Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Juhaiman al-Utaibi and Bin Laden

In his article on Osama Bin Laden, Ahmed S. Hashim states,

We should judge the year 1979 as transformative in Bin Laden’s life. In that year three major events shook the Middle East. On 26 March, Egypt and Israel made peace, a peace that was denounced by Arabs and Muslims the world over as a sellout. Two months earlier, an Iranian revolution led by an ascetic cleric, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, toppled the shah, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, the most powerful ruler in the Middle East and the most important pillar of U.S. security and economic interests in the Persian Gulf. Finally, in December, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, a Muslim country with an unstable Marxist puppet government aligned with the Soviet Union. We do not know whether the first two events, momentous as they were, had much impact on Bin Laden; the last event definitely did. In one of his earliest interviews Bin Laden recalled, “When the invasion of Afghanistan started, I was enraged and went there at once. I arrived within days, before the end of 1979.”

I find that a bit odd, I would be more inclined to think that as a young Saudi who increasingly questions his way of life, a more stunning example of assertive Islamist action would be available right at home, why would even a semi-pious Sunni boy like Bin Laden look to Shia Iran for leadership - when Juhayman al-Otabi had just seized the Grand Mosque at Mecca on November 20, 1979.

Why was Bin Laden shielded from Otaibi's famous epistles, "The Law of Loyalty and Obedience: Corrupt Government"?

Is it just me or does Bin Laden's agenda seem curiously similar to what Otaibi was espousing then?

This is indeed food for thought.

An interesting footnote is the alleged role of the Pakistan Army in storming the Grand Mosque as stated in this website:

On November 20, 1979 the Grand Mosque in Mecca was seized by a well-organized group of 1,300 to 1,500 men under the leadership of Juhayman al-Otaibi. A former captain in the Saudi White Army (Saudi Arabian National Guard), he declared himself to be the Mahdi, the redeemer of Islam. [1]. After the two week long siege of the Mosque by Saudi Arabian special forces. Many things were tried to break through the doors of the mosque, including tanks, but failed in the end due to the strong doors. The Minister of Defence, Prince Sultan, finally called the Pakistani Army to handle the situation. As a Muslim country, Pakistan was eager to offer help. It was General Zia-ul-Haq at that time who directed the Pakistan Army and who finally captured the mosque with the help of French paramilitary forces. Upon entering the mosque, it was full of dead bodies and waste. The fleeing rebels tried to escape through water tunnels around the mosque, which were then flushed with water to bring the rebels out. 67 people were captured alive and later beheaded.

Given how much Bin Laden came to rely on Pakistani hospitality in later years, did he not know about the Pakistani role in ending Utaibi's seige?


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