The Bos\’un Locker

During times of war and during times of peace, we must prepare for tomorrow with the realities of today.

Know the Enemy

Posted by thebosun on August 31, 2006

Courtesy of Dallas News.  Reposted with permission of the author, Rod Dreher.

Forty years ago, the godfather of Islamic terrorism was executed, says Rod DREHER, and America today is no closer to understanding his apocalyptic vision…..

Two days from now, the country will observe the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and its catastrophic aftermath. What will pass unnoticed on that day is the 40th anniversary of a hanging of a revolutionary in Cairo, an event that is incalculably more important to the present and future of the United States than any meteorological event.The pious life and martyr’s death of Sayyid Qutb, and the legacy the Islamic theologian left behind, extend a powerful challenge to the West. Until we provide an answer to him and his followers, we can’t hope to prevail in the war of ideas with Islamic extremists. And most of us have no idea who this man even was.Sayyid Qutb (pronounced KUH-tuhb) has been called “the philosopher of Islamic terror.” He rose from humble origins in rural Egypt to become an influential theologian and leading light of Egypt’s fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood movement. He advocated global Islamic rule imposed by the sword.

Also Online

English translation of ‘Milestones.’

The Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser ordered him hanged for treason Aug. 29, 1966.

Yet, his ideas have spread like a prairie fire over the parched landscape of Islam’s last generation. As writer Paul Berman observed, Qutb was “the intellectual hero of every one of the groups that eventually went into al-Qaeda.”

We Americans have a bad habit of assuming that there’s nothing to radical Islam but fury, grievance and bloodlust. We think of jihadist leaders as wild-eyed mullahs far removed from our experience. It’s a fatal form of condescension. Qutb may have been a madman by our lights, but he was no fool – and, in important ways, he had our number.

Americans also cherish the idea that lack of understanding is at the root of conflict – and that there are few disputes that can’t be worked out by people getting to know each other. Not so with Qutb, whose sojourn in America as a foreign exchange student between 1948 and ’50 radicalized him and confirmed his hatred for Western materialism and freedom.

Qutb spent most of his time in the Colorado State College of Education in Greeley, Colo. The pathologically prudish Egyptian scholar was shocked by the morality of Greeley’s women, appalled by its racism and scandalized by the wealth of American society.

As Lawrence Wright writes in The Looming Tower, his acclaimed new book about the roots of 9/11:

“Qutb saw a spiritual wasteland, and yet belief in God was nearly unanimous in the United States at the time. It was easy to be misled by the proliferation of churches, religious books and religious festivals, Qutb maintained; the fact remained that materialism was the real American god. ‘The soul has no value to Americans,’ he wrote to one friend. ‘There has been a Ph.D. dissertation about the best way to clean dishes, which seems more important to them than the Bible or religion.’ Many Americans were beginning to come to similar conclusions. The theme of alienation in American life was just beginning to cast a pall over the postwar party. In many respects, Qutb’s analysis, though harsh, was only premature.”

It is tempting to laugh at the Islamic pietist overwhelmed by the sensuality of the Rocky Mountain Gomorrah. But when Qutb returned to Egypt, his ardor to fight Western cultural hegemony led him to write: “We are endowing our children with amazement and respect for the master who tramples our honor and enslaves us. Let us instead plant the seeds of hatred, disgust and revenge in the souls of these children.”

Qutb believed that if Muslims accepted democracy, capitalism, civil liberties and the Western way of life, they would commit spiritual suicide. He dedicated the rest of his life to convincing Muslims that their only hope rested in surrendering totally to a stringent form of Islam.

But why, according to Qutb, are modernity and Islam irreconcilable?

Because modernity was only made possible by a fundamental theological error that guaranteed man’s alienation from God and from his nature. This alienation had reached a point of crisis worldwide, with the world’s richest and most powerful nations producing masses of well-fed, well-off people who are rootless, miserable, hedonistic and self-destructive.

This was not a novel insight. As Paul Berman points out in his 2003 book Terror and Liberalism, many Western thinkers of the same era were writing about alienation amid the freedom and plenty of modern society. Qutb located the source of the modern world’s ills in Christianity’s separation of the world into sacred and secular realms, creating what he called a “hideous schizophrenia” that caused Western man to split the material realm from the spiritual.

