Growing up bin Laden: Osama's Wife and Son Take Us Inside Their Secret World

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Overview

"The world knows Osama bin Laden as the most wanted terrorist of our time. But people are not born terrorists, and bin Laden has so carefully guarded the details about himself and his family that little is known about how he became one. Until now - when Osama's first wife and fourth-born son break the silence to show us the private truth about a public enemy." "At the age of fifteen, Najwa Ghanem left her family in Syria to marry her quiet, serious first cousin, Osama bin Laden, and take the veil in Saudi Arabia. As his first wife, with other

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Growing Up bin Laden: Osama's Wife and Son Take Us Inside Their Secret World

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Overview

"The world knows Osama bin Laden as the most wanted terrorist of our time. But people are not born terrorists, and bin Laden has so carefully guarded the details about himself and his family that little is known about how he became one. Until now - when Osama's first wife and fourth-born son break the silence to show us the private truth about a public enemy." "At the age of fifteen, Najwa Ghanem left her family in Syria to marry her quiet, serious first cousin, Osama bin Laden, and take the veil in Saudi Arabia. As his first wife, with other wives to join her, she would bear eleven children and watch him grow ever stricter with his family." "In spine-tingling detail, Najwa and her fourth-born son, Omar, reveal how Osama disapproved of modern conveniences, including electricity and medicine, making everyday life increasingly difficult and dangerous. He would take his sons on long hikes in the desert without water, telling them that they must learn to be "tough" and "patient." When they were viciously bullied at school, he responded, "Life has to be a burden. Life has to be hard. You will be made stronger if you are treated toughly." Step by step, he moved his wives and children from an orderly life to one of extreme uncertainty, even choosing the fifteen-year-old Omar to accompany him to the mountain fortress of Tara Bora, where the risks of hunger and disease soon paled before the dangers of the terrorist camps and Osama was driven ever closer to the cause of violent Jihad." Never before has a member of Osama bin Laden's immediate family spoken out about their life together. Now, with unprecedented access and insight, bestselling author Jean Sasson, with the input of two binLaden family members, tells us the powerful and revealing story of Osama bin Laden's secret world.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
How many women can say that they are married to the world's most notorious terrorist? Very few. (Actually, the exact answer is four.) But only one of Osama bin Laden's wives has written a book about sharing a life with this rigid though affluent ascetic. Najwa Ghenem bin Laden married her first cousin Osama when she was 15 and he was 17. In Growing Up Bin Laden, she and her son Omar describe the evolution of bin Laden's weird philosophy, including his abhorrence of electricity, music, and medicine, and their increasing alienation from him and his jihadist ways.
Thomas W. Lippman
…a repellent but oddly fascinating as-told-to memoir by bin Laden's first wife, Najwa, and fourth son, Omar. Assuming that their accounts, as recorded by Jean Sasson, are truthful, we have an inside-the-tent view of a person so blinded by his cause that he strips himself of all humanity…It is not necessary to read this book to understand the al-Qaeda threat, but for those seeking deeper knowledge of Osama bin Laden and how his mind works, the book is a valuable supplement to the existing libraries.
—The Washington Post
Library Journal
There have of course been many books in English on Osama bin Laden, but this one is different. Here, the personal side of bin Laden is recounted by his estranged first wife (his cousin, she is mother to 11 of his children) and his fourth son, who has publicly called for his father to abandon "his ways." The stories that Najwa and Omar bin Laden describe are conveyed by Jean Sasson (Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia), who has lived and traveled extensively in the Middle East. Although both Omar and his mother left Afghanistan before 9/11 and have not been in contact with Osama bin Laden for almost a decade, they provide interesting anecdotes and personal vignettes that allow us a glimpse into bin Laden's terrorist mindset. The book is written in a conversational format that will appeal to the general reader. Additionally, the appendixes provide information about Osama bin Laden's extensive family and their whereabouts, along with chronologies of key events in bin Laden's life and the history of al-Qaeda. VERDICT Always interesting and highly readable, this is recommended for the many people who will wish to learn more about this man.—Nader Entessar, Univ. of South Alabama, Mobile
Kirkus Reviews
He was a quiet man, a good neighbor, kept to himself-until he went funny in the head and took on the Great Satan. It may have been an incident at the Indianapolis airport that set Osama bin Laden on his long quest to destroy the United States. Recounts Najwa bin Laden, first cousin and first wife of Osama ("It is common for Muslim women to marry their first cousins"), it was then that a blithering yahoo stared belligerently at the veiled women, "curious eyes growing as large as big bugs popping from his skull," even as her tall, imposing husband sat beside her. But the hatred took time to build, as Osama became first a jihadist and then a terrorist-and, along the way, a father to many children and husband to other women besides Najwa. The fourth child was co-author Omar, who picks up Najwa's story with somewhat less inclination to psychologizing. Omar is instead often defiant, particularly when dad suggests that all good boys his age ought to be signing up for suicide-bombing detail. "I was turning out to be a disappointment," writes Omar, "a son who did not want the mantle of power, who wanted peace, not war." Peace was not in the cards, of course. The bin Ladens recount assassination attempts, constant escapes, secretive relocations to new homes and countries and the occasional lobbed cruise missile. The two logged time in Tora Bora, Afghanistan, before, by Najwa's account, she was allowed to return to her family in Syria. Omar left separately, just in time to get out before the events of 9/11 and the arrival of American forces in Afghanistan. A middling as-told-to memoir, but of some interest to students of recent history-and to intelligence experts, who might want to have a chat withthe authors about the layout of the Tora Bora caves.
From the Publisher
"Oddly fascinating.... An inside-the-tent view of a person so blinded by his cause that he strips himself of all humanity." —-The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312560164
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/27/2009
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,230,210
  • Product dimensions: 9.44 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 1.23 (d)

