In a carefully staged interview approved by the Saudi crown prince and in the presence of a government “minder,” the mother of Osama bin Laden lamented the career path of “a very good kid” who lost his way in college.
The al-Qaida founder responsible for the 9/11 attacks that killed 2,996 people was a shy boy who underwent a radical transformation while studying economics at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Alia Ghanem told Martin Chulov of the Guardian newspaper of London.
“The people at university changed him,” she said in the interview conducted at her Jeddah home in June. “He became a different man.”
The Guardian’s Chulov noted, however, that the room where the interview took place in the family’s mansion had numerous images of the 9/11 mastermind, including one at his mother’s feet and another on a mantlepiece.
To Ghanem, he was still a beloved son.
“My life was very difficult because he was so far away from me,” she said. “He was a very good kid and he loved me so much.”
At university in Jeddah, the Guardian pointed out, Osama bin Laden met Abdullah Azzam, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who was later exiled from Saudi Arabia and became bin Laden’s spiritual adviser.
Changing the 9/11 narrative
Saudi Arabia’s new young leader, 32-year old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, noted the London paper, has a strong interest in changing the narrative that the 9/11 attacks were carried out with the complicity of the Saudi regime.
Senior officials believe, the Guardian said, that by allowing the bin Laden family to tell their story, they “can demonstrate that an outcast – not an agent – was responsible for 9/11.”
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, and the families of a number of 9/11 victims have sued the kingdom.
Bin Salman has initiated reforms, emphasizing what he calls “moderate Islam,” that include lifting the ban on women drivers and an anti-corruption drive. Significantly, the government claims it has stopped all funding to institutions outside the kingdom that have spread the strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam.
However, Robert Spencer, the director of Jihad Watch and the author of “The History of Jihad: From Muhammad to ISIS,” told WND that the Saudi funding of mosques in the United States does not appear to have stopped, and the Turkish regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan is “energetically taking up the slack.”
Spencer said some credence should be given to the Saudi reform effort, but he emphasized that the crown prince “has repeatedly said that he is not going to roll back enforcement of any aspect of Islamic law.”
“He hasn’t done so, and he will not do so, so this ‘reform’ can only go so far,” he told WND.
Spencer observed that the timing of the interview with bin Laden’s mother is interesting, coming nearly 17 years after 9/11.
“This is another manifestation of the attempt by the Saudis to court U.S. support, and particularly to court Donald Trump’s support, against Iran, as well as to make the kingdom more attractive to foreign investment in light of falling oil prices,” he said.
“Bush wouldn’t challenge them on 9/11, and neither would Obama, but they can’t be sure of that with Trump,” Spencer said. “This is a preemptive measure.”
— David Levene (@levenephoto) August 3, 2018