Support Indy Media

Popularise CC

Join News Letter

Read CC In Your
Own Language

CC Malayalam


Peak Oil

Climate Change

US Imperialism

US Elections


Latin America










Book Review

Gujarat Pogrom



India Elections



Submission Policy

Contact Us

Subscribe To Our
News Letter

Name: E-mail:


Printer Friendly Version

Al-Qa’ida Murder Inc.

By Mustapha Marrouchi

06 May, 2008

We laughed and the laughter was foolish,
It seems to me;
Far better that we should be crying
And bitterly:
Behold! We are broken by Time,
We are failing, we fade–
But think of the poor, broken glass
Whereof glasses are made.

Abu’l Ala al-Maarri, Poems, 87.

One of Antonio Gramsci’s most compelling distinctions is between two kinds of political struggle. What he variously called the “war of manoeuver” or the “war of movement” entailed seizure of state power. This is not a problematic concept, and has as its clear model the Bolshevik experience. Understandably, in the inter-war years, this was the destination of Communist politics, but under the harsh circumstances of Fascist rule, it could only have been the ultima ratio, and not the prima ratio, of political action. Prior to the moment of truth when power changes hands, another kind of politics was required. Gramsci termed this the “war of position,” and it may be best summarized as a struggle to change the cultural basis of politics, to challenge the hegemony of the ruling class and substitute for it the hegemony, or, in Gramsci’s terms, the “common sense,” of the masses. This distinction between alternative, but overlapping forms of political action has a bearing on conflicts well outside the framework of European Communism and class struggle between the wars. To Gramsci, Fascism was a kind of occupation of his country, and to defeat it required an enormous effort on many levels. The same may be said of the quite different circumstances of Islamism, and the dialectic between a war of movement and a war of position in the struggle against it.

A case in point is the evolution in recent years of Al-Qai’da Inc. To understand what this means is to ask the following set of questions: First: Is it really a structure with a global political movement representative of an entire religion, or is it another of the many death-fixated sectarian currents to emerge in the last quarter of a century? How far is it indebted to Al-Ikhw~n (Muslim Brotherhood) for the formulation of its own brand of horror?

Second: How come former playboy, Osama bin Laden, America’s assailant, is still at large seven years after the 9/11 tragedy? Is it due to his shrewdness? After all, this is no Saddam Hussein, who was caught like a rat in a hole. Even so, could the former “freedom fighter” have dreamed of a better role in that thousands of young Muslims will now find a reason for joining his “holy war” against the West while others will be reduced to silence for fear of being accused of complicity with a power that helps perpetuate an unjust war? How long would any Muslim population, however much its ears are attuned to his words, last under a state ruled by him? How long would a segment of al Ummah in Tunisia, say, but also in Indonesia, tolerate the religious police instructing them how to dress, act, and think? How many years would they endure their neighbors spying on them to ensure their conformity with bin Laden’s version of Sunni Islam? How long would it be before Al-Qai’da’s members themselves succumbed to the blandishment of power and wealth? “You must know the proverb,” Machiavelli wrote in The Art of War, “War makes thieves, and peace hangs them.” Third: How are we to explain the lack of interest in trying to understand America’s role as a super power and its direct involvement in the complex reality beyond its two coastlines that have for so long kept the rest of the world extremely distant and virtually out of the average mind? Shouldn’t we be skeptical about the present crisis, as “America” girds itself for a long war to be fought somewhere out there? How costly is the price the US is willing to pay in order to enter a global conflict with a phantom enemy; a conflict it successfully avoided during the Cold War? And finally: Is the twenty-first century the century of terrorism, and if so, how far will the US go to maintain its primacy using its economic, military, and cultural powers?

To many people in the West, Osama bin Laden is a despicable creature who has polluted the world forever. To others, in the Muslim world in particular, he is an iconic anti-hero, who embodied caste and unrestrained martial valor, just in time for 9/11. Whatever the verdict, the man has already cast history in an upward line, where his today is always the pinnacle. How, one may ask? As good a place to start as any is the verse he cited three days before the 9/11 attack. The overstated irony of Verse 41 of Chapter 29, The Spider, eluded many people on either side of the cultural divide. “The likeness of those who choose other patrons than Allah is as the likeness of the spider when she taketh unto herself a house, and lo! The frailest of all houses is the spider's house, if they but knew.” For bin Laden and his mignons, the West and indeed the Arab ruling elite are as frail as the spider’s house. In a statement, broadcast by Al-Jazeera television, he said: “Our nation has been tasting this humiliation and contempt for more than 80 years.” This is an allusion neither to Palestine nor Iraq, but to Kemal Ataturk’s abolition of the Caliphate in 1924. Later, he added that the US would not “enjoy security before we can see it as a reality in Palestine (with Jerusalem liberated] and before all the infidel armies leave the land of Muhammad (Saudi Arabia].” Significantly, he did not refer to local political issues, such as the war in Iraq or the civil war in Algeria that has claimed more than a quarter of a million innocent victims.

A follower of Salafi Sunnism, bin Laden does not express absolute solidarity with all Muslims. The assassination of two devout Muslims, Ahmad Shah Massoud and Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, meant nothing to him. Nor does he claim to have the support of the regime in Iran, which is Shi’ite. The religious intensity lies in the millenarian beliefs underlying his statements; politics play a poor second role. Military Studies in the Jihad Against the Tyrants, the 1200-page document found in the UK in 2000, enjoins combatants to “martyrdom for the purpose of establishing the religion of majestic Allah on earth.” As with all religious movements, religion takes precedence over politics and renders them pointless, announcing instead the advent of paradise on earth. In addition, the new radical Islamism has fed on a growing awareness of political and ideological setbacks. The Third World no longer counts as a political force, Arab nationalism is bankrupt, the Left has collapsed, and Islamism is called upon to fill in the vacuum in Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria, Indonesia, Europe, The Maghreb, Mauritania, Lebanon, and now America. All this coincides with a realization that pro-Western Arab governments have nationalized their official religious authorities (as Egypt has done with al-Azhar University and Tunisia with a-Zaïtouna University). After all, none of the terrorists who died on September 11 had a militant background. None was linked to an Islamist party. As Trotsky refused the notion of “socialism in one country,” bin Laden rejects the idea of Islamism in one region. He does not have a national strategy because he is working for the global triumph of Allah.

