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Overseas, Reaction to Bin Laden’s Death Muted

Students on co-op in India, Germany, and the United Arab Emirates observe muted response
May 2nd, 2011

On Sunday night, thou­sands of Amer­i­cans turned out in the streets of Boston, New York, Wash­ington, D.C. and other cities to cel­e­brate the death of Osama bin Laden, the mas­ter­mind behind the Sept. 11 ter­rorist attacks.

But the joyous crowds and around-​​the-​​clock news cov­erage were largely con­fined to the United States, according to North­eastern stu­dents on co-​​op in India, Ger­many and the United Arab Emirates.

News about taxi dri­vers on strike is more likely to unite people in India, said sopho­more finance major Chris Turney, who is on co-​​op at IBM in Bangalore.

“Absolutely no one in the office was talking about it,” said Turney, who watched a tele­cast on bin Laden in Hindi shortly after the news broke. “No one expects any kind of public reaction.”

He called bin Laden’s death a “sym­bolic ges­ture,” adding, “If it brings com­fort to people who lost loved ones [in the Sep­tember 11 ter­rorist attacks], then I’m happy.”

People in Ger­many cheered the news, said junior inter­na­tional affairs major Angela Loporto, but appeared unlikely to gather in public dis­plays of sup­port. Loporto is on co-​​op with Bisnode Busi­ness Infor­ma­tion Group, in Darmstadt.

“Ger­many is not a huge target of inter­na­tional ter­rorism, so it’s not some­thing they will cel­e­brate, like in America,” said Loporto. “But they’re happy a ter­rorist is gone.”
She learned of bin Laden’s death through the BBC News web­site. “It was kind of sur­prising,” she said. “I think it’s a big deal.”

Pres­i­dent Obama’s speech on Sunday night, in which he called bin Laden a “mass mur­derer of Mus­lims,” res­onated strongly in Dubai, where junior finance major Shoaib Kabani is on co-​​op for a global management-​​consulting firm.

“What hit home in this region was what Obama said about Mus­lims,” said Kabani, a Muslim-​​American who trav­eled to Abu Dhabi on Monday after­noon. “Mus­lims for peace wel­come Osama’s demise.”

Third-​​year inter­na­tional affairs and anthro­pology dual major Rebecca Wil­lett explained the meaning of the his­toric news to sev­enth graders at the Little Red House bilin­gual school in Ocote­peque, Honduras.

Her young stu­dents, she said, have a skewed view of cur­rent events and pol­i­tics around the world. “A couple of the stu­dents asked me if the U.S. and Pak­istan were going to fight now,” said Wil­lett. “I explained to them that bin Laden was a member of Al Qaeda, which func­tions in Pak­istan but does not rep­re­sent the nation of Pakistan.”

She didn’t notice any unusual cov­erage in the local papers. “I just did a quick skim of a couple Hon­duran news out­lets and didn’t see any­thing out of the ordi­nary,” she said.

- by Jason Kornwitz


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