Because there is no universally accepted standard in the West for transliterating Arabic words and names into English, bin Laden's name is transliterated in many ways. The version often used by most English-language mass media is Osama bin Laden. Most American government agencies, including the FBI and CIA, use either "Usama bin Laden" or "Usama bin Ladin", both of which are often abbreviated to UBL. Less common renderings include "Ussamah Bin Ladin" and "Oussama Ben Laden" (French-language mass media). The latter part of the name can also be found as "Binladen" or "Binladin".
Strictly speaking, Arabic linguistic conventions dictate that he be referred to as "Osama" or "Osama bin Laden", not "bin Laden," as "Bin Laden" is not used as a surname in the Western manner, but simply as part of his name, which in its entirety means "Osama, son of Mohammed, son of 'Awad, son of Laden". However, the bin Laden family (or "Binladin", as they prefer to be known) do generally use the name as a surname in the Western style. Consequently "bin Laden" has become nearly universal in Western references to him, Arabic convention notwithstanding.
Bin Laden also has several commonly used aliases and nicknames, including the Prince, the Sheikh, Al-Amir, Abu Abdallah, Sheikh Al-Mujahid, the Lion Sheik, the Director, Imam Mehdi and Samaritan.
Childhood, education and personal life
Main article: Childhood, education and personal life of Osama bin Laden See also: Bin Laden family
Osama bin Laden was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In a 1998 interview, he gave his birth date as 10 March 1957. His father Muhammed Awad bin Laden was a wealthy businessman with close ties to the Saudi royal family. Osama bin Laden was born the only son of Muhammed bin Laden's tenth wife, Hamida al-Attas. Osama's parents divorced soon after he was born, according to Khaled M. Batarfi. Osama's mother then married Muhammad al-Attas. The couple had four children, and Osama lived in the new household with three stepbrothers and one stepsister.
Bin Laden was raised as a devout Wahhabi Muslim. From 1968 to 1976 he attended the "élite" secular Al-Thager Model School. Bin Laden studied economics and business administration at King Abdulaziz University. Some reports suggest bin Laden earned a degree in civil engineering in 1979, or a degree in public administration in 1981. Other sources describe him as having left university during his third year, never completing a college degree, though "hard working." At university, bin Laden's main interest was religion, where he was involved in both "interpreting the Quran and jihad" and charitable work. He also writes poetry.
In 1974, at the age of 17, bin Laden married his first wife Najwa Ghanem at Latakia. According to CNN national security correspondent David Ensore, as of 2002 bin Laden had married four women and fathered roughly 25 or 26 children. Other sources report that he has fathered anywhere from 12 to 24 children.
Beliefs and ideology
Main article: Beliefs and ideology of Osama bin Laden
Bin Laden believes that the restoration of Sharia law will set things right in the Muslim world, and that all other ideologies—"pan-Arabism, socialism, communism, democracy"—must be opposed. He believes Afghanistan under the rule of Mullah Omar's Taliban was "the only Islamic country" in the Muslim world. Bin Laden has consistently dwelt on the need for jihad to right what he believes are injustices against Muslims perpetrated by the United States and sometimes by other non-Muslim states, the need to eliminate the state of Israel, and the necessity of forcing the US to withdraw from the Middle East. He has also called on Americans to "reject the immoral acts of fornication (and) homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling, and usury," in an October 2002 letter.
Probably the most controversial part of Bin...