Islam holds the two to be one under God’s sovereignty. But this unnatural divorce had material benefits for the West, enabling it to leapfrog far ahead of the Islamic world in science and technology. The West’s success made it powerful, true, but its culture grew increasingly debauched, and its people were turning into moral and spiritual wrecks. Yet – and here, Mr. Berman writes, is where Qutb is most original – the all-powerful West was in the present day imposing its false and destructive ideals on the weakened Muslim world.

What is to be done? Lenin famously asked about Czarist Russia. Qutb’s answer to the same question about the West was, in part, “Milestones,” a Leninist-style tract advocating worldwide Islamic revolution.

In this thin volume, Qutb argues that the Islamic nation must overthrow modernity if it wishes to continue to exist. Only Islam, with its divinely given law regulating all aspects of daily life, is capable of rightly ordering the soul and body, and of being most true to God-given human nature. He believed the West, whether or not it realized it, was engaged in a fight to the death against Islam. Though the conflict had military, economic and cultural aspects, for Qutb, this was essentially a religious war.

“Milestones” calls for the subjugation of all non-Islamic peoples, the total crushing of all non-Islamic institutions and entities, and the universal imposition of harsh sharia law. Reading “Milestones” as a guide to the mentality of jihadists is a bone-chilling exercise (even more so when you consider that Muslim teens participating in a 2004 quiz competition at the Dallas Central Mosque were assigned “Milestones” as part of their contest reading).

His is the voice of the genocidal utopian, an apocalyptic idealist who – like Lenin, Stalin, Hitler and Mao – will stop at nothing to create an earthly paradise on the bones of the Crusaders, Zionists, moderate Muslims and sundry infidels.

It’s difficult to imagine why anybody fell for Nazism or communism, but neither ideology could have gone anywhere if it didn’t speak deeply to the hopes, needs, fears and passions of millions. As fanatical as Qutb’s Islam sounds – as fanatical as it is – it provides an explanation for the misery and backwardness so much of the Muslim world lives in today. It gives its followers dignity and solidarity, a focus for their anger, a sense of purpose and of being on the right side of history. It holds out the false promise, that old siren song, that perfect happiness and oneness can be achieved in this life, once the Enemy has been destroyed. And it is a vision that Qutb gave witness to by courageously sacrificing his life.

What are we to do? There are no easy answers, but we should begin by jettisoning as folly the naive idea that all Muslims want the same things the liberal West wants. Followers of Qutb’s brand of Islam hold that our wealth, secularity and freedom, especially for women, are evidence of our corruption.

While Qutb’s prescriptions are quite mad, his diagnosis of the Western spiritual and psychological condition was serious, and it requires a serious response. If we Westerners cannot look at the world we’ve created for ourselves and understand that Sayyid Qutb was not all wrong, we will never figure out how to convince the Islamic masses he lived and died for that their holy martyr was a false prophet.

Rod Dreher is an assistant editorial page editor. The views expressed here are his own. His e-mail address is .

Find a link to an English translation of Sayyid Qutb’s “Milestones” at

Please link Mr. Dreher’s article at Dallas News and send him an email, if you desire.


4 Responses to “Know the Enemy”

  1. nofate said

    Bos’un: great reference. What will pass unnoticed on that day is the 40th anniversary of a hanging of a revolutionary in Cairo, an event that is incalculably more important to the present and future of the United States than any meteorological event. And much more catastrophic, in the long run. By the time this all unfolds, WWII may look like rehearsal.

    If I understand what I’ve been reading, correctly, Qutb must be a Sunni. Are you familiar with The Legacy of Jihad in Palestine, a series of articles in by Andrew Bostom? In them, he discusses the lineage of Yasser Arafat, his mentor, Hajj Amin el-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, who helped organize Bosnian SS that were responsible for the deaths of many Jews. New, eye opening stuff for me. Also, another Araft predecessor, Izz al-Din al-Qassam: Lachman described the living legacy of al-Qassam and the Qassamites in 1982, his observations being perhaps even more valid at present, given the unfettered jihadism so prevalent among the Palestinian Arab masses, and the ascendancy of contemporary terrorist organizations such as Hamas (with its al-Qassam “brigades” and rockets), and Islamic Jihad: 

