Presidential Rhetoric and Campaign
Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden is a political icon to the people of Afghanistan. He has created a modern day crusade against western civilization that people support because of his rhetorical ability to create, not only through speech, but also through his actions, an insightful philosophy that has moved thousands of people into action against the United States. He was able to achieve this because he chose a religious path that people supported; he took influential persons in his life and his familial background into his radical stance on Islamic government and created an historical movement that has affected thousands of people.
Osama bin Laden was born into a wealthy Saudi family that owned a very successful construction company, the Saudi bin Laden Group. This company was started by bin Laden’s father, Muhammed. With this company, Muhammed bin Laden was able to build three of the most religious mosques located in Medina, Mecca, and Jerusalem. Osama bin Laden, in his later years would take this as one of the greatest honors bestowed upon his family. (“Through Our Enemies’ Eyes” pg. 82) His father, besides building the religious mosques, left his fifty-two children, including Osama, with a very strong devotion to Islamic religion.
Because of this strict background with Islamic religion Osama bin Laden attended schools located in Medina and in Mecca. Both places provided Osama with alliances that supported him in his beliefs, in the past and in the present with his education at both secondary and university levels. Throughout his education, he came across three of the most influential people in his life, Taqi al-Din Ibn Tammiyah, Mohammed Qutb (a.k.a. Sayyid Qutb Ibrahim Husayn Shadhill) and Shaykh Abdullah Azzam.
Mohammed Qutb is referred to as the “brains behind Osama.” (http://www.nwe.ufl.edu/jdouglas/F02finalart9.pdf). During the late 1940’s Qutb spent a few years as an educator. During his time there, he experienced things that completely turned him off to the ways of the west. He described the U.S. as “materialistic and occupied with topics of money, cars, and movie stars.” He also described Americans as, “crass people who were generally disinterested in life’s spiritual and aesthetic dimensions.” (http://www.nwe.ufl.edu/jdouglas/F02finalart9.pdf). This led to his involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood. He found that the bond held between the civilians of the U.S. was equivalent to fellowship found in the Islamic religion, but the bond between the Muslim Brotherhood was something that was more meaningful to him because of his devotion to his religion. The Muslim Brotherhood is an Islamic organization that’s goal is to “build the Muslim individual.” (http://www.ummah.org.uk/ikhwan/) In order to do this they reject any other religious affiliations that do not focus on the Quran or Sunna (http://www.ummah.org.uk/ikhwan/). Because of his connection with the Muslim Brotherhood, many went on to categorize him as an “Islamist.” “An Islamist’ is one who views Islam as the total way of life and desires to have Islamic law implemented in every aspect of life.” (http://www.nwe.ufl.edu/jdouglas/F02finalart9.pdf)
Qutb’s radical affiliation with this group as well as his Islamist perspectives parallel another one of Osama bin Laden’s major influences, Taqi al-Din Ibn Tammiyah.
Taqi al-Din Ibn Tammiyah is, in essence, the provoker of intolerance amongst Islamists against any differing displays of Islamic religion. He is also a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, “which support violence “under the guise of Islamic revivalism and fundamentalism.” (http://ddc.aub.edu.lb/projects/pspa/al-ahbash.html). As Professor Iftikar H. Malik had argued, “Tammiyah established jihad as an ideology for self-defense,” thus creating an alliance amongst devout Islamists, such as Osama bin Laden (“Through Our Enemies’ Eyes,” pg. 84).
The third most influential person, according to the anonymous author of “Through Our Enemies’ Eyes”, in bin Laden’s life was Shaykh Abdullah Azzam. Azzam was a teacher at the King Abdul Aziz University when bin Laden attended school there. Some of the ideologies that he possessed were similar if not verbatim to Tammiyah and Qutb. Besides being involved with jihad and being a radical Islamist, he was actively involved with the formation of Al-Qaeda. Al Qaeda is an organization that Osama bin Laden is a part of. Al-Qaeda is a group of Islamists that have many of the same views as the Muslim Brotherhood and jihad.
Osama bin Laden’s rhetorical vision has developed into an Islamic phenomenon. Although Osama was subjected at an early age to Islamic extremists, he became more involved and devoted to his religion after he had encountered the three pivotal figures in his religious movement, Tammiyah, Qutb, and Azzam. These three men were able to instill in bin Laden the beliefs that have carried him from young adulthood into a middle-aged man who has created one of the largest terrorist regimes in history. Without these men in his life he would not have been subject to the extreme hatred they had toward Americans and the ability to use rhetoric to his advantage. Much of the language that was used by these three Islamists is similar to that of Osama’s in that they both speak of a western society that is corrupt and needs to be corrected. All of them create a rhetoric based off this and their religion.
In addition to the subjection to radical ideals and beliefs by these men, bin Laden, himself, witnessed much of what jihad, Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists were about before he even came to encounter Tammiyah, Qutb, and Azzam. As a child, bin Laden’s father raised all of his children in a very strict Muslim background. He was quoted as saying, “It is my desire that my children grow up in the atmosphere of jihad and absorb Islam in its true spirit.” (“Through Our Enemies’ Eyes” pg. 82). By saying these things to his son, Muhammed bin Laden created a rhetorical vision for his sons and the paths in which they were to pursue once he was no longer there to oversee all of the events that occurred in their lives.
