© Arnold Holtzman, Ph.D. (September 2001)

Osama bin Laden


Infamous Sponsor of International Terrorism

Born in 1957 to a Syrian mother and a Yemeni laborer (who went on to establish a huge and enormously successful construction company in Saudi Arabia) Osama (Ussamah) bin Laden is the 7th of more than 50 children his father had sired from numerous wives. Osama bin Laden married his first wife, a Syrian girl, when only 17.

His upbringing is said to have been strict, subject from his infancy to his father's very rigid religious and social codes. His formal education from primary school through university was in Jedda, Saudi Arabia. Islamic studies were compulsory throughout his years at school, and his biographers write of his assumption of Islamic responsibilities at an early age.

Osama bin Laden has never been to any Western country. The Islamic countries in the Arabian Peninsula, Syria, Pakistan Afghanistan and Sudan are the only countries he is familiar with.


n the aftermath of the grotesque and savagely inhuman actions of Moslem terrorists in New York and Washington, the horrified leaders of the Moslem communities throughout the Unites States called out their abhorrence of these actions. They pointed to references in their holy Koran which evidently did not permit the murder of innocent civilians. They said that those who had perpetrated these monstrous acts could not have been true Moslems... that this was not the way of Islam.

However true this may be, recent history has shown, that the most knowledgeable and respected of Islamic religious leaders throughout the Moslem world, had not only sanctified terrorism but aimed it specifically at the murder of innocent and passive civilians. Islam may indeed hold that the murder of innocent people is against their religion. However, the declaration that a conflict, whether local or global, is a holy war, or Jihad, commits every devout Moslem to take whatever measures, however extreme, to overcome the declared enemy to Islam. Neither are individuals exempt from such religious fatwas, or injunctions. One need only recall the instance of Salman Rushdi (the author of Satanic Verses) and the Moslem religious clerics call for his murder.

Israel has been confronting such terrorism for some time. Young, thoroughly indoctrinated Moslems, would strap explosives to their bodies and be taken to discotheques, railway stations, pizza parlors, coffee houses and shopping malls there to blow themselves up sending as many other people as possible to their deaths. Their religious leaders promise each eternal life in heaven (often in the company of 72 virgins). A photographed ceremony with strong religious overtones precedes each suicide bombing. By their actions these young people bring considerable honor to their families. Their names are revered as Moslem heros of the faith.

Terrorism which targets civilians specifically was manifest in many other ways. We may recall the Palestinian terrorist Leila Haled who had hijacked a commercial jet with hundreds aboard. Her "heroism" won her the adulation of the Arab masses and subsequently made her a respected member of the Jordanian parliament. There was the hijacking of a crowded inter-city bus near Tel-Aviv and the murder of some pass angers, the murder of children at their school in Ma'Alot in northern Israel, the slaughter of the Olympic athletes at Munich, Germany, and more of course. The voice of the Moslem communities in America condemning these actions was not heard at the time. It was not said then that such crimes could not have been perpetrated by true Moslems. What may explain this is yet another facet of the Jihad... however extreme the attack upon the declared enemy of Islam, the responsibility for the attack is entirely with the victim of the attack.

The Palestinian intifada against the State of Israel was declared a Jihad. So too the war against the United States of America and American interests everywhere in the world. For those in the West and most of Asia terrorism by any name remains terrorism. For the fundamentalist Moslems, however, if the murder of civilians is effected in the context of a religious Jihad and better secures Moslem interests it is not understood, or related to, as terrorism. It becomes God's will with the terrorists humbly serving Allah and everything that is holy to Islam. For the radical fundamentalist Moslem the terrible events of September 11th 2001 in New York, Washington and Pittsburgh was a dramatic reaffirmation of the vitality of their faith. There was nothing criminal about these events.

All this is critical if we are to understand the constructions which define the personality of Osama bin Laden.

The hand of Osama bin Laden shows him to be a refined and highly sophisticated intellectual. This is not the hand of one we might guess could be a crude or base mass murderer. There is nothing inherently shallow or even sinister about this man. This is a hand we would normally find among the respected leaders in any community of people. He would be quiet, modest, and unassuming - altogether a manner which would belie his intellectual and emotional vitality. Nevertheless, the depth of his motivational resources and his uncompromising commitment to what he visualizes as his responsibility to himself (and to his faith, perhaps) sets him well apart from his peers. He will demonstrate a determination to realize his own sharply defined ambitions in a manner which few could duplicate.

It seems though that this man also has considerable unfinished business, as it were, with his past. It would be reasonable to believe that a personal and unforgiving accounting with his own personal history as a child has much to do with the evil he has perpetrated.


Osama bin Laden is seen with his left hand raised. Photographs taken of him firing a rifle suggest that he is left handed.

Sources of Information


The Development of the Little Finger: (fig. 1)
The central focus for our attentions would have to be with the implications of the morphology of the little finger. Note its remarkable thinness when compared to the other fingers (which are themselves of only average thickness). This hard thinness with what appears to be a prominent knuckle points to an early history which may have included the trauma of sexual molestation. (The reader may find a recently introduced illustrated article on A History of Sexual Molestation in Childhood on the Download page - article #58).

