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Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden Paperback – 17 Nov 2005

3.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books; Annotated edition edition (17 Nov. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844670457
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844670451
  • Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 2.3 x 20.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 724,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

This vital collection of Bin Laden's statements ... provides an invaluable insight into his thinking by bringing his disparate pronouncements within a single set of covers. --Malise Ruthven, Sunday Times

Here, with a shrewd, scholarly introduction from Bruce Lawrence, is the complete bin Laden reader. --Peter Preston, Observer

Collectively, these messages are the closest we will ever have to the terrorist leader's Mein Kampf. --Mary Braid, Independent on Sunday

About the Author

Bruce Lawrence is the Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Humanities Professor of Religion at Duke University. He is the author of New Faiths, Old Fears: Muslims and Other Asian Immigrants in American Religious Life, Shattering the Myth, and Defenders of God: The Fundamentalist Revolt Against the Modern Age. James Howarth wrote his PhD thesis at SOAS, London, on the religious revival in contemporary Arab thought. He has an MA in Arabic linguistics, and worked on MAS Abdul Haleem's translation of the Qur'an (OUP, 2004).


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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of those books to add to one's collection of literary works focusing on global terrorism.
An important piece in the puzzle of violent extremist history.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Messages to the World" contains interviews with the terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, and various statements attributed to him. I'm not sure whether it's really permissible to publish a book like this one, but I guess you could see it as "know thy enemy". Unfortunately, the book is edited and introduced by a confused scholar, one Bruce Lawrence, who seems to be sympathetic to Osama bin Laden and his agenda. If you buy the book, brace yourself for a rough ride!

Still, the messages of the al-Qaeda leader are quite revealing. For instance, he very explicitly, almost brazenly, supports the killing of innocent women and children. He considers Spain and Portugal to be occupied parts of the Muslim world, so presumably his demand that the "Jews and Crusaders" leave the Muslim lands also apply to these nations. Indeed, he also regards East Timor (which is Catholic) and southern Sudan (which is Christian or "animist") to be parts of the Muslim world! This is in keeping with the idea that all areas once conquered by Muslims are legitimately Muslim forever after. He also demands that the United States converts to Islam (yes, really), showing that al-Qaeda doesn't simply want all non-Muslim foreigners to leave "the territory of the umma". They want to have it all. We do get the message, Osama.

Another interesting fact emerges when reading the editors' lavish footnotes. It turns out that Bin Laden often quotes various Quranic verses out of context. Often, he only quotes the seemingly violent or intransigent part of a verse, leaving out the rest, which may be more moderate. As for Palestine, while it's true that Bin Laden always condemned Israel, he originally emphasized other issues as well, most notably the claim that Saudi Arabia is occupied by the US Crusaders.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x96f5e240) out of 5 stars 27 reviews
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96017c84) out of 5 stars Know Your Enemy! 12 Mar. 2006
By Loyd Eskildson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Bruce Lawrence (the compiler) points out that while occasional fragments of bin Laden's words are cited, official pressures have ensured that, for the most part, his voice has been tacitly censured - as though too dangerous to hear. This collection of 24 items include interviews with Arab and Western journalists, handwritten letters, and video recordings.

Lawrence also helps one to understand why bin Laden is a heroic figure for millions of Muslims, including many with no sympathy for terrorism. This is based not just on his success in eluding Americans and their allies, but because his personal reputation for probity, austerity, dignity, and courage - contrasting starkly with the mismanagement, lavishness, and arrogance of most Arab regimes.

Bin Laden points out that his terrorism acts are only retaliation, and that the West has killed far larger numbers in the region within living memory - poison gas and strafing of Iraqi villages by Britain in the 1920s, crushing the Palestinian uprising of the 1930s, France's colonial war in algeria in the 1950s-60s, and deaths through malnutrition and disease of Iraqi children in the 1990s due to the U.N. sanctions. Bin Laden estimates 1.5 million were killed in the preceding - Lawrence estimates it as 300,000.

