Islamic Terror: Conscious and Unconscious Motives

By Avner Falk | Go to book overview

Case Studies

OSAMA BIN LADEN AND AMERICA: “THE GREAT SATAN”
AS A PARENTAL SYMBOL

To most of us, Osama bin Laden (born 1957) is the Saudi Arabian-born Muslim Arab leader of the al-Qaïda terrorist network and the author of the worst-ever violent terrorist attacks on the United States of America, beginning with the mass murderous attacks on its embassies in East Africa and culminating in the tragedies in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. To his fanatical followers and admirers, however, Bin Laden is not a terrorist or an evildoer but a freedom fighter, a holy martyr, a man carrying out his sacred mission of liberating the Islamic and Arab world from domination, humiliation, and exploitation by an evil Western world led by the United States. Millions of people in the Arab and Muslim world—though they are by no means the majority—worship Osama bin Laden as a hero, the mahdi, and the savior of Islam, a latter-day Saladin who drives the “crusaders” out of the “holy land” (Falk 2001b).

It is no secret that powerful emotions underlie great intellectual efforts. No scholar can ever be truly objective about his or her subject. As an Israeli, whose country is second only to the United States on Osama bin Laden’s most-hated list, I find it hard to assume an objective stance in studying this tragic, fanatical, and charismatic terrorist. Like beauty, charisma is in the eye of the beholder. Bin Laden’s charisma had to do with his bizarre masculine-feminine personality, with his being a foreigner, and with unconscious emotions in the immature minds of his followers (Abse and Jessner 1962; Schiffer 1973). Another factor that makes objective study particularly challenging is the limited amount of available

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