Meet the Author

Najwa bin Laden, who married her cousin Osama bin Laden at the age of fifteen, is his first wife and the mother to seven of his sons and four of his daughters.

Omar bin Laden, the fourth son of Osama bin Laden, has publicly called for his father to "change his ways" and has not been in contact with Osama bin Laden since before 9/11.

Coming soon...

Lorna Raver, an accomplished stage actress, has also guest-starred in many top television series as well as appearing on the big screen. She has been named a Best Voice of the Year by AudioFile magazine and has been nominated for multiple Audie Awards. Lorna has also received numerous AudioFile Earphones Awards for her narrations.

Mel Foster has narrated over 150 audiobooks and has won several awards. Twice an Audie finalist for 1864: Lincoln at the Gates of History by Charles Bracelen Flood and Finding God in Unexpected Places by Philip Yancey, he won for the latter title.

Sherry Adams is a voice talent with several commercial clients to her credit.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
My Youth
najwa bin laden
I was not always the wife of Osama bin Laden. Once I was an innocent child dreaming little girl dreams. These days my thoughts often drift back in time and I remember the little girl that I was and the safe and happy childhood I enjoyed.
Often I’ve heard adults speak of their childhood with regret and even anger, glad that they have escaped the younger years. Such talk is ba. ing to me, for if I could, I would go back in time to the .rst part of my life and I would re­main a little girl forever.
My parents and siblings and I lived in a modest villa in the port city of Latakia, Syria. The coastal region of Syria is lovely, with sea breezes and fertile land where lucky farmers grow fruit and vegetables. Our backyard was abun­dant with green trees bursting with delicious fruit. Behind our narrow seaside plain one could see the picturesque coastal mountains, with terraced hills of fruit orchards and olive groves.
There were seven people living in the Ghanem house hold, so our home was undeniably hectic. I was the second child born to my mother and father and enjoyed good relations with my older brother, Naji, and my younger siblings, Leila, Nabeel, and Ahmed. There was also a half-brother, Ali, a few years older than the children of my mother. My father had been married several times before he married my mother, fathering Ali with an earlier wife.
My closest sibling was Naji, who was one year older. Although I loved my brother dearly, he, like most boys, possessed a mischievous streak that caused me many moments of terror.
For example, I was born with a fear of snakes. One day, Naji used his pocket money to slip into the local bazaar to purchase a plastic snake, then knocked very politely at my bedroom door. When I answered, my brother gave me a ro guish grin and suddenly thrust what I thought was a live snake into my hand. My piercing screams stirred the entire house hold as I dropped the snake to run so fast one would have thought I was riding on air.
My father happened to be home and rushed to deal with the crisis, almost certainly believing that armed bandits had come to murder us. When he . ­nally realized that my hysterics were caused by Naji, who was proudly bran­dishing the fake snake, he stared long and hard at my brother before he began to shout a father’s threats.
Naji remained unrepentant, crying out over Father’s yells, “Najwa is a cow­ard! I am teaching her to be brave.”
Had we been able to see into the future, when snakes would become routine visitors to my mountain home in Afghanistan, perhaps I would have thanked my brother.
My favorite spot in the villa was the upstairs balcony, a perfect place for a young girl to escape to dreamland. I spent many enchanting hours lounging there with a favorite book. Generally, after reading a few chapters I would use my .nger to hold the page and gaze outward to the street below me.
The houses in our neighborhood were nestled closely to one another, with small commercial establishments all around. I loved to observe the busy tra.c of human beings rushing throughout the neighborhood, completing their daily tasks so that they might retire to their homes for an agreeable eve ning of dining and relaxing with their families.
Many of the families in our neighborhood had originated from other lands. Mine came from Yemen, a faraway country that was reported to be spectacu­larly beautiful. I was never told speci.cs as to why our ancestors had left, but so many Yemeni families have emigrated to nearby countries that it is said Ye­meni blood .ows throughout the entire Arab world. Most likely it was simple poverty that drove our Yemeni ancestors to sell their livestock, close their homes, abandon inhospitable . elds, and leave behind forever old friends in fa­miliar towns.
I can imagine my ancestors sitting in their home, the men, dashing with their curved daggers, possibly chewing the leaf of the qat tree, while the women, with black eyes intensi.ed by kohl, listened quietly as their men dis­cussed the challenge of parched land or missed opportunities. The old incense trade had died out, and the rains were too uncertain to grow reliable crops. With hunger pangs stabbing the small bellies of their children, my ancestors were likely persuaded to mount tall camels and trek through the green valleys brimmed by those high brown hills.
