"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

English Class & More on that Osama bin Laden Book

So my Arab friend and I were talking the other day and I told him I'd gone to my mom's fifth-grade classroom that afternoon to grade a few papers. 

Me:  "English papers.  They had to mark the prepositional phrases."

Him: "English?"  (laughter)  "'They have to take English although they are English speakers?'

Me:  "Of course! You took Arabic!"

Him: "Yes, but written Arabic is different from how we talk. Our accents are different than standard Arabic so we have to learn to write it."

Me:  "So we have to learn to write properly."  (And speak properly as well, but I don't know that I told him this.)

Him: "I thought you'd just write the way you speak since you talk the same way that you write. Right?"

Well as I noted on my "Saying Stuff All Wrong" post, that is not always true!  What did he think? We just naturally knew how to write complete sentences? Knew how to make subjects and verbs agree?  When to use "is" and when to use "are"?  I even find myself saying "Me and Michael went to visit my grandparents," but I'd never write it that way as "Michael and I went..." is proper English.

Know what I mean? 


I'm almost finished Growing up bin Laden and I've found reading Najwa's and Omar's perspectives very interesting! Of course one never knows how much of it is true (and how much of it is Jean Sasson's sensationalism), but nevertheless it's been fascinating to hear some of the stories of bin Laden family life from insiders' points of view. 

Several times I've found myself feeling sorry for OBL's wives and children. Truly they seem innocent pawns in this mad man's life.  Omar recalls a time Robert Fisk came to Afghanistan to interview his father. Omar went along with his father and remembered Mr. Fisk asking if he were happy.  Omar said he never recalled being asked how he felt and gave an answer "I am happy" that he thought Fisk wanted rather than honestly telling him what a "most miserable" life he lead.  Truly the months the family lived on Tora Bora - the mountain given to Osama by an Afghan leader - were truly awful. Can you imagine living on top of a mountain without modern conveniences such as electricity and running water and even worse very little heat in those notoriously-harsh Afghan winters? 

Omar always loved animals yet was sickened when he realized the puppies his brothers and he loved were being used to test how weaponized gas affected something living subjected to it!  He recalls a time in Sudan when a friend had a baby monkey that he later heard was crushed by someone following his father's orders.  He remembers a friend being raped and photographed by the men who raped him and then the friend was killed because they blamed the young man for this crime rather than the true perpetrators - some of his father's own friends!  So many awful stories that make me feel very sad for his children!  

I remember in Sudan when the boys eager to make friends of the neighborhood children, almost made the double mistake of playing with Christians and girls!  Thankfully the hawkish security guards Osama employed caught them before they could do such a dastardly deed.

I guess it shouldn't have been such a shock, but it was saddening how Osama fired up his trainees by telling them how much America hated Islam and wanted to kill Muslims. He told them this so much that they were wanting to make the preemptive strike so the Americans would be destroyed first.  Even Omar who had never met Americans and had heard this America-hates-Islam speech his whole life, thought it was true, though he didn't have his father's zeal for bloodshed. He was tired of war and wanted a peaceful, normal life. He craved his father's love and attention.

One of the many things I found disturbing is when Omar said mentally disabled children in Kandahar were often chained to trees or in chairs. I can understand having to restrain a person in a chair, but chained to a tree like a guard dog? Argh!

I'm at the point in the book where Osama has just been asked by the head Taliban ruler to leave Afghanistan after three and a half years.  Osama ended up playing "the Muslim card" by asking the leader if he could at least stay one more year and a half since Sudan had let him stay for five years. He said it was better to allow him, a Muslim, to do this than let the infidel West influence the Mullah's decision.  So Mullah Omar reluctantly agreed and Osama was given permission to stay eighteen months more.  I'll have to read the final pages to see what happened during this time. Omar said if Afghanistan expelled them, their father would seek refuge for them in parts of either Pakistan or Yemen.

Since the last wives/children total in this post, Osama divorced one wife (the second one, Khadijah; it seems she asked for the divorce and Osama agreed; he even let her take their three children with her back to Saudi Arabia -- I think they were the fortunate ones),  and had four more children.

Siham had Sumaiya.
Khadijah had Aisha prior to the divorce.
Najwa had Bakr (whom all called Ladin except Osama) and Rukhaiya.

Najwa is pregnant with another and Omar is wanting to get his mother out of Afghanistan for the birth partly because her health seems poor.  Eleventh child and she is past forty so ...


