Sunday, September 16, 2007

Historical Trivia That May Interest Only Me

It's well-known that Osama bin Laden's father, Mohammed bin Laden, made his fortune by being the civil engineer to the House of Saud once Saudi Arabia became flush with money after large-scale production of oil began in the 1950s. What's less well-known (at least to me) is that bin Laden and his company renovated the three holiest mosques in Islam: the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, and the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Not only that, but one of his other sons, Salem, was a crucial source of information to the Saudi regime when Juhayan al-Oteibi and his band of Islamist militants seized control of the Grand Mosque during the hajj in 1979. The Grand Mosque has a warren of chambers that functioned as prayer rooms for pilgrims. The bin Laden company was still renovating the Grand Mosque in 1979, and, as such, was one of the few organizations that could have provided the Saudi government with the detailed plans necessary to plan an assault on the militants holed up there. Salem bin Laden, the oldest of Mohamed bin Laden's sons and his successor as head of the construction company, provided those plans to the government in preparation for their assault. The irony in this, at least to me, is that Oteibi's political program and hatred of the House of Saud shares many similarities with Osama bin Laden's thought.

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