My son, Osama: the al-Qaida leader’s mother speaks for the first time
August 3, 2018 6:42 PM   Subscribe

On the corner couch of a spacious room, a woman wearing a brightly patterned robe sits expectantly. The red hijab that covers her hair is reflected in a glass-fronted cabinet; inside, a framed photograph of her firstborn son takes pride of place between family heirlooms and valuables. A smiling, bearded figure wearing a military jacket, he features in photographs around the room: propped against the wall at her feet, resting on a mantlepiece. A supper of Saudi meze and a lemon cheesecake has been spread out on a large wooden dining table.
posted by standardasparagus (14 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks for posting this, it's very interesting.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 10:39 PM on August 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

I also wanted to say thanks.

I’ve read the article and agonized over what else, if anything, I might contribute to a discussion about it. But I find my thoughts so conflicted that I don’t think I have anything to share. But the article did provoke a lot of thought, so thank you.
posted by darkstar at 11:52 PM on August 3, 2018 [7 favorites]

This article spends a lot of time looking at the current state of affairs in the Middle East, with a nice section about bin Salman and his politics. Given the way MbS underscores TFA, I think it's worth adding to the discussion.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 2:16 AM on August 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

This article is aimed at scrutinizing Saudi Arabia’s new policy toward Iran in the Middle East. While King Salman’s ascendance to power brought a new leaf to Iran-Saudi relations, Mohammad bin Salman’s approach has led to a trend of continued escalation between the two countries
posted by adamvasco at 4:11 AM on August 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Excellent links, all of you, thanks!
posted by Meatbomb at 5:16 AM on August 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Some initial thoughts: These had to be incredibly difficult interviews to get and do (though perhaps easier to get now that Saudi Arabia is interested in a new narrative). Reading the room and people's expressions and the nuance of translation and knowing the history on much knowledge is required to even conduct these interviews, let alone write about this. From a craft standpoint, as an editor and a writer, I admire the skill and knowledge this took to do.

The photojournalism here is also striking, showing the gilded chairs, the rich fabrics they wear, the tapestry and upholstery... It's like, on one hand, you can imagine this is what he might have been rejecting, to some degree, this materialism and wealth. Then to come from a construction dynasty and demolish multiple buildings in your largest and most dramatic strike seems like an added layer of symbolism in and of itself. I'm sure that aspect must have already been talked about in depth by many people, but if it was, I missed it. I didn't know anything about his family, what they did, or the wealth and influence they had. It wasn't something I'd ever gone out of my way to read about.

Then I imagine someone who knew people who died that day, or who survived it all, reading this, seeing those images, and I can only imagine how they might see this. This family of means and influence, of gilded chairs and tapestries, of careful politics, from which came their trauma and destruction—and which still has photos of him up around the house. You realize that, well, it's his mother, and she's had many years to think about this and its many contradictions. But it's still a lot to think about.

Very interesting, all around. Thanks for this.
posted by limeonaire at 10:53 AM on August 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

I appreciated this article a lot. Many MeFites won’t know that the bin Laden company rebuilt Mecca into the modern weirdness it now is. There is a LOT to unpack there.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:52 AM on August 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

I appreciated this article a lot. Many MeFites won’t know that the bin Laden company rebuilt Mecca into the modern weirdness it now is. There is a LOT to unpack there.
And there is a lot more. I have spent the last half hour searching for the articles connecting the Bin Ladin family and the World Trade Center, which were not at all conspiracy theories but easily available on the web and in professional circles back in the day. I can't say why I can't find them now but it's probably pretty simple issues of changing platforms etc.
Whatever: the Bin Ladins were closely involved with American developers and the WTC architect was inspired by his previous work at Medina and acknowledged this. The terrorist Bin Ladin would likely have known about the very specific structural weaknesses of the WTC from the family business.
posted by mumimor at 12:54 PM on August 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

I don’t know what you’re supposed to do when your son becomes one of the biggest mass murderers in modern times, but it’s striking to me how little the bin Ladens lives seem to have been altered by what’s happened. They still get their mansion with pictures of him on the shelves and it’s like he’s the black sheep they are reluctant to talk about as if he had a divorce or a drinking problem. Mothers love their sons for good reasons and families should not be meant to pay for individual member’s crimes but its hard to imagine that if *my* son killed thousands and plunged the world into never ending war that I’d be living in the same house, trudging back and forth to the same job every day. I certainly wouldn’t have photos of him out on the mantle.

I once met the brother of America’s most prolific serial killer, in a completely different context unrelated to his infamous brother (I only knew because of the last name and family resemblance which led me to look it up later) and he was just like this guy, you know, a mail carrier or something, and still lived in the hometown they grew up in.

Seems like you’d run away and live anonymously, or defend him, or start a peace foundation, or write a book or something. But to just be unmoved...”oh, that photo? That’s my son Osama. He was instrumental in starting World War III. More tea?”

Anyway, fuck Osama Bin Laden. Fuck religious zealots everywhere.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 2:49 PM on August 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

"Given the way MbS underscores TFA, I think it's worth adding to the discussion."

I skimmed the linked article in that comment and tried some basic searching online and know "MbS" is Mohammed bin Salman, but I can't for the life of me figure out what "TFA" is. Can anyone spell it out for me?
posted by Nec_variat_lux_fracta_colorem at 3:45 PM on August 4, 2018

The Fucking Article
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 4:29 PM on August 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

You know I always see it used on the blue and I tried to google/mefisearch it... I thought it stood for The First Article. Soz
posted by AnhydrousLove at 10:01 PM on August 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Hamza bin Laden, the son of the late al-Qaida leader, has married the daughter of Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker in the 9/11 terror attacks, according to his family.

Weird and disturbing story.
posted by Rumple at 7:28 AM on August 5, 2018

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