Promoting Traditional American Values


The Citizens United Foundation

By David N. Bossie* & Christopher M. Gray*


Americans are baffled. They cannot understand why Osama Bin Laden and his followers hate the United States enough to kill over 3,000 Americans in the September 11, 2001 jetliner suicide attacks. This Policy Paper explains why Bin Laden and the al-Qaeda movement he leads want to terrify and destroy America. It shows that the roots of Bin Laden’s hatred of America are deeply embedded in a specific reading of Islamic history and theology going back many centuries.


Bin Laden and his followers subscribe not to traditional, or mainstream, Islam, but to the Wahhabi sect of Islam. This sect¨s beliefs, considered fanatical and unreasonable by most other traditional Muslims, inspire its followers to wage jihad, or holy war, against the West in general and the United States in particular. 1 To understand Wahhabi Islam’s characteristics, we must learn its history and geography.

A.) Traditional Islam: Its theology

Muhammad (570-632 AD), known to his followers as The Prophet, founded the world religion known as Islam, i.e. ìsubmission to Allah (God.)î. Muhammad was a formerly uneducated Arab Bedouin merchant who, according to Islamic theology, received divinely inspired dream revelations and commands from Allah beginning in 610 and continuing to the end of his life. The divine utterances by Allah to Muhammad the Prophet are recorded in the Koran, the Holy Scriptures of Islam.2

Briefly summarized, the Koran proclaims in sublimely beautiful Arabic there is no other God than Allah, and Muhammad is his Prophet. Muhammad is the final prophet of Allah¨s message. He succeeds and fulfills the witnesses of Allah¨s previous prophets: Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus. The Koran proclaims Allah¨s commands to the faithful and how they must live here on earth if they seek to be with him in Paradise (Heaven.) Like the Hebrew and Christian God, Allah is a jealous monotheistic God who demands fealty and condemns idolatry (the pagan worship of false gods) absolutely. The Koran, because it is Allah¨s word in human form, furnishes the basis of Islam¨s holy law, or sharia. The sharia instructs Islam¨s followers how to conduct their lives in the world in order to attain entrance to Paradise. To be a faithful Muslim, one must submit to ìthe five pillars of Islamî, the sacred duties commanded and explained in the 114 suras, or chapters, of the Koran:

1) A Muslim must publicly recite the affirmation of the faith, or shahada,that ìThere is no God but the one God (Allah), and Muhammad is His Prophet.

2) A Muslim must pray the salah, or daily ritual prayer five times a day, and assemble for community prayer on Fridays.

3) A Muslim must, once in his life at least, undertakes a sacred pilgrimage, the hajj, to the holy shrine in Mecca. Non-Muslims are forbidden to enter Mecca under punishment of death. Hence Mecca is known to Westerners as the Forbidden City. Muslims performing the hajj also usually visit the Muslim shrine at Medina as well.3

4) A Muslim must observe the fast of Ramadan, which lasts for a full month and occurs yearly. The observance of Ramadan varies because of the peculiar Islamic calendar. Allah first spoke to Muhammad during Ramadan in 610, hence the duty to observe the fast during this ninth month of the Muslim calendar year. During Ramadan, an adult Muslim cannot eat or drink during daylight hours. At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate with a liturgical feast, the Idal-fitra , for several days.

5) A Muslim must give alms and hospitality, zakat, to the community. Originally, this duty was a voluntary contribution. Over time zakat became a tax collected by a Muslim¨s local government.

Along with these basic five pillars of faith, most Muslims, especially devout Muslims, observe other holy days such as the Prophet¨s birthday, anniversaries of famous battles, and other observances depending on the believer¨s pious preference and sect affiliation. Wahhabi Muslims, however, refuse to observe these other holy days because they regard them as impure innovations.

The Koran also obligates Muslims to conduct holy war, or jihad, to those people who forcibly resist Allah¨s will, or just peacefully refuse to submit to the one true God. Historian John Esposito observes ìmodern Muslim apologists have tended to present jihad in early Islam as simply defensive in natureÈ[or claiming it means] to strive or struggle to realize God¨s will, to lead a virtuous life.4

But these modern interpreters of Islamic scripture ignore how most medieval Muslim interpreters of the Koran, according to historian Bernard Lewis, ìdiscuss jihad in military terms.î Holy war for the faith, or just war, was justified by both the Jewish Old Testament and by Christian theologians for self-defense and other limited goals. The Koran did not innovate in this regard. Lewis does point out, though: ìthe Muslim jihad, in contrast, was perceived as unlimited, as a religious obligation that would continue until all the world had either adopted the Muslim faith, or submitted to Muslim rule. In the latter case, those who professed what Muslims recognized as a revealed religion (i.e., Judaism and Christianity) were allowed to continue the practice of their religions, as long as they willingly paid taxes and accepted a second-class status. Those who did not defer to Islam, that is to say idolaters (pagan worshippers of false gods) and polytheists (pagan worshippers of multiple gods), were given the choice of conversion, death, or slavery.5

