Despite the saturation of global media coverage, Osama bin Laden's own writings have been curiously absent from analysis of the "war on terror." Over the last ten years, bin Laden has issued a series of carefully tailored public statements, from interviews with Western and Arabic journalists to faxes and video recordings. These texts supply evidence crucial to an understanding of the bizarre mix of Quranic scholarship, CIA training, punctual interventions in Gulf politics and messianic anti-imperialism that has formed the programmatic core of Al Qaeda. In bringing together the various statements issued under bin Laden's name since 1994, this volume forms part of a growing discourse that seeks to demythologize the terrorist network. Newly translated from the Arabic, annotated with a critical introduction by Islamic scholar Bruce Lawrence, this collection places the statements in their religious, historical and political context.
It shows how bin Laden's views draw on and differ from other strands of radical Islamic thought; it also demonstrates how his arguments vary in degrees of consistency, and how his evasions concerning the true nature and extent of his own group, and over his own role in terrorist attacks, have contributed to the perpetuation of his personal mythology.
Bruce Lawrence is the Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Humanities Professor of Religion at Duke University. He is the author of New Faiths, Old Fears: Muslims and Other Asian Immigrants in American Religious Life, Shattering the Myth, and Defenders of God: The Fundamentalist Revolt Against the Modern Age. James Howarth wrote his PhD thesis at SOAS, London, on the religious revival in contemporary Arab thought. He has an MA in Arabic linguistics, and worked on MAS Abdul Haleem's translation of the Qur'an (OUP, 2004)