In an interview with Fox News yesterday, Senator James Inhofe spoke about pictures of a dead Osama Bin Laden that he viewed at CIA headquarters. While describing some of the photos as “gruesome,” Inhofe insisted that Bin Laden is recognizable in them. “It was him,” the Senator remarked. To help members of congress identify the dead man, Inhofe explained that the agency also included three pictures of Bin Laden when he was alive or, as Inhofe put it, “when he had the black beard.” “The beard is a moving target,” Inhofe explained further, “because he dyes it all the time.”
In claiming that Bin Laden dyed his beard, the Senator was presumably just repeating what he was told in the CIA briefing. But if the CIA is in fact showing members of Congress “live” pictures of Bin Laden with a dyed black beard, then we have a problem.
Osama Bin Laden went missing around the time of the Battle of Tora Bora in December 2001. Only two alleged Bin Laden video messages were released in the meanwhile, and the authenticity of both of them has been widely challenged. As noted in my previous post, in the last known authentic images of Osama Bin Laden from before the Battle of Tora Bora the Al-Qaeda leader’s beard was largely grey.
There is no reason to conclude based on the pre-Tora Bora images that Bin Laden dyed his beard “all the time.” There is, however, one pre-Tora Bora photo in which his beard has clearly been dyed. But it has been dyed with henna, as according to Islamic custom, thus giving the dyed parts of the beard a reddish orange color.
As I further pointed out in my previous post, dyeing a beard black appears in fact to be “haram” (forbidden) per instructions laid out in the Hadith. Numerous discussions of the matter are to be found in Islamic discussion forums. In Sahih Muslim Book 24, Hadith Number 5244, Mohammad instructs a man with a grey beard to dye it, but to “avoid black.” In Abu Dawud, Book 33, Hadith Number 4200, he goes so far as to warn that those who use black dye “will not experience the fragrance of Paradise.” In the previous Hadith, however, he praises the use of colored dyes such as henna.
Osama Bin Laden was an Islamic fundamentalist. The whole point of fundamentalist currents in Islam is to uphold the strictest possible interpretation of Islamic religious texts and to live one’s life accordingly. For Osama Bin Laden to flout the express dictates of the Prophet Mohammad would be highly unusual to say the least.
This is why the black beard sported by Bin Laden in a 2007 video message represents a major prima facie reason for concluding that the footage is inauthentic. The same man, sporting the same beard, is also to be seen in the supposed Bin Laden video “outtakes” recently released by the Department of Defense.
Of course, if the beard color is natural, then the man in the footage cannot be Bin Laden. The administration has forestalled such objections by asserting that the beard is dyed black. But if the beard is dyed black, then the man’s grooming habits are decidedly un-Islamic, which is likewise a major anomaly in this case. The administration – like the Senator – appears to be entirely unaware of the problem.
Now it would seem, based on Inhofe’s remarks, that the CIA is showing members of Congress photos of the same man with the same black beard.
(Note: See my previous post for comparison shots of the pre-Tora Bora Osama Bin Laden and the “blackbeard” Osama of the DOD footage.)