welcome the news... millions of people will sleep in peace.”

The Foreign Ministry of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) similarly was quoted by the WAM state news agency as saying Bin Laden's death would improve counterterrorism efforts.

“Apart from claiming lives of thousands of innocent victims, terrorism has had significant negative impact on the image of Islam and Muslims,” observed Tariq Al Haidan, assistant foreign minister for political affairs.

Nevertheless, even journalists in the region are being wary of how they cover the event. CNN's Rima Maktabi, working out of Abu Dhabi, noted that “even the Arab networks are very careful about how they air the news, what analysts they host and how they are tackling this topic.”

Maktabi said that some sections of society regard Bin Laden as "a hero.” She added that many fear attacks in retaliation for any atmorsphere of celebration over the terrorist's death.