Sunday, November 8, 2009
Mountain Life by Omar & Najwa Bin Laden
I sat mute, feeling not one jolt of passion for my father's life. I only wanted him to be like other fathers, concerned about his work and his family. I didn't dare tell him the truth, that never would I understand why his mission to save the world was more vital than his duty as a husband and a father. When I sat staring without expressing excitement for his ideas, my father glanced at me in disappointment. He was accustomed to the passion of his warriors, men who hung on his every word, men who slept, ate, and drank only for the destruction of others.
That same passion did not exist in my heart. My father and I rode the rest of the stony highway in cold silence.
My father returned to Jalalabad with big plans. Now that he had the blessing of Mullah Omar, he would send for all his former soldiers. Some of the men had been with him in Sudan and their return would be easy. In fact, they would arrive on the same plane with my mother and siblings.
Although governments in the area did not welcome my father to live in their lands, because his passion to fight the non-Islamic world brought unwelcome attention from strong western leaders, ordinary people all over the Muslim world continued to celebrate my father as a great war hero. While Muslim governments distrusted, even hated him, their citizens loved him. In fact, as soon as the news spread that Osama Bin Laden was setting up new training camps for Muslim warriors, there were many eager recruits, all rushing to join the Jihad. With new recruits following the old, I was a witness to the making of a new army of eager Mujahideen.
Before long, my father would have more men than ever bowing to his ideas, willing to die for his cause. As they arrived in Afghanistan, I met many of those soldiers, because I was ordered to be by my father's side. I discovered that the mature soldiers who had fought with my father against the Russians were for the most part very good men. They had given up their personal dreams in order to free a Muslim country from the grip of a world power. Their purpose had never been to kill innocent civilians. But I noticed that while they seemed to enjoy the camaraderie of former soldier friends, they no longer seemed to have a fire in their belly for fighting.
The younger soldiers were distinctly different, their eagerness to kill and be killed so acute they swaggered with determination through the camps, warriors in the making. But when one looked closer, the quality of their characters appeared questionable. Many seemed to be running away from problems in their home countries. Some had fled to avoid being punished for violent crimes; for example, one of the younger soldiers bragged about slitting his own brother's throat when he discovered that brother having premarital sex. Others had lived in such severe poverty that they had only eaten meat a few times in their lives. Most could not afford to marry. Since Middle Eastern society promotes young marriage and many children, these men felt themselves failures at the achievements their culture held dear. Many were so miserable they felt themselves living in hell on earth, and were easily swayed by the Jihadi message to seek death so that they might soon be boosted into paradise.
I felt sorry for those young men. I knew they believed death to be a great reward, yet I never felt the urge to die; in fact, I did everything I could to stay alive. Though my own life was unhappy, I wanted to live and to pursue God's blessing of life on earth.
One day, while sitting on the edge of the ledge of Tora Bora Mountain and feeling particularly dismayed about my situation, my spirits instantly lifted when my father announced that my mother and siblings were departing Khartoum the following morning. I jumped to my feet, knowing that soon I would see my mother's sweet face. Although cross at the idea of what my mother's daily existence was about to become, I was still excited because I had not seen my dear mother in nearly four months. I wanted to shout with glee across the mountain range but muffled my excitement because my father did not approve of emotional displays.