‘Inside’ the Bin Laden family | VailDaily.com

‘Inside’ the Bin Laden family

Terri Schlichenmeyer

DDid you hear the one about the mother-in-law who?Okay, never mind. But what do you think about in-laws?If you have them, you have definite opinions about them. Maybe you adore yours most of them, anyhow. Maybe there are some you’d rather never see again. Imagine, though, how you’d feel if your brother-in-law was one of the most hated men in the world. “Inside the Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabia” by Carmen Bin Ladin (c.2004, Warner Books) is the true story of Bin Ladin’s years with the family from which Osama came.Born to a Swiss father and a Persian mother, Carmen grew up in Geneva and, as a child, occasionally visited her grandmother in Iran. She says she remembers Iran as a “secret garden”, and she loved the Middle East, so when she met and fell in love with Yeslam Bin Ladin, she was overjoyed. She had no idea what was to come.For a time, life was good. The newlyweds moved to the United States to attend college. Their daughter, Wafah, was born; they made friends and traveled the world. When King Faisal was assassinated in 1975, Yeslam felt the need to return to Saudi Arabia, so, when he graduated, the Bin Ladins returned to Jeddah, the family business, and the Bin Laden compound. (The different spellings of the name are due to Western translations of Arabic names, according to the editor of the book.)What followed were, in Carmen’s mind and to Western standards, years of repression and jaw-dropping cruelty. Saudi women were never allowed to be seen without an abaya, the head-to-toe black covering that shields even the eyes; only a woman’s father, husband, brothers, or sons could see her “naked” face. Speaking to an unrelated man was forbidden. Being alone with an unrelated man was forbidden. If a Saudi decided to divorce his wife, he could do so, and he could keep the children. Almost everything was haram (sinful) or abe (shameful), and literally a woman could lose her head over infidelity, real or accused.”Inside the Kingdom” is the story of a woman who found herself trying to fit into a culture that she would never understand, let alone accept. There are parts of this book that will make you chuckle, there are things that will make you very sad, and there are parts that will anger you. On her brother-in-law, Osama, Carmen says that she realized almost immediately on September 11, 2001, that he was somehow involved with the terrorist attacks. She says he was always extreme in his beliefs, arrogant and harsh, and she seems very glad to have had limited contact with him.The Bin Ladins are now divorced, their daughters are grown or almost so, and Carmen, who lives in Switzerland, has written a book that gives you a very different look inside a country that makes headlines almost daily.It will also make you think your in-laws aren’t so bad after all. VT

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