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Muslims glad to see him go

By Rebecca Henely and Ivan Pereira

The death of Osama bin Laden has come as a welcome relief to the Queens Muslim community, who said the terrorist mastermind tarnished their peaceful religion and slaughtered thousands of their own all over the world.

Syed Meesam, the United Nations representative for the Imam Al-Khoei Foundation in Jamaica, said he and his fellow Islamic worshipers were glad to hear the news of bin Laden’s demise at the hands of U.S. Navy Seals in Afghanistan Sunday night.

The representative of the one of the largest Shiite mosques in the country said the Muslim community wanted him to be brought to justice for all of his crimes.

“Generally speaking, everyone I have spoken to has expressed a sense that this is finally over,” he said.

Meesam’s sentiments were echoed by other Muslims groups around the borough.

“We are very thankful to hear this great news,” said Imam Mohd Qayyoom, a leader of the Muhammadi Community Center of Jackson Heights, at 37-46 77th St., who focuses his work on fighting terrorism. He compared bin Laden’s burial at sea by U.S. authorities to the story in the Bible’s Book of Exodus, where God let the Israelites pass through the Red Sea as they fled Egypt but drowned the evil pharaoh as he chased after them.

Ahmed Jamil, outreach director of the Dar al-Dawah Mosque, at 35-13 23rd Ave., in Astoria, said his son was happy about the death, although his wife had reservations around the celebratory attitude around it.

“He is an enemy, so if you kill the enemy, you’re happy,” Jamil said, although he said the sea burial was against Islam. Muslim bodies are supposed to be buried, although bin Laden’s body was cleaned and wrapped in a shroud in accordance with Islamic law.

Meesam said that almost all Muslims rejected the terrorist leader’s ideology and considered him a negative outcast from the faith.

“Only the extremists see him as an inspiration” he said.

Qayyoom said the American government should focus on fighting bin Laden’s many successors, dismantling terrorist organizations in America and putting pressure on the Saudi Arabian government to stop funding terrorism.

Meesam was particularly proud that President Barack Obama reaffirmed that the war against al-Qaeda was not one against the Islamic religion during his speech to the nation late Sunday night.

“His statement was quite accurate and he needed to make it. I think it goes to show he is sensitive to Muslim sentiments,” the U.N. representative said.

Meesam said he could not say what bin Laden’s death would mean for the future of extremist Muslim terrorists, but he said it could have a negative impact on those who commit violence in the name of their religion.

“It will bring down the morale of his disciples or others who would seek inspiration from him. Now that he is gone, it might make people think twice about joining these things,” he said.

Jamil said while bin Laden had successors in the wings, few have his charisma or financial resources. He said the recent peaceful revolutions throughout the Middle East will make it harder for extremism to grow.

“I believe in a couple of years it will be finished,” Jamil said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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