Upon their arrival in Syria, my ancestors established their home on the Mediterranean, in the large port city of my own birth and childhood. Latakia was noted in texts over two thousand years ago, described as having “admirable buildings and an excellent harbor.” Framed by the sea on one side, and fertile land on the other, it has been coveted by many, and in the pro cess was occu­pied by the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Romans, and the Ottomans. Like all ancient cities, Latakia has been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times.
Up until the time I married and traveled to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, my life experiences were limited to my family home, my school, my hometown of Latakia, and my country of Syria.
I was a daughter proud of her parents. When I was old enough to under­stand the things people said around me, I became aware of friendly talk regard­ing both the inner and outer beauty of my family. I was glad, of course, that we were respected for our good character, but my girlish pride was particularly pleased by talk of our handsome appearance.
My father worked in trading, which is a common way for Arab men in the region to make their living. I never knew much about my father’s daily life, for daughters in my culture do not accompany their fathers to work. I do know that he was diligent, leaving our home early in the morning and not returning until the eve ning hours. His hard work ensured an ample living for his family. Looking back, I believe that my father had a soft touch for his daughters. He was .rmer with my brothers, whose naughty ways sometimes made it neces­sary for him to be alert.
Mother remained in our home caring for our personal needs. She was a gifted cook and fastidious house keeper. With a husband, three sons, and two daughters, her work was never .nished. Much of her day was spent in the kitchen. I’ll never forget the wonderful meals she prepared for her family, be­ginning with a delicious breakfast of eggs, cheese, butter, sweet honey with cottage cheese, bread, and jam. Our lunches might be hummus, made of chick­peas and spices, various vegetables fresh from the garden, newly picked toma­toes and cucumbers, mint-pickled eggplants stu.ed with garlic, and pecan nuts. Our nighttime meal would be served between seven and eight. Our big eyes were often greeted by plates of mother’s delectable rice with peas, stu. ed grape leaves, okra and kibbe, a particularly popular dish for Arabs, which is basically ground lamb with bulgur wheat mixed with salt, pepper, onions, and other spices.
Of course my sister and I helped with the housework, although our duties were light compared to Mother’s tasks. I kept my bed neat, washed dishes, and when I was not in school, was my mother’s kitchen helper.
Mother was the chief disciplinarian for all the children. In truth, when I was a young girl, I was frightened of her strict rules regarding the social con­duct of her two daughters. This is not unusual in my culture, for girls are the shining light of the family, expected to be perfect in every way, while it is anticipated that sons will sow wild oats. Should a female child behave badly, the entire family su.ers enormous disgrace in the eyes of the community. Had I seriously misbehaved, it might have been di.cult for my parents to . nd a family who would allow their sons or daughters to wed into our family. A girl’s careless actions might deprive brothers and sisters of worthy marriage part­ners.
When I was a teenager, my mother did not agree with how I dressed. While she was a conservative Muslim woman, covering her hair with a scarf and wearing dresses that cloaked her from neck to ankles, I rebelled against such traditional dress. I resisted her pleas to dress modestly, even refusing to cover my hair. I wore pretty, colorful dresses that were not so old-fashioned. In the summer I rejected blouses that covered my arms, or skirts that hung to my ankles. I would argue with my mother if she spoke against my modern fashion. Now I am ashamed that I caused her such grief.
I remember how proud I was when I .rst went to school. I wore the usual girls’ uniforms, which was a jumper when I was very young, though once I began secondary school, I could no longer ignore my mother and wore a jacket over my dress for modesty.
How I loved school! School expanded my small world from family mem­bers to new friends and teachers who had so much information crammed into their heads that I didn’t know how their skulls kept from bursting. I was an inquisitive child, and read as many books as possible, mostly enjoying stories about faraway places and people. I soon came to realize how much I shared with other young girls my age, no matter where they might live.
In my culture school- age boys and girls rarely mix outside the family circle, so my school was for girls only. I came to know a number of impoverished stu­dents, and their poverty taught me one of the greatest lessons of life. I particu­larly remember one friend whose family was so poor that her father could not purchase school supplies or even food for the lunchtime break. Without con­sidering how it might a.ect my situation, for my family was of modest means, I shared my money, my food, and my school supplies with my little friend. I felt the greatest rush of happiness at her reaction.
Since that long- ago day, I have learned that the joy of giving is more acute when sharing creates a personal hardship. It is easy enough to share when a person has plenty.
