- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2003

LONDON A niece of Osama bin Laden is starting a career as a pop singer after rejecting her Muslim background and throwing herself on to the London party scene.
Waffa Binladin, whose father, Yeslam, is a brother of the world's most wanted man, hopes to release a single by the end of the year after being told that she has the looks and voice to become a star. Her father changed the spelling of his last name to differentiate himself and his family from the terror leader.
Miss Binladin has been working on a demo tape and has reportedly been advised on her musical ambitions by Wyclef Jean, the acclaimed rap artist.
Miss Binladin, 26, has become a fixture on the London club scene since moving to the city six months ago.
Last week Miss Binladin joined stars including Rod Stewart, Natalie Imbruglia and Phil Collins at a charity function held by Garrards, the jewelers. Her adoption of Western culture she drinks alcohol, smokes cigarettes and wears mini-skirts and designer clothes by Versace has seen her cast out by her father's family.
Her mother, Carmen Binladin, who lives in Geneva with Waffa's two younger sisters, said: "The bin Laden family have condemned my daughters because they were brought up in the West and have Western ways, but I support Waffa's freedom."
Miss Binladin, who trained as a lawyer in the United States, dissociated herself from her notorious uncle long before the September 11 terrorist attacks. At the time of the attacks, she was living in New York, less than a mile from the World Trade Center.
Such is the extent of the rift between her and her father's family, however, that he did not telephone her on the day to check whether she was safe.
After graduating from Geneva University, Miss Binladin attended Columbia University. She decided not to attend Harvard Law School because of her family's connections to the institution.
The bin Ladens have donated more than $5.5 million to the school since the early 1980s and her uncle, Abdullah bin Laden, 33, studied there at the same time that she was at Columbia.
She has not been back to the United States since the attacks and plans to stay in London.
"I worry for her safety. She was brought up with Western values and has no idea how restrictive Saudi culture can be," said her mother, who has been fighting a 10-year divorce battle with her husband. "The girls are in a very difficult position. People associate them with the bin Ladens, which they are not. This is very dangerous."
Mrs. Binladin said she and her daughters have had no contact with the bin Laden family for more than 10 years. "We thought about changing the name, but then people would think we had something to hide."

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