A sense of relief.
That's the sentiment some local Muslims feel about the news of Osama bin Laden's death in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on Sunday.
"It's a feeling of relief that we have been trying to overcome the Taliban for 10 years, and it's finally happened," said Monir Ahmed, who has lived in Merced for a decade.
If the al-Qaida leader's death "doesn't totally eliminate it, it weakens the organization drastically," Ahmed said.
Bin Laden, whom the United States had been tracking since the late 1990s, was called the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people at the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pa.
Imam Yasin Alabbadi, former imam of the Islamic Center of Merced, said Islam doesn't give anyone a blank check on behavior. "This guy killed 3,000 people," Alabbadi said. "He killed a lot of people, in the airplanes, in the Pentagon. Nobody has that right. When I saw the news yesterday, I was happy to hear the president say that we're not the enemies of Muslims, we're the enemies of terrorists around the world."
Ahmed agreed, saying bin Laden had an agenda that was outside the core beliefs of Islam. "There are fringe groups, like any other group who have fringe ideas, that align with this individual," he said.
"Without the person to follow, I would hope that the activities sort of evaporate."
Ahmed said he had to explain the historical significance of bin Laden's capture and death to his children, ages 11, 9 and 8. "They were asking, 'Why are you happy? What happened?' I think small children's expectations are if you hear somebody died, you don't become happy, so they were wondering," he said.
He was in Los Angeles when the attacks happened. "We didn't know what to expect, other than it was a jaw-dropping event that nobody ever expected. Your initial reaction is shock, you don't know what to make out of it. And subsequently, it was a major lesson that things like that could happen and we need to work with our family, our community, you get people on the right page," he said.
Ahmed considered the location of bin Laden's hiding place a natural site. "The news article said on a dirt road in a fancy house and people not knowing what was going on or who was there. That doesn't surprise me," Ahmed said. "It's isolated."
Omar Sanad, a UC Merced student majoring in biological sciences, was also relieved to hear of bin Laden's death. But he said he fears retaliation from people sympathetic to the terrorist's cause. "I'm expecting something to happen somewhere around the world, either at an embassy or U.S. base. I'm afraid of that," Sanad, who is from Yemen, said.
Ahmed said he thinks Muslims would never identify with bin Laden. "Everybody has a sense of relief that he's out of the way," Ahmed said.
Reporter Ameera Butt can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.