I recall a second friend, who was often on the verge of tears. I soon learned that her father had recently divorced her mother. My poor friend was not even allowed to even see her mother, but was forced to live with her father and his new wife. My sensitive heart ached for her situation, for every child wants their mother near. I realized that sharing does not necessarily mean the giving of money or goods; there are times that the greatest gift is to set aside one’s own troubles and listen, to care about another’s heartache.
I happened to meet this childhood friend by chance recently. My heart sang with joy when she told me that she had found happiness in the second part of her life. She took the veil out of choice, and she married happily. She didn’t surprise me by saying that her children bring her the greatest joy.
While school was a mind-opening pleasure for me, there were other hobbies that added spice to my life. Contrary to many people’s assumptions about the lives of conservative Muslim women, I was a skilled tennis player. Although I never owned special tennis attire, I would wear a long dress so that I did not ex­pose too much of my legs while leaping about, slip on comfortable shoes, and practice for hours. My goals were to hit the ball just right, or return a serve with such power that my girlish opponent would be left standing with her mouth open in surprise. Yet in truth, the main thing was the sport. To this day I can still hear the laughter that would ring out when my girlfriends and I played tennis.
I also loved riding my colorful girl’s bicycle. Once again I would select a long dress so I would not expose my legs to bystanders, then run out of the house with my brothers and sister to pedal up the gentle slopes of Latakia. We would squeal with laugher as we .ew past surprised neighbors on the way down. Other times I would ride my bicycle to the homes of my girlfriends or nearby relatives.
For many years I experienced great joy as a .edgling artist, painting por­traits and landscapes on canvas and smooth pieces of pottery. I spent hours mixing the colors and making the pictures pleasing to my artist’s eye. My sib­lings were impressed enough by the quality of my paintings to predict that Najwa Ghanem would one day become a world-famous artist.
These days I am unable to enjoy such pursuits, but even now, as a mother alone with many responsibilities to my young children, I still derive some small pleasure from using my imagination. In my mind I often paint beautiful scenes or strong faces conveying great intensity, or I imagine my muscles being stretched tight from cycling up and down a steep hill, or even winning a tennis match against a faceless opponent.
I suppose one might say that Najwa Ghanem bin Laden is an artist without paints, a cyclist without a bicycle, and a tennis player without a ball, a racket, or a court.
My siblings had their own hobbies as well. We all liked musical instru­ments and it was not unusual for guests to hear a guitar strumming from some hidden corner of our home. My older brother even gave me a present of an ac­cordion. I am sure I was a funny sight, for I was slim and delicate and the ac­cordion better suited to the hands of a hefty musician.
The best time was the summer, when relatives would come to stay in our home. Most of all, I took pleasure in visits from my father’s sister, Allia, who lived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. My Auntie Allia was lovely in every way, inspir­ing awe in everyone who met her. Since she dressed so fashionably when visit­ing us, I was surprised to learn that back home in Saudi Arabia she wore the hijab, which means full cover for a woman, including her body, face, and hair. In Syria, however, she wore modest but elegant dresses that covered her arms and legs. She also wore a .imsy scarf over her hair but did not cover her face.
Auntie Allia was known for her kindness even more than she was for her style and charm. Whenever she heard of a struggling family, she would secretly provide for their upkeep.
I overheard my parents speak quietly of her .rst marriage to the very a. u­ent Mohammed bin Laden, a wealthy contractor in Saudi Arabia. Because of his special friendship with King Abdul Aziz al-Saud of Saudi Arabia, Auntie Allia’s .rst husband had become one of the wealthiest men in a country brim­ming with wealthy men.
The marriage was brief and my auntie had only one child from Mohammed bin Laden, a son named Osama. After her divorce, my auntie married Mu­hammad al-Attas, a Saudi man who worked for Auntie Allia’s . rst husband. Attas was known to be a caring husband to my auntie and kindly stepfather to my cousin. Never have I heard a hard word spoken against my auntie’s hus­band. Together the couple had four children, three sons and one daughter.
I knew them all very well, for the entire family accompanied my auntie when she visited relatives in Latakia. We had many meals together in our home, occasions I remember as being particularly festive, with lighthearted talk and laughter. Osama, of course, was part of the group. My cousin, already a year old at the time of my birth, was always in my life.
Once I became seven or eight years old, memories began to stick. Osama seemed much more than a year older than I, perhaps because he was such a serious, conscientious boy. He was a mystery to his cousins, yet we all liked him because he was very quiet and gentle in his manners.