Another sect-type characteristic of this form of Islam is its espousal of crude violence. In Algeria, the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), an organization that bin Laden has been funding for years through the architect of global jih~d, Abu Musab Al-Suri, alias Mustafa bin Abd al-Qadir Setmariam Nasr, who was captured by Pakistani intelligence agents in October 2005 in Quetta and handed over to the CIA, made no attempt to justify its atrocities as political legitimacy or strategic necessity. Bloodshed became the method of war. Bin Laden borrowed the notion of martyrdom from Shi’ite Islam in Iran, for whom it is commonplace–as demonstrated by the bassiji, young volunteers the Khomeini regime sent to the front against Iraq to defend the revolution, and in doing so, pave the way to martyrdom. All the attacks attributed to Al- Qai’da–the 1994 explosion at the Jewish cultural center (Amia in Buenos Aires) in which 86 innocent people died, the 1998 bombings of US embassies, the strike on the USS Cole in 2000, the attacks in Bali October 2002, Casablanca in May 2003, Istanbul in November 2003, the wave of shootings in Saudi Arabia in May 2004, the Madrid bombing in 2004, the London subway tragedy in 2005, the Algiers massacres in 2007–required the sacrifice of men. The death of the believer is necessary, the price for paradise–a recurrent feature of group suicides (the People’s Temple in Guyana, Heaven’s Gate in California). It recurs in the punishment for betraying a political sect (Japanese Red Army, Tamil Tigers) or religious sect (Aum Shinrikyo in Japan). Such religious movements see innocent victims as necessary to their objectives. The will in Muhammad Atta’s luggage shows no pity for those who were about to die, sometimes referred to as enemies simply because they were not Muslims. A guru is also essential. Members of bin Laden’s inner circle call him Sheikh Osama or Emir bin Laden, a sign of respect and veneration (he is not a religious scholar). In the first videos that were projected to the world, he was standing in front of a cave, a reference to Muhammad’s banishment from Mecca. He implicitly identifies with the Prophet in exile, with Saladin driving out the crusaders, and with Hassan ibn al-Sabbah, the “Old Man of the Mountain,” head of the Nizari sect, better known as The Assassins. His ideology is based on the intellectual comfort provided by unequivocal racism: the enemy are the “Jews, the crusaders, and al-mun~fiq§n (infidels) from within Islam” according to the 1998 fatwa supporting Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, convicted for the first bombing of the World Trade Center. “The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies–civilians and military–is an individual duty for every Muslim.” This is close to other simplistic sect-originated ideas, such as the claim that the Jews invented Shi’ite Islam to weaken Islam. In addition, bin Laden’s racism surfaces in his obsession with the idea that the Jews rule the financial world. No wonder that the attacks did not target the Vatican, the Knesset or the Statue of Liberty, but the World Trade Center, thereby demonstrating an anti-globalization ideology. He also condemned the US as the “modern world’s symbol of paganism.” This mixture of theology and anti-globalization mirrors the deep schizophrenia of Saudi society, which enjoys abroad what it will not allow at home. At the same time it considers as hell, anywhere else, particularly the US. Yet the inferno is much like paradise, since wine and women will greet al-mujahid§n (martyrs), according to the notebook in Atta’s bag. “Know that Paradise has been most beautifully decorated for you and that the maidens of Paradise are calling you to meet them, you devotees of God, and they have put on their most beautiful clothes.” However, the confusion of purpose comes out in the number of generations of Al-Qa’ida combatants. The founding fathers are all from the Middle East, veterans of the resistance movement against the Soviets in Afghanistan (bin Laden himself and his maître à penser, Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri) belong to this group. The second generation dates from 1992-93; these are the attackers of September 11. (Think of Ramzi Yussef). They are outcasts by necessity, children of marriages between parents with complicated backgrounds or immigrants sans-papiers. (Samir Al-Jarrah comes to mind). Life in the West radicalized them as it did their godfather, Sayyid Qutb. They are not Palestinians. Some are from Pakistan, others from the Philippines, East Africa, or The Maghreb where Al-Qa’ida is resurfacing with a vengeance in the form of the GSPC (Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat) led by the Algerian Emir, Abu Musab Abd al-Wadud, whose ultimate goal is to establish a pure Islamic state in The Maghreb. The rise to fame of Mohamed el-Hacen Ould Dedew in Mauritania, a radical erudite schooled in Saudi Arabia, who was behind the killing of four French tourists in December 2007, an event that led to the cancellation of the Paris-Dakar rally, is a flagrant example of the new crop nurtured from a distance by Al-Qai’da.

As in all die-hard religious movements, recruits must break with family, birthplace, and home country. For many of them this is the start of a one-way journey. If they go home, they face prison, even the death penalty. Afghanistan was a refuge for all those who wanted or had to flee. Martyrdom is a perfect way out of the impasse. Bin Laden sifted through these exiles and bright-eyed kamikazes. The Taliban put him in charge of recruiting foreign muj~hid§n–a telling sign of masterminding the generation who lived through the failure of Islamist parties in various countries and backed the fight against the new enemy, the West. The number of Saudis among the perpetrators of 9/11–between a half and two-thirds–highlights the political and moral crisis in their country. Like the Russian Nihilists, these men–children of upper middle-class families, with a university education–form an intelligentsia that speaks to the populace by means of attacks designed to provoke it into action. The most recent generation is youths in revolt. In the 1960s they would have joined a Maoist movement. Now they convert to Islamism, following a similar route to John Walker, the American who joined the Taliban. They have not lost their citizenship. Some hold several nationalities. Wadi al-Hajwas was born in Lebanon, but holds a US passport. He was convicted for the first World Trade Center attack. The young men enjoyed rapid early promotion, followed by setbacks, and, disappointed, became easy prey for radicalization (Zakarias Moussaoui and Kamal Daoudi are one example, Mohammed Bouyeri, the Dutchman who killed Theo van Gogh in November 2004, is another). The recruiting agencies are based in mosques in the West. They are particularly active in tabligh centers–Finsbury Park in London, Mantes la Jolie in Paris, and last but not least, Brooklyn in New York.

The bottom line is that Al-Qa’ida is like a holding company run by a council (shura) including representatives of terrorist movements. It verges not on Islamo-fascism no matter how hard Christopher Hitchens and his tribe of neo-cons want us to believe, but on totalitarianism, with sub-divisions to manage key functions: ideology, administration, military action, and the media. This franchise provides all the backup terrorist operations needed, including care for the families of martyrs. It forms alliances and engages in terrorist joint ventures with other movements such as the Egyptian jih~d or Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines. The US may too often have failed to look outside. Still, it is depressing to see how little time is spent trying to understand Al-Qa’ïda as a tributary of al-Ikhw~n that emerged in Afghanistan after mushrooming in Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, and Nigeria (among other countries) where shanty towns on the edges of Cairo, Algiers, and Lagos, inhabited by the despised and forgotten migrants from the countryside, have become fertile grounds for rebellion and despair.

