Is It Wrong to Celebrate Osama bin Laden's Death? Religious Leaders Weigh In

ground zero celebration.jpg
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A crowd celebrates at Ground Zero in New York Sunday night.
By now you may have seen the quote that went viral on Facebook this week following the death of Osama bin Laden. The statement, allegedly from Martin Luther King Jr., said: "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy."

The only problem? MLK Jr. never said such a thing. The quote was coined by a magician-turned-political-pundit who then credited it to the great Baptist minister and civil-rights pioneer ostensibly to give the words more gravitas.

Odd, yes, but it does raise an interesting point: What do religious leaders think of the celebrating we've seen in recent days over the killing of bin Laden? And what does the Koran and the Christian and Hebrew bibles say about rejoicing over the death of an enemy?

Yesterday Daily RFT caught up with a local pastor, rabbi and imam to discuss. (We caught them walking into a bar together. Just joking. We reached them by phone.) Here's what they had to say:

Muhamed Hasic, Imam of the Islamic Community Center in south St. Louis

"I don't think it's possible to control the celebrating. It's a natural reaction, especially for people who've felt the consequences of  his actions. That said, I cannot think of any example in sacred texts suggesting that it's okay to celebrate someone's death. I don't think any of the prophets would condone such a reaction."

"I've been a bit surprised that few of the people who've come in for prayer this week have mentioned bin Laden. I think for many Muslims, they're wanting to put the incident behind them. You have to remember that more Muslims died as a result of bin Laden than anyone else. Still, he managed to do a lot of harm to the reputation of Islam. I think people are ready to move forward."

Matt Miofsky, Pastor of The Gathering United Methodist Church in St. Louis

"There is a strong tradition in scripture of hoping for and celebrating the fall of enemies (a perfect example is Psalm 137 where the Nation of Israel prays blessings for the one who takes the babies of the Babylonians, their captors, and dashes them against the rocks). But there is also a consistent warning that comes to us from Jesus and the Old Testament prophets that we must be reflective and prayerful in our response to enemies. Ezekial 33:11 reads: 'As surely as I live, declares the sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.'"

"I think warnings like that point out that there are pitfalls we must look out for in our drive to overcome evil. For the Christian, no matter what one feels about the death of Osama bin Laden, we must weigh Jesus' words in the Sermon On The Mount carefully, to love enemies and pray for those who persecute you. This love is not an emotion, it is not well wishes or leniency towards evil. Rather, it is a principled way of acting and responding in light of who God is."

Hershey Novack, Rabbi of the Washington University Chabad on Campus

"This is an interesting question and one that I posed on Facebook that's generated dozens and dozens of comments. It's also especially close to me. I was living in New York at the time of the 9-11 attack and volunteered with the Red Cross's ministry outreach immediately following. That said, I think there are two ways of looking at this, and they're both from the book of Proverbs by Solomon. Proverbs 11:10 reads, 'When the wicked perish there is song.' The implication there being that some sense of jubilation is appropriate. But then Proverbs 24:17 counters: 'When your enemy falls, do not rejoice. When he stumbles let your heart not exhalt.' I think Solomon prescribes a healthy balance there. It's hard not to feel a sense of relief and comfort in knowing that a bit of evil has been extinguished."

"I've heard some people express concerns that it looks bad to see people in the U.S. taking to the streets to celebrate bin Laden's death. But I don't like that argument. September 11th was not any better or worse because some people in foreign countries took to the streets and celebrated the attacks. That reflects on those people but it didn't make what happened here on 9-11 any more or less bad. It's hard to argue that stopping bin Laden is not inherently a good thing.

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Dmottl
Dmottl

Interesting that as more comes out about that quote, what is mentioned above actually originated from a school teacher who created it, and then added a true quote from Dr. MLK at the end (not shown in the above article). The magician mentioned above then turned it around and posted it, but removed the quotes from the MLK aspect, leading to the assumption that the entire quote was his. He has since posted a clarification, albeit a little late.

