Crusader Talk

Over at Slate, Reza Aslan reviews two books that collect Osama Bin Laden’s speeches, looking for clues as to the terrorist leader’s arguments. The first is Messages to the World, translated by James Howarth and edited by Duke University professor Bruce Lawrence, and the other, newer volume is The Al Qaeda Reader, edited and translated by Library of Congress scholar Raymond Ibrahim. Here’s a quote from Aslan’s review:

[F]ar from debunking al-Qaida’s twisted vision of a world divided in two, the Bush administration has legitimized it through its own morally reductive “us vs. them” rhetoric.
In the end, this is the most important lesson to be learned from these writings. Because, if we are truly locked in an ideological war, as the president keeps reminding us, then our greatest weapons are our words. And thus far, instead of fighting this war on our terms, we have been fighting it on al-Qaida’s.
Don’t believe me? Ask Bin Laden:

Bush left no room for doubts or media opinion. He stated clearly that this war is a Crusader war. He said this in front of the whole world so as to emphasize this fact. … When Bush says that, they try to cover up for him, then he said he didn’t mean it. He said, ‘crusade.’ Bush divided the world into two: ‘either with us or with terrorism’ … The odd thing about this is that he has taken the words right out of our mouths.

Odd, indeed.

By the way, earlier this year, the Boston Review published an excellent essay by Khaled Abou el Fadl about the Lawrence book, which you can still find online here.