27 December 2012

Son of the Terrorist

There are a lot of books lined up for me to read this holiday season. Somehow, there seems to be a theme but let it be said that I’m not wishing to ‘alter the face of the world’ in any way that deviates from peace and harmony among all nations nor have I a death wish of some sort even if the books I’m deeply attached to at the moment include a few eyebrow-raising topics, namely: 
Only a few books have the power to evoke such strong emotion in me that I feel the need to share my newly conceived thoughts with others. When I entered the book store and proceeded to my favorite sections which are History and Politics, and Non-fiction, it caught my attention at once. I’ve never thought that such a book could ever be published. I wanted to buy it and immediately read it but I knew I had to think things over first. There were a lot of things that had to be considered at that moment, on top of which was my tendency to empathize with the writer so much so that sometimes, I overlook what I already know and arrange my concepts in accordance with what I’ve read. I’m an adult yet I am still very malleable. And so I was afraid that after reading it, I might find a way to justify what happened in our history, at least in my mind. But I knew I had to read it, if only for my love of deepening what I know of our rich history. And I did. I’ve finished reading GROWING UP BIN LADEN.
As what stories have told us, there would always be three points of view: the protagonist’s, the antagonist’s, and that of the truth. The only things I knew of Osama bin Laden were those coming from the vantage point of the Western countries. I’ve never known the side of bin Laden nor the underlying motivations of the actions that came from both the Western countries and the world-known terrorist. I wonder though, in which part would the story of OBL’s wives and children fit? Where would the lives who have witnessed directly his emergence to power fall? The book was written by his first and most important wife Najwa Ghanem bin Laden and his fourth son Omar bin Laden, with the aid of Jean Sasson. I thought I would know the motivations behind OBL’s deep-rooted hatred towards United States and Israel. I thought that the two bin Ladens would, in layman’s term, betray the man of the house by giving away confidential accounts. In a way, I was disappointed for I didn’t find any of these. In another way, I thought both mother and son were honorable. They recounted how difficult their lives have been while they were still in OBL’s guidance. I couldn’t fathom why they had to be free of modern convenience when the bin Ladens are known for being one of the wealthiest families in all of Saudi Arabia. Even more, I couldn’t fathom the unwavering devotion and loyalty Najwa showed to her husband. She gave him 11 children and though OBL had 5 more wives, 1 of which was said to be annulled shortly after the marriage, I think it was Najwa who held his husband’s adoration the most. After all, she was told over and over again before she left Afghanistan “I will never divorce you, Najwa” despite his declaration that he will allow any of his wives divorce him. Anyone, but Najwa. Besides, there were instances in the book where she said that she can’t fully disclose all information about her husband for she believed that they were family matters. She never once said that she was dissatisfied with the life her husband made her live. To think that she was forced to live uncomfortably.  She chose to stay with him in spite of Omar’s pleas for them to leave his father. She loved her husband and she knew that he will always play a part in her life beginning from the moment she was born until her last days for he was her first cousin, then her husband, then the father of her 11 children.  There was more to Osama bin Laden than being the head of the al-Qaeda. “The West knows him as a terrorist. Najwa bin Laden knows the man”.

The fruit never falls far from the tree, they say. But what happened between Osama bin Laden and his multitude of children is a direct contradiction to this adage. It was bravery on the part of Omar bin Laden for having the guts to leave his father and voice out his non-acceptance of the life his well-revered father forced upon him, especially in a culture that puts fathers on a high pedestal. Omar epitomizes the existence of choice in every situation. He grew up having high respect for his father, had diligently obeyed his father’s orders, never questioned his father’s decision, and yet his mindset took a different path. He opted for peace rather than violence. He chose to be his own man rather than an extension of his father, which was unusual for a son in his culture. He eventually left his father and fled to Jeddah where he assumed a normal life, the life he had been craving for since his troubled childhood. He, along with his brothers, might have suffered because of his father but he never lost faith in him. Though he was groomed to succeed his father’s position in al-Qaeda, he was never a part of the organization for he never shared the same violent beliefs. “My father’s proclamation had been given: His love for his sons did not sink further than the outer layer of his flesh. At least I knew exactly where I stood. My father hated his enemies more than he loved his sons”. Yet he didn’t believe that it was his father who was behind the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. He waited for his father to clean his name but all hopes had vanished when he heard OBL took credit for what is considered the worst terrorist attack USA has ever experienced. The way I see it though, despite their differences Omar would forever be the young boy who did all the tricks just to get his father’s attention. 
I am not ashamed to admit that I loved my father with the usual passion of a young boy for his father.

I don’t mean to offend anyone with my outright opinions. The book has been published in 2009 and as we all know, the world’s No. 1 terrorist was killed by the CIA in 2011. Who knew what happened with the bin Laden sons during that time gap? I didn’t make further researches so I am not claiming that the sons nor anyone belonging in the big bin Laden family is whether purely good or bad.  Again, my intention is not to offend other people’s sensibilities, especially those who have been directly affected by his terrorist attacks. I am merely responding to the messages of one of the books I consider highly emotive. I have nothing good to say about Osama bin Laden for up to this day, I know only little of what shaped him into becoming the Public Enemy that he was. But I have high regard towards Najwa Ghanem bin Laden and Omar bin Laden. They may be carrying the name bin Laden but it does not mean that they are representation of the ideologies of Osama bin Laden.
“My father was not always a man who hated. My father was not always a man hated by others. History shows that he was once loved by many people”.
As the son of Osama bin Laden, I am truly sorry for all the terrible things that have happened, the innocent lives that have been destroyed, the grief that still lingers in many hearts.

All quoted sentences were directly copied from Growing Up Bin Laden.
All the books can be found in Fully Booked.
All the pictures were via Google

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