Even when his father was around bin Laden spent much of his childhood surrounded by the religious mosques that his father had built. The anonymous author of “Through Our Enemies’ Eyes” has found that Osama
“Spent much of his childhood in Mecca and Medina and so was exposed early and for long periods of time to the atmosphere of Islam’s two most holy cities. Osama is said to have been occupied with fundamentalist groups’ as a youngster and there are reports his first contact with the groups was at age seven.” (“Through Our Enemies’ Eyes” pg. 85)
Fundamentalists are a group of people in a religious movement that have strict principles and are intolerable of other views that are not similar to their own (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=fundamentalism). His involvement and following of the Fundamentalists at such a young age affected the way he saw the United States’ involvement with other countries. The United States has always been involved with the Saudi Arabian government and has sent many American soldiers over in order to regulate their society, which is exactly what the Islamic radicals, such as Osama bin Laden, are fighting to get rid of.
Besides a strict jihad upbringing and being part of fundamentalist groups as a child, Osama bin Laden, was the only one of the 25 sons that spent all their educational years studying in Saudi Arabia. (“Through Our Enemies’ Eyes” pg. 82). With Osama bin Laden staying in Saudi Arabia for his entire education he was subjected to the austere Islamic ways much more then his other family members. It was actually during his time at the King Abdul Aziz University when he became involved with the Muslim Brotherhood. He became a lot more devout in his religious convictions at this stage in his life and participated much more in the activities with the religious groups.
Without the influence of his strong religious background, his teachers, his family, and his devotion to earlier fundamentalist groups, Osama bin Laden would not contain the strong rhetoric he has in guiding Al-Qaeda toward terrorist acts. Some of the things that the Al-Qaeda bases its beliefs off are that,
“Martyrs were killed, women were widowed, children were orphaned, men were handcuffed, chaste women’s heads were shaved, harlots’ heads were crowned, atrocities were inflicted on the innocent, gifts were given to the wicked, virgins were raped on the prostitution alter our Islamic nation was afflicted with apostate rulers who took over in the Moslem nation. These rulers turned out to be more infidel and criminal than the colonialists themselves. Moslems have endured all kinds of harm, oppression, and torture at their hands.” (http://www.usdoj.gov/ag/manualpart1_1.pdf)
The reason that the Al-Qaeda is so successful is because people believe that every statement that is negative about cultures other than the Muslim’s beliefs are wrong. Osama bin Laden and his caravan of supporters find that the west is a corrupt society that spends too much time spent on protecting other nations when their nation needs more support then the ones they are trying to defend and inflict their own beliefs upon.
The reason that people are following his rhetoric is because he has established his stance on issues and his convictions are standing strong throughout all of the attacks that have taken place in his country and in the countries that he himself has attacked. In many of his official statements Osama bin Laden has never taken a stance that was against what he has preached against in the past. His rhetoric has also been successful because he has taken a stance on something that is directly affecting Islamic nations who are defending themselves against western government interference. The people attached to Al-Qaeda are people who already contain a hostile attitude toward the west, especially the United States. Therefore, his strong anti-American statements are highly regarded by the members. They find that many of the things the United States had done were reflective of their own Christian beliefs and not in the best interest of the Islamic religion. Because of that, Osama is able to create a form of rhetoric that is representative of what the Islamists want out of the world and obtains the support of other Islamists because he does not flip flop his messages.
Some of the types of rhetoric he uses include God speech. He uses God terms that scare the Al-Qaeda members into following him, because they fear the wrath of Allah upon them. “If the instigation for jihad against the Jews and Christians in order to liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Holy Kaaba is considered a crime, then let history be a witness that I am a criminal. Our job is to instigate, and by the grace of God, we did that.” (http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Dec2001/d20011213ubl.pdf.) He makes it sound as though the only way Allah will accept them in their afterlife, is through steps taken against the type of religious freedom that the United States has. Another example of bin Laden’s speech that portrays Osama not only uses religious language in the few statements that he makes, he also makes statements that are scaring people into fighting for Al-Qaeda.
He is able to gain their, the members of Al-Qaeda, support by using terms such as “enemy.” Bin Laden is creating a language that makes people get into the idea of defending something, whether it is their religion or their own personal lives. They are portraying the enemy as the United States and Osama bin Laden is able to use this rhetoric by saying without hesitation that, “You can not beat the heretics with this book alone; you must show them your fist.” (http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Dec2001/d20011213ubl.pdf.) This makes Muslim people think that there is no option but to fight the Americans and what they stand for. The visions and teachings by Taqi al-Din Ibn Tammiyah, Mohammed Qutb, and Shaykh Abdullah Azzam have influenced Osama bin Laden’s violent attitude toward western interference with their Islamic society.
Rhetoric has played a huge role in the way in which Osama bin Laden is able to capture and maintain the interest of thousands of Al-Qaeda members. He uses his experiences, his current involvement with the Islamic world, and his hatred for western societies in order to convey an easily readable message to his listeners. They find it easy to support him because of the basis for the Al-Qaeda code, which, in general, is to create an Islamic based society that is free of outside enforcements. Many members of the Al-Qaeda already believe and stand for this idea. Thus, Osama bin Laden has created a message that provokes emotional response from his followers and has been able to maintain that emotion throughout all of the trials and tribulations that came along with the terrorist attacks.
Anonymous. Through our enemies’ eyes : Osama bin Laden, radical Islam, and the future of America. 2002.