Of course, the explosive growth of slums in the last twenty-five years, especially in the Third World, is perhaps the crucial geopolitical event of our times. The case of Cairo, the biggest node in the shanty-town corridor of 18 million people, is exemplary here. No one even knows the size of its population–officially it is 4 million, but most experts estimate it at 6 million. This segment of the population remains outside state control, living in conditions half outside the law, in terrible need of the minimal forms of self-organization. It is a surplus that has neither adequate health nor social security coverage. This counter-class to the so-called symbolic class (managers, journalists, academics, artists) is a never-ending source of fundamentalist groups held together by a calculating god-father bent on using them as weapons when need be. Slavoj ðiñek explains:

In today’s society–the slum-dwellers are literally a collection of those who are the “part of no part,” the “surnemary” element of society, excluded from the benefits of citizenship, the uprooted and dispossessed, those who effectively “have nothing to lose but their chains.” . . . They are a large collective, forcibly thrown together, “thrown” into a situation where they have to invent some mode of being-together, and simultaneously deprived of any support in traditional ways of life, in inherited religious or ethnic life-forms.

Suffice it to add that the dynamic of terrorism feeds on the vulnerability of the poor as well as on the sheer vileness of the master minds of Al-Qa’ida itself: the devout, bookish, middle-class Cairo guru, Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri and his partner in terror, Osama bin Laden, are a case in point. Where al-Zawahiri comes across as cold, treacherous, and cunning; bin Laden is vain, naive, generous, and idealistic, which combined with the fact that he is a mass murderer, makes him the more sinister character.

Osama bin Muhammad bin Awad bin Laden was born in 1955, the youngest of some twenty surviving sons of one of Saudi Arabia’s wealthiest and most prominent families. He is part puritanical Wahhabi, the dominant school of Islam in Saudi Arabia, yet at one time he may have led a very liberated social life. He is part feudal Saudi, an aristocrat who, from time to time, used to retreat with his father to the desert and live in a tent. And he is of a Saudi generation that came of age during the rise of OPEC, with the extraordinary wealth that accompanied it: a generation whose religious zeal, complemented by government airline tickets, led thousands to fight a war in a distant Muslim land. That Pan-Islamic effort, whose fighters were funded, armed, and trained by the CIA, eventually brought some twenty-five thousand Islamic militants, from more than fifty countries, to combat the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The US, intentionally or not, had launched Pan-Islam’s first jih~d, or holy war, in eight centuries. Bin Laden’s father was a Yemeni who had immigrated to the kingdom and made a fortune by building a construction company into a financial empire. Osama’s mother, a Syrian beauty, was his father’s fourth, and final wife (the other three were Saudis), and she was considered by the conservative bin Laden family to be far ahead of her time. (For instance, she refused to wear a hij~b over her Chanel suits when she traveled abroad). Osama was her only son. Tutors and nannies, bearers and butlers formed a large part of his life. He and his half sisters were playmates of the children of the kingdom’s most affluent families, including various royal princes and princesses. Nonetheless, his childhood has been described as an often lonely one. “It must have been very difficult for him,” Fethi Benslama writes. “In a country that is obsessed with parentage, with who your great-grandfather was, Osama was almost a double outsider. His paternal roots are in Yemen, and, within the family, his mother was twice removed as well–she was neither Saudi nor Yemeni but Syrian.” In 1968, Osama’s father (along with his American pilot) died in a helicopter crash, and Osama, at the age of thirteen, inherited eighty million dollars. When he was fifteen, he had his own stable of pure thorough-breds, and at nineteen he entered King Abdul-Aziz University, in Jedda, where he received a civil-engineering degree in 1979. His French barber in Cannes, who saw him often in the early 1970s, told the Mideast Mirror that in Monaco’s flashy night clubs and bars, his client was known as a free-spending, fun-loving young man–“a heavy drinker who enjoyed 25-year-old Single Malts, Cuban cigars, and expensive wines such as Chateau Petrus and Chateau Margot, and who often ended up embroiled in shooting matches and fist-fights with other young men over an attractive night-club dancer or barmaid. He was also a superb chess player” There is no evidence that bin Laden showed any interest in politics before 1979, when three events shook the Middle East: Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty; the Soviets invaded Afghanistan; and the Iranian Revolution toppled the Shah. Years later, looking back on the invasion of Afghanistan, bin Laden told an interviewer from the Arabic-language Al-Quds al-Arabi, “I was enraged, and went there at once.” In 1984, bin Laden moved to Peshawar, a Pakistani border town near the Khyber Pass which served as the key staging area for al-jih~d in Afghanistan.

Four years had passed since the CIA began providing weapons and funds–eventually totaling more than three billion dollars–to the various Afghan resistance groups, all of which were, to varying degrees, fundamentalist in religion, autocratic in politics, and venomously anti-American. During (and also after) the al-jih~d period in Afghanistan, bin Laden met frequently with Hassan al-Turabi, an erudite Islamist who at the time effectively controlled the rigid Islamic government in Sudan. He dined regularly with President Zia ul-Haq, Pakistan’s military ruler, who was a conduit for the CIA weapons. He also cultivated generals from the Pakistani intelligence service. And he befriended not only some of the most anti-Western of the Afghan resistance leaders fighting al-jih~d but also the Egyptian cleric Sheikh Omar Aldel Rahman, who is now serving a life sentence in a Minnesota prison for conspiracy to “wage a war of urban terrorism” against the US, and Dr Aiman al-Zawahiri, a portrait of whom is de rigueur if we are to undo the web of intrigue and deceit he has spun over the years. Al-Zawahiri is Al-Qai’da’s most formidable and far-sighted military strategist. He has played a key role in establishing its presence in Europe and forging its links to radical jih~dis in The Maghreb and the Middle East, the Balkans and the former Soviet Union, South and East Asia, and now America. Indeed, it was al-Zawahiri who first argued that in order to survive, Al-Qai’da had to become a kind of traveling army based on mobile, nomadic, flexible cells operating independently of one another, unified by little more than a common ideology–and by the sense of shared grievances that the West’s “war on terror” was likely to foster among Muslims. The concept of “leaderless jih~d,” now much in vogue among so-called terrorism experts, is to a great extent al-Zawahiri’s invention.

