Magazine article Foreign Policy

After OBL?

Magazine article Foreign Policy

After OBL?

Article excerpt

As a teenager, Osama bin Laden was so pious that other kids didn't swear or tell off-color jokes when he was around. That religiosity later hardened into a fanatical hatred. "Every Muslim, from the moment they realize the distinction in their hearts, hates Americans, hates Jews, and hates Christians," he told AI Jazeera in a 1998 interview. "This is a part of our belief and our religion."

Today, bin Laden personally exercises near-total control over members of al Qaeda, exemplified in the bayat oath of allegiance sworn to him by the group's members. Several of his followers have described their first encounter with the al Qaeda leader as an intense spiritual experience, explaining their feelings for him as love.

Despite persistent rumors about bin Laden's health, including talk of a life-threatening kidney disorder, there is ample evidence that he is still alive and at al Qaeda's helm. Since 9/11, bin Laden has released a steady stream of video- and audiotapes discussing current events, most recently praising the failed Christmas Day attack. …

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