Lat said...

When you have too much of extreme thoughts of what you think is right and the others are wrong,such dangerous attitudes like that of the Sudanese boys prevented from playing with neighbourly children,happens.There's no platform for peaceful exchange of ideas,language and customs.

Like Omar as a young boy was conditioned to believe that America hates Muslims.And America herself has a lot to prove otherwise.It's not easy everytime supporting Isreal against the Palestinians.This is the most crucial issue that extremist use to garner support against America.

Really sick to learn about the disabled children tied to trees :( I wonder if they've got any humanity in them.

From what I've read,Osama helped to build many mosques and supplied bread as well,which are the most important sources that the people need.He definitely played his cards very well.A product of Saudi oil in the worst sense.

I've to agree with your language issue with your Arab friend.How we speak is not what we write :)

Susanne said...

Lat, it was interesting in the book how Osama went from being extremely wealthy to really poor. At one point Omar tells how he was rationing the food just for the women and children and how often they had very little to eat. But I'm sure Osama helped others with the mosques and bread that you mentioned while still wealthy.

I finished the book this evening and was sad at how things turned out. Of course I knew that, but when you put the human element of a mother being separated from her children and a brother from some of his siblings, it just hurt my heart.

So you think most of the Muslim world agrees that Americans hate Muslims due to our support of Israel? I don't think most people purposefully choose a side, we just hear things that make us believe Israel is the tiny underdog country in need of support because those radical Arabs or Muslims want to wipe them off the map. Propaganda ... I'm sure. But people often believe what they've heard, and we know that "history" or even perspective is often slanted as was demonstrated in the Aslan post I wrote about the Caliphs. No Sunni would have written the way Aslan did about the rightly-guided ones.

I appreciate your comment! Lots of good thoughts!

Anonymous said...

The lives of OBL and families would make for interesting indeed, but I caution you about authors like Sasson. Look at some of the one-star reviews on Amazon of her books-- they are written by people who live or have lived in the Kingdom. She is not an authority on anything beyond her own misunderstandings.

I smiled at your friend's reaction to the teaching of English to English speakers!

Susanne said...

Marahm, when I mentioned I'd got this book from the library, I had about 4 commenters warn me of her books as well. :) Thanks for your warning also. I went to Amazon to review this book and they are mostly good, but I don't know how many of those lived where these stories took place (Saudi, Sudan, Afghanistan). Maybe I'm trusting too much that she accurately conveyed Narjwa and Omar's stories. It's mostly written as if those two are speaking. Each chapter is "written" by either Narjwa or Omar and it's as if they are speaking. But I don't know how much of her own spin Jean Sasson put on the book. She does mention that Omar contacted her about doing this book, but I guess I wouldn't be able to recognize if this is truly conveying his thoughts. Good points. Thanks for your feedback!

Wafa' said...

the problem is that when we take what we want from religion and apply it on our life without fully understand it.
the way Osama is treating his wives and kids is very normal for so many, lots of them believe that are the rulers of the family and that God will ask them how they teach their families the Islamic rules or "way of living" , of applying this "Islamic life" as they call it and believe in it on their families. So they kid themselves and claim that what they are doing is for the benefit of their loved ones. I have seen so many similar examples, less harshly but the same rules.

( telling them how much America hated Islam and wanted to kill Muslims) that is a very huge slogan and is used widely in the whole Arabic and Islamic worlds, sadly most people here are not educated so they believe what they hear from people who claim to know it all. fighting such ideas is so hard but starting to widen, though people who are fighting against such things are usually labeled "non-Muslims" or " westernized" ..So

it seems like an interesting book after all.

Susanne said...

Wafa', yes, I found it interesting. YOU may find it boring and too sensationalized since it's your world being discussed. I would not really be able to tell the difference since it's all pretty new to me.

The thing about this -- "telling them how much America hated Islam and wanted to kill Muslims" -- is that before 9/11 Americans for the most part didn't even THINK of Muslims or Islam. They were more concerned with basketball or football games, the entertainment world and their own families to care about Muslims or Islam.

It wasn't until the extremists got everyone's attention that people started taking notice and fearing Muslims and their suspicions grew about the motives of those Muslims who want to come here and take over the world. (That's who some of them think.) So I find it "funny" that this was a common thought in the Islamic world since no one that I know of discussed Muslims prior to 9-11-01.

Thanks for your thoughts!