Thinness anywhere is equated with erosion. When seen on the little finger it points to a severe erosion in the measure anyone has of his, or her, sense of essential worth. Here we find the image one has of himself, or herself, behind his, or her, own eyes, as it were. With access to several hundreds of millions of dollars and with the wherewithal to establish a sophisticated, if somewhat clandestine, military and religious/educational complex with branches functioning in more than 40 countries, there should, ostensibly, be nothing about Osama bin Laden which suggests weakness of any order on any scale. The thinness seen here would have to be the single most critical factor in whatever contributed to the designs of his attitudes, ambitions and behavior.

This history of molestation subjects the individual to almost intolerable feelings of shame and guilt and the sense of being unclean. Anger and rage are invariably part of this equation. We may venture that Osama bin Laden's identification with Moslem fundamentalism may stem, at least in part, from his need to be cleansed of this violation of his body and mind. If this early violation of his body was perpetrated by a respected and authoritative adult member of his very large family, that person may be well beyond bin Laden's ability to satisfy his conscious or subconscious need for retribution. That he would be obsessed with the need for retribution is seen in the somewhat bulbous, or spatulate, formation of the little finger. In general, spatulate nail phalanges always identify obsessiveness. Depending on the specific dimension of the psyche which the finger represents, we would look for psychical damage related to that dimension to understand how the obsessiveness would manifest itself in personality and behavior.

A psychological perspective of this circumstance would explain how Osama bin Laden would transfer the focus of his bitterness and rage from the original authority figure to a representation of that authority figure. The United States of America fits this representation perfectly. We know from his recorded statements that it disturbed him greatly to see how the US forces overtook Saudi Arabia, Islam's holiest land, and subsequently overran the Iraqi armies. Inasmuch as it was an anathema to them, the Moslems had no reply to this massive and forceful intervention of infidels into their world - much as he had no reply at the time to the violation of his own body.



The Development of the Thumb: (fig. 2)
The thumb as seen here defines a dimension of Will the profound strength and sophistication of which are rarely seen. This is the thumb of an individual who would aspire to greatness and who would have the wherewithal to translate this aspiration into effect. It invests in him an inherent identification with independence, self-autonomy and the sense of omnipotence. This latter facet would conflict painfully with the learned experience of impotence (which would extend from the molestation noted earlier) and make it the focus of considerable emotional investment.

The dimension of Will as we find it represented in the marvelous overall length of the thumb, and in the perfect development of its upper and lower phalanges, would have us identify Osama bin Laden with everything that is inherently superior in human potential. It bespeaks intelligence, leadership, disciplined and calculated reasoning, technical capabilities, and the capacity to persevere. Such people rarely record defeat and rarely fail in whatever enterprise they undertake.


The Development of the Hypothenar Eminence (The Mount of Moon): (fig. 3)
It is difficult not to be impressed by the rich dimension of this quarter of the hand. Here we find the seat of one's nuclear self - those references a person would have to himself which have him invest things with their value to him. It would be the chemistries here which will define the emotional significance any experience would have for him. These chemistries will determine the things with which he identifies and the things which he would reject. The very rich dimension of this hypothenar eminence bespeaks a capacity for abstract thought, a vital and creative imagination, and rich libidinal energies.


The Development of the Medus, or Middle, Finger: (fig. 4)
The perfect symmetry of this finger points to a perfect consolidation of all the systems of the psyche. What this means is that the individual can reach decisions that would sit well on conscious as well as subconscious considerations. There would be a harmonic symmetry between thinking and feeling. A disciplined cerebral orientation would be reinforced by the currents of his emotional needs and drives.

What appears suspicious, however, is the relative thinness of this finger. On this hand it should have been thicker to be an adequate support system for the other dimensions in his psyche. As we find it it has a more of an intellectual bent than of one which identifies with power. The Self (which is what the medus finger represents) is the backbone of the entire personality, and thinness here may suggest a measure of insufficiency which may permeate Osama bin Laden's feeling about himself. The cerebral discipline, however, would go far to compensate for any insufficiency here. It would not be wrong to link this feature with the sense of gross insufficiency that describes the little finger.


The Upper and Lower Transverse Lines: (fig. 5)
The relatively short Upper Transverse line (the Line of Heart) points to a strong sexuality. More important, however, it suggests that he can differentiate between learned quantities and his own true mind. The short line here would underline his insulation from these learned quantities and not be overtaken by them. Inasmuch as his history suggests otherwise, the influence of his homelife and teachers would influence him only minimally. He is organized psychically to serve only his true mind and to effect only his true and personal interests.

There is a degree of uncertainty about the Lower Transverse line (the Line of Head). It appears to be broken in the middle but I doubt if this really is so. Probably a peculiarity of the photo. The line arcs mildly and terminates rather high on the hypothenar eminence so that the responses to events and circumstances in Osama bin Laden's life would be immediate, practical and carefully calculated. The responses would also be invested with a good measure of creativity.



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The photograph of Osama bin Laden originates with Reuters news services.

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