Who's the Sheikh?

Posted by Paul Samael on Sunday, January 29, 2012 Under: Writing fiction

Just published “Agricultural Production in the Sudan”, which is a very short story - at just under 800 words, it’s the closest I’ve come to “flash fiction”.  Look away now if you don’t want to know what  - or more pertinently, who - the story is about.

It was inspired by the chapters of Lawrence Wright’s book, “The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda’s Road to 9/11” describing Osama Bin Laden’s time in Sudan between 1992 and 1996.  While there, Bin Laden acquired large tracts of land and at times seems to have shown far more interest in some of his agricultural projects than in waging global jihad.  He even set up a lab in Khartoum to genetically engineer his own seeds and would tell visitors how it was every muslim’s duty to invest in projects like this in order to improve their lives.  He was also, apparently, quite fond of sunflowers.  According to Wright’s account, he was particularly proud of a prize sunflower that he had grown in Al Qadarif province, where the story is set, and told a Sudanese minister that it should be in the Guinness Book of World Records.

What interests me about all this is that it suggests that Bin Laden wasn’t necessarily predestined to become the world’s most notorious terrorist – and that his desire to change the world could, just conceivably, have taken a different turn. But I was also struck by certain parallels between his interest in agriculture and his terrorist ambitions – in both cases, what seems to have fascinated him was the idea of being the biggest or the best in the world.  Unfortunately, the seeds he’s planted definitely aren’t going to grow into sunflowers.

On a lighter note, my ten year old son (who is obsessed with Arsenal FC) informed me the other day that Bin Laden had attended a number of Arsenal football matches in 1994.  It must be true, he asserted, because it was written down in his big book of “Football Records” that he got for Christmas.  Nonsense, I replied, supremely confident (based on my meticulous research) that Bin Laden had been in Sudan at that time and that this was all just some ridiculous urban myth (probably put about Spurs fans).  In fact it appears that Bin Laden may have made a trip to London in 1994, so could have attended, and I had to eat my words.  But the thought of the world’s most notorious terrorist at a football match is a bit incongrous – much like his fondness for sunflowers.  There’s probably a short story in that episode too, but I think I’ll leave that to someone like Nick Hornby….

In : Writing fiction 

Tags: sudan  terrorism  "osama bin laden" "9/11" "short story" "flash fiction" 
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About Me

Paul Samael Welcome to my blog, "Publishing Waste" which will either (a) chronicle my heroic efforts to self-publish my own fiction; or (b) demonstrate beyond a scintilla of doubt the utter futility of (a). And along the way, I will also be doing some reviews of other people's books and occasionally blogging about other stuff.
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