In describing the young boy Osama that we all knew, I would say that he was proud, but not arrogant. He was delicate, but not weak. He was grave, but not severe. Certainly he was vastly di.erent from my very boisterous brothers, who were always teasing me about one thing or another. I had never been around such a soft- spoken, serious boy. Despite his serene demeanor, no one ever thought of Osama as being weak-willed, for his character was strong and . rm.
When Auntie Allia and her family visited, the entire family would some­times take day trips to the mountains or the seashore. During such family jaunts, we kids would run about with excitement, racing each other on the beaches, playing hide and seek, or tying a rope to a tree and then making a swing or jumping the rope. I remember how thoughtfully Osama would select juicy grapes, handing them to me to eat o. the vine. My brothers meanwhile might be shouting gleefully that they had found some crunchy pecans lying under the branches of the tree. Other times we all might climb short-trunk trees to pluck sweet apples or thrust our hands through bushes laden with tart berries. Although Mother warned us about snakes, I was so happy to be playing with my cousins that even my fears didn’t hinder my activities.
There were sad moments, however, including September 3, 1967, when my cousin Osama’s father, Mohammed, was a passenger in a small airplane that stalled and crashed. At age sixty-one, Osama’s father was killed, along with several other people.
My cousin was only ten years old, but he had greatly loved and respected his father. Osama had always been unusually restrained in his manner and in his speech, but he was so stricken by the death of his father that he became even more subdued. Through the years he spoke little of the tragic incident.
My mother’s voice was hushed when she told me about Osama’s loss. I was so shocked I couldn’t react, but I did retire to the balcony to re.ect on my love for my own father, and the emptiness I would feel without him.
When they were young, my brother Naji and Osama sometimes got them­selves into trouble. Once they were camping and on a whim decided to go for a long walk, hiking to Kasab, a town in our Latakia Province, close to the Turkish border—and managed to walk themselves right across the border into Turkey. In our part of the world, straying into another country can result in serious consequences, with careless travelers disappearing forever.
A Turkish army o.cer spotted the strangers on his territory. As he yelled excited threats and pointed his weapon, Naji and Osama exchanged a single glance, then turned and ran faster than horses until they reached a garden. Thankfully the Turkish guard did not follow them clear into another country.
On another occasion, Naji and Osama went to Damascus, the ancient city that is the capital of Syria. Osama always enjoyed long walks more than most, and after a brisk hike, the two boys and their friends found shade under a tree. They were tired and a bit hungry. You might know that the tree just happened to have branches heavy with succulent apples. Tempted at the sight of the fruit, Naji and his friends climbed the tree, telling Osama to stay behind as a look­out. Naji said later that he knew that his pious cousin would probably balk at plucking apples from a tree that was not his, so he didn’t want Osama partici­pating in the actual pilfering.
The boys scrambled up the tree, but before they had time to gather a single apple, a mob of men started running in their direction, shouting angrily while whipping leather belts in the air.
“Apple thieves!” the men yelled. “Come out of the tree!”
There was nowhere to escape, so my brother and his friends slowly retreated from the safety of the bushy limbs to face their challengers. As their feet touched the ground, the men began to beat them with those strong leather belts. In between gasps, Naji yelled for Osama to “Run away! Run away as fast as you can!”
Osama was their guest, and it was important that a guest not be harmed. Also, Naji knew how dearly Auntie Allia loved her .rstborn son. My brother did not want to return home with bad news about Osama.
At Naji’s urging, Osama dashed away from the confrontation. For some reason the owners decided it was of the utmost importance to capture the . ee­ing boy, so they kept after Osama until they caught him, threatening him with their belts. Alone, without the protection of his relatives or friends, Osama was set upon by one of the largest men, who leaned forward and bit Osama’s arm, a bite so strong that Osama carries a slight scar to this day.
Osama pulled the man’s teeth from his .esh and pushed him away, then faced those angry men: “You had better leave me alone! I am a visitor to your country. I will not allow you to beat me!”
For some reason Osama’s intense expression made those men turn away. They lowered their belts, staring at him for a few minutes before saying, “You are being released only because you are a guest to our land.” By this time, my brother and his friends had made their escape. With Osama in the clear, the apple thieves were allowed to re unite and return to a place of safety. Osama’s wound was cleaned and bound and thankfully he did not su.er from an infec­tion.
Those happy days of childhood years passed too rapidly, and as I entered my teenage years, unanticipated emotions began to swirl between my cousin and me. I was not sure what was happening, but knew that Osama and I had a special relationship. Although Osama never said anything, his brown eyes lit with pleasure anytime I walked into a room. I trembled with excitement when I felt my cousin’s intense attention. Soon our hidden emotions would rise to the surface and change our lives forever.

