Osama Bin Laden: The Anti-Modernist

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Saloforum.com user Angocachi:

I'm 50-some pages into Michael Scheuer's biography on Osama Bin Laden. Some notes that standout in my mind, because I had either been unaware of it or thought otherwise;

- Osama was Ayman Al Zawahiri's mentor and trans-formative figure and not the other way around. It's often been stated that Zawahiri was the brains behind Bin Laden, but this misconception was produced by Saud to try and pin Al Qaeda on an Egyptian rather than an Arabian millionaire. I'll cite loosely from an awesome list Scheuer gives to drive home the point that OBL was the brains, and Zawahiri a sidekick. Zawahiri wanted to overthrow the Egyptian government and march on Jerusalem, and this was his only goal before joining Bin Laden. He believed Jihadists should strike the near enemy, until Osama convinced him the prerequisite of striking the foreigners behind the anti-Islamic regimes. He believed in small secret organization rather than a highly public and 'too large to count the members of' organization until he met Bin Laden. Zawahiri believed they could only topple the secularist regimes by military coups, until Bin Laden convinced him of insurgency. Zawahiri was bordering on Takfirism before Bin Laden got a hold of him. Zawahiri was against publicity until Bin Laden showed him the importance of the media and spotlight. Zawahiri was a Qutbi until Bin Laden took him in. Zawahiri's EIJ failed and was broke, Bin Laden dusted him off and told him that the US was the force behind the Egyptian government and turned his focus on America.

It's true that Zawahiri is an intellectual, but Osama Bin Laden was a superb thinker as well. Al Qaeda was Bin Laden's vision, and it was Zawahiri who was shaped by him, not the other way around.

- Osama's mother may have been an Allawite or had Allawites in her family, Scheuer doesn't know but he's heard the rumors and the reasons behind them are intriguing.

- Osama's idols were Khalid Bin Walid, Nur Al Din, Saladin, and Ibn Taymiyyah.

- Osama went to an elite school as a boy. Compared to the brilliant students he attended class with he was average, but compared to the general populace he was a 1 in 50 student, according to his teacher.

- Osama was not a Qutbi or Takfiri. He did not believe in Qutbi's big ideas; that the Ummah had fallen back into paganism, that bad Muslims should be declared non-Muslims and fought, that Jihad is an offensive duty and the non-Muslim world had to be conquered. Osama wasn't about restoring Muslims to a pure Islam or eliminating heretics and non-fundamentalists. He wasn't about subjugating infidels, and he believed Jihad must be defensive.

- He's never advocated killing the Saudi family and in fact has admired a handful of them. Rather, he wanted to depose them and put them on trial... at last. There's no indication that he wanted to lynch them or have a shoot out with them, as the regime in Libya met its end.

- He was a Spartan and Survivalist, and believed a man should not provide comforts and luxuries for himself lest he grow lazy and cowardly. He shunned air conditioning and cold water, wanted to live as basic a life as possible. It wasn't a religious tenet, just a personal ethic.

- Like his father, he didn't believe in borders between Muslim countries. He was a true pan-Islamist.

- Michael Scheuer shits on a great number of other books, articles, public statements and films on OBL and AQ. He laments the knuckle-dragging demonization of OBL, poorly sourced accounts that rely on OBL's enemies to tell his story, and so on. He rejects Lawrence Wright's 'The Looming Tower" as naive and inaccurate, but still worth a look.

On the other hand, Scheur despises the Neoconservative commentators; Douglas Feith, Bernard Lewis, Charles Krauthammer, George Weigel, John Bolton, William Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, and Victor Hansen Davis. The Weekly Standard, Wallstreet Journal, Commentary, National Review, Frontpagemagazine and Powerline are all lying about Al Qaeda, and they're trying to divert public attention away from American foreign policy, especially toward Israel... Scheuer says.

Scheur gives his approval to Peter Bergen, Abdel Bari Atwan, Steve Coll, and Brynjar Lia.

The book is damn good.

Saloforum.com user Thomas777:

Bin Laden was an anti-modernist I believe - he told Mullah Omar that Afghanistan was important because the conditions there (and the simplehearted piety of the Pashtun people) allowed Islam to thrive in ways that it could not in more developed and ''normal'' operational theaters. Bin Laden also would frequently say that the caves and mountains (like Tora Bora) reminded him of his ancestral home in Yemen - and both were similar to the caves that the Prophet took to when he was blessed with revelatory visions.

Osama would watch television news a lot because as a man leading a war effort, he had to stay abreast of information and utilize propaganda to his advantage, but he otherwise disdained media and viewed the use and consumption of it as decadent and un-Islamic. It was noted that the only modern things he used/owned were televisions and his AK-47, as these things were both essential instruments of war.