Considering his belief in leaderless jih~d, it is remarkable that al-Zawahiri continues to have the ear of some of Al-Qai’da’s highest-ranking leaders. He is not one to show deference toward his superiors, let alone express himself tactfully: he is usually described as gruff and sarcastic. His sharp tongue spares no one, not even bin Laden, whose hunger for fame he mocks: “Our brother has caught the disease of screens, flashes, fans, and applause.” He does not trust his entourage, and that goes even for his co-legionnaire, bin Laden, who, he suspects, might one day cut a deal with the Saudis, and leave him in the cold. He is also irritated by the latter’s choice of targets. Bin Laden seems unable or unwilling to strike at his own government, in unflattering contrast to his Guru. Why attack Western and Israeli targets in “peripheral” zones and not in the Arab Peninsula and the Levant? “If you hit the Americans, the French, the Englishmen, or the Jews here, you hurt them two hundred times more than if you strike at them in the Philippines,” al-Zawahiri explained. He warned bin Laden that the presence of fixed camps in Afghanistan made it easy for the Americans to hit back. And so they did, after the twin bombings of US Embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi, with cruise missiles against six suspected training camps on August 21, 1998. The effect of these strikes, however, was to unify the jih~dis at a time when they appeared to be careening toward a split.

What is most eerie about al-Zawahiri is his double personality: he is provocatively at ease with Islamic and non-Islamic sources to further his cause, more likely to quote Mao than Muhammad: in Afghanistan he is known to give lectures on Robert Taber’s 1965 study of guerrilla movements, The War of the Flea, once a favorite of the IRA. In fine, he is a dissident, a critic, and an intellectual in an ideological current in which one would expect to find obedience rather than dissent, conformity rather than self-criticism, doctrinaire ideology rather than introspective individualism. His devotion to the cause has never been in doubt. Today, he heads the Service Bureau of the franchise, a post that demands sacrifice, sang-froid, and foresight, which are manifested in his shrewd advise to bin Laden after Al-Qai’da became aware that the US computers were scrutinizing the billions of international emails, phone calls, and wire transfers in the world for words and phrases like Osama, blow up, or a thousand virgins in paradise. He quickly started embedding information about his plots in numerical matrices hidden in other messages (in the pixels of an electronically transmitted photograph, for example). Then, he with other master minds working for him, would use these means to pass on the geographical co-ordinates of the Statue of Liberty, for example, or the White House.

This superb but vile talent with his coarse manners stand in stark contrast to the ascetic, ceremoniously humble persona cultivated by bin Laden; as does his penchant for profanity, his wide-ranging intellectual curiosity, and his lack of interest in the religion he believes he is defending.

The struggle against the Soviets gave the Arab Afghans a sense of shared purpose, but it concealed deeper divisions which victory soon threw into relief. The self-appointed representatives of al-Ummah, were not of one mind about the movement’s future. Sheikh Abdullah Azzam believed in resisting aggression and occupation by non-Muslim forces in Palestine, Iraq, Bosnia, and Kashmir, while al-Zawahiri advocated a two-front war against “apostate” Muslim governments (the near enemy) and their Western backers (the far enemy). Bin Laden vacillated between the two camps but sided with al-Zawahiri after American troops invaded Iraq. Both al-Zawahiri and bin Laden repudiate democracy as un-Islamic and view the armed struggle as penitence for the sin of participating in elections and force the movement to spread horizontally. Their aim is to see it evolving into a brand, a franchise without a single owner. A growing number of young, disaffected Muslims–some of them second and third-generation Europeans–were willing to open branches, thanks in large part to the war on terror, which feeds the perception that the war is a war on Islam. “The matter has become easier,” al-Zawahiri observed, now that “America has come to us with hundreds of thousands of soldiers and experts.” The far enemy is nearer than ever.

Still, no one knows exactly how al-Zawahiri operates. For he can be quite cruel. Consider the mess the two Sudanese teenage boys found themselves in in 1995. It was al-Zawahiri himself who presided over their trial for treason, sodomy, and attempted murder in a shari’~ court of his own devising. During the trial, he had them stripped naked to show that they had reached puberty, and therefore counted as adults. After a semblance of a trial, the court found the boys guilty. Once their confessions were filmed, al-Zawahiri had them hanged in a public square where everyone could see the horror in broad daylight. He then put out video copies of the hanging to warn other potential traitors of their fate. It did not exonerate him that the boys really had tried to kill him: Ahmed, only 13, told Egyptian spies exactly when al-Zawahiri was going to come to treat him for malaria; Musab, 12, twice tried to plant a bomb in his car. The assassination attempts were part of the Egyptian government’s ruthless efforts to destroy al-Zawahiri and his organization, jih~d, after it came close to killing the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak during a visit to Ethiopia in June 1995. “Ruthless,” in this instance, is a well-deserved adjective. The way Egyptian intelligence recruited the boys–both were sons of senior jih~d members, and Musab’s father was Al-Qa’ida treasurer–had been to drug them, rape them, then show them photos of the abuse and blackmail them. The boys were trapped; the photos could have led to their execution.

The story does more than illuminate the sheer brutality of the conflict that has been underway for some time between the death-loving hardcore of Islamists and the stooges of European and American governments in the Arab world. It underlines the centrality of Egypt to the origins and perpetuation of the conflict, which goes back to the founding of al-Ikhw~n by Hassan al-Banna in 1928 and on through the execution of Sayyid Qutb in 1966. It was a crucible for the theorizing of violence which led to the events of 11 September 2001. By now, the prisons of Egypt became a networking venue for al-muj~hid§n. It was there that the Egyptian jailers made their investment of cruelty in al-Zawahiri, which he would later pay back a thousandfold. The struggle in Egypt, not the wider world, took precedence for the doctor; that he may have believed the narrow, Nile-confined geography of populated Egypt made it hard for Islamists to operate. Only then did he put the goal of Islamic revolution to one side, in favor of closer cooperation with bin Laden. It was after an attack on Egyptian interests in 1995–a suicide bombing at the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan, just after al-Jih~d was expelled from Sudan–that al-Zawahiri first established the theological underpinning of suicide attacks. Eighteen people died in a truck explosion, including two suicide bombers. Al-Zawahiri justified the attack by arguing that, since the Egyptian government included a host of mun~fiqin or apostates, and everyone who worked for the government becomes automatically a mun~fiq, they all deserved to die; innocent Muslim bystanders or children caught up in the explosion were sad but necessary collateral damage.

