Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Alternate Destinies

Most of us have pivotal points in our lives that determine who we become as adults, and thus how we affect the world around us. For some of us, it may not make much difference in the whole scheme of things, but when the life history of world leaders are examined, we can speculate how the world itself may have turned out much differently if a certain person had not stepped onto the stage of world history at all, but had advanced into a life quite different in the shadows.

Consider the alternate history in which a young Osama bin Laden, at the age of 10, could have been converted to the pacifism of Quaker Christianity. At the time, he was attending Brummana High School in Syria. He had lived with his mother after her early divorce from Osama's father and was raised with half-siblings. He became an heir to his father's wealth at about this time, sharing it with around 50 other children! His step-father was Muhammad Al-Attas, hand-picked from among Bin Laden's employees.

Perhaps, by some miracle that most Christians believe is afforded anyone who truly comes to God, the Quaker teachers had convinced the youngster that their life was the truth. This is far out there - even ASB I suppose -- but bear with me a bit on this one. The child was in his formative years and anything is possible with God. And so, the alternate destiny moves him in the direction of this Christian sect (readers might remember that Richard Nixon was a Quaker). Back home in Saudi Arabia the teenage Osama went to an elite private school, but was not particularly religious, though religion was an essential part of the curriculum.

In this alternate reality, though, Osama put on a good show, adapting to the expectations, until he reached an age of majority, being married in an arranged marriage as in our own reality. But once an adult, he took his young family with him when he accepts an offer to attend Oxford University. Never having hooked up with the Muslim Brotherhood, the young Saudi gladly traveled out of the Arab world and into academia. While at Oxford, he breaks with his family, changing his name to Leon Attas ("Osama" means "lion") and officially disappears from sight. Leon becomes an engineer for a firm in New York City after immigrating with his family.

It would be years before the Bin Laden family could locate him and his wife (a cousin), and he escapes death due to the close ties the family has with the Saudi royal family. All knowledge of the wayward son of the late Saudi billionaire is disavowed, even though he had not only converted, but brought his wife along with him. It is decided that it is not worth an international incident.

This does not mean that some terrorist group like Al-Qaeda would not have arisen in the wake of the Iran hostage crisis. It probably would have. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan would have happened and some Muslim leader would have probably raised an army to repel them. Enemies of the west would have seen reasons to attack weak targets in protest to intervention in their affairs. The particularly harsh ways of Al-Qaeda, though, may not have brought so much damage in the jihad to follow though. Such a man as Osama bin Laden does indeed make his mark on the world.

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