Posted in: Islamic Gender & Religious Apartheid
Published on May 04, 2011 by Phyllis Chesler
Was Osama a Typical Husband and Father?
Announcing the successful assassination of Osama Bin Laden on May 1, 2011, President Obama declared that the United States is "not – and never will be – at war with Islam….our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader, he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, Al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own."
In that same speech, Obama stated that "Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader" because, according to Obama, by definition, a (good) Muslim cannot be a "mass murderer of Muslims." But this is simply not true. Muslims specialize in murdering other Muslims all the livelong day. Think of Iran's record. Think of Lebanon. Think of the way Muslim leader Moammar Qaddafi has been shooting down his own Muslim citizens at point blank range. Think of Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabian and Bahraini leaders shooting down Shia Muslim Bahrainis.
When the president of the United States singled out Muslims as victims Sunday night, why did he not pause to briefly mention, even in passing, the fact that Muslims and Islamists have also slaughtered non-Muslim victims: infidels, Jews, Christians, Hindus, etc.? Prick us, will we not bleed? Do our deaths count for nothing?
In his opening remarks on 5/1, Obama noted that bin Laden was responsible for the murder of thousands of "innocent men, women, and children." This was Obama's only mention of women. However, Americans were reviled at the many early media accounts and statements from officials following the assassination which reported that, when confronted by the Navy Seals, bin Laden used a woman, one of his wives, as a "human shield." Updated reports suggest that this particular wife was not used as a shield, but that she herself rushed the U.S. assaulter and was shot in the leg, but not killed.
Whatever the case, this woman was acting, directly or indirectly, as a human shield for Osama. And this heinous behavior, to have a woman die before or instead of you, is not only typical of bin Laden, but typical of many Muslim Islamist and jihadic men.
Muslim men often give Muslim women who were otherwise slated to be honor murdered one last chance to go out in glory—as long as they blow up Israelis, Jews, Americans, infidels with them. These mass murderers—these serial killers by proxy–have trained veiled Muslim women to blow themselves up in public squares and mosques, where other veiled Muslim women and babies are shopping. Their handlers, who are not always men, are, in a sense, hiding behind them too. Such women, especially the wives of jihadists, are trained to be very aggressive in the service of protecting their Man. I do not know whether Osama "forced" his wife to rush at the American soldiers or whether the nature of their relationship simply consisted of such one-sided female devotion-unto-death.
In Growing Up Bin Laden, Osama's first wife/first cousin, Najwa bin Laden, and his fourth son, Omar bin Laden, (Najwa's son too), reveal Osama's monstrous but rather typical behavior vis-a-vis women and children, including his own.
Bin Laden, the holy warrior, had four-five wives (Najwa Ghanem, Khadijah Sharif, Khairiah Sabar, Siham Sabar, and Amal Al-Sadah who replaced his annulled fifth marriage and/or his divorced wife, Khadijah Sharif). Osama fathered eleven sons and eight daughters (nineteen children), ten with Najwa alone. According to Najwa and Omar, Osama was not physically cruel to his wives. He never beat them or raised his voice to them. They were chosen for their submissiveness, passivity, and religiosity. Typically, like many Arab and Muslim men, Osama loved his mother; he may even have identified with her as a kindred outcast. His first wife, Najwa, was his mother's niece. He and Najwa lived with Osama's mother, Allia, for a long time.
To Osama, women were important as breeders and domestic servants but otherwise they did not really matter, they were not important. He spent most of his time with other men, warriors, or businessmen. His first wife was fifteen years old. Osama expected a wife to "know her place." He expected his four wives to live in purdah (to observe the strictest Saudi or Afghan style face and body coverings). Despite his enormous wealth, Osama condemned his wives to very primitive living conditions, and essentially expected them to work as domestic beasts of burden. He never concerned himself with their comfort and forced them to live in austere settings with little furniture. However, his relationship to Najwa was one of mutual understanding and tenderness.
Still, according to her son and co-author, Omar, even when Najwa was suffering from a difficult pregnancy, "she lived without air-conditioning in the hottest weather, without proper heating in the coldest weather, without modern appliances to store or book food or wash her family's clothes, without proper food for her children, without medical care for anyone and without a way of communicating with her mother and siblings."
Najwa never complained and maintained the "sweetest composure."
