The fourth-eldest son of Osama Bin Laden who would inherit Al Qaeda is a mirror-image of his father. But what his mother passed down to him is his artistic abilities.
“Some of my mum’s side of the family are very artistic,” Omar said. “My mum loves painting, and so does one of my sisters. My uncle was also a very good artist. So the need to draw and paint runs in my blood.”
Through the course of the last 12 months, he has painted more than a dozen original works: all of them finished in the style of art naif, with bright colours and flat, expressionistic brushstrokes.
In one of his painting, he renews the throne mountains of Tora Bora, where his father went to hide in the post 11th September 2001. In another, Omar’s favourite painting, he portrays the Arizona desert, around seven-and-a-half thousand miles from his father’s mountaintop hideout, where a rural cottage is placed among pale green cactus that gather under a star-pinned sky.
All of his paintings carry a childlike straightforwardness. Speaking to Omar, it can be inferred that his work is a way to go back into the long lost peacefulness of his distant youth, before all the violence and bloodshed.
“I miss the fun times I had, the times when I was too young to know and too innocent to see the world around me,” he says, tellingly. “I miss the vast stretches of desert dunes and rolling seas. I miss the peace of childhood.”
Omar, now 39, has consistently condemned the 9/11 attacks over the past 20 years. He expresses dreadful pain for the thousands of victims who lost their lives and criticized Al Qaeda for the deliberate murder of innocent citizens. He has declined his father’s violent ideologies, and though he has never run away from his family name, he has always tried to create distance from its savage connotations.
“A lot of people think Arabs—especially the bin Ladens, especially the sons of Osama—are all terrorists,” Omar said to The Associated Press in 2008. “This is not the truth.”
He wanted to become an “ambassador for peace”, he continued, and try to make up for what he termed his father’s “big mistake”.
Although he may never be able to escape Osama bin Laden’s legacy permeated with blood—as he combats with PTSS, bipolar disorder and the psychological traumas of his upbringing—Omar now assets to have after all this while achieved some representative of peace within himself.