    …the Qassamite myth has not died, and continues to be revered to this very day. Sheikh Izz al-Din al-Qassam’s deeds and personality are highly extolled by the Palestinian fedayeen organizations, including the most radical leftist and secular ones such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (Habash)…Publications of the Palestinian organizations describe him as the pioneer of the Palestinian armed struggle (al-Fatah dubs him ‘the first commander of the Palestinian Revolution’), as a model of personal sacrifice and endeavor…and as one who, by his very deeds ignited the torch of the ‘heroic revolt of 1936-1939’…Up to this day, military units named after Sheikh Izz al-Din al-Qassam may be found in almost all Palestinian organizations. Al-Qassam’s major contribution to the Palestinian armed struggle was clearly defined by Leila Khaled. ‘The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’, she wrote, ‘begins where Qassam left off: his generation started the revolution; my generation intends to finish it’. I haven’t found where the strain that Ayatollah Kohmeini followed came from yet. But just a cursory reading of what dhimmitude and sharia are all about should wake up anyone not wanting to admit that Islam is not currently a religion of peace, but of world domination.

    Daniel Pipes though, in an article I just found, threw a little hope back into my heart, just a few days after 9-11: Fighting Militant Islam, Without Bias, in which he says Traditional Muslims, generally the first victims of Islamism, understand this ideology for what it is and respond with fear and loathing, as some examples from northern Africa suggest. Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt’s Nobel Prize–winning novelist, said to his country’s prime minister and interior minister as they were suppressing Islamism: “You are fighting a battle for the sake of Islam.” Other traditional Egyptian Muslims concur with Mahfouz, with one condemning Islamism as “the barbaric hand of terrorism” and another calling for all extremists to be “hanged in public squares.” In Tunisia, Minister of Religion Ali Chebbi says that Islamists belong in the “garbage can.” Algeria’s interior minister, Abderrahmane Meziane-Cherif, likewise concludes: “You cannot talk to people who adopt violence as their credo; people who slit women’s throats, rape them, and mutilate their breasts; people who kill innocent foreign guests.”…In the course of the twentieth century, a new form of Islam arose, one that now has great appeal and power. Militant Islam (or Islamism—same thing) goes back to Egypt in the 1920s, when an organization called the Muslim Brethren first emerged, though there are other strains as well, including an Iranian one, largely formulated by Ayatollah Khomeini, and a Saudi one, to which the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan and Usama bin Ladin both belong. Islamism differs in many ways from traditional Islam. It is faith turned into ideology, and radical ideology at that. When asked, “Do you consider yourself a revolutionary?” Sudanese Islamist politician Hasan al-Turabi replied, “Completely.” Whereas traditional Islam places the responsibility on each believer to live according to God’s will, Islamism makes this duty something for which the state is responsible. Islam is a personal belief system that focuses on the individual; Islamism is a state ideology that looks to the society. Islamists constitute a small but significant minority of Muslims in the U.S. and worldwide, perhaps 10 to 15 percent….Integrationists tend to be thankful to live in the United States, with its rule of law, democracy, and personal freedoms. Islamists despise these achievements and long to bring the ways of Iran or Afghanistan to America. Integrationists seek to create an American Islam and can take part in American life. Islamists, who want an Islamic America, cannot.

    Unfortunately, what the antique media constantly feeds us is the latest lines from Islam’s Useful Idiots, an article by Amil Imani, an Iranian-born American citizen and pro-democracy activist. He maintains a website at More Muslims of good will need to step up and take a stand against these dangerous fanatics, before the public ends up painting them all with the same brush, as happened to the Japanese in WWII.

    BTW, those Muslim Brotherhood guys have come a long way. It appears they now run a very large off the net banking empire. The Little Explored Offshore Empire of the International Muslim Brotherhood: Almost from the inception of the modern Islamic banking structure (early 1980s), the international Muslim Brotherhood set up a parallel and far-flung offshore structure that has become an integral part of its ability to hide and move money around the world. This network is little understood and has, so far, garnered little attention from the intelligence and law enforcement communities tracking terrorist financial structures.

    The fundamental premise of the Brotherhood in setting up this structure was that it is necessary to build a clandestine structure that was hidden from non-Muslims and even Muslims who do not share the Brotherhood’s fundamental objective of recreating the Islamic caliphate and spreading Islam, by force and persuasion, across the globe.

    To this end, the Brotherhood’s strategy, including the construction of its financial network, is built on the pillars of “clandestinity, duplicity, exclusion, violence, pragmatism and opportunism.”

    Coming to our neighborhoods soon.

