For those of us suffering from "terrorism fatigue," it would have been easy to miss or dismiss the latest news about Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called "20th hijacker." Moussaoui gave an eye-opening speech in federal court on April 23, in which he tried to fire his lawyers. It was eye-opening, that is, for people willing to open their eyes.
In his 50-minute peroration, Moussaoui explained that he prayed for the "destruction of the Jewish people and state." Note: that's both the destruction of the Jewish people and the destruction of the Jewish state.
But if you're saying, well at least I'm not Jewish, hold on a second. He also prays for "the destruction of Russia and ... the destruction of the United States of America" and for Muslims to regain control of Spain and Chechnya and to conquer India. In short, Moussaoui has a very comprehensive land-for-peace plan.
Moussaoui also told U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema that he wants to fire his court-appointed lawyers and represent himself. The reason? Because they're all part of one big conspiracy to kill him. No worrying about ticking off the judge, he called her "a field general entrusted to get this matter over with quickly."
"The prosecutors, the defense lawyers, the judge ... all are employees of the federal government," the Moroccan-born French citizen said. "I can't wait to see the jury," he added sarcastically.
Moussaoui's lawyers want him examined by psychiatrists, presumably in the hope that he will be found mentally incompetent. Fine, that's their job. But it would be a big mistake to assume that Moussaoui is insane simply because it would be more reassuring for us if he were.
Sane by our standards or not, Moussaoui's attitude must be taken seriously because it is consistent with the ideology that motivates his compatriots in al-Qaida.
Moussaoui says of his lawyers, "I have never trusted them because they are not Muslim and do not know my world." According to Osama bin Laden's version of Islam, this is how all Muslims must feel about all non-Muslims and their institutions.
In an incisive essay in the Weekly Standard, Dinesh D'Souza explores the writings of Sayyid Qutb, arguably the founding theorist of al-Qaida's philosophy (and a man sorely in need of more vowels in his name). Called by some "Osama's brain," Qutb was executed in Egypt in 1966, but his writings, much of them penned while in jail, laid out a framework that still serves as a roadmap for al-Qaida's intentions.
The fundamental difference between Western and Islamic societies, according to Qutb, is that in the West religion is something you "practice," while Islam is something you submit to totally. He argued that since the West's legal institutions are based upon democracy, i.e. "the will of the people," and not divine law, Westerners are idol-worshippers.
This sort of thinking can be found in the Koran, as well as in the writings of Islamic scholars over the ages. But what Qutb added to the conversation was his own personal experience in modern America. He lived and studied here for several years and returned with an Islamic ideology geared to competing with the materialism, prosperity and technological prowess he found in the West.
Qutb rejected Arab nationalism in favor of universal Islam. This ideology holds that anywhere in the world where Muslims live belongs to Islam, especially if they are, or ever were, a majority of the population. This is why Moussaoui wants Spain back; it once belonged to Muslim Moors, so it must always belong to Muslim Moors.
Indeed, this is one of the most significant differences between the Islamic and Western worlds. Formed as Muhammad's empire expanded, Islam does not look favorably on what we in the West call nationalism. As a Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire explained in 1917, "The Fatherland of a Muslim is wherever the Holy Law of Islam prevails."
Muslims, according to Qutb, should not envy the West's prosperity. "The believer from his height looks down at the people drowning in dirt and mud," he wrote of Islam's view of America. The West may have its gadgets and its comforts, but for the Muslim, life in this world must be dedicated to virtue.
Paradise is reserved for the next life.
The challenge this poses, as D'Souza notes, is that these people truly believe what is best about our society - freedom, democracy, tolerance - is what make us worthy of destruction.
When Moussaoui was driven past the carnage of Ground Zero, he reportedly said, "F*** you. F***" America. Moussaoui seems ludicrous to most of us for believing that his defense lawyers and the judge are all in on the same corrupt plot. But from his perspective, that makes complete sense because all of America is a corrupt plot.