One is the 17th son; the other is the 16th son. Neither are the sons of a first wife. One is an engineer; the other was an engineering student. Both have ancestral roots in Yemen. Both are educated and come from wealthy families.
I am talking about Osama bin Laden–the 17th son among 57 children whose father is Yemeni–and the Christmas Day Bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab–the 16th and youngest son, whose mother is Yemeni. Both men were born “shamed,” disadvantaged, because their mothers were not “first,” or high-status wives.
Both men are lonely sons of Allah, yearning for paternal attention, even affection, in a polygamous culture in which fathers have too many children and little incentive to pay close attention to any one of them. This is devastating, especially to sons, because the culture overly values fathers and men, and grossly undervalues mothers and women. Thus, the attention a son may receive from his mother (if she is not sent away, as Bin Laden’s mother was) does not make up for the missing and longed-for father.
I have often thought that the way many Arab Muslim brothers brutally order their sisters around not only reflects how their fathers treat everyone, but is also a measure of their frustration about not being able to bond with their absent, lordly fathers. Thus, for a number of reasons, prison-style sexuality as well as homosexuality and homosexual pederasty is as rampant as it is forbidden in Arab and Muslim culture.
Arab and Muslim sons desperately want their fathers. But their fathers are busy marrying other, younger wives, having other, newer children, and founding financial empires. They want their fathers to redeem them from the shameful fate of living in a world of mainly women–which they do when they are very young; and of course, they want their fathers for reasons of identity and inheritance.
Based on his memoirs, even our totally assimilated American President is still in search of his missing, absent, polygamous Muslim father. Folks: The comparison stops here. I am not suggesting that Obama has anything else in common with Bin Laden or Abdulmutallab.
Both Osama bin Laden and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab are dreamy, disassociated, unnaturally calm, “removed,” and, according to my friend and colleague, Dr. Nancy L. Kobrin, perhaps “slightly autistic.” These men do not relate well to others. Both men have “issues” with women. They can’t really connect with them—but when they do, their need to control them is extreme.
By the way: Dr. Kobrin’s new book, The Banality of Suicide Terrorism: The Naked Truth About the Psychology of Islamic Suicide Bombing will be out early next year. (Full disclosure: I have written the Introduction for it).
According to Dr. Kobrin, many of our best counter-terrorist experts have “not been that interested in the early childhood development” of Islamic suicide or martyr-killers. This is entirely understandable but a bit short-sighted. Their goal is short-range: To detect and stop the next martyr-killer, be he homegrown, foreign, a loner, connected to a network, male or female. The longer range view is far more daunting, and not in western hands. Yet, allow me to say it anyway.
If Arab Muslims truly want to change the culture in which terrorism flourishes and which includes the master handlers and manipulators (Nancy Kobrin and I call them “serial killers by proxy”), the sexually repressed and permanently “shamed” young men, the permanently endangered women, and the homicide-and-hate preachers—that culture will have to undergo a revolution as far as women are concerned.
Think about what that revolution might look like. Polygamy; forced, arranged child marriage; purdah; forced veiling; female illiteracy; female genital mutilation; female sexual slavery; gender segregation; sexual repression/obsession; in short, everything that characterizes Islamic gender apartheid would have to go.
As would Islamic religious apartheid.
If not, we will be playing catch-up for a hundred years with hundreds of thousands of would be martyr-killers, some of whom we ourselves will release and have to catch again. (Two of Abdulmutallab’s handlers were once imprisoned in Gitmo, but we let them go).
And, by the way, the West had better wake up and understand that these acts of terrorism have absolutely nothing to do with the alleged American “occupation” of Iraq or the alleged Israeli “occupation” of Palestine or with alleged past western crimes of colonialism, imperialism, capitalism, Crusadism–or with issues of poverty and illiteracy. Bin Laden and Abdulmutallab are educated and wealthy and not all that altruistic. Jihadists, martyr-killers, suicide bombers, all believe that they are doing what the Qu’ran commands them to do: Kill the infidel, take over all infidel lands. For those who say that this is not their Islam, I say: Bring on that Islamic Reformation. If it were ever needed, it is needed now.
Dr. Kobrin points out that “Bin Laden’s father was from the area of Yemen called Hadramaut which means ‘death has come.'”
Aptly, chillingly, named.
And, think about it: Abdulmutallab was willing to set fire to his genitals. The explosives were not only taped to his leg; they were also contained in a condom-like pouch in his crotch inside his underwear. If anyone out there is willing to think symbolically, psycho-analytically, here goes: We are looking at a young man whose sexuality is literally “on fire,” whose ability or desire to procreate is all bound up with his desire to kill and die.
Eros versus Thanatos. Good versus Evil. Big stuff.
Abdulmutallab has apparently been plagued by unwanted sexual desires, by loneliness, and by visions of jihad and of Islam ruling the world. Several sources have reprinted some of his presumed internet postings.
He wrote: “As i get lonely, the natural sexual drive awakens and i struggle to control it, sometimes leading to minor sinful activities like not lowering the gaze (in the presence of unveiled women)…And this problem makes me want to get married…The hair of a woman can easily arouse a man…The Prophet advised young men to fast if they can’t get married but it has not been helping me much…
“I get lonely sometimes becuase I have never found a true Muslim friend. I strive to live my daily life according to the qurun and sunnah to he best of my ability…I imagine how the great jihad will take place, how the muslims will win, insha Allah, and rule the whole world.”