Jihad exists ìto bring the whole world under Islamic law. It is not to convert by force, but to remove obstacles to conversion.6 This removal of obstacles to conversion closely resembles similar Christian theological arguments by Bernard of Clairvaux and Thomas Aquinas. The Koran offers two major incentives to Muslims who conduct jihad: plunder in this world, and the joys of Paradise in the next world. ìThose who are killed ÿin the path of God¨ are called martyrs.7

For roughly the last nine centuries, Muslim theologians interpreting the Koran modified and qualified the circumstances permitting jihad to be waged. They also emphasized the scriptural passages demanding women, children, and other non-combatants be spared bloodshed and that prisoners be treated mercifully. The Koran¨s messages of religious toleration were also underlined. These later theological developments argued for a more discriminating and tolerant attitude toward foreigners. It was obvious to the Muslim thinkers who devised these changes that total victory over all of Islam¨s Christian, Jewish, Confucian, and Hindu opponents was now impossible. War could not be waged eternally, so some form of co-existence was necessary. The jihad was used sparingly and for limited objectives after roughly 1100 AD, except for the early conquests of the Ottoman Turkish Empire.8

Radical Muslim theologians, especially the ones cherished by Bin Laden and his followers, oppose these later circumscribed interpretations of jihad. These militant purists condemned the later religious traditions of restricted jihad and tolerance toward foreigners as bidah, translated as ìinnovation.î Innovation was the gravest theological sin. A Muslim saying, often attributed to Muhammad, claimed: ìThe worst things are those that are novelties. Every novelty is an innovation, every innovation is an error, and every error leads to Hellfire.9

The purist Muslim theologians proclaimed that innovative thinkers had become soft and corrupt because of material pleasures and legalism. Reviving the early Arabic seventh and eighth century traditions of jihad was necessary to return to the pure, old-time religion. These theological purists wanted to repeal thirteen centuries of history to recover the pristine days of Muhammad and his immediate successors. That was the only way to rid Islam of bidah. They romanticized the Bedouin warriors of the seventh century as pure uncorrupted warriors of the faith.

The September 11, 2001 al-Qaeda terrorists, like their mentors, shared this desire to get back to the first days of jihad. They all had achieved material affluence, so there was no need for plunder. They did their bloody deeds strictly to achieve everlasting fame as martyrs and to experience the joys of Paradise in the next world. The 19 terrorists involved in the September 11 atrocities rejected the modern legalistic interpretations of jihad. These terrorists chose to interpret jihad as it was understood during the time of Muhammad the Prophet and his early followers.

B.) Muhammad¨s Life and Legacy

Muhammad was born, lived, and died in the desert city of Mecca. Mecca is located in the Hejaz region of what is now Saudi Arabia. Muslims venerate Mecca as their sacred religious capital since it was Muhammad¨s home. They also venerate the city of Medina as Islam¨s political capital since Muhammad fled there for sanctuary from persecution in Mecca. Like Mecca, Medina also sits in Saudi Arabia¨s Hejaz region. Saudi Arabia, along with its neighboring country, Iraq, are sacred soil to Muslims, especially to the Wahhabi sect, because Islam was founded and enjoyed its Golden Age in the region bounded by those two modern states.10

After fleeing persecution in Mecca to Medina in 622 (this flight is known as the ìhegira;î Islamic history formally begins with this event), Muhammad swiftly converted the various Arabic tribes to faith in Allah. He unified the formerly quarrelsome Arabic tribes into a theocracy, i.e. state where religious and civil functions are joined, not separated as in Western countries like the United States. As British historian Patricia Crone observes:

What [Allah] had to offer was a programme of Arab state formation and conquest: the creation of an umma [nation or community], the initiation of jihad. Muhammad was a prophet with a political mission, not, as is so often asserted, a prophet who merely happened to become involved with politics. His monotheism amounted to a political programme.11

Putting monotheism to political use 12 made Islam the most powerful religion during the Middle Ages. This policy enabled the Islamic empire to be the summit of civilization circa 700-1600 AD. Political monotheism enabled Muslims in Spain to share the same loyalties as Muslims in India. But Islam¨s theocracy later hampered its political and intellectual development during the centuries dominated by Christian countries (with the exception of Japan) which separated their civil and ecclesiastical powers. Islamic theocracy prevented many Muslim countries from developing a vibrant civil society to best fulfill their people¨s talents.