The Islamic prohibition on suicide was tougher to overcome, since the Prophet himself had foretold eternal damnation for one of his warriors after he killed himself rather than suffer the pain of battle wounds. Al-Zawahiri reached back into distant history for the case of a group of Muslim martyrs who had been offered a choice by their idolatrous captors of renouncing their faith or dying. They chose death. Their apparent breach of Allah’s word was accepted by other Muslims at the time as heroic martyrdom, because it was for the sake of Allah’s word that they died. “With such sophistry, “ Lawrence Wright observes, “al-Zawahiri reversed the language of the Prophet and opened the door to universal murder.” Al-Zawahiri finally set Egypt aside to concentrate on bin Laden’s war against America in 1997, when Egypt as a whole turned against his methods in revulsion. The catalyst was an attack by his faithful followers on tourists at Luxor. A small group of Islamists in police uniform crippled every visitor within range by shooting them in the legs first, then strolled from injured person to injured person, finishing them off with shots to the head. Some of the dead were mutilated with knives. One Swiss woman saw her father’s head being cut off. A flyer reading “No to Tourists in Egypt” was found inside the eviscerated body of a Japanese man. Most of the 62 innocent victims were Swiss. Others included four Egyptians and three generations of a British family–grandmother, mother, and her five-year-old daughter.

No one knows exactly what drives al-Zawahiri to act the way he does. But one thing is certain, to understand how his mind functions, one must go back to the life of Sayyid al-Qutb, whose 1964 Milestones had enormous influence on the Islamic revivalist movement. It is a contradictory, self-referential, anti-Semitic tract that calls for war against the infidel world to establish a universal Islam, following which the conquered–or, as Qutb put it, liberated–will be free to believe what they wish. Qutb insists that the world–not only the non-Muslim world, but the Muslim world itself–is in a state if jahili~ (ignorance), or defiance of Allah’s sovereignty. In the jahili world, instead of the ideal synthesis of worship and governance that Allah provides through Al-Qur’~n, men blaspheme and lead one another astray. The most subversive aspect of Milestones, from the point of view of secular, multicultural governments and people, is its insistence that personal belief in and worship of Allah is insufficient to avoid jahili~. You can be as devout as you like, but if you tolerate and obey jahili institutions, you are defying Allah. It is a powerful prescription, especially when you consider that Qutb greatly admired the scientific and cultural achievements of Europe, and believed a future Islamic civilization would emulate if not rival the West. What is interesting, though, is that Qutb wrote Milestones after spending some time in the US, from 1948 to 1950, during which his proud, sensitive, shy, classical-music-loving personality was assailed by what he saw as the lewd heartiness of American women and materially rich, spiritually poor lives of its people in general. He was propositioned by a scantily clad, drunk young woman in his stateroom on the crossing out, scandalized by a nurse in Washington who told him what she looked for in a lover, “a large penis,” shocked by a feminist teacher in Colorado who declared that there was no moral element to sexual relations, repelled by a minister who delighted in the libidinousness of a church dance, disgusted by the crude violence of American football, appalled to see a black man being beaten in the street, horrified by the “primitive Negro” sounds of jazz, and dismayed by prodigious drinking at student parties. He saw the abundance of churches as a sign of hypocrisy rather than piety. “The soul has no value to Americans,” he wrote. “There has been a Ph. D. dissertation on the best way to clean dishes, which seems more important to them than the Bible or religion.” Back in Egypt, al-Ikhw~n, the Islamist organization he had helped to create, already had a million members and supporters when Qutb left for the US, and the movement’s founder, al-Banna, no stranger to the concept of jahili~, played a massive role in the making of both bin Laden and al-Zawahiri. The latter’s uncle was Qutb’s pupil and protégé, and, at the trial which led to his execution, his lawyer. Qutb’s death had a profound effect on the teenage al-Zawahiri.

Jjih~d, al-Zawahiri’s baby, was one of the two underground groups dedicated to the overthrow of the corrupted Egyptian government and the establishment of an Islamic state. In the 1970s, a second organization, The Islamic Group, emerged as a force on Egyptian campuses; the socialist and secular nationalist fashions of the previous decade yielded, beards sprouted, and women students veiled up. The Islamic Group was led by Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, blind since childhood. Sheikh Omar and al-Zawahiri met and plotted together in prison. Their clandestine organizations were similar: small, suspicious, and ready to use extreme violence to achieve their goals. They also strove to establish Islamic Egypt under Shari’~ law. In fact, they found co-operation difficult, partly because of personal jealousies, partly because Sheikh Omar’s was ultimately a more tolerant route to global Islam than al-Zawahiri’s. Yet Sheikh Omar trod an ominous trail which prefigured the Egyptian doctor’s subsequent descent into gore. At one point he issued a fatwa justifying the murder of Christians, to make it possible for his young foot-soldiers to fund their jih~d by killing and robbing Coptic businessmen and women with a clear conscience. In 1993, in New York, his followers detonated a massive van bomb in the basement car park of the World Trade Center, gouging a 200-foot-wide crater and killing six people, but failing to topple the structures. Sheikh Omar, who had been applying for political asylum in America, while at the same time issuing a fatwa asking his followers to kill Jews and making speeches in Arabic denouncing Americans as “descendants of apes and pigs,” was subsequently arrested and jailed in the US. Still, the most intriguing and in some ways chilling mystery remains the fate of the fourth remarkable Islamic revolutionary leader, the Palestinian religious scholar, Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, who studied with Sheikh Omar in Cairo and inspired bin Laden. As a result, al-Zawahiri became quite envious. What remains unknown to this day is who was responsible for his murder in Peshawar in 1989. The assassination of Azzam–who, with bin Laden’s financial support, turned the American effort to defeat the Soviet invaders in Afghanistan into a Pan-Islamic jih~d–marked a turning point in the saga of Islamism.

Sheikh Abdullah Azzam was a devout Muslim who had contempt for secular life. With the help of Israel, he founded Ham~s as an Islamic Palestinian counterweight to Yasir Arafat’s secular Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). To drum up support for the war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan he issued a fatwa declaring jih~d in Afghanistan a religious duty for every able-bodied Muslim. To spread the word of Allah, Azzam embarked on a grand tour, preaching of divine miracles on the battlefield–of the perfumed corpses of martyrs and birds turning aside Soviet bombs. He was a hero to young Arabs. It was he who popularized the lurid rewards awaiting the martyrs in paradise which later lay at the heart of Al-Qa’ida manifesto. It was also Azzam who, on August 11, 1988, with the Soviet Union already beaten in Afghanistan, called a meeting which brought all his lieutenants together and planted the first seed of the franchise that came to be known “Al-Qa’ida.” At that stage, however, it could have been anything insofar as his vision of jih~d after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, differed subtly from bin Laden’s and profoundly from al-Zawahiri’s. Azzam’s idea was for a wide guerilla war to win back lands which Islam had once held and lost, from Soviet Central Asia to Bosnia and even Spain. He feared that al-mujahid§n would instead begin to fight against each other, that Muslims would fight against Muslims. He opposed al-Zawahiri’s dream of fomenting a cycle of terror and repression in Egypt. He did not want to kill women and children. He was deeply disturbed by the dark, heretical doctrine that al-Zawahiri had seized on in Afghanistan–otherwise called takf§r, or excommunication.

