Editorial

Bin Laden At the Arab Voice

From The Arab Voice

January 12, 2002

The clumsiness of some Americans – intelligence agents and ordinary idiots alike –provokes some modest observations about the air of superiority assumed by such people when they would have you believe that they, as educated elites, know what is really going on in the world. However, if you try to ask them a simple question about, say, the best way to get to a neighboring state, they will mock your request, informing you that Pennsylvania, for example, is not part of the Middle East.

Even so, some of the conversations I have had with people will amaze you. It is as though they think we Arabs are ignorant peasants, while they are descended from royalty.

A while back, a very polite American gentleman called me and asked, "May I speak to Osama bin Laden?" I managed to control myself, coldly replying, "Bin Laden is busy right now." The man was calling my office to personally negotiate the surrender of bin Laden, just in case Osama did not want to lay down his weapons and surrender to the American authorities.

I asked if I could pass along a message. "No! I want to speak to him personally!"

"Fine," I said, "Please hold the line a moment."

"I’ll hold," he said.

A short while later I got back to him, saying, "Sorry, sir, bin Laden refuses to speak with you unless you provide your full name."

"My name is Victor Rosemary," he said.

"Your surname sounds like your mother’s given name," I said. "What’s your father’s name?"

"I don’t know," the man replied.

"I’m sorry, Mr. bin Laden refuses to speak with anyone who lacks a decent pedigree," I informed him. Apparently, the man was satisfied. He laughed and hung up.

A few weeks later an American woman called me and asked, "How old are you?"

"Nearly sixty," I replied.

"You know, if I were younger, I’d come live with you in Afghanistan," she said.

"Why Afghanistan in particular?" I asked.

"Because there’s plenty of drugs there," she said. "Here I have to sell my body just to get a hit. They say that over there you can get a hit for free. It’s good stuff, and it doesn’t cost too much."

I laughed and hung up the phone.

On the Christian New Year, a drunk American man called me and said, "Listen, I’m coming to New York for some nightlife, so if you’re planning any terrorist operations, tell me and I won’t come."

"Sir," I said, "hasn’t the American press informed you that terrorist operations only occur by day?"

"Why only by day?" he asked.

"Because Muslims are busy praying at night," I said.

"What kind of religion is it where you pray at night and fight by day?" he asked.

"We do the opposite of what the American air force does," I explained. "In Afghanistan, they bomb by night so they can kill more people in their sleep. As for us, we give our enemies a chance to retreat."

"That’s good," the man said. "You do have some mercy in your hearts." And he hung up the phone.

Some weeks before, I had received an e-mail from an American woman who wrote, "I tried to translate your newspaper’s Web site into English, but it wouldn’t translate." I replied, "That’s because our site uses images and not text."

In her reply, she wrote, "This is the same excuse Arafat offers! He tells us one thing in one language, tells the world something different in another language, and tells the Israelis something else in a third."

"How many languages do you know?" I asked.

"Just one," she said. "English."

I said, "Well, Arafat is better-educated than you are: He knows three languages."

"Go to hell," she replied.

Changing the subject, I asked "How old are you, ma’am?"

"Seventy-three," she said, "but I’m willing to consider marriage or friendship, if you’re interested."

"All right, but only if you stop abusing me and Arafat," I said.

She added, "I am also prepared to convert to Islam."

I laughed and said, "I’ve got no use for someone who’d give up her faith that easily. Goodbye."

But the cream of the crop was the following: A woman phoned me to ask, "How old is bin Laden?"

I said, "I don’t know, perhaps in his forties or nearly fifty."

"That’s about right," she said. "I’m looking for a husband around that age."

"How old are you?" I asked her.

"Twenty," she said.

"Do you think it’s right to marry someone as old as your father?" I asked.

"My son Jonathan is five years old, and my daughter Carola is four. The baby, Simon, is only three months," she said.

"Why do you think bin Laden would marry you when you already have three children?" I asked.

"Because I hear you guys can have four wives," she said.

"That’s the number of wives we are permitted when we are banished to the mountains and caves," I told her. "In more prosperous times, we ‘re allowed to marry forty wives," I replied.

"That’s a lot," she said, taken aback. "How do handle all those kids?"

"We send them off to join al-Qaeda at an early age," I said.

"I see," she said. "Now I understand why you guys are multiplying like ants in this country. I hear there’s seven million of you right now. In a few years, there’ll be seventy million!"

"God willing," I said, and hung up.

 

(Translated from Arabic by Colin Brayton)

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