C.) Jihad and the Early Islamic Conquests, 624-1096

In an amazingly short time, Muslim Arabs conquered much of the known world. Between 634-646, they conquered Arabia, Syria, Egypt, and Mesopotamia (now known as Iraq). The Byzantine Christian and Persian armies occupying these areas were swiftly swept aside by Arabic warriors waging jihad for Allah. By 717, Muslim Arabs ruled the world¨s largest empire. The Muslim Empire extended fom the Pyrenees Mountains in the west to central India in the east. No other empire in human history climbed to power so rapidly and with such unified aims.

After encountering rebuff in France and Constantinople early in the eighth century, Islam¨s energy shifted from conquest to improving civilization. Indicative of this change was the rise of the Abbassid Caliphate in Baghdad, beginning in 750. The Abbassid dynasty caliphs, or Muslim rulers who united the civil and ecclesiastical powers in their persons, conducted a cultural revolution. They transformed the Islamic Empire from an Arab-dominated military despotism into a cosmopolitan civilization drawing upon Mesopotamian, Greco-Roman, Persian, Byzantine, as well as Arabic cultures. Baghdad, a trading town in what is now Iraq, replaced Damascus in Syria as the capital of the Islamic world. The Abbasid court patronized the arts and sciences enough to make Baghdad the intellectual and cultural capital of the world between 750-1100. Arabic poetry, painting, law, and science became the cutting edge of world civilization. Scholars came from Western Europe and China to study in Baghdad during this Golden Age of Islamic Civilization. Ironically, given the later bloody history of modern Iraq, Baghad was known as the City of Peace for its cosmopolitan welcome to visitors.13

Iraq in general, and Baghdad in particular, became especially venerated for this Golden Age combining military and cultural superiority. Iraq acquired a holy reputation in Muslim eyes that even Saddam Hussein¨s atrocities could not tarnish. Only Saudi Arabia, with its twin sacred cities of Mecca and Medina, ranks as more sacred soil among Muslims than Iraq. This fact cannot be forgotten as the United States confronts Iraq nine centuries after the end of the latter¨s Golden Age.14

D.) Islam and the Crusader Kingdoms, 1095-1798

The Byzantine Christian Army suffered a major defeat at Manzikert by the Seljuk Turks (now the dominant dynasty in Islam) in 1071. Seljuk troops swarmed into Anatolia (modern day Turkey) and threatened Constantinople and points further west. The Popes of the Catholic Church, worried about further Seljuk conquests, decided to intervene. Pope Urban II preached in 1095-96 that Western Catholic Christians must liberate Eastern Christians and the Holy Places trodden by Christ from Muslim oppression. Thousands of Western Europeans agreed with Urban II. Soon Muslims became painfully familiar with cross-wearing Crusader warriors attacking them in the Holy Land and nearby regions while waging the Western version of jihad.

Many historians mocked the Crusades as expeditions more devoted to plunder than salvation. Recent research, however, reveals most Crusaders to be sincere, if certainly not sinless, warriors for Christ. Despite being far from home, they sometimes enjoyed spectacular military success against the most advanced armies in the world. 15 The Crusaders¨ sieges, battles, atrocities, huge castles, and cultural impacts cannot be narrated here due to space constraints. But the reader must always remember the Crusaders imprinted two legacies upon the Muslim Arabic mind: 1) they left long memories of their centuries-long colonial Crusader kingdoms in Jerusalem, Acre, Egypt, Cyprus, Rhodes, and Malta; and 2) they began a nine hundred-year long direct confrontation between Western Christendom and the Near East Muslim way of life. Before the Crusaders, Near East Muslims faced the Byzantine Empire, a society where the state, or civil power, dominated the ecclesiastical power. The Crusader Kingdoms, by contrast, were propelled by a dynamic struggle between state and church. This tension between competing civil and religious powers fostered the vital nation-states of the modern West.

The Crusades, which historians now regard as lasting from Urban II¨s preaching in 1095 to Napoleon¨s expedition to Egypt in 1798, conditioned Near East Muslims to expect the worst from Western intervention in the region. During the thirteenth century, for instance, the Seljuk Turks bitterly discovered the Papacy in Rome was negotiating with the brutal Mongol dynasty to create an alliance against the Turkish Empire. Past examples like this make it easy for Muslims to concoct conspiracy theories about present day Western involvement in the Near East. Anti-Western Muslims alike regard the State of Israel and the American naval-military presence in the Persian Gulf as latter-day infidel Crusader Kingdoms today.16


Osama Bin Laden and his fellow Wahhabi Muslim terrorists did not create their worldview out of thin air. They base their understanding of today¨s world on the writings of three Muslim radical theologians. These three theologians, Ibn Taymiyyah, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, and Sayyid Qutb, provide the intellectual justification for Bin Laden¨s acts of terrorism. Section III discusses their contexts, lives, and ideas.