In a Kuwaiti-backed Red Crescent hospital in Peshawar, which became his base during the years of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, al-Zawahiri fell in with other Arab doctors who had been influenced by an outbreak of takf§r, understood this time as heresy. At the heart of it, takf§r is a means to justify murdering anyone who disagrees with one’s interpretation of Islam. In order to impose his view, al-Zawahiri got round the explicit Qur’~nic prohibition on killing, except as punishment for murder, by pointing out that the Prophet said anyone who strayed from a-tariqa (path) must die. According to Kutb, those who co-operate with jahili institutions were turning away from Islam and must be killed because they are leading a jahili life. Democracy was jahili, ergo, anyone who voted could be–no, should be–executed. Azzam, who had done more than either bin Laden or al-Zawahiri to further the Islamic cause in Afghanistan, and who opposed takfir, nevertheless fell victim to it. There is no evidence that al-Zawahiri had a hand in his murder, which, Peter Bergen describes thus: “Earlier that Friday, on the streets of Peshawar, Azzam’s main rival, Ayman al-Zawahiri, had been spreading rumors that Azzam was working for the Americans. The next day, he was at Azzam’s funeral, praising the martyred Sheikh, as did his many other jubilant enemies.” It is possible to see the events of 9/11 as a synthesis of all these ideas: the application of al-Zawahiri’s takfir, jahili America, bin Laden’s money, and men holding dear Azzam’s vision of the martyrs’ reward. Yet of all the countries in the jahili world, why America? The answer seems to lie in the quixotic making of al-Ikhw~n–an international Sunni movement with affiliates across the Arab world and beyond, including in the West, but its first and preeminent branch is in Egypt, which has been Muslim for more than a millennium, but by the early 19th century, the British proconsul there would report home that “for all purposes of broad generalization, the only difference between the Copt and the Muslim is that the former is an Egyptian who worships in a Christian church, whilst the latter is an Egyptian who worships in a Mohammedan mosque.” Secularism dominated Egyptian political and cultural life through at least the 1960s, and even today the country does not remotely compare to, say, Saudi Arabia, where the participation of women in the development of the kingdom is limited to courtesans and femmes vitales.

But over the past quarter-century–mirroring trends elsewhere in the region–Egypt has become more and more “Islamized,” as Muslims from all social classes have increasingly embraced (whether or not they strictly abide by) a conservative interpretation of Islam. In Cairo, especially in poor neighborhoods, it has become difficult to find small shops that sell cigarettes, of all things, due to the growing belief that smoking is un-Islamic. In the wealthy district of Zamalek, an island in the Nile, a single shop–forthrightly named Drinkie’s–sells bottled liquor. The number of restaurants offering alcohol anywhere in the city has dropped sharply. The turn to Islam has been fueled by scholars and tele-vangelists; the latter have been particularly successful in proselytizing to educated Egyptians. A TV preacher named Amr Khaled was deemed to be such a threat by the Mubarak regime that it banned him from his central Cairo mosque; for three years he lived in London, but his sermons continued to circulate in Egypt via satellite television, cassette tapes, and the Internet. Islamic ideas also have gained popularity because of the “good” works done by Islamists. Al-Ikhw~n members pay for weddings, tuition fees, run job-training programs and hospitals; and doctors affiliated with the group offer free treatment for poor patients. Students at overcrowded and underfunded public schools are tutored by their volunteers, and the group distributes pens and paper at the start of the school year. What is noticeable is that the cash to finance such programs is massive. Where does it come from? No one knows. And when you raise the matter, you are told: “Rabin~ kar§m!” (Allah is generous). Do not push your luck bringing up the subject of money again because you may get into trouble. The endgame is that as you walk through Cairo, you realize that the joie de vivre that used to permeate the city in the 1960s has been replaced by an undercurrent, a hidden life, an opinion; in fine, an eerie feeling that has got hold of the city. The times have indeed changed. Or, have they?

The answer to the question posed here may be found in the “Bush Doctrine.” Among its precepts–as loyalists to the current president call the set of foreign-policy principles by which they, and no doubt he, hope his tenure will be remembered–by far the most widely discussed has been his stance on democracy in the Arab world. The clearest articulation of this stand can be found in a November 2003 speech the president gave at the Washington headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce, when he sharply denounced not just tyranny in the Arab world but the logic by which the West had abetted it. At least in its rhetoric, the speech was nothing less than a blanket repudiation of six decades of American foreign policy in the Arab world. Five years later, democracy in the region is still hanging in the balance. In Egypt, which receives $2 billion per year in American aid, President Hosni Mubarak was “re-elected” two years ago in a landslide, nine months after his regime jailed his primary challenger, the pro-Western Ayman Nour, on the spurious charge that he had forged signatures for his party’s registration. Political repression has also increased in Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, and Sudan as well as in the rest of Arab world. The governments of these countries have imposed new restrictions on free speech and public assembly, a crackdown designed to squelch overwhelming domestic opposition to the regimes’s close alliance with America. Notwithstanding Bush’s new “forward strategy of freedom,” the US has marshaled nothing more than a few hollow demurrals against the anti-democratic abuses by its allies in the region, and it maintains close partnerships with all of its old authoritarian friends who have been in power since the early 1980s. Some of them (Mubarak and Gaddafi) have gone so far as to groom their sons to take over when they become incapacitated. In Syria, the ruling Alawite minority took care of business when Assad Sr. died and was replaced by Assad Jr. Nepotism is alive and well.

