Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Osama Bin Laden: Descended from Frankish Crusaders?

I'm finally getting into Lawrence Wright's magnificent The Looming Tower and have an interesting theory to
put forward based on a strange travel experience. I was driving my BMW Bavaria from London to Beirut back in 1974 when at the Syrian border, two officials asked if I could give them a ride to Latakia, a hundred miles down the coastal road. Although the border station whispered to me in French that the gentlemen were secret police, I concurred and we drove along the most spectacular coastal scenery outside the Amalfi Coast or Big Sur that I have personally driven through. As we entered Latakia, I noticed that most of the male inhabitants on the street were tall, blonde, and blue-eyed. The secret police escort in my car explained they were Alawites descended from the original Crusaders.

Lawrence Wright mentions that Osama's mother, Alia Ghanem, was an Alawite from Latakia, and her cousin whom he married was extremely tall. Could it be that the mysterious Alawites contain a large component of Crusader genetic material, including perhaps Masahiyiin who didn't want to return to Europe after living for decades in the Levantine paradise north of Latakia and refusing to convert to the Sunni Muslims, may have become Alawi or Nusayri as the secret police told me way back in the mid-seventies? Given the climate and beauty of the Syrian coast, perhaps Crusaders converted, or over the centuries, intermingled with the Alawite majority on that coast.

The only reference a quick googling came up with was "In 1097, Crusaders initially attacked [the Alawites], but later allied with them against the Ismailis." Since the Alawites are secretive and do not openly intermarry with outsiders, this would be counter-intuitive to mainstream Orientalist analysis, but the practice of taqiyya or dissimulation might cover the fact that the very western-looking inhabitants of Latakia have genetic sources from Frankish warriors.

The northern European genes from his mother may explain why ObL is of above-normal height, since his father was rather diminuitive. As the Alawites are thought to believe in reincarnation, perhaps deep inside somewhere ObL believes he has some connection to the original assault on the Levant by armed Christian warriors.

Anyway, Lawrence Wright's book is well worth the price of admission and is even better than Ghost Wars and The Assassin's Gate, two books I am in the middle of reading at the moment.

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