University of Rochester

Faculty Comments on the Death of Osama bin Laden

May 4, 2011

Th. Emil Homerin, professor of religion and classics

"I think the death of Osama bin Laden, symbolically, sends a message to the Arab world that violence is not the way for the people to accomplish their goals. It has been a long standing argument since Frantz Fanon's work, The Wretched of the Earth, in the 1960s, to use violence to attain revolution and freedom. Fanon in some of his essays pushed violence; you answer violence with violence. But what that does is create the hate that hate produces.

"And we see that with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda; killing people has led more people to die in the invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Whereas, if you look at what's happening in the Arab world since January, beginning with Tunisia then Egypt and the domino effect with Yemen and Bahrain, it is public non-violent protest that I think is setting the tone for how to accomplish democratic reform and the overthrow of dictators. It's not violence and it's not military action.

"I think the Muslim population there has a sense of relief as well. We tend to forget that al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden have killed more Muslims than non-Muslims while spreading chaos and unrest."

For more comments, view this video of Professor Homerin discussing the death of Osama bin Laden.

Thomas Gibson, professor of anthropology

"Al-Qaida is a decentralized network of religiously inspired revolutionaries who failed to achieve their objectives in their home countries and were kept alive by the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, because it made the U.S. appear as the greatest threat to ordinary Muslims rather than their own corrupt governments. Recent pro-democracy uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria have made both 'U.S. imperialism' and radical Islamic revolutionaries seem less relevant to ordinary people. It is now clear to most observers that Arab dictators have been using the threat of Islamic extremism as an excuse to extract resources from the U.S. to maintain their power.

"So-called terrorist groups in South Asia are a different matter, and many of them are, in fact, tactical fronts for the Pakistani military's struggle with India. There is good evidence that the Pakistani military has deliberately played both sides in the Afghan civil war to extract military resources from Washington.

"The Obama administration may well use this as an opportunity to decrease its profile in the region, and Pakistan may turn to China, its other traditional ally in its confrontation with India. The Bush administration's attempt to cast foreign policy as driven by a 'Global War on Terror' can perhaps be finally laid to rest along with Osama bin Laden."