Statement is 'a distortion of Islam'

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The language of the statement attributed to Osama bin Laden overemphasised the aggressive language of religious scriptures, one theologian said yesterday.

By his repeated use of words such as "martyrs" and "caliphs", or Muslim rulers, Mr bin Laden was distorting the language of the Koran to motivate his followers, said Karen Armstrong, a theologian and author of Islam: A Brief History.

She said: "We are seeing a fundamentalism that is becoming much more extreme than in the 1970s. Fundamentalism distorts faith and this text is a typical example. It is a fundamentalist statement which distorts and over-emphasises the aggressive elements of the scriptures to the point that they are almost unrecognisable."

A handwriting expert said yesterday that Osama bin Laden's signature showed signs of a "compulsive" and "self-gratifying" character manifesting a "powerful self-protective instinct".

Erik Rees, chairman of the British Institute of Graphologists, examined a statement issued yesterday by Mr bin Laden to the media. Mr Rees said a series of dots on the signature could have significance.

He said: "They are a sign of compulsion, of a compulsive manner, something the person cannot control." The graphologist said that the unusually thick script was referred to by handwriting experts as "pasty" or "doughy" writing.

He said: "It shows greed and also creativity and among other things self-gratification."

Mr Rees said there was also symbolism in the shape of Mr bin Laden's signature. He said: "Here we have a creeping insect, it could be a snake. It looks as if it has swallowed something and it has got stuck in its craw.

"Inside the blob is some writing and the writer has drawn something around that as part of the signature. We call it cocooning. It's a very powerful, self-protective instinct."

Mr Rees also claimed to detect a sign of depression in the gradual downward slope of the Mr bin Laden's signature.

"A signature that droops is a sign of depression. No matter how confident this man seems to be when he comes across to others, psychologically he feels he might on this occasion have bitten off more than he could chew."