The Philosopher of Islamic Terror: this week’s New York Times Magazine has a lengthy review of the writings of Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian philosopher whose writings underlie the political and theological philosophies of al-Qaeda.

One of the great struggles I’ve gone through since September 11, 2001, is trying to figure out what motivates Osama bin Laden and his followers. Reading this article brings me as close as I think I’ve ever come. Pat answers like “they envy us” or “they hate our freedom” just don’t cut it. Qutb’s theories are, to me, utter and complete madness, but they’re not incoherent, and I can see how they’d be appealing to people who are dealing with the congitive dissonance of feeling pride in their religion and identity while living in the existing circumstances that confront the Muslim world today.

This ideology commands its adherents to sacrifice their own lives if that’s what it takes to nudge the world toward the proper practice of Islam. Unless we understand it and respond to it, simply arresting all the terrorists we can find isn’t going to get the job done.