Bin Laden began his massive undertaking against the U.S. after seeing the mujahidin victory over the Red Army in Afghanistan, and the withdrawal of American forces from Somalia in '93. Unfortunately, bin Laden greatly underestimated the special circumstances associated with both - the U.S. and Pakistani support in Afghanistan, and the inconsequentialness of the U.S. landings in Somalia.

Bin Laden on 9/11 (10/21 interview): ". . . they have done this . . . in self-defense, defense of our brothers and sons in Palestine, and in order to free our holy sanctuaries." "the defeat of America . . . is easier for us . . . than the defeat of the Soviet Empire previously. We have already fought them . . . as in Somalia. We have not yet found a significant force of note." ". . . America, has lost its values and appeal . . . Freedom, Human Rights, and Equality . . . were revealed as a total mockery."

On Surviving Tora Bora: Bin Laden reports that bombing was around the clock, every second. There were about 300 mujahidin dug into 100 trenches, spread over one square mile in ten degree below zero temperatures - only about 18 were killed by the combination of ground and air attacks. Certainly this had to have been an easy opportunity for American ground forces if they had been deployed at that time, instead of outsourcing the job to Afghans!

Bin Laden also speaks of how Iraqis should resist the U.S., describing a guerilla campaign like that actually waged.

"Messages to the World" is essential to understanding bin Laden, America's "Public Enemy #1" - especially for counteracting the incomplete and misleading statements provided by our own government.
48 of 53 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96017cd8) out of 5 stars Defeating Through Decoding 28 Nov. 2005
By Louis A. Ruprecht, Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
From the very first speech in this collection, I began to realize how little I knew about bin Laden's ideas--and yes, he has ideas--and how most of what I thought I knew was wrong. I had heard, repeatedly, that he was a relative latecomer to the Palestinian cause, that he had essentially declared solidarity with them merely to gain popularity in the larger Islamic world. That is not borne out by this book. In his very first speech, dated to 1994, bin Laden is already sounding the notes that reverberate throughout this collection: the entire Muslim world is under seige, from Afghanistan, to Palestine, to Iraq, to Chechnya and Bosnia; the humiliation (and emasculation) of Islam by the western world is the implicit goal. Now, clearly, one can quarrel with his analysis, but such a message has broad appeal. The editor and translator are to be commended for striking just the right balance here; they provide imformation, really crucial information, without taking immediate sides and without claiming a false neutrality either. As the editor has emphasized in his interviews about this book, to defeat bin Laden's ideas, "one must decode them, first." This book is an essential part of that decoding process. Perhaps the most salient interview is one granted by bin Laden to a Spanish Muslim. That man, who gives what is by far the most confrontational interview, questioning bin Laden's orthodoxy, among other things, was subsequently jailed for his trouble. That is perhaps the most fitting parable for this book: the very attempt to engage in a dialogue with this man and his ideas will be suspect to some. But it is the critical task before us, and the editor and translator are to be commended for enabling this dialogue, and for having done so with the moral seriousness it demands.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96323b1c) out of 5 stars Adds historical, political and religious context to the statements 3 Jan. 2006
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Osama Bin Laden's statements have been widely covered in TV and radio in bits and pieces; but they haven't been gathered together under one cover before; so to receive a unified presentation of all his admonitions, turn to Messages To The World: The Statements Of Osama Bin Laden. Statements issued in his name over the last ten years are here newly translated from the Arabic and annotated with a critical introduction by editor Lawrence, an Islamic scholar, which adds historical, political and religious context to the statements. Any who want insights on Bin Laden's thoughts and viewpoint must have Messages To The World.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96017f60) out of 5 stars Messages from Bin Ladin 16 Nov. 2005
By Benjamin Keane - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Media coverage of the war on terror has shied away from broadcasting Osama Bin Ladin's speeches and statements in complete and unedited form. Messages to the World is a collection of those speeches, selected by a professor from Duke. The themes are mostly global politics and religion, and the tone is simultanously detached and hectoring. If you are an American, it's a bit odd to read, but it never fails to be enlightening. As I was reading Messages, I realized how little I actually know about Bin Ladin's goals, motivation, and political views. Reading this book is a basic, important way to position yourself in the world, to see where you stand in relation to Bin Ladin's ideas. It's necessary reading.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x960181bc) out of 5 stars Timely in the Extreme 27 April 2006
By 3rdeadly3rd - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This collection of translated and annotated statements by Osama bin Laden is the sort of primary source collection I had begun to fear would never be published.

