Though one expects a whopping media event like the death of Osama Bin Laden to produce speculative stories on an industrial scale, it is to be hoped that the speculation is at least based in reality. Blogs engage in wild speculation, but serious media blogs are still behooved to be based on facts; otherwise, we might as well read slash fiction.
None of this quibbling for Anna North at Jezebel, who ponders the future of Osama bin Laden’s 12-year-old daughter, Safiyah, in a recent post. By ponder, I mean indulge in wild speculation with lashings of Orientalist and Islamophobic tropes.
The post, which has united commenters in disgust (one of whom, notably described the post as being written in “Islamophobinese”), is boldly titled, “The Future of Bin Laden’s Daughter.” The article is inexplicably illustrated by a black and white photograph of a girl’s eyes. The eyes actually appear to be blue (Safiyah’s are likely to be brown), so already the indications are clear that a creepy agenda is ahead.
The first few paragraphs repeat what is known: her age, that she witnessed OBL’s death. From then, the fate of the children is discussed. North misquotes Canadian paper, The Star, stating that some want the children to be sent to madrassas in Pakistan, which would turn them into “jihadis.” What the article actually said was that the notorious Lal masjid had offered the children places, in what is almost certainly a bid for attention. By not making this clear, North perpetuates both the stereotype of madrassas as sinister hotbeds of nascent terrorism (rather than the actual meaning of the word: “schools”) and also the idea that there is a clamour in Pakistan to radicalize these children.
Safiyah’s very name is a cause of suspicion to North, who mentions the OBL quote that he’s named her after a woman who killed a Jewish spy, hence her very name is a “connection to jihad.” A bit of Islam 101 would have revealed that Safiyah (RA) was actually a Jewish convert to Islam and a wife of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh), hence the popularity of this name amongst Muslims.