Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Book Review: Growing Up Bin Laden by Jean Sasson, Najwa Bin Laden and Omar Bin Laden

Osama Bin Laden, the world’s most wanted man, was killed on 2 May 2011. Even after his execution, bin Laden remains an enigma. Why did the privileged child of a wealthy Saudi family give up a life of comfort and turn jihadi? What motivated bin Laden to resort to terrorism when no one else in his family adopted such violent tactics? Why is it that none of bin Laden’s children, especially his sons, have become terrorists? In order to find answers to these questions, I got hold of an account by one of Bin Laden’s sons and his first wife, which was published in 2009, two years before he was killed.

Najwa Bin Laden, a Syrian lady, was Osama Bin Laden’s first cousin and first wife. Omar Bin Laden was Nawja’s fourth son.
Jean Sasson is an American writer who has spent a big part of her life in the middle-east and has penned a number of books set in the middle-east.

Bin Laden’s father Mohammed Awad bin Laden was a Yemeni immigrant who rose to become one of the wealthiest men in Saudi Arabia. Osama’s mother divorced his father when Osama was very young and remarried his father’s employee Mohammad al Attas. Osama was brought up by his step father al Attas and rarely saw his father Mohammed bin Laden. Osama grew up to be a good boy, pious and obedient. A stickler for rules, Osama slowly became a fanatic Muslim, imposing his feudal and medieval values on his submissive wives and children. He forbade them modern comforts and expected them to live rough. To toughen up his family, he made them trek in the desert and sleep in the open. He made sure that he always had four wives, his women being little more than vehicles for reproduction, expecting all his children to become soldiers of Islam.

When Osama got into trouble with the Saudi government, he fled to Sudan, taking his family with him. When he had to leave Sudan, he went to Afghanistan, living in the caves of Tora Bora as a guest of the Taliban, his family with him. Bin Laden was a weirdo and it’s a surprise that his son Omar turned out to be so peace-loving and “normal”. Please read this fascinating book to find out more about bin Laden’s personal life.