In a corner of one of our bookshelves is a little stack of disturbing tracts; all of which have incited murder in one way or another. Mein Kampf is there. Some of Lenin’s slender works are stacked there too; they also inspired mass murder. Mao’s Little Red Book is stacked underneath that deeply ugly White Supremacist fantasy The Turner Diaries (also now largely unavailable). Qaddafi’s The Green Book is also there; not that he really got a mass movement going, but he gave it a good try.
There’s a strong temptation to move the Quran there from its current place beside a pair of Bibles and the literature of Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism and some other religions. This stack also seemed like a good place to lodge Bruce Lawrence’s Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden (Verso Press, London, 2005)
Osama’s current whereabouts remain a mystery — though a good bet is that he has been lurking under semi-confinement in Iran since mid-2002. However, he continues to pass messages and essays on a variety of subjects. Osama, like Hitler or Mao, has pretensions to being an intellectual; in his case he sermonizes as if he was a scholarly Islamic cleric. His faith and credo is presumably sincere (like Hitler, but unlike Mao), but he has Stalin’s own zeal in recommending woe for those who won’t join his crusade. We have long been familiar with the horrors that can be unleashed by a few words. In Osama’s case, one could imagine what nightmares might be unleashed by his argument that the Jihad movement is allowed to kill four million Americans, half of them children. This book’s placement beside Mein Kampf is well justified.