Back to the question... To me, a true celebration of a death reflects an exaltation in revenge, like celebrating the death of a death row inmate - to me, is not something that I personally relish. However, celebration of what this death represents (in this case a victory over a symbol of terrorism, and a sense that appropriate justice has been served) is worthy of a great feeling of victory.

DC
DC

While the MLK quote may be wrong, I feel this Mark Twain one fitting as well: "I've never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure."

To anyone saying we shouldn't feel sorry for the guy and rejoice - I think you're missing the point. I doubt many (especially in the US) feel bad for the guy. But the celebration shows a clear lack of perspective, as we don't even know what his death means in the scheme of things. Plus, it's just in poor taste anyways and just adds to the American stereotype.

Rudy Moore
Rudy Moore

Ironically, the recently-popular quote that's been credited to Mark Twain was actually written by Charles Darrow: "All men have an emotion to kill; when they strongly dislike some one they involuntarily wish he was dead. I have never killed any one, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction."

OB Twain Quote: "I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it."

KITTY
KITTY

IT IS ABSOLUTELY RIGHT AND CORRECT TO CELEBRATE THE DEATH OF THE MOST EVIL MAN IN THE WORLD. ALL THIS POLITICALLY CORRECT BULLSHIT ESPOUSED BY THOSE WHO DON'T WANT TO UPSET MUSLIMS MAKES ME WANT TO PUKE.

IF I COULD HAVE, I WOULD HAVE HIRED A MARCHING BAND OR HERALD TRUMPETS TO CELEBRATE THIS MOST JOYOUS EVENT AND THEN DECLARE A NATIONAL HOLIDAY.

IT WAS OKAY FOR THE MUSLIMS ALL OVER THE WORLD TO CELEBRATE WITH GREAT GLEE AND JOY THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TWIN TOWERS. YET WE GET HELL FOR CELEBRATING THE DEATH OF THE ISLAMIST DEVIL WHO CAUSED IT ALL. THIS IS MORE POLITICALLY CORRECT BULLSHIT.

TO RUB IT IN OUR NOSES EVEN MORE, THE NAVY GAVE BIN LADEN A FORMAL MUSLIM FUNERAL THAT LASTED FORTY MINUTES: "BLESS HIS SOUL. MAY HE REST ETERNALLY IN PARADISE WITH 70 VIRGINS" - AND ALL THE OTHER CRAP SAID OVER HIS EVIL DEAD BODY. THEY SHOULD HAVE FED HIS BODY TO PIGS AND DOGS. OR WOULD THAT HAVE BEEN ANIMAL CRUELTY? LMAO.

THAT ANYONE CAN FEEL SORRY FOR HIM OR PRAY OVER HIS BODY IS BEYOND ABSURD. HE GOT EXACTLY WHAT HE DESERVED AND THE WORLD IS A MUCH BETTER PLACE.

Fourseeds6
Fourseeds6

I know many Muslims who cried and grieved along with the United States on 9/11. I know many Muslims who had loved ones killed in the World Trade Towers on 9/11. I know many Muslims who consider 9/11 to be one of those most evil acts they have ever witness. Please stop lumping all people into one general category. Many Muslims, foreign and American born, wept alongside you and your family on 9/11.

Also, you may want to do some research on Islam before you go shouting to the rooftops false information about the religion. All it does is divide us even more.

Puppy Dowg
Puppy Dowg

Your caps lock button is jammed... JUST AN FYI!

TwoSidesToEachStory
TwoSidesToEachStory

If you are concerned that celebrations of bin Laden's death will only incite further fundamentalist violence, if you believe that $3 trillion of unfunded war spending has left the American economy unprotected through this Wall Street / mortgage storm, if you believe America sacrificed its moral soul by endorsing torture and killing 1 million people who had nothing to do with 9/11, and if you believe the ideal of American civil liberty was forever tarnished with the passage and extension of the Patriot Act, then I would like to remind you of that age-old saying:

"You can't spell 'pyrrhic victory' without VICTORY!"

Robin Watt
Robin Watt

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.Through violence you may murder the liar,but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.Through violence you may murder the hater,but you do not murder hate.In fact, violence merely increases hate.So it goes.Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.Darkness cannot drive out darkness:only light can do that.Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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