In order to understand the "War on Terror" environment in which we currently live, it is imperative to understand the rhetoric of both sides. Regardless of which viewpoint one supports, it is important to know exactly what the other side is fighting for. This knowledge is abundant on the non-terrorist side, but has so far been available on the terrorist side purely through analyses by expert commentators. Thus, being able to read the actual words of the major ideologue of world terrorism at the moment is a considerable boon.

I say "ideologue" for very good reason. As these statements and their accompanying (and copious) notes and introductions demonstrate, there is a distinct ideology involved in this movement. It may be an ideology directed against everything the West holds dear, but it is an ideology nonetheless. Osama bin Laden has clearly thought about a great many issues prior to initiating the campaigns of violence he has.

As case in point, the significance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is often debated by academics and policymakers: Is it central to the globalisation of terrorism, or is it merely a convenient justification to use when asked? As even the earliest statements here demonstrate, this is a key plank in al-Qa'ida's ideology - perhaps even more so than many writers have realised.

While one particular statement (the "Declaration of Jihad against the Jews and Crusaders") will be familiar to any reader interested in this conflict as it has been included in a great many works (Gunaratna's "Inside Al-Qaeda" being the most well-known), many of these statements appear never to have been translated fully into English before. In this case, the team involved in this collection deserve even more praise for enabling those with an interest in understanding these issues to do so - particularly when, as they frequently note, the websites originally hosting these messages have been shut down.

The scope of these statements will probably be debated for many years to come. One review here makes the dogmatic assertion that these are not all of the statements made by bin Laden, for example. While this may be true - and bear in mind that many of these statements have been excerpted by various news outlets at various times, which may create the impression of there being more than there are - it seems rather immaterial. Far from only presenting a reasoned side of the man, these statements present his ideas in a clear form. Those translated from audio and video tapes, for example, never make mention of any gestures or tones of voice, since to do so would be rather pointless in my opinion.

Taken as a whole, these statements tend to appear rather repetitive - the only notable change from one to the next being a slightly different emphasis on particular events as they've changed. That said, reading the book cover to cover is probably not the best way to go about it anyway.

The copious amounts of footnotes and introductory matter are also a great strength of this collection. While it is possible to criticise the scholars involved (and it's almost a hobby for some of the reviewers here already), they have at least attempted the difficult task of placing Osama bin Laden in context. He's not a representative of all Muslims, but neither is he the "monster under the bed" for the new millennium.

The footnotes, too, provide a wealth of Qur'anic and Hadith references - including remarks on when the verse or tradition has been taken out of context or deprived of a section of text. Similarly, key figures and events (both past and present) referenced in the text are explained concisely in the notes.

Unfortunately, the sheer volume of these notes has presumably caused the poor proofreading which some statements suffer from. There are a number of words and phrases footnoted which do not have an accompanying note below, and some of these are germane to the text.

Further, one of the introductory notes makes the comment that Yemen is a "military dictatorship" (along with Pakistan and Nigeria). In reality, Yemen is a multi-party democracy (the only such in the Arabian Peninsula) and was so both at the time the book was written and at the time the statement was made. Admittedly, the country may not have a stable and entrenched tradition of democracy, but it is far from the military dictatorship described in this note.

In conclusion, "Messages to the World" is an invaluable aid to those who want to understand the current conflicts "from the source" as it were. It is somewhat heavy reading in places and will remain a controversial book for much of the foreseeable future. Its publication, however, represents a great step forward for much of the world.
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