Osama Bin Laden: ‘murdered by the United States of America’
That is how the clever people at Ekklesia (‘the UK’s premier religious think-tank’) see it.
They might as well have called him a martyr; a cultic sacrifice after the fashion of St Stephen, the Apostle Paul, Archbishop Oscar Romero or Shahbaz Bhatti; a reflection of the death of Christ. For when a Muslim is killed in the pursuit of jihad for the glorification of Allah, it cannot be denied that it grips the imagination of a thousand of Mohammed’s warriors and exercises many more. By calling it murder, Ekklesia elevate Bin Laden’s death to the level of the Cross: he is the scapegoat; the sacrifice; and all the stones of Arabia cry out of justice.
Murder is forbidden in Scripture: ‘Thou shalt not kill’ is an express command within the Decalogue and refers to unlawful killing. It is not simply a prohibition but also a positive teaching that instills respect for life, which is a loan, a blessing of God. Precisely because human life belongs to God, however, we must take care not to absolutise or idolise it. In some exceptional cases, God may command killing. In such instances, paradoxically, the protection of life requires the surrender and sacrifice of life. Old Testament and Just War Theory aside (as they may prefer) it is curious that the UK’s ‘premier religious think-tank’ appears to be unwilling or incapable of reflecting upon (for example) Acts 5:1-11; 1 Cor 5:1-3; Rom 13:4; Jn 19:10f. The commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ reaches the Christian in such a way that in all the detailed problems that may arise we cannot exclude the exceptional case.
Is the self-confessed and widely recognised mastermind of the September 11th atrocity an exception?
Is it murder to execute a man who has schemed in the wholesale annihilation of 3000 innocent people?
By calling it ‘murder’, Ekklesia placate the Islamists and bolster their contention that this is not about the just pursuit of honour, justice or freedom, but simply a murky economic struggle for world domination: ie, it is about the possession of oil. There is no understanding of propitiation, vindication, justice or judgement. The death of Bin Laden is simply ‘murder’, of the same degree as Herod’s slaughter of the innocents.
Ekklesia take the view that Bin Laden was an utterly insignificant figure and ‘not highly regarded by most Muslims’ because ‘his understanding of Islam (was) no less abhorrent than many Christians’ perspectives of Hitler’s understanding of Christianity’. One has to wonder how many Muslims Ekklesia know, and how they have arrived at ‘most’ in a world of more than a billion. Wearing their repugnant anti-Americanism on their sleeves, they refer to the ‘murder’ as a necessary ‘violent revenge for Americans’: they protest that Bin Laden’s influence was due to his ‘elevation to a position as “super-terrorist” by US Presidents Clinton, Bush (the Lesser) and Obama’.
Note ‘the Lesser’.
There is no attempt to conceal their contempt for the leader of the free world: Ekklesia doubtless offered no petitions, prayers, intercession or thanksgiving for these kings and authorities (1Tim 2:1-4). The only peace and quiet they care about is that which affirms and propagates their own conceptions of godliness and holiness, in order that all people may be saved through the knowledge of Ekklesia’s truth.
But that’s not all. The way many of us think about Bin Laden arises, they aver, ‘from a racist strand of thought’. Brilliant, isn’t it? They racially denigrate Americans and elevate Islam to the position of super-race, and then accuse us of racism and ignorance. And they sneer at the ‘paucity of intelligent reflection and comment’ of those who conflate Bin Laden’s thinking into ‘fundamentalist Islam’.
Well, if Bin Laden’s thinking is ecumenical, moderate and multi-faith, His Grace no longer understands the meaning of the word ‘fundamentalist’. Perhaps such profound theological enlightenment is revealed only to ‘the UK’s premier religious think-tank’.
Egregiously, they say Bin Laden’s death is ‘largely irrelevant to most Muslims in the Middle East’, seemingly oblivious to the fact that many voices in the Middle East were protesting as news of the death spread, with Hamas referring to him as an ‘Arab Holy Warrior’. And on al-Qaeda, Ekklesia say: ‘We might not sympathise with their modes of engagement, but their causes are often at least partially legitimate.’
The legitimisation of al-Qaeda grievances is consistent with their cry of ‘murder’. But which grievances would these be? The occupation of Palestine by the evil Jews? The even more evil ascent of American hegemony? The filth of the infidel’s foot on sacred Saudi Arabian sand? The illegal Iraq war? The invasion of Afghanistan? The Crusades? Their ‘causes’ have no coherence; indeed, some of these points of disputation are within the power of the disparate and divided ‘Islamic world’ to resolve themselves if they cold but cooperate and unite. Instead, they prefer to grieve against the West and curse Christianity. And Ekklesia grieve and curse with them, thereby granting spiritual succour and moral affirmation to the military, financial, and training assistance which is necessary for these freedom-haters and anti-democrats to pursue their ‘partly legitimate’ objectives.
Many Christians will take the view that Bin Laden’s death was a justified extra-judicial killing in the context of a global war against disparate terrorist cells, each of which is united in their opposition to our culture, customs, traditions, our way of life and our faith. By calling it ‘murder’, Ekklesia only embolden those who plot a further September 11th or July 7th bombings or who scheme to bring down passenger-filled jets. For if ‘the UK’s premier religious think-tank’ calls it murder, who are the Islamists to argue against them? And so Ekklesia perpetuate an eye-for-an-eye blindness, and ‘partly legitimate’ the arbitrary murder of thousands of innocent people going about their daily business.
The author of the piece is apparently a lecturer in Postcolonial Studies at the University of Stirling. It is extraordinary for a credible academic to cry ‘murder’ while simultaneously admitting that he is not in possession of all the facts. One might expect more academic rigour. But this is Ekklesia. They appear to be aware of the moral principle which forbids murder, but utterly ignorant of centuries of Scholastic moral theology and the principle of ‘Double Effect’ (the distinction between intention and foresight): the Christian may indeed act in such a way as will foreseeably produce an evil effect in order to secure some proportionate good or avoid some proportionate evil. The principle does not convey a formal moral truth about murder: it arose largely out of attempts to understand the morally significant differences between murder and other kinds of killing. But it does grasp the fundamental distinction between foresight and intention. One wonders, if Dietrich Bonhoeffer had succeeded in his attempt to kill Hitler, whether Ekklesia would be referring to Bonhoeffer as a murderer.
If the killing of Bin Laden was murder, it constitutes a grave sin. That must be how Ekklesia see it. For many others, the thought and intention behind the act outweighs the act. How otherwise did Aquinas ascertain that the value-bearing elements of the human act are four: act-as-such; object; circumstance; and finality? We discover through moral reasoning and insight that the created order demands of us right thought as well as right action; good final intention as well as good object. This is moral knowledge, only gained as we deliberate and reflect upon particular acts which are, for one reason or another, ambiguous and difficult.
But, for Ekklesia, there is no ambiguity or difficulty: Osama Bin Laden was murdered. And what does His Grace know? In the awesome presence of the self-styled ‘UK’s premier religious think-tank’, he manifests nothing but a ‘paucity of intelligent reflection and comment’.