    The future is not set. There is no fate but what we make.

  2. […] The followup on that story led to a tag search here on WordPress on “Islamofascism” and a link to a thinkpiece at The Bos’un Locker called Know The Enemy and all about the underpinning philosophy of the current Al Qaida types. I commented that, if my understanding of my reading so far is correct, that these guys are Sunni types. Added some additional references that I have run across that show the evolution of the Shi’ite branch, which were outlined in a previous post, Found In My Inbox. Bos’un then sent me back another fascinating and eye opening link about the hezbo’s activities in the Americas, Does Hezbollah have the ability to strike the US?. Good Reading. […]

  3. thebosun said

    After I first read it (Know the Enemy), it gnawed at me. The problems we are facing are complex. We better start to understand it and come up with some answers. We have to look at the problems that we are faced with from many different angles to come up with what is going on. Remember back to the days after 09/11/2001, the media and “experts” kept saying that 15 of the 19 hijackers were duped into the roles thinking that they were only going to hijack some unsuspecting travelers for ransom or something. Five years later we are beginning to wrap our arms around the fact that a dozen, two dozen, three dozen, or much more Islamists could sacrifice themselves for 72 virgins and a ticket to paradise.

    We are going to have to “Gestalt” this problem that is facing the free world and think outside the narrow scope of our preconceived notions.

    Each time I re-read Rod’s commentary, it still gnaws at me. If we do not come to some terms of understanding, like every great society of the past, we are destined to extinction.


  4. nofate said

    Thanks for your kind and thoughtful comments. As you can probably see, I am just getting started, so I will probably be dogpaddling in a big ocean for a while. I appreciate the blogroll addition, and finished reading the Goldberg/New Yorker articles. It is chilling reading, especially in light of subsequent developments since they were written in Oct.,2002. Makes one wonder what they have put in place in the meantime.
    My biggest impediment is lack of time due to full time job with swinging day/night schedules, and family obligations so timeliness will not be a hallmark of In Context. Hopefully I will be able to point readers to information that is useful as we try to combat the enemies without and within. In that vein, here is Shattering Taboos of Radical Islam, by Andrew G. Bostom. It is a review of a book by Robert B. Spencer, Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Continues to Threaten America and the West. Moreover, Spencer’s analyses are devoid of politically correct, ahistorical dithering. This is apparent from the opening chapter (in the first of the books three main sections), and the illustrative example of the infamous grenade and small arms attack by American sergeant Hasan Akbar, an African-American convert to Islam, which killed two of his senior officers and wounded 15 others, in northern Kuwait on March 22, 2003. After reviewing statements by designated spokespersons (an Army chaplain and a Pentagon official) dismissing (reflexively) Islamic ideology as a potential motivating factor, and the predictable defense counsel and family attempts to portray religious and/or racial discrimination against Akbar as precipitating the arrest, Spencer cites sacred texts from the Qur’an and hadith (putative deeds and utterances of Muhammad as recorded by his pious followers) prohibiting Muslims from fighting their co-religionists…Spencer’s carefully referenced, but concise, thoughtful discussions address a truly impressive array of issues critical to an informed understanding of international jihad conflicts and terrorism. Two key analyses, include:

    * Describing how seminal 20th century Muslim ideologues- the Shi’ite Ayatollah Khomeini, and four Sunnis – Hasan al Banna, Sayyid Qutb, Sayyid Abul A’la Maududi, and Abdullah Azzam – revitalized and implemented the “forme fruste” of the classical Islamic institutions of jihad and dhimmitude. Since the 1930s, their teachings and actions have had a profound impact on every major jihad campaign across the globe (including, but not limited to Israel, India, Bangladesh, Iran, Sudan, Indonesia, former Yugoslavia, and Algeria). Osama bin Laden, who orchestrated the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, was influenced deeply and directly by Abdullah Azzam, with whom he studied and fought alongside, in Afghanistan. This led to a search of the authors Spencer cited: Bat Yeor, whom I have seen mentioned on The American Thinker, but never read; Ibn Warraq; and K.S. Lal, an Indian writer. Just one fascinating tidbit from Ibn Warraq: Islamic Apostates’ Tales, which led to Ibn Warraq on How to Debate a Muslim.
    There is so much information out there on what we are dealing with, it is beyond me how it never gets out to the rest of the public. It has to be actively ignored, it is not hard to find.

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