A peek at Al Qaeda pre 9/11. Reports surfaced in early 2002 about al Qaeda computers purchased by a journalist from the Wall Street Journal. In this article details from one of these computers come to light - complaints about their new home in Afghanistan after being expelled from Sudan, rocky relationships with the Taliban and a difficult merger with Islamic Jihad. "Perhaps one of the most important insights to emerge from the computer is that 9/11 sprang not so much from al-Qaeda's strengths as from its weaknesses. The computer did not reveal any links to Iraq or any other deep-pocketed government; amid the group's penury the members fell to bitter infighting. The blow against the United States was meant to put an end to the internal rivalries, which are manifest in vitriolic memos between Kabul and cells abroad." via The Agonist
The New York Times Magazine (yes, I know the link disappears in a week or two, sorry) published a fascinating article about , "The Philosopher of Islamic Terror." An Egyptian born in 1906, he veered toward radical Islamic fundamentalism by the 1950's, but had much company in Egypt in this endeavor. He joined the Muslim Brotherhood, a precursor to Al Qaeda, and became the editor of their journal. Nasser imprisoned him and eventually executed him. In prison he wrote powerful works which described in his view a diversion in society between human nature and human reason, with human reason having so overwhelmed human nature as to lead to mankind's potential downfall. The answer was a return to human nature through a ritualistic adherence to the teachings of God, as described by Muhammad. Rather than separate science and reason from religion, he sought to combine them as taught in the Koran, thus providing real freedom for mankind. For a liberal Episcopalian (me) these are difficult ideas, but they are nevertheless compelling not only to the poor and uneducated Muslims but more importantly to the intelligentsia. They explain the pain of modern existence, especially to those raised on the Koran. The author describes Qutb as the Islamist's Marx. Scary - religion and philosophy carry much greater power than Marx's mere economics and philosophy. Western media portray Islam as mostly a fringe group drawing power from economic poverty and the power imbalance between the West and most Muslim countries. This article shows that, at least at its heart, the movement draws upon a powerful philosophy which for many answers their agony of modern existence, regardless of their economic status.