“I will go fight jihad too,” said a madrassa student proudly. But when asked how he planned to do this with a ‘scholarly education’, not one in handling arms, he remarked, “I am being given training. I will go.”
Hundreds of young boys and men gathered near the Motamar Al Alam Al Islami office on University Road for the funeral prayers of Osama bin Laden, the killed chief of al Qaeda, on Tuesday. The funeral prayers were organised by Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), and their spokesperson estimated 900 people had attended. However, there appeared to be less than 500. Pride at their slain leader’s death and anger at the United States dominated discussions with those who had offered the funeral prayers. “He was our leader, our guide, our hero,” railed Tayyab Iqbal, who had come to offer prayers, even though he was not a JuD member. “As a Muslim it is our duty to offer prayers for another Muslim,” said another attendee.
Osama bin Laden may have been buried at sea, but in this coastal city, his memory was still fresh.
A crowd of cherubic young children gathered to be interviewed, even as a cleric tried to get them to go back to the madrassa. “I don’t want to see a single madrassa student here!” he yelled. “Why are they making statements?”
The students rattled off a short biography of Osama bin Laden, saying their sources were television channels and ‘videos’ that they had seen.
Mohammad Naeem, 13, had a JuD flag wrapped around his shoulders. “Osama bin Laden was a great commander of Islam who fought many wars against the US,” he stated. “And his biggest feat was 9/11.”
Even though many have expressed scepticism at Osama bin Laden’s killing, the attendees at the funeral prayers believed he had been killed. “The media has previously published reports of his death,” said Abdul Majeed. “I am 85 per cent sure now that he is dead.”
While others said that Bin Laden should not have been buried at sea, Majeed believed that it was an “honour” for him. “On Judgment Day, he will be honoured. His flesh will be pieced together.”
Iqbal disagreed. “He should have been given a grave. This is the right of a Muslim. We do not expect — given the other ‘insults’ of America — that his family will be treated well. They only have God.”
Sovereignty, as always, was discussed at the funeral, by the organisers and the attendees.
“It is shameful if this happened with Pakistani consent,” said Iqbal, “and it is equally shameful if it didn’t and the Americans did this on our territory.”
Speakers at the event — JuD emir Naveed Qamar, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam’s (S) Usman Yaar Khan and Tehrik Ahle Hadees’ Allama Abdul Ghazi — spoke of how Osama’s blood would be manifested (“Osama ka khoon rang laaye ga”). They said this funeral prayers demonstrated that Bin Laden was not orphaned, but had scores of supporters.
As JuD volunteers handed out fruit juice packs, others were there merely to correct journalists. “[The proper word is] shaheed [martyr], not ‘killed’,” piped up a smooth-faced man in the crowd, who looked visibly different from the clerics and madrassa students. Others were told not to sensationalise the funeral prayers.
Fourteen-year-old Abdullah offered his two cents, “These funeral prayers are a slap on America’s face from the JuD.”
He, like many of the other madrassa students, said he planned to partake in the fighting in Kashmir. “Osama has shown us the way. We will go save the honour of our Muslim sisters.” Other teenagers vowed to avenge Osama bin Laden. Mid-conversation, they rushed off to shout “Allah-hu Akbar” [God is great].
Bored policemen had cordoned off the prayer site and there was a sizeable amount of police and Rangers jawans present. However their patience waned at around 7:30 pm, when they started asking the organisers to wrap up. Flags were hurriedly gathered up and the last round of juice boxes distributed to lingering camera crews.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2011.
Watch slideshow here.