Excerpted fromGgrowing Up Bin Laden by Najwa bin Laden, Omar bin Laden, and Jean Sasson.
Copyright © 2009 by The Sasson Corporation.
Published in November 2009 by St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction
is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or
medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

A Note to the Reader xiii

Part I Early Days in Saudi Arabia 1

1 Najwa: My Youth 3

2 Najwa: Married Life 12

Jean: A Note Regarding Osama bin Laden's Political Activities 29

3 Najwa: Mother of Many Sons 31

4 Omar: Born the Son of Osama bin Laden 38

5 Najwa: Marriage Surprises 49

6 Omar: Growing Up bin Laden 56

7 Omar: Moving to Medina 68

8 Najwa: Many Children for Osama 74

Jean: A Note Regarding Osama bin Laden's Political Activities 77

9 Omar: The Nightmare Begins 79

Part II Our Life in Khartoum 89

10 Najwa: To Africa 91

11 Najwa: Family Affairs 101

12 Omar: Golden Times in Khartoum 106

13 Omar: The Scent of Death 123

14 Omar: Journey into the Unknown 139

Jean: A Note Regarding Osama bin Laden's Political and Militant Activities 144

Part III Afghanistan 147

15 Omar: Retreat to Afghanistan 149

16 Omar: Tora Bora Mountain 157

17 Najwa: A Far, Far Country 180

18 Omar: My Father's Army 192

19 Najwa: Mountain Life 202

20 Omar: The Violence Escalates 206

21 Omar: Real War 219

22 Omar: Jihad Vacation 226

23 Omar: True Terror 236

24 Omar: The Tightening Noose 250

25 Najwa: Young Marriage 258

26 Omar: The Beginning of the End 262

27 Najwa: To Syria 267

28 Omar: Return to Saudi Arabia 274

29 Najwa: Leaving Afghanistan Forever 281

30 Omar: September 11, 2001 284

Final Comments Jean Sasson 287

Postscript 291

Appendix A Osama bin Laden's Family: Who were They? What Happened to Them? 295

Appendix B Osama bin Laden Chronology 306

Appendix C Al-Qaeda Chronology: 1988-2008 319

Index 323

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 54 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 31, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Astonishingly candid look at a prominent Arab's family