A.) Ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328): Recapturing the Purity of Islam

Five years before Ibn Taymiyyah¨s birth, a Mongol invasion stormed, looted, and burned Baghdad. The City of Peace ceased to be the center of Islamic civilization. Egypt replaced Iraq as the cultural center of the Muslim world after this sad event. Not to be outdone, Muslim Persia also experienced a simultaneous Golden Age of prosperity and cultural achievement.

Another significant occurrence was the rise of Sufi mysticism in the Islamic world. Sufi mysticism saw Allah¨s divinity reflected in life¨s mundane realities. Sufi mysticism unified and reassured Muslims that Allah acted directly in their lives. It offered popular devotions to saints and holy places, music, song and dance, and other rituals to enrich Muslim spiritual life and ì bridge the gap… between man and God.17

Ibn Taymiyyah, a legal scholar of Damascus, encountered large changes during his lifetime as well. The barbarian Mongols actually converted to Islam. The Ottoman Turks founded the longest and greatest of Muslim Empires, which lasted from 1290-1918. Not coincidentally, the Ottomans were closely tied to Sufi mysticism.18

Ibn Taymiyyah loathed almost all the changes occurring before and during his lifetime. He is the first of the great radical purist Muslim theologians. Ibn Taymiyyah decided all Islamic thought and commentary produced since the early eighth century was corrupt innovation, or bidah. He rejected the influences of Greek philosophy, rational theology, Sufi mysticism, and allegorical interpretation on Islam. He denied the role of historical change in conditioning traditions and customs. Instead, Ibn Taymiyyah¨s purist, or Puritanical, interpretation of Islam stressed tawhid, or unity, to the exclusion of most else. The only valid understanding of Allah was in the divine revelations of the Koran and the oral traditions of the Sunnah, the accounts of Muhammad the Prophet¨s exemplary behavior. Either rational understanding or mystical intuitions of Allah were impossible according to Ibn Taymiyyah. The only reality was a Muslim¨s unhindered and unmediated personal relationship with Allah. Muslims must ìsubmit to God¨s revealed will and participate in carrying it out.19

Carrying out God¨s revealed will could mean waging jihad against what most Muslims regarded as a legal government. It certainly meant condemning and outlawing the impure outgrowths occurring in the last six centuries. These outgrowths included almost all Islamic jurisprudence and all Sufi mystical practices and customs such as venerating saints or performing music and dance. But Ibn Taymiyyah went even further in his radical criticism by attacking the Mongols for not being true Muslims. He actually questioned the sincerity of their recent conversion to Islam. Ibn Taymiyyah ran a great risk here. Islamic tradition states that if one Muslim falsely calls another an infidel, he could burn in Hell.

For attacking traditions and Mongol conversions that did not conform to his radical purist outlook, Ibn Taymiyyah was imprisoned by the ruling government in Damascus. He died in prison from a broken heart. 2 However, Ibn Taymiyyah¨s influence still lives in his neo-traditionalist writings. They continue to inspire Muslim purist radicals of both the Sunni and Shiite persuasion today.

B.) Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, (1703-1792): Founder of Wahhabism

Between Ibn Taymiyyah¨s death and Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab¨s birth, Islam¨s worldly fortunes waxed and waned. The Ottoman Turkish Empire finally captured Constantinople in 1453, destroying the Byzantine Christian Empire in the process. The Ottoman Turkish armies conquered the Balkan Christian countries for Allah. Their spreading of Islamic influence to Byzantine Orthodox provinces Serbia, Bosnia, Albania, and Macedonia explains why those countries are such heterogeneous headaches today. But the Ottoman drive was finally stopped at the Siege of Vienna in 1683. Ottoman Turkey¨s power began slowly to recede from challenges from the west and north. 21 The Turkish Empire eventually became known as ìthe Sick Man of Europe.î Aggressive Western Christian empires boasting superior naval and military power now challenged Islamic countries across the world. Muslims in India, what is now Indonesia, and North Africa felt the weight of the West pressing on them. For the first time since Muhammad¨s vision, Muslims experienced a sense of inferiority.

Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab decided he knew why Islam was on the defensive. Like his hero Ibn Taymiyyah, Abd al-Wahhab thought Muslims had succumbed to innovations and impure outgrowths since the eighth century. It was necessary to return to the old-time religion, to tawhid, as he and Ibn Taymiyyah defined it. He completely ignored the problem of historical context in returning to Islam¨s pristine period. He regarded all the Koran¨s truths, even the lowly status assigned to women, to be timeless. Restoring Islam to the monotheistic purity it knew during the era of Muhammad the Prophet became Abd al-Wahhab’s lifelong mission.22

Abd al-Wahhab spent most of his life in the Arabian Hejaz, the Prophet¨s native region. The son of a learned theologian and jurist, he was educated at schools in Mecca and Medina. The moral laxity and spiritual despair of his times disgusted Abd al-Wahhab. Like Ibn Taymiyyah, he denounced the use of reason to understand Allah, Sufi mystical practices, and just about every Islamic historical development since the Prophet died. Abd al-Wahhab asserted the unity of Allah. He asserted the unity of Allah¨s attributes. He denounced the Sufi practice of praying to Islamic saints for intercession with Allah. He even attacked the widely observed custom of visiting tombs and building domes near them. Abd al-Wahhab fanatically claimed visitors to tombs committed idolatry because they transformed prayers for the dead into prayers to the dead. It was necessary, he argued, to forbid burial sites from having inscriptions, illuminations, or decorations.23

Abd al-Wahhab argued most Muslims, as well as all Jews and Christians, were idolaters. In his view, idolaters deserved to be put to the sword. Abd al-Wahhab further claimed to be a good Muslim one must not practice polytheism, as he defines it in his Puritanical manner, even if one is formally affiliated with Islam. Any Muslim who still clings to polytheistic practices is an idolater, a worshipper of false gods. Like Ibn Taymiyyah, he condemned all innovation not already contained in the Koran or Sunnah. Literal interpretation of these two sources could be the only valid approach to a Muslim way of life. Abd al-Wahhab eschewed tolerance or mercy, two prime principles of traditional Islam, in his theology. Homosexuals deserved execution by beheading; adulterous women deserved execution by stoning. Few Muslims ever lived up to the stringent standards Abd al-Wahhab preached.24

Abd al-Wahhab would be ignored as just another humorless, utopian fanatic if he had not allied himself with Arabic tribal leader, Muhammad Ibn Saud (died 1765). Ibn Saud was the warrior founder of the Saudi royal dynasty that now rules Saudi Arabia. In 1744 he allied himself and his family with Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab¨s crusade to create the Wahhabi movement. These religious and political dynasties have intermarried for over two centuries and now constitute the Saudi royal-religious dynasty. In historian John Esposito¨s words: ìReligious zeal and military might merged in a religiopolitical movement that waged holy war with a zeal reminiscent of the early Kharijites, viewing all Muslims who resisted as unbelievers. The tribes of Arabia were subdued and united in the name of Islamic egalitarianism. 25 The Wahhabis were denounced by mainstream Muslim theologians as reborn Kharijites, the seventh century fanatical sect who believed that leadership of the Islamic community belonged to the most observant of Muslims. 26 Abd al-Wahhab persuaded Ibn Saud to put the Wahhabi fanatical faith into practice. Sufi ìidolatryî was suppressed. Wahhabi warriors destroyed Sufi shrines, tombs, and sacred objects. In imitation of the Prophet¨s destruction of pagan practices, the Wahhabis even laid waste to the sacred tombs of Muhammad and his followers in Mecca and Medina. They even ventured to Iraq to destroy Karbala, a sacred Shiite pilgrimage site. This fanatical iconoclasm earned the Wahhabis bitter denunciation, especially from Shiite Muslims. Most mainstream Islamic theologians and jurists condemn Wahhabism as a fanatical, merciless perversion of Islam.27

Al-Wahhab ignored this legitimate criticism. He proceeded, with the House of Saud¨s aid, to build a purist Muslim theocracy that continues to this day. Public executions for sexual sins still occur daily in Saudi Arabia. This Wahhabi theocracy abhors Judaism, Christianity, Western freedoms and human rights, and any country according them respect. Turkey is hated by the Wahhabis for being a Muslim country offering equality for women and religious freedom for religions other than Islam. Thanks to the oil money flowing into the Saudi royal family¨s coffers, Wahhabi sect Islam is evangelized around the world. Eighty percent of American mosques receive subsidies from the Wahhabi Muslim theocracy in Saudi Arabia.28

Osama Bin Laden, a member of the Saudi royal family, subscribes to this fanatical Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. Although certainly not erudite like Muhammad Abn al-Wahhab, Bin Laden shares his fanatical commitment to the same intolerant interpretation of Islam. He will use jihad to slay infidels and idolaters who refuse to submit to Wahhabist ideology.

