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Monday, 27 July 2009

You want WHOM???

I've seen black olives and green olives, but never an olive this color.

The FBI's Most Wanted Suspect is listed on their website as follows:

Aliases: Usama Bin Muhammad Bin Ladin, Shaykh Usama Bin Ladin, The Prince, The Emir, Abu Abdallah, Mujahid Shaykh, Hajj, The Director

Date of Birth Used: 1957
Hair: Brown
Place of Birth: Saudi Arabia
Eyes: Brown
Height: 6'4" to 6'6"
Sex: Male
Weight: Approximately 160 pounds
Complexion: Olive
Build: Thin
Citizenship: Saudi Arabian
Language: Arabic (probably Pashtu)
Scars and Marks: None known
Remarks: Bin Laden is left-handed and walks with a cane.

Usama Bin Laden is wanted in connection with the August 7, 1998, bombings of the United States Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. These attacks killed over 200 people. In addition, Bin Laden is a suspect in other terrorist attacks throughout the world.



First of all, there's the matter of race. Like it or not, law enforcement in the USA is fixated on it. Call 911 to report seeing a suspicious-looking man with an olive complexion, and the dispatcher will want to know if he's White, Black, or Hispanic. Nobody but the FBI, it appears, is concerned with anything referred to as "Skin Complexion."

Secondly, let's look at a few of these "aliases." "Prince" is nothing more than an English translation of "Emir." "Hajj" is used to refer to any man who's been to Mecca, of whom there must be getting on towards a hundred million by now. "The Director" is not a name, it's a title--try calling the FBI's 1-800 number to excitedly report hearing someone called "The Director" and see how much money you get. The other two aliases might actually be used of Osama more than of anyone else in the news these days--but wait, what did I call him?

His name is Usama, according to the FBI. But to everyone else in the English speaking world other than the FBI, this man is commonly known by a different sounding name. Searching on this character string Osama bin Ladin results in 6,740,000 hits--fewer than the official name, naturally, but way more than for the first two aliases listed above, which result in the following:

Usama Bin Muhammad Bin Ladin: 1,600,000
Shaykh Usama Bin Ladin: 457,000

It even results in more hits than the string Osama bin Laden, which comes in a close second, but also isn't listed as an alias by the FBI. But either one of these is the way he is listed at just about any biographical website one can find.

So why the disparity? Well, it's all about transcribing Arabic letters into English. The Arabic alphabet doesn't distinguish between O and U; thus the Osama vs Usama element. Furthermore, vowels aren't typically written out in Arabic, leaving some leeway between Ladin and Laden. I've tried to find this person's name fully written out, vowels and all, but enough information still eludes me to tell for absolute sure whether the last vowel in his name is an i or an e. But I would highly doubt that 'e' is correct. The FBI should know, as they have at their disposal a team of Arabic translators with top clearances getting paid upwards of $60 an hour.

If the FBI is really serious about capturing this fellow, I would expect them to at least acknowledge one of the two main forms of the name by which he is known to the entire English-reading world.

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