    I expected this book to be a guarded flash peek under the veil, so to speak, but it was an honest, detailed, and thoughtful portrait of an Arab household. We hear from Osama's first wife, Najwa, and Najwa's fourth son, Omar, who give two distinct points of view into Osama bin Laden's household. At first I was perplexed that a son, an Arab son no less, would discuss internal family affairs so publicly. The more I read, however, the more I understood that Osama bin Laden sacrificed his privacy with his acts of war, and even his family members felt alienated from his peculiar view of the world. His son tells us that he hated his enemies more than he loved his family, and it saddens us, for then destruction is his only goal. Osama has given up his life for...not his family, not his country, not his countrymen. Certainly not for his god. But to ruin his enemies. Can there be anything more impoverished than that sad fact?

    When Osama married the first time, he was a wealthy young man with a bright future who sought to raise the approbation Islam received in the world. But he was exceptionally humorless in his approach to life. He expected such seriousness from his growing family of sons that he would not allow them to smile enough to reveal their teeth. "...my father actually counted the exposed teeth, reprimanding his sons on the number their merriment revealed." When they were both young, Najwa and Osama moved to Saudi Arabia from Syria to live in relative comfort with Osama and his extended family in Jeddah. By the end of the story told here, his wife was living in a cave in Afghanistan, suffering untold deprivations.

    This is a fascinating memoir of unusual candor which deserves to be read widely.

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 15, 2009

    A Must-Read Book

    Jean Sasson's books always fascinate me. I have read all of them and every one of them takes me to a place so different from what most of us know. Bin Laden's wife and son invite us to the inner sanction of an evil man's brain. With Jean Sasson's mastery of the written word, they are able to reveal startling secrets to the outside world. A very well-written book that deserve the attention of all lovers of history!

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 27, 2011

    FASCINATING!

    I was blown away by this book. I never understood osamas hatred of the US. I found this book so interesting I could not put it down. I found the culture and the way women were kept inside an uneducated and covered head to toe so bizarre in this day and age. So foreign to our modern life. It is fascinating to see the progression of Osama's devout Muslim beliefs turn radical. Thank you Omar and your mom for an insight into this elusive complicated man. He reminds me of Hitler but on a much smaller scale. Highly recommend!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 30, 2010

    Growing Up bin Laden - a fascinating read!

    Growing Up bin Laden provides illuminating insight into the early life of Osama bin Laden and reveals how this man's hatred was formed as witnessed by his son Omar. This book helps a person to understand the basic history of Al Qaeda and their motivations and sheds light on the inner workings of the world's most notorious terrorist.
    I enjoyed the opportunity to see how the bin Laden's lived, not just because of Osama bin Laden, but also because their culture is so different than anything that I have encountered. In reading this book I gained a greater understanding of Muslim culture. It may be surprising, but I found Osama bin Laden's first wife, Najwa bin Laden, to be a strong, courageous woman and his son Omar to be a gentle, caring man. The book is quite a fascinating read and I would recommend it to anyone interested in world events or exploring how other cultures live.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Enlightening

    This is a culture that is foreign to us. Further indication we will be fighting these people for long time. Excellent read.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2010

    Being Osama's Wife and a Devout Muslim

    This was a fascinating account by Bin Laden's 1st wife and his 4th son about their daily lives -- their trials and tribulations, their loyalty, and yet, their growing concern about what Osama bin Laden was doing. He was initially a wealthy man, but his family lived in poverty because he thought it would build their character and prepare them for what might come. Saudi Arabia kicked him out and took away the family's citizenship, but he never shared his plans with them. They were very isolated first in Sudan and later in Afghanistan, and yet the world still had an impact. The book ended just days before the 9-11 bombing. I would like to know what has happened to them since then.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    Any thing writen about the world's #1 terrorist makes news

    I have thoroughly enjoyed this behind the scenes biography of Bin Laden's married and family life. Jean Sasson is a skilled writer who portrays Bin Laden's first wife and fourth son in a probing light. I recommend this book to gain insight into the elusive terrorist's world.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 8, 2010

