Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Growing up Bin Laden–Book Review

A normal human reaction is that the people surrounding evil must have traces of evil in them too. Thus, if Draco Malfoy was evil, his entire family must also be so. In the muggle world context, if Osama was a terrorist, his family must have stood by his side and don’t deserve our sympathy. But the truth of the matter is that one can not blame others for the choices one makes. Draco’s mother made a choice of saving Harry albeit so that the attacks stop and she can save her own son.

Osama Bin Laden or Ossama as his son insists it is spelt was the world’s most wanted and hunted terrorist. Countries have been destroyed in the guise of looking for him. He married 5 times (having divorced one of them) and is succeeded by 19 children. In the eyes of the world, the entire family of Ossama are not given much thought and are condemned in the same way that he is. I did too. Until I read “Growing up Bin Laden”. Written by his first wife Najwa and fourth son Omar along with Jean Sasson, the book is the first true glimpse into the inner world of Ossama. It gives the reader an understanding of the kind of man Ossama was, how his growing up years had been and what his priorities were.


The book does not glorify Ossama the man. Instead, it is a brutally honest narration of how he grew up in the periphery of the Bin Laden family, his mother Aliya having divorced his father very early and remarried. Nonetheless, the very rich Bin Laden family allowed him to be a part of the businesses and reap the benefits of the name. His only love marriage was to his first wife and cousin, Najwa. Thereafter, he asked Najwa’s permission to remarry with the sole objective of siring more children for his cause. An extremely conservative man, his family never left the compounds of the house, were not even allowed to smile showing more than 3 teeth and were disallowed the use of any modern appliance like refrigerators.

After being unceremoniously thrown out of Saudi Arabia by the king and later from Sudan due to his growing fanatical activities, Ossama became more and more frustrated and convinced himself that America and Israel were the reasons behind his personal struggles and Islam’s problems at large. He started dreaming of a pure Islamic world and preached hatred against America even though his reason for it started only because the king of Saudi asked for the American army’s help to defend the country rather than his group of bandits even though he had fought the Russians and ousted them out of Iraq.

The book traces how his family moved from a life of luxury in Jeddah towards austerity and in the end, they were made to live in cave like dwellings on a mountain in Tora Bora (Afghanistan) without electricity or running water. Even though he made all the effort in the world to convince them and train them for Jihad, it speaks volumes of the family that only one child of Ossama out of his 19 agreed to join his cause and the elder most escaped from Afghanistan and his madness before 9/11 happened. 


I do not feel hatred towards his family anymore. They were just a bunch of people dealt with a cruel hand. They were mere pawns to the man and when they were old enough to make the decision, they chose to support peace and love instead of hatred. They will forever bear the weight of their Father/ Husband’s deed thanks to their surname. The family that had evil like Bellatrix, also had Sirius. Evil is not contagious, everyone has the opportunity to be evil or good. It is which part of us that we decide to follow that defines us.

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