Above all, America has refused to engage with Islamic opposition movements, even those that flatly reject violence and participate in democratic politics. It is true that many Islamists have long dismissed the concept of elections, which the more radical of them still argue are an infringement on Allah’s sovereignty; others did away with democracy because they believed, with good reason, that elections in their countries were so flagrantly rigged that they offered no realistic path to change. One need not endorse either the ideology or the tactics of these groups to wonder if the wholesale rejection of dialogue with them is truly in the long-term interests of the US. Indeed, looking beyond the disastrous situation in Israel/Palestine, the blood bath in Iraq, the carnage in Afghanistan, perhaps the central questions facing American foreign policy today are: How is it possible to promote democracy and fight terrorism when movements deemed by the US to be terrorist and extremist are the most politically popular at home? And given this popularity, what would true democracy in Egypt or Algeria resemble? It is impossible to answer this set of questions without first composing with these movements, but the US government and, frequently, the media have deemed them unworthy even of this; their public grievances–over America’s seemingly unconditional support for Israel, its invasion of Iraq, its backing of dictatorial regimes that rule much of the Arab world and elsewhere–are dismissed as illegitimate and insincere, their hostility explained away as a rejection of “Western freedoms.” It is a lame and counter-productive reason to offer those who want to at least understand the Islamists’ credos without necessarily embracing them. For if we refuse to engage with Islamist movements like al-Ikhw~n, Gamaa Islamy~, GSPC (Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat) , Ennahda, Hamm~s, Huzbullah, to name only a few, however foreign or flawed their ideas may seem, we leave the door wide-open to bin Laden and his followers to foster a climate of wholesale hatred–a recipe for disaster, to say the least.

The upshot is that in a period of conflict between tradition and modernity, the post-colonial and the post-modern, the avant la lettre and the avant-garde, when millions of households are in the grip of insecurity and unemployment, when people are displaced by war and famine as is the case in Iraq today, when young men and women are marginalized and typecast because they are not like “us,” curiosity tends to give way to fear, distrust to hostility, peace to terrorism. This reality is best reflected in the daily portrayal of Arabs and/or Muslims in the West. They are represented in the liberal and not so liberal media as a vortex of ethnic passion–a multi-cultural dream turned nightmare as shown in the reaction to the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and the intervention of the Pope in 2006. We are dealing with an imaginary cartography, which projects onto the real landscape its own shadowy ideological antagonisms, in the same way that the conversion-symptoms of the hysterical subject in Freud project onto the physical body the map of another, imaginary anatomy. Much of this position is xenophobic. First, there is the old-fashioned, unabashed rejection of the Other (despotic, barbarian, Muslim, corrupt, Oriental) in favor of “true” values (Western, civilized, democratic, Christian). But there is also a “reflexive,” politically correct racism: the liberal, heterogeneous perception of the Other as a site of ethnic horrors and intolerance, of primitive, tribal, and irrational passions, as opposed to the rationality of post-nation-state conflict resolution by negotiation and compromise. Racism is a disease of the Muslim Other, while “we” in the West are merely hosts, observers, neutral, benevolent, and righteously dismayed. Finally, there is reverse racism, which celebrates the exotic authenticity of the Muslim Other, as in the notion of Arabs, for instance, who, by contrast with inhibited, anaemic Western Europeans, still exhibit a prodigious lust for life. For example, if a stereotype declares the Arab to be “terrorist” or “sexually rapacious,” then even as it marks him or her as inferior to the self-controlled white, it announces his or her power to violate, and thus requires the imposition of restraint if such power is to be curtailed: so the stereotype cannot rest, it is always impelled to further action. He or she can be spoken of in racist clichés which nobody would dare apply to the Jew or the Negro, for example. A case in point is the status of les sans-papiers in Europe, who are seen as a threat or a target for resentment. There is the atavistic distrust that sedentary rural societies have of nomads, and then the hostility of the middle classes toward impoverished vagabonds, people without hearth or home, rogues and beggars, street entertainers and day laborers, gypsies and Arabs, itinerants from elsewhere and strangers from inside, whose modern counterparts are society’s outcasts and of no fixed abode. In general, these people have been stigmatized by being required to carry special “papers,” from the 19th century passbooks for laborers and traveling performers to today’s residence permits, and subjected to endless administrative and police checks.

It is hard not to feel that there are, as ever with displacement, disturbing and uncanny twists in the tale of leaving home. One of them is still alive in Europe where most immigrants have settled. “We are homesick everywhere.” This is how those who left the rim of the world for the dome of the rock describe their rootlessness. Their children, born in Rome, Paris, Munich, or London, grow up torn between an allegiance to their parents and through them to a Third World many have never laid eyes on, and another to their adoptive home that is determined to keep them on the margins where it thinks they belong. Many of them do not even speak the language of the country, say, Algeria, from which their parents emigrated; most are criticized when they visit Morocco or Nigeria because they do not know how to speak or act properly there. Once their parents would have expected to return to live in the houses they had built, but now most remain in Europe because corruption at “home” has diminished the assets they sent back and their Algeria or Nigeria offers no special security benefits. As the Muslim population of Europe grows beyond 15 million, as relations are strained by conflict and backlash, it is important to appreciate that the next generation of children, even when discriminated against in Europe and teased back “home” wherever that may be, are not simply in search of a lost community or adrift in a European form of existential alienation (Ben Jelloun, 2000: 54-9). The media refer to the arsonists who set France on fire and the bombers who died attacking the London transport system as “home-grown,” but the three British-born children of Pakistani immigrants were not at home; indeed it is their sense of being without a place of their own that is striking. To dismiss them as alienated youth or their ideas as perversions of religion is too simple, however. Their culture says that all knowledge should benefit the Believers, but they see no sign of this in their second “home.” On the contrary, the older generation seems ineffectual and the whole world unnaturally inverted.

In such circumstances, it is their own culture–not some generalized version of human psychology–that makes the world appear as intensely meaningful to those who take action as it seems horrifically meaningless to those they hurt. The actions of the London bombers, of the hundreds of Muslims who have blown themselves up in suicide attacks in Iraq, Palestine, and Afghanistan over the past ten years, and the millions who have stood mute and allowed others to act are facts that no one can ignore. But they should prompt Westerners to attempt to transcend stereotypes rather than to try to do away with difference. If we concentrate only on the global, the local will almost certainly stab us in the back; if we see only alienation or loss we may never notice resilience and creativity. We may think we know what it means to be at home or to feel homesick, but we need to understand what it means to Muslims–not just in Europe, but everywhere. That at bottom is an idea worth fighting for. In this sense, the field work done by the intellectual in opposition may be said to resemble a counter-memory, with its own counter-discourse that will not allow conscience to look away or fall asleep. The best corrective is to imagine the person whom you are discussing–in this case the person who is marginalized and branded, catalogued and degraded, belittled and dehumanized–reading you in your presence–a position that demands from the intellectual the courage to say that that is what is before us, in almost exactly the way a silent witness can act and tell of the inhumanity all around us (Said, 2004: 143). Only then can the struggle to construct fields of coexistence between different communities rather than fields of battle be successful. The trope is admirably chronicled by what Pierre Bourdieu has shrewdly called “collective invention”:

The whole edifice of critical thought is thus in need of critical reconstruction. This work of reconstruction cannot be done, as some thought in the past, by a single great intellectual, a master-thinker endowed with the sole resources of his singular thought, or by the authorized spokesperson for a group or an institution presumed to speak in the name of those without voice, union, party, and so on. This is where the collective intellectual can play its irreplaceable role, by helping to create the social conditions for the collective production of a better life for all (1998: 98).