    Happy to introduce the world to Najwa and Omar

    This is Jean Sasson. I am pleased to see that this book is proving to be thought-provoking for readers. The past two years have been quite a journey, from the first day I heard from the Bin Ladens, through the long hours of interviewing and writing, and now seeing the book in print. It is a great feeling for a writing. I believe this book has great value. I believe that when read, it creates understanding. If you have any questions for me, please feel free to ask and I will respond.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 26, 2009

    growing up bin laden

    cant wait to read this fasinating book, i love the work of jean sasson, she give a true insight into the lives of real people with a tragic past who eventually find peace, i think this book will be a fantastic read, it is the only way we will know the full truth about the life of osama bin laden, i recommend that you read all her books

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 16, 2012

    Captivating!!!

    This is one of my favorite books. Everyone should read this because it gives you a behind the scenes look of the Bin Ladens family circle, outside from what the media wants you to believe. This book throws you right into the personal and private moments between Osama and his children, as well as showing the role of a father, husband, and the many close friendships Osama had. It helps you fully understand the Bin Ladens in a deep and up close manner. A 5-Star Book!!!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2012

    Great Story of the Personal life of Osama bin Laden! Must Read!

    This book is written with the help of Jean Sasson who is an excellent author, however, Najwa, Osama's first wife, and Omar, Najwa and Osama's fourth son, are the ones whos stories we read. These two were both very close to Osama and they share their experiences and viewpoints of Osama throughout their lives. Arabs are very secretive people, and it must have taken a lot of will power to speak so openly about his life, and give the world a chance to read about it. However, Omar was very against his father, as you will find out, and he wanted to clear his family name from any disgrace it holds due to Osama. He felt that his the whole bin Laden family deserved this chance. Osama created an awful world for his family and Omar felt that his privacy was invaded due to Osama's treturous life. We find out that Omar was Osama's predecessor. Omar prayed for peace while Osama prayed for war. They ended up being nothing alike. Osama claimed everything he did was for his God. Omar clearly knew that God would never want killings like this to happen. Osama married his first wife, Najwa, who was also his first cousin. She envied Osama's way of looking at life. He was very serious, and greatly involved in his religion. His family grew as he was at one time married to four wive and had over 13 children altogether. They lived well in Saudi Arabia, but soon Osama became involved in the creation of the Jihad group, al-Qaeda, a group that ruined him forever. They moved to Khartoum, Sudan to start a new life. But soon, they were punished and forced to move to Afghanistan. Here everything began to go bad. Omar and Najwa bring us into an untold world of, not only the bin Laden family, but also the Arab world. It is a very fascinating story that everbody should read!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Disturbingly fascinating read

    I couldn't put the book down. Gave me s further appreciation for the driving force behind this truly evil man.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 27, 2011

    Very good

    Very informative of their culture and their homelife while living with Osama bin Laden. Enjoyed it very much

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 28, 2011

    Excellent

    I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. The behind the scenes view into this madman, who put his radical views in front of everything was as fascinating as it was pathetic.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2011

    Great story! Funny, how it is stated many times, that Osama is in pakistan

    Wonderful read!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 3, 2011

    excellent

    This book proof that you can not judge the book from it's cover, because even though he is Osama's Bin Laden son he is not like his father,he's not a terrorist he's a peace maker. I love this book!!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2013

    Amazing Read, extremely well written

    A must read, I could no put it down. It definitely gives you an insight to the lifestyle of an enigmatic individual who hid so many atrocities from his own family. Excellent book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 20, 2012

    Great reading.

    Highly recommended. An excellent book; held your interest; didn't want to put it down. Suggest reading it and learn how life was like with Bin Laden.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 12, 2012

    A great read for those with an open mind

    Both Najwa and Omar are truthful and speak well telling the story of their lives. You will be moved and they will draw you into the life of this infamous man. Both Najwa and Omar are courageous, amazing people.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2012

    Great book

    It took me about 6 months to buy this book. I really had mixed fellings about spending my money on a book written by a Bin Laden. But..... it was such a great read. I have learned that not all the Bin Ladens sons agreed with their father and wanted to marry and get away from him. My heart really went out to his sons. He was not a loving father. I think everyone sould read this book. It really opened my eyes.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 54 Customer Reviews

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