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updated: 5/3/2011 12:21 AM

Religious leaders say bin Laden death no cause for celebration

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  • While psychologists say it's natural to feel relief and even some joy over the killing of Osama bin Laden, religious leaders say rowdy celebrations, like those that broke out late Sunday and early Monday in New York, are unseemly.

      While psychologists say it's natural to feel relief and even some joy over the killing of Osama bin Laden, religious leaders say rowdy celebrations, like those that broke out late Sunday and early Monday in New York, are unseemly.
    Associated Press

 

The spontaneous celebrations by jubilant Americans who swarmed the White House, ground zero, Times Square and other sites as news broke of Osama bin Laden's demise are natural and even understandable reactions, experts say.

But scenes of chanting, drinking, swinging from lampposts and other rowdy behavior quickly drew criticism from the Vatican and other religious leaders calling for more solemn reflection.

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"I think there's a certain feeling of relief when someone who has caused a lot of evil and harm to others is no longer able to cause that harm, but it's not appropriate to celebrate," Rabbi David Spitz of Congregation Or Shalom in Vernon Hills said. "I think it's more an occasion to memorialize the people he harmed."

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi issued a statement early Monday saying it was not appropriate to celebrate any man's death.

"In the face of a man's death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred," he said.

Kiran Ansari Rasul of Roselle, a Pakistani American and spokeswoman for the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, agreed she found the images of celebrating bloodshed and death disturbing.

"I think it's absolutely wrong to celebrate anyone's death because (bin Laden) was a human being first," she said. "I don't think in any faith group you would celebrate death."

DePaul University sociology professor Deena Weinstein said she was disgusted -- though not surprised -- by some of the behavior. That was especially true of the mostly college-age crowd outside the White House, which at one point erupted into the "Olé" song most commonly heard in sports arenas.

"They were reacting in exactly the same way they react when watching a football game ... Team USA caught the bad guy," Weinstein said. "My students recognized it as something unseemly."

Paul Larson, a clinical psychologist and professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, said the rejoicing is a "fairly understandable reaction but not necessarily a mature one."

He's heard comparisons to the celebratory mood that followed the U.S. victories in Europe and Japan in World War II, but said most understand that while bin Laden's death is the end of a chapter, it's by no means an end to terrorism or jihadists.

"A little moment of joy and relief from the tension is quite understandable, but ideally you'd like to see a more sobering reflection set in a bit earlier," Larson said. "Whatever euphoria is felt about this event will become more tempered as people realize this is not the end of the conflict."

For some, there are fears that the celebrations will ignite more anti-Muslim sentiment and retaliation.

Psychologist Mouna El-Khadiri Drose, whose dissertation focused on Arab Americans who sought therapy in the wake of 9/11, said some people aren't able or willing to separate extremists from the larger Arab and Muslim communities.

"It's natural to celebrate, especially since this man impacted countless lives and a lot of people are relieved he's gone," she said. "But I worry how this will trickle down."

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