The resurgence of Osama bin Laden’s “Letter to America” on TikTok, two decades after the 9/11 attacks, has sparked curiosity and discussion among the new generation. Many are drawing parallels between Osama bin Laden’s justification for the attack, citing the US’ support for Israel’s occupation of Palestine as a violation of international law, and current events in the Israel-Hamas conflict. This has led to renewed calls for a Gaza ceasefire, as individuals engage in debates about the US role in the region and its impact on the ongoing Middle East situation.
In a now-deleted TikTok video, a user claimed that “everything we learned about the Middle East, 9/11, and ‘terrorism’ was a lie.”
Another user said in a video, “I will never look at life the same, I will never look at this country (USA) the same. If you have read it, let me know if you are going through an existential crisis. Because in the last 20 minutes, my entire viewpoint of the entire life I have believed and lived has changed.”
Over the past 24 hours, thousands of TikToks (at least) have been posted where people share how they just read Bin Laden’s infamous “Letter to America,” in which he explained why he attacked the United States.
The TikToks are from people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and… pic.twitter.com/EwjiGtFEE3
— Yashar Ali ???? (@yashar) November 16, 2023
Meanwhile, TikTok is “proactively and aggressively” taking down such videos. In a statement posted on X Thursday, TikTok said, “Content promoting this letter clearly violates our rules on supporting any form of terrorism. We are proactively and aggressively removing this content and investigating how it got onto our platform. The number of videos on TikTok is small and reports of it trending on our platform are inaccurate. This is not unique to TikTok and has appeared across multiple platforms and the media.”
Content promoting this letter clearly violates our rules on supporting any form of terrorism. We are proactively and aggressively removing this content and investigating how it got onto our platform. The number of videos on TikTok is small and reports of it trending on our… https://t.co/n9Zo7l94r2
— TikTok Policy (@TikTokPolicy) November 16, 2023
Osama bin Laden’s letter criticises US foreign policy, containing antisemitic and violent language, particularly addressing American support for Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
After the letter went viral, several US lawmakers reacted sharply, calling for a ban on the Chinese app. Democratic Representative Josh Gottheimer said that TikTok was “pushing pro-terrorist propaganda to influence Americans.”
“These people are sympathising with Osama bin Laden – the terrorist responsible for 9/11 and thousands of American deaths,” he wrote on X, previously Twitter. “TikTok must be banned or sold to an American company.”
Watch below to see how China-owned TikTok is pushing pro-terrorist propaganda to influence Americans.
These people are sympathizing with Osama bin Laden – the terrorist responsible for 9/11 and thousands of American deaths.
TikTok must be banned or sold to an American company. https://t.co/GOvnBZjXt4
— Rep Josh Gottheimer (@RepJoshG) November 16, 2023
A White House spokesperson, too, slammed the TikTok trend, saying it was an “insult” to family members of the victims of 9/11. “There is never a justification for spreading the repugnant, evil, and antisemitic lies that the leader of al Qaeda issued just after committing the worst terrorist attack in American history,” WH spokesperson Andrew Bates said on Thursday.
The White House said that one should ever insult the 2,977 American families still mourning loved ones by associating themselves with the vile words of Osama bin Laden. “Particularly now, at a time of rising antisemitic violence in the world, and just after Hamas terrorists carried out the worst slaughter of the Jewish people since the Holocaust in the name of the same conspiracy theories,” it added.
The Guardian removed a translated version of Osama bin Laden’s letter, initially published in 2002, after it was shared on social media without full context. The newspaper issued a statement, citing concerns about potential misinterpretation and directing readers to the original article putting everything in context.