Making of a monster

News & Politics

The New Yorker offers this fascinating look at a young Osama bin Laden, described by his schoolmates as a shy but honest kid:

"Osama was an honorable student," the schoolmate continued. "He kept to himself, but he was honest. If you brought a sandwich to school, people would often steal it as a joke or eat it if you left it on the desk. This was a common thing. We used to leave our valuables with Osama, because he never cheated. He was sober, serious. He didn’t cheat or copy from others, but he didn’t hide his paper, either, if others wanted to look over his shoulder." [New Yorker]
The article credits bin Laden's religious transformation at this essentially secular elite school to an after-hours Islamic education class offered by one of the teachers, who was likely a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Of course, others attended the class as well, and at least some soon dropped out, unhappy with the "lessons" that became progressively more radical.

In any case, the article points to the thin line that separates a saint from a monster, for that same moral puritanism could have so easily sent a young child down a very different path.

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