The Man That He Was

Southasia - - Region -

Osama Bin Laden, the man who be­came Amer­ica’s neme­sis and kept the su­per­power run­ning in cir­cles for ten years, was born in 1957, the 17th of 52 chil­dren of Mo­hamed Bin Laden, a mul­ti­mil­lion­aire builder re­spon­si­ble for build­ing 80% of Saudi Ara­bia’s roads and palaces and, above all, re­con­struct­ing Is­lam’s holi­est mosque in Mecca.

His fa­ther’s death in 1968, when he was 11, brought Osama a for­tune run­ning into many mil­lions of dol­lars.

In 1974, he mar­ried the 14-year-old Na­jwa Ghanem, his mother’s niece, and en­rolled in the eco­nom­ics and man­age­ment fac­ulty of the King Ab­dul Aziz Univer­sity, Jed­dah, though he even­tu­ally grad­u­ated in civil en­gi­neer­ing. At the Univer­sity, Bin Laden came into con­tact with teach­ers and stu­dents of the more con­ser­va­tive brand of Is­lam. Raised in a palace in Jed­dah, Osama grew up po­lite, cour­te­ous, dili­gent and, from an early age, pi­ous.

The­o­log­i­cal de­bate at univer­sity and the in­flu­ence of charis­matic preach­ers such as Ab­dul­lah Az­zam, laid the foun­da­tions of the young man’s own think­ing, em­brac­ing fun­da­men­tal­ist Is­lam as a bul­wark against what he saw as the decadence of the West.

The year of Bin Laden’s grad­u­a­tion, 1979, was a tu­multu-

ous one in the Is­lamic world. In Fe­bru­ary, Ay­a­tol­lah Khome­ini cre­ated the Is­lamic repub­lic in Iran. Then, in Novem­ber, rebels took over the mosques in Mecca and de­manded a re­turn to true Is­lamic rule. When sol­diers even­tu­ally broke their siege and killed the ring­leaders, Bin Laden saw the as­sault as an atroc­ity com­mit­ted on the holi­est soil in Is­lam. A month later came the third defin­ing event of the year: the in­va­sion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union.

Bin Laden moved to Afghanistan in 1981 where, for a decade, he fought an ul­ti­mately vic­to­ri­ous cam­paign with the mu­ja­hedeen.

With the Sovi­ets leav­ing Afghanistan, Bin Laden re­turned to Saudi Ara­bia, but found that he was un­wel­come to the authorities in the king­dom. In Au­gust 1990, when Iraq an­nexed Kuwait and threat­ened Saudi se­cu­rity, he of­fered to raise an army of Arab Afghan vet­er­ans to fight Sad­dam. His of­fer was re­jected and the house of al-Saud sought U.S. help in­stead.

By Jan­uary 1991, some 300,000 for­eign troops were sta­tioned on Saudi ter­ri­tory. Bin Laden ac­cused the Amer­i­cans of “des­e­crat­ing holy Arab soil” and is­sued a ‘fatwa’ declar­ing ji­had against the USA.

Shortly there­after there were bomb at­tacks on the U.S. em­bassies in Kenya and Tan­za­nia. Osama was in­dicted as chief suspect. Bin Laden soon ap­peared on the FBI’s “most wanted” list, with a re­ward of up to $25m on his head. Bin Laden was im­pli­cated in the 1993 bomb­ing of the World Trade Cen­ter in New York, a 1995 car bomb in the Saudi cap­i­tal Riyadh and a truck bomb in a Saudi bar­racks, which killed 19 U.S. sol­diers. But though Amer­ica’s pres­i­dents in­clud­ing Barack Obama have al­leged that he mas­ter­minded the 9/11 at­tack on the WTC,

there never has been a shred of ev­i­dence to link him with the in­ci­dent.

In fact, the al­le­ga­tion is as reck­less as the claim that Sad­dam Hus­sein was associated with Al-Qaeda or that Mo­ham­mad Atta vis­ited Bagh­dad. All that Osama did fol­low­ing the 9/11 at­tack was to com­pli­ment the courage of those who car­ried out the im­pos­si­ble feat. But that was some­thing that many more peo­ple across the world did at the time.

In his Ab­b­otabad com­pound, Osama was fac­ing a team of well-trained and armed-to-the-teeth guys. Their num­ber ac­cord­ing to var­i­ous sources was at least 25 or at most 80. They killed sev­eral peo­ple. They over­pow­ered sev­eral other men and bound their hands. They could have done the same with bin Laden, who was as un­armed as those oth­ers. Yet they killed him. His daugh­ter says that they cap­tured him first and then killed him. And ev­i­dently they fired so many re­venge­ful shots that the body was in no shape to be pho­tographed which is why Pres­i­dent Obama has firmly de­clined to re­lease any pic­tures of the corpse.

They took away the body and buried him at sea. Osama’s prop­a­ga­tion of a vi­o­lent brand of Is­lam made him un­pop­u­lar with many mod­er­ate Mus­lims, but, like Syed Qutb, he was led by his be­liefs. May his soul find peace in death that had eluded him in his life.

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