Misunderstanding bin Laden’s 2002 “Letter to Americans”

November 24, 2023

RFI’s Paul Marshall wrote an article published in Providence on the recent resurfacing and re-interpretations of Osama bin Laden’s 2002 “Letter to Americans.” Marshall writes that these attempts to re-interpret the letter impose Western secular values onto Bin Laden’s worldview and miss the deep religious roots at the heart of it, without which we cannot understand Al Qaeda’s goals and actions. Marshall argues:

Recently TikTok users have posted and highlighted Osama bin Laden’s 2002 “Letter to Americans.” This letter was originally intended to appeal to Western audiences but failed spectacularly when it was first promulgated. However, it has now drawn much attention especially from those now trying to re-interpret him in their own truncated image as a representative of anti-colonialism. 

This is yet another example of “mirror-imaging” wherein many Westerners project their parochial interpretation of world events onto very different actors and interpret those other’s actions into preconceived secular categories. But bin Laden’s view of the world draws on a very different conceptual universe that can only be understood in terms of its deep religious roots.

Read the full article: “Misunderstanding bin Laden’s 2002 ‘Letter to Americans.’