In mid-May, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a tranche of documents that were retrieved during the 2011 assault on the compound in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was whiling away his days. One of the documents seized caught my attention, a four page letter that outlines bin Laden's views on global climate change. I would place a bet that almost no one would have expected to see the subjects of Osama bin Laden and global climate change in the same sentence! Nonetheless, here are some extracts from the rather lengthy document which is addressed to "My Islamic Nation".
Osama bin Laden opens with a general commentary on the cause of the world's climate changes by ignoring what is written in the Qur'an and how changes to the relief being offered to those who are suffering from the impact of global climate change are necessary:
“Effects associated with the enormous climate changes (TN: begin footnote) using such expression without mentioning the view of Shari'ah concerning earthquakes and discord seems purely Western. The secularists maintain that these are natural disasters we must confront. In other words, they are saying, we are able to stand up to Allah and confront His judgment and they have neglected what is stated in the Qur'an concerning these events. (TN: End footnote) Indeed, what our Ummah is experiencing, of effects associated with the enormous climate changes and the great suffering the natural disasters are leaving behind that now become prevalent throughout the Muslim countries, renders the traditional relief efforts insufficient. (TN: Begin footnote) Relief work is mentioned as the only solution for these disasters, without warning that it is a plague or suffering from Allah Almighty, and the first solution is faith and correct deeds. One of the correct deeds is assisting Muslims. Once again, the speech is outside a required legal foundation. (TN: End footnote) Although the provision of tents, food and medicine will always be crucial, the afflictions are taking a larger shape and volume, hence, the quality, method and timing of aid must be equally improved...
You have seen one of your Muslim brothers in Pakistan, covered in water up to his chest while trying with both hands to hold two of his five or six year old children above water. So, have you wondered what might have happened to the rest of his children, or haven't you heard about the women who are imploring you by Allah, the Glorious and Almighty, divine right to come to their rescue. It is incumbent, upon everyone who is capable, to aid the Muslims in Pakistan and demonstrate concern towards their precious being.
Millions of children are left in the open, without a suitable living environment, including good drinking water, which has exposed them to dehydration, dangerous diseases and higher death rates. I pray to Allah Almighty to grant them both relief and mercy.
And owing to the high frequency of such disasters caused by climate changes, the effort must not become merely one of providing temporary assistance, rather, to set up a distinct relief organization endowed with the knowledge, experience and financial capability crucial for the effective dealing with such more frequent, diverse and massive consequences of climate changes.”
Here are bin Laden's suggestions for implementing changes that will help reduce the suffering of climate change on the Islamic world. It is important to keep in mind that some sources state that bin Laden had a degree in civil engineering from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a factor that is reflected in his five solutions:
“First: To research the residential compounds built along the banks of rivers and valleys in the Islamic World and the prospects of future disasters as a result of climate changes. For what disastrous floods have befallen the city of Jeddah in the past was expected for a simple reason, Jeddah and many other cities were not only built over the banks of valleys, many of their structures and residential buildings were constructed over the entire valleys' paths. I am not pointing to whose responsibility that was, for such may be discussed in a different time. Yet I am attempting to portray what took place, to avoid similar flooding disasters and to find fundamental solutions for the dangers that threaten people's lives. Additionally, it is essential that all dam and bridge safety regulations be examined and revised.
Second: What is also required is to do what is needed towards the countries that are or may be afflicted with famines resulting from wars or climate changes, for the famine most likely gives early warning a year or more prior to taking place; delaying the relief and essential aid would result in a large number of deaths, in particular among children, while those who may not die may not escape malnutrition and some form of brain damage.
Third: The establishment of development projects in the ravaged and poor areas, as there is excellent opportunity for establishing such projects since only modest spending is required. For example, the construction of regulators (TN: Or diversions) and canals in the countries where rivers or seasonal valleys are flowing, such as in Sudan, Chad, Somalia and Yemen. Based on field work in Sudan, the cost of a regulator (TN: Or river diversion) capable of irrigating tens of thousands of acres, together with the main and tributary canals, which also means providing assistance to tens of thousands of people, is about two hundred-thousand euros, more or less, based on the proximity or remoteness of the required construction material.
Fourth: Work towards realizing food-security, as the reports stated that if a calamity befalls any major wheat exporting country and causes a cease in exports, many countries worldwide, and in our region particularly, shall experience deadly famine in the full sense of the word.
Fifth: We need to raise Muslim awareness about the dangers associated with depleting the underground water used for agriculture that is not renewable, while it is crucial to establish a network of pipes that joins the agricultural wells with the main network of drinking-water, in order to be used in times of necessity.”
Osama bin Laden closes the document with a commentary on a relief organization headquartered in London that claims to be "Islamic". His wish is to use this organization to provide aid to his Mujahidin, however, the person in charge of the unnamed organization states that it would be impossible to assist al-Qaeda's fighters since they are subject to very strict monitoring because of their affiliation with Islam. Osama goes on to note that the relief organization must prove that its intentions are not incompatible with the United Nations laws pertaining to nondiscrimination on the basis of faith. This has led to the following:
"...I have seen their females during Pakistani earthquake relief work, no different than the Western females, despite the fact that they are British Muslims who have Pakistani origins. However, in Pakistan, they are wearing tight pants, full makeup and are running side by side with men."
Despite the fact that bin Laden was the world's most wanted terrorist, it is interesting to see that he had concerns about the impact of the world's changing climate on the Islamic world and how these changes would affect how aid was offered to the Muslim world.