U.S. professor edits bin Laden's collected writings

Western society misunderstands Osama bin Laden because only "scraps and sound bites" have portrayed him in the past, says a U.S. professor who has compiled and edited the al-Qaida leader's writings.

Bruce Lawrence, a religion professor and authority on Islam and medieval religion at Duke University says that some of bin Laden's letters have been inaccessible, and previous English translations from Arabic have been flawed.

But the picture that comes out of the comprehensive and annotated collection of bin Laden's writings, "Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden," shows the terrorist chieftain has considerable talent to challenge the beliefs of others, Lawrence said.

"For bin Laden, it's all about religion, and it's geopolitics wrapped in religion," Lawrence said.

Bin Laden's work "makes clear this guy is a sophisticated, cool customer. He's not just a crazed religious fanatic," Lawrence said.

The al-Qaida leader's skillful twisting of the Quran has served his radical Islam, the scholar said according to a report in The Herald Sun.

Bin Laden refers to the Palestine-Israel conflict often, usually in the context of a U.S.-led attack on Muslims, Lawrence said. Another regular theme is what bin Laden calls atrocities committed by the Christian West against Iraq.

"What's really fascinating when you read all these letters together is, it shows how obsessed bin Laden has been about Iraq," Lawrence said. However, Bin Laden "completely ignored Saddam Hussein," mentioning him perhaps twice in letters, Lawrence said.

The edition, published by Verso Books, is due to reach stores next week. Lawrence said he has been surprised by the stir it already has generated.

"This guy's a terrorist, and he's done horrible things, and he's public enemy No. 1 for good reasons," Lawrence said. "But can we win the war of hearts and minds without understanding what we're fighting?", AP reported. V.A.

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