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Some thoughts on Osama bin Laden

(2004-04-16 13:49:55)
分类: 政治与时事
 

Several years ago I talked to an Arab from Bahrain about Osama bin Laden. First of all, the Arabic do not call Osama bin Laden (#3'E) (F D'/F) as Bin Laden, even though this is a surname; Osama bin Laden shall only be called, at least in accordance to the Arabic convention, as either "Osama bin Laden" or "Osama" (which happens to be a title of a latest film which talks about conditions of women in the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan).

Secondly, as more secular-minded Arab he nonetheless told me that Osama's speech is appealing and impressive; I consider that Osama's speech impresses people not necessarily because of its contents, but the way he speaks, the tone, the accentuation, the rhetoric, the phraseology etc. But as I do not speak Arabic I could not possibly experience. Only Arabic-speakers could tell. Furthermore, somehow interestingly, my friend told me that Osama bin Laden speaks some sort of Received Standard Arabic, i.e. something equivalent of BBC English or standard Mandarin - a universally recognised standardised accent within a particualr language community.

Thus, if a person speaks Henan accent in China, or Yorkshire accent in the UK, you could tell where s/he's come from; this applies to the Arabic world. My friend told me, unsurprisingly, that most Arabic nations speak with Arabic with particularistic local distinctions (or local accents); thus a guy from Northern African talks very different from a guy from Syria or Jordan. But Osama bin Laden speaks standard Arabic, which means his speech could best appeal to the vast majority of Arabic speakers in shortest time.  

The capacity to speak standardised pronunciation is always a manifestation of education and social class.  This is not surprising if you consider Osama bin Laden's background:: his family owned one of the biggest corporation in Saudi Arabia, the Binladin Brothers for Contracting and Industry, and he inherited holdings valued at tens of millions of dollars. Osama grew up in very good environment and received what we could call very good education - he holds a degree in civl engineering and was briefly educated in Northern Europe. For the Arabic people these facts have also particular meanings: Osama is not a Islamic cleric but he is pretty darned well educated; he speaks in a very gentle, genteel and civilised way; you are not listening to a thug coming from nowhere.

Osama bin Laden is also extremely wealthy, but he chooses to fight for his faith -however perverted we may argue and choose to live in poverty. This must appeals a great number of ordinary Arabs as most of them are very poor, and upper classes in authoritarian Arabic countries always led a very lavish and extravagant way of life and very often maintain very good relationships with the West (for example, many of the elites in the oil-rich countries are educated in the USA and the UK); this creates a massive rift between the general public, living in poverty, and the upper class. Osama bin Laden behaves pretty much like a guy coming down from superior class and help the poor and advance their interests: he is not the sort of Arabic millionaire that always act as cohorts of the Americans, the infidels, but always trying to advance the Islamic course and help the Arab brothers: say, to help the Afghanistanis against Soviets; to help the Palestinians brothers against the Israelis; to expel the US troops from the soil of Saudi Arabia, etc etc.

For many people, a person who is enormously wealthy chooses to live in poverty and spends his wealth to serve the interests, materially and ideologically, of the impoverished mass, is a high virtue. This reminds us of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a leader of Hamas only recently assassinated by the Israelis - an act outraged the whole Arabic world. Yassin is a similiar figure, though we should claim he is far less of evil nature than Osama, albeit both are terrorists sponsors. Yassin won respect because he was rich but chose to live in poverty and disseminate his resources to charity and other social courses/projects to help ordinary people. He is a terrorist on the one hand, attacking Israelis and the Americans, and a philanthropist on the other hand, helping those Palestinians living in all sorts of difficulties and definite privation. This explains why he is so much hated by the Israelis (and the Americans) but also so much loved by the Palestinians. 

This poses intriguing question in terms of how goodness, righteous and evil could ever exist simultaneously on one person; he is perceived by many as a sage with highest, and in the mean time regarded by some other as the most evil creature. It is tempting, always, to condemn one group of people collectively, for example, to say that the Palestinians who love Yassin (and to less extent, this applies to Osama bin Laden, too) is too of evil nature. This is a collective moral condemnation. I am always opposed to such sort of collective condemnation, and the notion of collective guilty. I believe it is important that before giving moral and ethic judgements, we should always look in to the context and circumstances surrounding all those manifestations of deeds of goodness and evil, to understand why some apparent evil deeds and evil figure could be hailed by many as high virtue and sage-hood. Are all those proponents of evil nature too? Not necessarily. From their perspective, Ahmed Yassin and evevn Osama bin Laden, are indeed some sort of embodiment of good virtue. By saying this I am not fundamentally nihilist or relativist: I speak out of context. Our objective, particularly as social scientist and intellectuals, is to look through the scene and interpret their behaviour and judgements in the line with their perspective and their circumstances (from ideological frame of references to physical endowments)

The rift between civilisations, thus, is not a rift between good and evil, black or white or any sort like that. It is due to fundamental misunderstandings between people of rivalling civilisations or cultural communities, and it is deepened by a collective failure of all parties to perceive such gross misunderstandings and subsequently a lack of commitment to deal with it.  

 

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