While babysitting on Tuesday night, I finished one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read, “Growing up bin Laden,” by Nawja and Omar bin Laden. I started out reading a sample of this book, thinking that the sample alone would satisfy my curiosity, but evidently it just made it worse. After caving and buying the book on my Nook, I read through it quicker than I read novels for high school and college. (Being forced to read something just makes me drag my feet, but if I read something because I want to, it has the opposite effect!)
While I was nearing the end of the book, the six year old paused his Wii game and said to me, “What are you reading anyway?”
I paused. What do I tell a child who is innocent to the death and destruction of the world? My eyes darted back and fourth.
“Well, what is it?!” he asked, flustered, holding the Wii control in one hand and the nun-chuck in the other.
“It’s about a father,” I scrambled to say. “Written by his wife and son.”
“Is that all? What about a father? That sounds boring.”
I secretly prayed that he would unpause his game and go back to fighting his Mario characters.
“Well, the father is not very nice,” I said.
“Who is this father anyway? What’s his name?” He asked.
I panicked for a response, again. I figured there was a 95% chance he probably has never heard of him, so I said it. “Osama bin Laden,” I said. He shrugged and un-paused the game.
I finished the book a few minutes later. While the book was written in 2009 and published in late 2010, it ends with Omar and Nawja leaving Afghanistan between September 7-9, 2001. Omar was warned by a high-ranking member of Al-Qaeda before the U.S.S. Cole bombing that a “big event” was going to take place and that their lives were going to be at risk after it happened. (Not that their lives weren’t already at risk, but clearly he was referring to the 9/11 attacks being planned and knowing the retaliation that was going to occur)
Omar was the only one of Osama’s 17 or so children that started to question his father’s love for violence and as he puts it, “Jihad.” As he got older, he started planning his escape from his father’s training camps and compounds in Afghanistan. The children knew to not even look at their father in the eye when speaking to him (that is considered disrespectful in Muslim cultures), let alone talk back or question anything that he said or did to them. But not only did Omar look at his father in the eye, he also questioned him repeatedly until he answered him. “My father, how many people did you kill in the Afghanistan/Russia war? How many people? How many people did you kill?”
I do not believe that Osama bin Laden was born an evil person. He was once a charismatic, lovable, and smart person who in the least, had extreme Islamic views on the world. I do believe, however, that once the evil came into his heart and mind, that it multiplied to the point of him literally being happy to see destruction and death of Americans. (Omar said that when he saw his father’s reaction to the US Embassy bombings in Kenya and the bombing of the USS Cole, it was “the happiest he had ever seen his father.”) It was at that point in the book that I realized that this man had been overcome by evil from Satan, although he never saw it that way. He saw it as the right thing to do for Islam. He saw it as “good works” being done to better the world.
Evidently, toward the end of the story (so, roughly around 2000 or early 2001), bin Laden informed his sons that there was a “sign-up sheet” in a nearby mosque for boys to volunteer themselves to be suicide bombers. Osama bin Laden asked his sons to go to the mosque to add their names to the list. Omar was enraged as he watched his small brothers run toward the mosque. “How can you ask your own sons to volunteer themselves to die?”
Osama replied with something along the lines of, “I do not love my sons any more than I love other men of this country. You all are no different to me.”
I don’t understand what it is like to be a parent, as I am not yet one, nor do I know what it is like to lose a child as unfortunately some parents do have to go through for one reason or another. But I could never, ever imagine asking my own blood, my mini-me’s, the children I have created with the person I love, and have raised from birth, to become a suicide bomber, even if it was for my own religion. This was the second sign in this book that I truly saw his evil nature on a personal level. However, no matter his actions or requests toward his children, I still believe that they all loved their father, even after some of them fled from him in 2001. He was not always this way, and that is what saddens me. Just as the introduction to the book says, “People are not born terrorists. Nawja knows only the man, the West knows only the terrorist.”
Next up on my research regarding bin Laden: reading the newest book on my Nook, titled, “The Cell,” by John Miller, a former ABC News journalist who actually interviewed bin Laden face-to-face in 1998.