1. Niccolo Michiavelli, The Art of War, trans. Christopher Lynch (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003): 56.

2 . Al-Qur’~n, trans. Ahmed Ali (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988): 87-8.

3 . See Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaida’s Road to 9/11 (London: Allen Lane, 2007): 56.

4 . Ibid., 211.

5 . Ahmed Rashid et al., L’Ombre des Islamistes (Paris: Autrement, 2001).

6 . John Entelis, The Algerian Civil War (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000): 12-45 in particular. There is an interesting view of how Saudi Arabia exports Islamism to The Maghreb. See Vincento Oliveti, Terror’s Source: The Ideology of Wahhabi-Salafism and Its Consequences (New York: BPR Publishers, 2002.

7 . For the murder of Ahmad Shah Massoud and Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, see Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden (New York: Penguin, 2005): 45-6.

8 . See Military Studies in the Jihad Against the Tyrants,

9 . See Olivier Roy, “La fin de l’Islam politique,” Esprit (August-September 2001): 45-6.

10 . Patrick Forestier, Confessions d’un émir du GIA (Paris: Grasset, 1999): chap. 3 in particular.

11 . There is an interesting, if eccentric, analysis of this matter in Farhad Khoskhokavar, Cultures et conflits 29/30 (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1997): 15-22.

12 . Janja Lalich, Bounded Choice: True Believers and Charismatic Cults (Durham: University of Carolina Press, 2004): 33-61.

13 . Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism (New York: Columbia UP, 2006): chaps 2 and 4 are quite informative.

14 . Mohammed Atta, “The Last Night,” Action Report on Line,

15 . Quoted in Wright, The Looming Tower, 123.

16 . Ibid., 234-5.

17 . See Peter L. Bergen, Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002): 67.

18 . Osama bin Laden, Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden, trans. James Howarth (London & New York: Verso, 2005): 56.

19 . Mustapha Marrouchi, “Arabia in Disarray,” Part One and Two 8 February 2007 and 2 March 2007.

20 . Atta, “The Last Night,” 3.

21 . Adnan A. Musallam, From Secularism to Jihad: Sayyid Qutb and the Foundations of Radical Islam (New York: Greenwood Press, 2005): 23-56.

22. Jean-Claude Perez, L’Islamisme dans la guerre d’Algérie (Paris: Dualpha, 2004): 12-20.

23. See L’hyper-terrorisme, ed. François Heisbourg (Paris: Odile Jacob, 2001): 56.

24 . This is the background to Washington’s war on terror, a background fulled by hatred and ignorance on both sides of the cultural divide. Bush and bin Laden want to persuade us that the world is divided–them and us, believers and infidels, barbarism and civilization. For more on the subject, see Michael Scheuer, Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror (New York: Potomac Books, 2005): chap. 4 in particular.

25 . Slavoj ðiñek, “Leninism Today: Zionism and the Jewish Question,” Lacandotcom, 2007.

26 . Fethi Benslama, La psychanalyse à l’épreuve de l’Islam (Paris: Flammarion, 2004): 56.

27. Quoted in Fethi Benslama, Déclaration d’insoumission (Paris: Flammarion, 2005): 34.

28 . Jonathan Randal, Osama: The Making of a Terrorist (London: Tauris, 2006): 56-8.

29 . Quoted in Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden, ed. Bruce Lawrence, trans. James Howarth (London & New York: Verso, 2006): 122.

30 . Quoted in Abdel Bari Atwan, The Secret History of Al-Qaida (London: Saqi Books, 2006): 67.

31. Charles Glass, “Cyber-Jihad,” LRB 9 March 2006: 14.

32 . See Al Qaeda Reader, ed. Raymond Ibrahim (New York: Broadway, 2007): 89.

33 . Laura Mansfield, His Own Words: Translation and Analysis of the Writings of Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri ( 2006).

34 . Wright, The Looming Tower, 212.

35. Ibid., 271.

36. Sayyid Qutb, Milestones (London: Igram Press, 2003); Sayed Khatab, The Power of Sovereignty: The Political and Ideological Philosophy of Sayyid Qutb (London: Routledge, 2006).

37 . Habeck, Knowing the Enemy, 122.

38. Mansfield, His Own Words, 68-9.

39. Wright, The Looming Tower, 111.

40 . Al-Zawahiri was born in Manial, a district in Southern Cairo where he spent most of his youth. It may look dirty and rundown, and its streets are in perpetual gridlock; but by Cairo standards the locality, which is the home to the headquarters of al-Ikhw~n, is solidly middle-class, its storefronts hosting not only a variety of small shops but also the Fatin Hamama Cinema, named after one of the country’s most famous actresses, as well as a Kentucky Fried Chicken. For more on the subject, see Abdel Bari Atwan, The Secret History of Al-Qaida (London: Saqi, 2006): 32-3.

41 . What would the stern moralist Qutb, or for that matter a psychoanalyst, have to say about the family history of Osama bin Laden? He is one of 54 children whom his fantastically wealthy, self-made father had by 22 wives. His father found his mother, Alia–wife number four–in a small Syrian village, and married her when she was 14. When he was still a small boy, Osama’s father divorced Alia, and “gave” her to one of his employees to marry. Shortly afterwards, Osama’s father died in a plane crash. When he was 17, the youong bin Laden went to the same village where his father found Alia, and met and married his first wife, Najwa, who was also 14. He solemnly resolved to practice polygamy, eventuall taking four wives. For more on the subject, Habeck, Knowing the Enemy, 45-6.

42 . Quoted in Khatab, The Power of Sovereignty, 112.

43 . Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. War and American Presidency (New York: Norton, 2004): 56-7.

44 . Pierre Bourdieu, Practical Reason: On the Theory of Action, trans. Randal Johnson (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1998): 91.


Leave A Comment
Share Your Insights

Comment Policy


Digg it! And spread the word!

Here is a unique chance to help this article to be read by thousands of people more. You just Digg it, and it will appear in the home page of and thousands more will read it. Digg is nothing but an vote, the article with most votes will go to the top of the page. So, as you read just give a digg and help thousands more to read this article.


Feed Burner

Support Indy Media


Search Our Archive


Our Site