C.) Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966): The War Against America and the West

The West impinged further upon Islam between Abd al-Wahhab¨s death in 1792 and Sayyid Qutb¨s death in 1906. Austria-Hungary and Russia forced the Ottoman Empire back from its Balkan outposts. The European Great Powers penetrated to Muslim countries in Africa. Great Britain extended its imperial sway over Egypt, home of Sayyid Qutb.

The son of a highly educated but economically struggling Egyptian nationalist, Qutb is the martyr-ideologue of Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda movement. When a young man, he looked up to the West. Sayyid Qutb was trained as a modernist literary critic at the Westernized Dar al-Ulum University. After graduating in 1933, he worked for the Egyptian Ministry of Education. During the 1930¨s, Qutb wrote serious works of fiction, literary criticism, poetry, and journalism. His associates then were Westernized Egyptian intellectuals who hoped to modernize Egypt in order to free it from British rule and establish democracy.

n 1948, the Ministry of Education sent Qutb to the United States to learn Western methods of education. The two years he spent in America transformed his life. While studying college life in Washington, DC, Colorado, and California, Qutb jettisoned his literary pursuits to pursue religious zealotry. ìAlthough he acknowledged the economic and scientific achievements of American society, Qutb was appalled by its racism, sexual permissiveness, and pro-Zionism.29 Qutb raged against Zionism for establishing the State of Israel in 1948 as a refuge for all the world¨s Jews. Qutb saw Israel as a modern day Crusader Kingdom aimed at the Muslim Holy Land. He never forgave the United States for aiding Israel¨s creation and existence.

Qutb wrote of the United States: ìNo one is more distant than the Americans from spirituality and piety.î 30 American sexual permissiveness and promiscuity particularly appalled Qutb. He was incredulous at the liberties permitted American teenagers. Qutb cited Alfred Kinsey¨s 1948 report on sexuality, as well as the thinkers Darwin, Marx, and Freud, as degrading influences on American life. He feared the same influences would invade Egypt.31

After another year traveling in Europe, Qutb refused a promotion in the Ministry of Education when he returned to Egypt. Instead he began writing journalism demanding Egypt become a purified Islamic Republic. He also joined the Muslim Brotherhood movement that espoused the same goal. Like Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, Qutb embraced Ibn Taymiyyah¨s doctrine for re-vitalizing Islam. He opposed both Western democracy and Marxist Communism as models for Egypt to emulate. Only a republic constructed on Islamic law foundations was right for his native land.

Qutb initially worked with Gamal Abdel Nasser and the revolutionary officer junta, Revolutionary Command Council, or RCC, he led. Qutb acted as a liaison between the Muslim Brotherhood and the RCC during 1952-53, crucial years when Nasser seized power in a coup d¨ etat. However, Nasser and the RCC wanted National Socialism, not a Islamic Republic, for Egypt. Qutb then decided, following Ibn Taymiyya, latter day Mongol infidels pretending to be Muslims were ruling Egypt. He then became the first Sunni Muslim thinker to justify jihad against a Muslim ruler. He justified this awesome sin by arguing that twentieth century rulers of Muslim countries were not true Muslims. By not being true to the faith, Qutb claimed, their lives were forfeit.

Like Ibn Taymiyyah and Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, Qutb denied historical context any role in interpreting the Koran and Sunnah. The timeless truths of Holy Scripture would serve twentieth century Egypt perfectly well. He refused to consider the many complex matters Islamic scripture addressed inadequately or not at all. Qutb loathed modern society so much that he ignored the problems begged by his stance.

After a first arrest in early 1954, Qutb was imprisoned for sedition later that year and remained confined until 1964. A physically frail man, he was frequently beaten and tortured at Nasser¨s command. But Qutb refused to break, and continued his prolific writing and organizing while imprisoned. Qutb insisted ìthat if the Koran contains a message, then human beings must implement that message.

The timeless message of the Koran included the sacred duty of faithful Muslims to wage jihad against the corrupt new Crusader Kingdom of Israel, its imperial American sponsor, any other Western influences, and corrupt Muslim rulers like Nasser. A Muslim must wage war against jahiliyah, literally translated as ignorance of revelation¨s truths, but to Qutb it includes anything inimical to Islam.