Osama the mighty warrior could or would not live for long without his women and children with him. He took them along into danger and privation. He dragged all his wives and children along with him, first to Saudi Arabia, then into exile, in Sudan, and Afghanistan where he literally demanded that they live in a rudimentary hovel on a deserted mountain: Tora Bora to be exact. At least one wife, probably his fifth wife Amal, stayed with him and accompanied him to Pakistan. She is the one who may have functioned as his "human shield" in his final confrontation with American Navy Seals.
What I am about to say will probably be minimized if not dismissed by serious foreign policy wonks but here goes: according to his son, Osama's final straw in deciding to wage war on America was not his ongoing feud with the Saudi royal family, but rather the presence of infidel female soldiers on Saudi and Muslim soil, brought there to protect Saudi men. Omar writes:
At the first sight of a capable-looking female soldier, my father became the most outspoken opponent of the royal decision to allow Western armies into the Kingdom, ranting, "Women! Defending Saudi men!" No insult could be worse. My father became frustrated to the point of declaring that he could not longer accept the pollution he claimed hung in the air above any non-Muslim.
So much for the Muslim, Islamist leader's view of infidels and infidel women. (Think Lara Logan). And, if President Obama thinks that Osama rides alone, listen to how Muslim leaders are handling bin Laden's assassination. According to Reuters, "Palestinian" Muslim-Islamist Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, said: "We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior. We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood." According to counter-terrorism guru Steven Emerson, the Muslim Brotherhood's Arabic website refers to bin Laden as a "shahid" (martyr); a popular jihadi website, the Network of World Jihad, states: "The lion Osama has died…I ask Allah to grant him the upper paradise and the company of the Prophet Mohammed and his honored companions the mujahideen."
Have Ahmadinejad (Iran's Muslim leader), Hamid Karzai (Afghanistan's Muslim leader) or Asif Ali Zardari (Pakistan's Muslim leader) praised the Americans for bringing this mass murderer to justice? Have any of the many non-state terrorist Islamists praised the Americans and condemned Osama in Arabic, Persian, Pushto, and Dari?
Back to the women: I understood that bin Laden, his father's seventeenth son, was starved for his father's attention and affection; he received neither. But, according to his son Omar and wife Najwa, Osama was a sadist towards his own wives and sons. He had driven fast and fancy cars and had flown in private planes but he did not allow his wives to have modern kitchen appliances or air conditioning ("modernization is corrupt"), not even in sweltering heat; he deprived his son Omar of his asthma medication; and he force-marched his sons in the desert for many hours without allowing them to drink any water. He routinely beat his sons, "caning" them for the "slightest infraction." His sons were not allowed to look him in the eye, disagree with him about anything, laugh, or "show their teeth." He sacrificed his sons to cruel, tyrannical religious teachers and to bullies.
Omar writes: "It is a miracle that none of us were beaten to death."
Like many Muslim fathers, he treated his sons as his personal but favorite servants and expected them to wash his feet and serve him tea.
Such behavior is not that unusual for many Muslim fathers. Such paternal cruelty and coldness shames young sons and, paradoxically, leads them to long for their fathers' affection and approval even more and to minimize paternal cruelty. In fact, President Obama himself may have been a victim of this phenomenon. Obama had a Muslim African father who was known for his woman-beating, polygamy, womanizing, and for his cruelty to children; this certainly includes his abandonment of his son Barack. Obama writes about this himself. Recently, Peter Firstbrook published a book about Obama's African family: The Obamas: The Untold Story of an African Family.
Paradoxically, but also typically, Osama loved and trusted one woman only: his mother Allia. His son Omar described their mother-son relationship in this way: "He had enjoyed the most pure and loving mother-son rapport from the time he was born…Everyone in our close family circle knew that he loved his mother more than he loved his wives, his siblings, or his children…Anytime he spoke of or to his mother, a sort of glow came to his expression." This, too, is typical of Arab and Muslim patriarchal psychology.
As noted, Omar and Najwa chose to leave Afghanistan before 9/11 and Osama allowed them to do so. Najwa sought no divorce and although his son Omar was "pained" he could no longer deny that "my father hated his enemies more than he loved his sons. That's the moment that I felt myself the fool for wasting my life one moment longer."
As others have noted, Osama bin Laden is history, but jihad is still upon us. Likewise, while bin Laden himself can no longer practice Islamic gender apartheid, the cultural system that shaped and empowered his barbarism towards women and children lives on. We must not forget that the war against Islamic extremism is one which has many forgotten faces and many underestimated fronts.
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