c. 2006 Religion News Service
NASHVILLE, Tenn. _ You don’t need a doctorate in Islamic studies to make sense of what Osama bin Laden has to say.
“People can understand this,” said Douglas Knight, co-director of Vanderbilt University’s Center for the Study of Religion and Culture and part of a reading group at the university studying the al-Qaida leader’s statements.
Anyone can organize such a reading group, although Knight said people should be prepared for some disturbing reading.
As a primary resource, the group recommends “Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden,” edited by Bruce Lawrence, a Duke University religion professor. The book, available at some libraries, includes footnotes and an introduction by Lawrence putting the statements in their historic context.
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For example: the book explains that one statement was broadcast by al-Jazeera in October 2001, on the first night of the U.S.-led attack on the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Bin Laden praises _ but does not take responsibility for _ the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which he describes as divine retribution for American-backed atrocities.
“I have only a few words for America and its people,” he concludes. “I swear by God Almighty who raised the heavens without effort that neither America nor anyone who lives there will enjoy safety until safety becomes a reality for us living in Palestine and before all the infidel armies leave the land of Muhammad. God is greatest and glory to Islam. Peace be upon you and all God’s mercy and blessings.”
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Other books recommended by the group include:
_ “What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam,” by John Esposito. An engaging and balanced effort, introducing non-Muslims to Islam.
_ “The Koran Interpreted,” edited by A.J. Arberry. A readable English version of the Muslim Scripture.
_ “Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World,” by Carl Ernst. A look at the challenges facing modern Muslims.
KRE/JL END RNS
Editors: See main story, RNS-BINLADEN-GROUP, transmitted June 13, 2006.