After being released in 1964, Qutb was rearrested on charges of terrorism and sedition in 1965. Despite much international pressure, Qutb and two of his followers were executed in August, 1966. As a martyr, Qutb¨s influence among Muslims increased greatly. Khalid Islambuli, who led the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981, was a close disciple of Qutb. So was Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind leader of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. But Qutb¨s most distinguished disciple is Osama Bin Laden, member of the Saudi royal family.33

IV.) Osama bin Laden (1957- ): The Rich Kid Terrorist Impresario

Osama bin Laden is a member of Saudi Arabia¨s ruling dynasty. His relatives prefer to pretend otherwise, but he is incontestably a Saudi prince. Bin Laden embarrasses the ruling Saudi dynasty because he follows the radical Muslim beliefs of Saudi Wahhabi Islam to their logical conclusion. The son of a Saudi prince and millionaire construction magnate, bin Laden is the seventeenth of fifty-two children. He spent his early life as a typical spoiled Saudi playboy prince. But the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan radicalized him. He testified, ìI was enraged. I went there at once.î 34 Bin Laden began by raising funds for the Afghan mujahadeen resistance warriors. Later in the Afghan war he fought in battles as an officer. But even when warring against the Soviets, bin Laden loathed the United States for sponsoring Israel and exporting evil ways of life. Two Islamic radical intellectuals tutored the Saudi playboy on Sayyid Qutb¨s writings against the United States: Palestinian Abdallah Azzam, a terrorist blown up by a car bomb in 1989; and Saudi writer Safar al- Hawali, who is routinely imprisoned by the Saudi government. Bin Laden¨s approach to the United States echoes the teaching of these two men.

When the United States responded to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein¨s invasion of Kuwait by sending military and naval forces to Saudi Arabia in 1990, bin Laden was outraged. The American infidels, he asserted, have committed ìthe latest and greatest aggressionî 36 against the Muslim world since Muhammad the Prophet¨s death in 632 by desecrating the sacred soil of Mecca and Medina with their presence. Bin Laden¨s wild tirades against the American infidels and their traitorous Muslim allies finally motivated the Saudi authorities, who share most of his anti-modern Wahhabist beliefs, to act against him. He fled Saudi Arabia in April 1991 for Afghanistan.

Since then bin Laden spends most of his time in both Afghanistan, where he made an alliance with the ruling Taliban clan, and in radical Muslim Sudan organizing international terror operations against the West in general and the United States in particular. He calls his international terror network, al-Qaeda, i.e., the base. Bin Laden quotes Ibn Taymiyya against his family¨s client, the Saud dynasty who govern Saudi Arabia, in his 1996 ìDeclaration of War against America.î They are not true Muslims, he charges, since they allowed infidels to violate the Holy Places of Islam. Bin Laden describes U.S. troops and sailors as ìcrusaders,î implying they are the direct heirs of Richard the Lionhearted and French King Louis IX. Bin Laden even regarded the 1992-1993 Somalia humanitarian expedition by the United States as a backdoor crusade to invade sacred Saudi soil.

Bin Laden seeks to unite all Muslims in an international jihad under his leadership. Unlike his intellectual master, Sayyid al Qutb, who demanded Muslims rid themselves of traitorous Muslim rulers before doing anything else, bin Laden wants Muslims to join the jihad against the United States. After Allah¨s followers join against the United States and drive it out of the Holy Places of Islam, then they should undertake to overthrow their traitorous rulers. The various terrorist attacks he organizes against American targets are all aimed to provoke a large-scale military response that will galvanize the resistance of the entire Islamic world to the United States.


Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda followers are the heirs to a long tradition of radical Islam. This radical purist tradition does not represent the majority of mainstream Muslims. However, it is a tradition that has persisted for almost fourteen centuries. Over ten percent of Muslims share this minority tradition¨s beliefs, and many more are sympathetic to parts of its anti-Western message. To the followers of Wahhabism, the United States, and its Israeli client, are powerful but passing Crusader Kingdoms from the West. Bin Laden was willing to work with America against the Godless Soviet Union in Afghanistan. But the U.S. military and naval presence in Saudi Arabia¨s sacred soil leads him to declare jihad against us for desecrating the Muslim sacred soil of Mecca, Medina, and Iraq. On November 1, 2001, bin Laden called for his fellow Muslims to undertake a jihad against the ìChristian Crusadeî against Islam: ìThe world has been divided into two camps: one under the banner of the Cross, as the head of infidels (President) Bush, has said, and one under the banner of Islam,î 37 bin Laden proclaimed.

This proclamation by bin Laden of a jihad against the infidel Christian West is intended to distract Muslims from recognizing that Muslim Turkey, Pakistan, and some smaller Persian Gulf states are actively hostile to al-Qaeda¨s fanatical radical Wahhabi version of Islam. But bin Laden knows many Muslims share his hatred of the West, if not his fanatical version of Islam. He is betting their hatred of America is stronger than their dislike of Wahhabism.

In our next Citizens United Policy Paper on bin Laden¨s terrorist network, we will explore bin Laden¨s and al-Qaeda¨s relationships with the various foreign countries who actively aid and protect them. We will also study which countries pretend not to notice al-Qaeda¨s operations within their borders. We will also examine how al-Qaeda is financed and how deeply it has penetrated the United States.

