What Type Of Islamic Training Did Osama Bin Laden Have?

Many have long stated, flat-out, that Osama bin Laden, and others like him bastardize Islam and the teachings of the Prophet.  I think that to be very true.  Bin Laden did more to shame Islam and the religious people who observe the faith than anyone else in modern history.

In so doing, bin Laden and those like him have undermined Islam by giving the religion a false face.  Bin Laden allowed certain demographics to think what he was doing with his fanatical bent was in some way reflective of Islam itself.  In fact, it was not! 

 Bin Laden led a lot of folks down the wrong path, be it a citizen in America who thinks all of Islam is corrupt and violent due to bin Laden, or some poor sap who thinks a suicide-laced pair of underwear on a plane will get him closer to God..  

So with the killing of Osama bin Laden it is time again to ask about the religious background of this leader to many, and danger to all.  What moral underpinnings did he subscribe to for the life he lived?

Osama bin Laden had no official religious training but developed his own theology of Islam.

“We don’t know that (bin Laden) was ever exposed to orthodox Islamic teachings,” said Ebrahim Moosa, a professor of religion and Islamic studies at Duke University.

The writing of ideologues in the Muslim Brotherhood influenced bin Laden heavily, Moosa said.

“He takes scriptural imperatives at their face value and believes this is the only instruction and command God has given him – unmediated by history, unmediated by understanding, unmediated by human experience. Now that’s a difference between Muslim orthodoxy and what I would call uber- or hyperscripturalists,” Moosa said.

The vast majority of Islamic scholars and imams say the teaching of the Prophet Mohammed happened in historical context that needs to be understood when reading and interpreting the Quran.

“If the likes of bin Laden, if they had spent one day or maybe one month possibly, in a madrassa (Muslim religious school) and understood how the canonical tradition is interpreted, they would not go onto this kind of destructive path they go on,” Moosa said.

In the entire leadership structure of al Qaeda, “no one has had any sort of formal religious training from any seminary,” said Aftab Malik, a global expert on Muslim affairs at the United Nations Alliance of Civilization. He is researching a Ph.D. on al Qaeda.

“What you had was an engineer and a doctor leading a global jihad against the whole world,” Malik said. “That would never happen in normative Islam. It’s just such an aberration.”

“What bin Laden ends up doing is saying anyone who disagrees with him, any Muslim, is in fact an apostate,” he said. That includes Muslims who would not join his fight, he said. “It’s a distortion of the traditional teaching, and it just extends the parameters and the consequences in order to legitimate how when you’re fighting on the ground you’re fighting against your own people.”

Malik said, “The key issue is of apostasy,” referring to when a person leaves a faith. “One of the things Osama bin Laden deviates from is calling those people who do not implement Sharia, or God’s law, on the planet as apostates. If they did not implement Sharia, they deserved death. This is a major departure from normative Islam.”

“The second major deviation is the targeting of noncombatants. Even when you read in the Quran there are injunctions for fighting. But before and after the injunctions for fighting are calls for restraint. ‘Do not attack monks, do not attack women, do not attack children.’ And these are numerated heavily in the Hadith, which are uncontested,” Malik said, referring to the sayings of the prophet and his close companions.

“What bin Laden has done is ignored those injunctions,” he said. “The reason he has ignored them, in Osama bin Laden’s theology it’s basically a theology of anarchy.

“Once you let the genie out of the bottle you can’t put it back in, and that’s the big difference between al Qaeda theology and normative Islam. Normative Islam has heavy constraints – very, very heavy.”

Trashing Islam Is Sign Of Intellectual Bankruptcy

I am watching unfold one of the most vile and cynical political moves on the federal level that has taken place in many years.   To take an entire religion and trash it for the most base of political reasons is more than just bizarre.  It is the loudest statement yet of the intellectual bankruptcy from conservative Republicans who seemingly have a stranglehold on the party.

As I read the news from Washington today I can only think back to the line that was imprinted on my memory from history books.  The famed Army-McCarthy hearings left the sentiments that are as proper today as it was back in 1954.

Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

The politician who needs to hang his head now is New York Republican Peter King.  The shameful, hate-filled, and truly rancid bile that lives within King came pouring forth in his desire to vilify an entire religion. 

It is numbing to witness. 

To trash one of the longest and most engaging religions for the chance to run his name and cause up the national media flag pole underscores what I have long-held to be the view of many conservatives.

The racist and uneducated who yearn to control the Republican Party have stained not only a political party, but also the pages of history. 

What is now taking place will not be remembered as thoughtful or patriotic.  The bashing of Islam will be remembered for the hate that it sowed, and the loss of American ideals that so many of those same conservatives claim to honor.

Congressman King is not the type of American that history is ever proud of.

I pity his family who have to carry his name.

Saudi Arabia Making Profit From ‘House Of God’

This is why newspapers matter.  Stories likes this are not found on the CBS Evening News.

By far the best story in this morning’s paper is the article on Mecca.   It is a fascinating read, and I suggest the whole story.

It is an architectural absurdity. Just south of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the Muslim world’s holiest site, a kitsch rendition of London’s Big Ben is nearing completion. Called the Royal Mecca Clock Tower, it will be one of the tallest buildings in the world, the centerpiece of a complex that is housing a gargantuan shopping mall, an 800-room hotel and a prayer hall for several thousand people. Its muscular form, an unabashed knockoff of the original, blown up to a grotesque scale, will be decorated with Arabic inscriptions and topped by a crescent-shape spire in what feels like a cynical nod to Islam’s architectural past. To make room for it, the Saudi government bulldozed an 18th-century Ottoman fortress and the hill it stood on.

The Royal Mecca Clock Tower and a half-dozen luxury high-rises are being built, and more land has been cleared for development in the Saudi city; some critics see this as a capitalist makeover. More Photos »


The tower is just one of many construction projects in the very center of Mecca, from train lines to numerous luxury high-rises and hotels and a huge expansion of the Grand Mosque. The historic core of Mecca is being reshaped in ways that many here find appalling, sparking unusually heated criticism of the authoritarian Saudi government.

It is the commercialization of the house of God,” said Sami Angawi, a Saudi architect who founded a research center that studies urban planning issues surrounding the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, and has been one of the development’s most vocal critics. “The closer to the mosque, the more expensive the apartments. In the most expensive towers, you can pay millions” for a 25-year leasing agreement, he said. “If you can see the mosque, you pay triple.”

Saudi officials say that the construction boom — and the demolition that comes with it — is necessary to accommodate the ever-growing numbers of people who make the pilgrimage to Mecca, a figure that has risen to almost three million this past year. As a non-Muslim, I was not permitted to visit the city, but many Muslims I spoke to who know it well — including architects, preservationists and even some government officials — believe the real motive behind these plans is money: the desire to profit from some of the most valuable real estate in the world. And, they add, it has been facilitated by Saudi Arabia’s especially strict interpretation of Islam, which regards much history after the age of Muhammad, and the artifacts it produced, as corrupt, meaning that centuries-old buildings can be destroyed with impunity.