Osama Bin Laden has stunned intelligence agencies around the world by revealing that he is to take a sabbatical from terrorism and enrol as a student with the Open University. In his latest video diary for the Al Jazeera Living Channel, the Al Qaeda leader confirms he is to begin a joint honours degree in Early Modernist Art and Radical Feminist Literature in spring 2009.
The video contains rare footage of Bin Laden talking candidly about life at the top of a global terrorist network. ‘I think the relentless treadmill of jihad is beginning to take its toll,’ he says. ‘While I still get really quite irritated by the West, I’m finding it harder as the years go by to rouse myself into a state of extremist insurgency each morning. Terrorism is probably a young man‘s game these days.’
‘There’ll come a day when I have to hang up my explosive vest,’ he continues, ‘but Al Qaeda’s secular pension scheme has always come a distant second to our policy of reward in the afterlife, so I will need to re-train. Sure, I could move into television punditry or be rehabilitated as a doctor’s receptionist, but I really want to better myself and distance learning means I don‘t have to be defeated by the commute.’
Bin Laden claims that he was always been interested in Radical Feminist Literature, which he discovered via the more sensitive novels of Jeanette Winterson and Angela Carter. His application form also contains some unusual extra-mural activities, which apart from global terror against the great American Satan, include ‘chess and reading.’
Meanwhile the Open University has defended itself against accusations that it is providing a safe haven for terrorists. ‘Our admissions policy on Islamic terrorists is still in draft so we don’t yet have any grounds on which to reject Mr Bin Laden‘s application.’ But the news raises the prospect of the Al Qaeda leader attending a graduation ceremony in Britain in the summer of 2012. A spokesman for the security services said they were prepared to take at face value Bin Laden’s admission that while he is here he’d ‘like to catch a bit of the Olympics, God willing.’