*Mr. Bossie is the President of Citizens United and the Citizens United Foundation. He previously served as Chief Investigator for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform and Oversight. He is a frequently sought-after commentator on politics and investigations and appears on such programs as Crossfire, Hardball, and Politically Incorrect. Mr. Bossie attended Towson State University and the University of Maryland where he studied Government and Politics. For the past 12 years he has proudly served as a volunteer fireman in Burtonsville, Maryland, where he resides with his wife Susan and daughter Isabella.

*Mr. Gray is Senior Policy Analyst for Citizens United, and Contributing Editor at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He writes articles and consults frequently on public policy matters. Mr. Gray received a BA and MA in Modern History from Johns Hopkins University, and an MBA from George Mason University. He also did graduate work in public policy at Duke University. He resides in Fairfax County, Virginia.


1 Adam Garfinkle, ìSeptember 11: Before and Afterî Foreign Policy Research Institute Bulletin, October, 2001; Karen de Young & Michael Dobbs, ìBin Laden: Architect of Global Terrorismî Washington Post September 16, 2001, Page A8; Robert Worth, ìThe Deep Intellectual Roots of Islamic Terrorî New York Times October 13, 2001,; David Wurmser, ìThe Saudi Connectionî The Weekly Standard ,October 29, 2001.

2 Patricia Crone, Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam (Princeton, 1987); Bernard Lewis, The Arabs in History rev. ed., (Oxford, 1993).

3 The Koran ed. and trans. By N.J. Dawood (Penguin, 1991); Bernard Lewis, The Middle East: A Brief History (Simon & Schuster, 1996), Chapter 12, ìReligion and Law.

4 John Esposito, Islam and Politics Third Ed. (Syracuse UP, 1991).

5 Lewis, The Middle East, pp. 233-234.

6 Idem.

7 Idem.

8 Lewis, Middle East, pp. 233-238.

9 Ibid. page 227.

10 Garfinkle, op. cit.

11 Patricia Crone, Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam (Princeton University Press, 1987), page 241.

12 Crone, Meccan Trade, page 240.

13 Lewis, Middle East, Chapter 4, details the many achievements of Abbasid civilization.

14 Garfinkle, op. cit.

15 Jonathan Riley-Smith, (ed.) The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades (Oxford University Press, 1995); Riley-Smith, The Crusades: A Short History (Yale University Press, 1987); Sir Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades 3 vols. (Cambridge University Press, 1951-54).

16 Bin Laden, The Fatwa.

17 Lewis, Middle East, pp. 100-101; 239.

18 Lewis, Middle East, Chapters 5 and 6.

19 John Esposito, (ed.) The Oxford Encylopedia of the Modern Islamic World 4 vols. (Oxford University Press, 1995), Vol. 4, page 194.

20 Emmanuel Sivan, Radical Islam: Medieval Theology and Modern Politics rev. ed. (Yale University Press, 1990); Francis Robinson, (ed.) The Cambridge Illustrated History of Islam (Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 237, 239.

21 Stanford J. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, 1280-1808 (Cambridge University Press, 1976).

22 Ayman Al-Yassini, ìWahhabiyyahî in Esposito, (ed.) The Oxford Encyclopedia of Modern Islam, Vol. 4, pp. 307-308; Esposito, Islam and Politics, pp. 35-37.

23 Idem

24 Idem.; Stephen Schwartz, ìSeeking Moderation: Giving the Wahhabis too much creditî National Review Online October 27, 2001.

25 Esposito, Islam and Politics, page 36.

26 Ibid. pp. 9-10.

27 Schwartz, op.cit.; David Wurmser, ìThe Saudi Connectionî The Weekly Standard October 29, 2001; Garfinkle, op. cit.

28 Schwartz, op.cit.; David Wurmser, ìThe Saudi Connectionî The Weekly Standard October 29, 2001.

29 ìSayyid Qutbî in Esposito,(ed.), Oxford Encyclopedia of Modern Islam Vol. 3, pp. 400-403; Esposito, Islam and Politics , pp. 135-136; Robert Worth, ìThe Deep Intellectual Roots of Islamic Terrorî New York Times October 13, 2001,

30 Wor t h, op. cit.

31 Wor t h, op. cit.

32 ìSayyid Qutbî in Esposito, (ed.), Oxford Encyclopedia Vol. 3, page 402.

33 Wor t h, op. cit.

34 Michael Dobbs, Quoted in ìBin Laden: A Master Impresarioî Washington Post September 13, 2001.

35 Wor t h, op. cit.

36 Dobbs, ìBin Laden,î op. cit.

37 The London Times, November 02, 2001,

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