The religious language used by the terrorists
October 24, 2001 12:57 PM   Subscribe

The religious language used by the terrorists may suggest what they are really thinking, argues Robert Wisnovsky in Slate. His conclusions might not be what you expected: one, they're not particularly Islamic, but rather use Islamic terms to "attempt to lend religious weight to what is basically a political ideology"; and two, their real target is not America or the West (except indirectly), but the monarchies of the Arabian peninsula. Interesting insights from a linguistic perspective.
posted by mcwetboy (21 comments total)
Well this is all fine and good, but remember that Bandar bin Sultan said he doesn't think bin Laden really has the brains for much of this. Would he have the sense of history (consider the version of "democracy" and "republicanism" that is doled out in US civics classes as the Framers intentions)?

What struck me the most was that his speech were so much more resonant in Saudi Arabia that the government-owned news media amended them. But then I hear they amend a lot of things.
posted by rschram at 1:14 PM on October 24, 2001

Wonderful article.

Thanks, McWetboy.
posted by silusGROK at 1:31 PM on October 24, 2001

GWB doesn't compose his own speeches; is it likely that OBL writes his?
posted by Carol Anne at 1:34 PM on October 24, 2001

God Bless America.
posted by rebeccablood at 1:35 PM on October 24, 2001

Wisnovsky writes:
"the terrorists' ultimate targets are not America's values, freedom, democracy, or material success, as we are told again and again. Bin Laden surely knows that he cannot defeat us militarily, or destroy our society, or even force us to change our policies in the Middle East through terrorist acts such as those that occurred on Sept. 11."
But if you have read interviews with bin Laden, you will know that he very much believes that he can do such things. I can't find the url right now, but in an interview from 1997 or 1998 bin Laden talks extensively about how the forces of Islam defeated and destroyed the Soviet Union, and predicts the same fate for the US. The issue is not whether such an outcome is actually possible; but bin Laden clearly believes it is, and so I don't see any contradiction between his opposing the Saudi govt and his making the USA his main target.
posted by Rebis at 1:49 PM on October 24, 2001

God Bless America. And a few other places, I hope.
posted by rschram at 1:59 PM on October 24, 2001


If we can safely assume that Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda is behind 9.11 then why can not we assume that Bin Laden had not already devised and mastered his Public Relations.

The attacks on 9.11 were no doubt, very detailed, planned and professionaly executed.

So was the execution of the Bin Laden video right after the attacks on Afghanistan started.

Being a Muslim, I know what ticks us. I know what my fellow Muslims would think when Bin Laden uses rhetoric like "Infidel, hypocrites etc" towards us.

What is to say that Bin Laden doesnt understand that. He has an agenda. He needs support. He is using PR to cause doubt on our faith. If a Muslim is made to doubt the health of his belief, he or she would surely want to make sure that he or she is on the right path.

Why every word that Bin Laden says is believed to be the rhetoric of the whole Muslim nation ?

On a separate note.

Person dies in jail under INS detention
Is this the first of many more to come ? FBI did say it is getting frustrated because it can not get much information from its detainees. And thought about torture was raising its head.
posted by adnanbwp at 2:15 PM on October 24, 2001

(rschram: that was my attempt to give an example of religious language used to lend credibility to questionable political aims.)
posted by rebeccablood at 2:15 PM on October 24, 2001

It is fascinating to read about the complex relationship between Osama and the Saudia Arabian royal family. Although I don't believe the author's contention that Osama doesn't believe that he can defeat us militarily, I do believe that a large portion of this mess is related to the Saudi royal family and the Wahabbi sect and their manipulations to stay in power.

Blaming the events of Sept 11 on our support of Israel is sounding more and more naive.
posted by rks404 at 2:20 PM on October 24, 2001

:) @ rebeccablood and questionable political aims.
posted by adnanbwp at 2:28 PM on October 24, 2001

"Islam" didn't defeat the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union defeated the Soviet Union, with some help from the U.S.

If this is Bin Laden's tactical delusion, we're aready ahead.
posted by donkeyschlong at 2:31 PM on October 24, 2001

Stalin,Mao,Pol Pot,even Castro:not Communists,just dictators,same with all those "communist" regimes.bin Laden is no Islamicist,just a power hungry asshole with a small dick. Rebis,The URL for bin-bins interview is
..An especially deep site with bin-bin info.
posted by Mack Twain at 2:46 PM on October 24, 2001

Well,guess I can't figure out how to post a URL on the comment site...the URL for the bin Laden interview is,maybe someone could explain wtf in MetaTalk?thanks
posted by Mack Twain at 2:51 PM on October 24, 2001

Carol Anne
GWB doesn't compose his own speeches; is it likely that OBL writes his?

It's amazing how well those TelePrompTers seem to function in the Afghan mountains
posted by matteo at 2:59 PM on October 24, 2001

Hey rebeccablood, I think better examples would be Bush's constant references to "evil", "the evil one", and "the evil-doers". There's also "Infinite Justice". . . and many more that I can't think of at the moment.
posted by UrbanFigaro at 3:02 PM on October 24, 2001

"make no mistake"
"our resolve is strong"
"defend freedom"

Which is not to say I have a problem with any of it. It's what leaders do at times like this.
posted by owillis at 3:05 PM on October 24, 2001

Here's a one-page version of the article.
posted by nicwolff at 3:39 PM on October 24, 2001

Uh, the original's on one page — I mean here's a text-only version.
posted by nicwolff at 3:40 PM on October 24, 2001

I thought it was funny the way Bush's script writer took a couple of days after the 11th to integrate the f-word (folks) into his speeches - surely he would have had more practice at writing those speeches?

Its only words, but words can be a powerful and indeed emotive tool - rhetoric I think its called..

ps, here's the complete bushisms for those that think the presidents stirring message wasn't Telepromted :)
posted by Mossy at 4:52 PM on October 24, 2001

fyi, the article is now here, thanks to that msn relaunch that happened today. (hello, redirects much? bah)
posted by maura at 5:52 AM on October 25, 2001

It's amazing how well those TelePrompTers seem to function in the Afghan mountains

it's amazing how the the invention of the teleprompter inspired the invention of speechwriting.
posted by tolkhan at 7:08 AM on October 25, 2001

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