What are we to make of Hone Harawira's statements that Osama bin Laden was "a man who fought for the rights, the land and the freedom of his people".
The problem with these assertions is that they offer no clarity and are misleading. They show that the MP represents is ignorant, and assuming they know his values, that they share his ignorance. This is both a problem and an opportunity, because everyone is important to someone, and if we are respectful of the rights of people, then we should take an interest in what others think, and attempt to correct their assertions. This of course is more difficult if they lack a respect for facts. Here are the problems with what Hone Harawira's said:
1. Bin Laden did not advance the rights of Arabs; he exposed them to collectivist contempt, dangers of civil war.
2. Bin Laden did not convey an intellectual defence of rights, which are sadly lacking in the Middle East; instead deciding to attack a country which has one of the 'relatively' better track records. If his argument defence was that America was the better but offered a bad example, or was inconsistent, he did not make that 'intellectual argument'. He resorted to violence instead; misdirecting resentment in his own country.
3. Bin Laden might well have had some notion of rights, but it was not an objective or conceptual framework that entailed or required any intellectual discipline. His actions suggest his rights were won at the expense of others rights. Did the US model these values? Probably, as US foreign policy stinks as an educational tool. Listen to US politicians and you only get the sense that the US is out to advance its vested interests. We don't get any sense of intellectual or moral engagement; which is a problem in a crowded globe that requires respect and cooperation from others; particularly when 70% of global oil supplies comes from the region.
It is interesting that Harawira draws upon Maori culture, which I have little knowledge of, but which I would expect would be collectivist in nature. He said the al-Qaeda founder should be "honoured" rather than "damned" in death based on Maori values. It was Maori custom to acknowledge the dead. Other Maori politicians had a different perspective. These representatives clearly embody a higher degree of Western influence; leaving Harawira sitting out in the wilderness as a Maori nationalist.
Harawira said bin Laden had "pursued independence for his people, his family and his tribe". Unfortunately, his independent entailed destroying the lives of others. He needed to make an intellectual argument; but instead he resorted to violence.
He indicated it was Maori custom... "tributes to the dead are always appropriate"...that "it was custom for Maori to "honour and mourn the deceased".
This of course suggests unsurprisingly that Maori culture is based on moral relativism.
If there is any value in Harawira's statement it is in the acknowledgement that Bin Laden did embody some hope for Arabs in the Middle East, and he did change the nature of US engagement with the region.
The notion however that he advanced or "fought for the rights, the land and the freedom of his people" is a nonsense, because he showed no respect for rights...merely his countries interests at the expense of others. Sadly, the US did not help matters. They might well argue that its not in their narrowly defined interests to educate Arabs. They paid the price for their 'narrow' defined philosophy of pragmatism.
Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said 'utu' (revenge) was a Maori custom. "But we don't agree with the extent of the celebrations or with anyone celebrating the assassination of anyone and then the person's body being discarded into the sea."
Labour MP Shane Jones repudiates Harawira's view, arguing that: "In the old days, a great enemy - if he wasn't eaten - his bones were used to make musical instruments. So this romantic notion that in the old time, Maori spent hours of their time saluting the enemy was not the case".
This need not however be a repudiation, since Maori culture might differentiate the spirit from the body, and find some spiritual virtue in eating them.
His other argument however does repudiate his assertion; although, does all Maori beliefs have to be the same given the different tribes spread around the country. Jones argued "Enemies were turned to dust and people rejoiced, because of the suffering they had caused".
Source of quotes - "Bin Laden a freedom fighter - Harawira", NZ Herald, May 5, 2011