The Magazine

Osama's Brain

Meet Sayyid Qutb, intellectual father of the anti-Western jihad.

Apr 29, 2002, Vol. 7, No. 32 • By DINESH D'SOUZA
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This is especially true in the West, whose institutions are antithetical to Islam. In Qutb's view, Western society is based on freedom, while Islamic society is based on virtue. Moreover, Qutb argued that Western institutions are fundamentally atheist, based on a clear rejection of divine authority. When democrats say that sovereignty flows from the people, this means that the people--not God--are the rulers. So democracy is a form of idol-worship, just as capitalism is a form of market-worship. Qutb contended that since the West and Islam are based on radically different principles, there is no way that Islamic society can compromise or meet the West halfway. Either the West will prevail or Islam will prevail.

Qutb rejected the view of those Muslims who say that Islamic countries should embrace capitalism and democracy and follow the ways of the West. That, he writes, would assure Muslims a place "at the tail of the caravan." Instead, Qutb reminded Muslims that the Koran promises prosperity in this world and paradise in the next world to those who follow the teachings of Allah. The problem, he contended, is that Muslims have fallen away from their faith. Qutb argued that only by purging Western influences and returning to true Islam can the Muslim world recover its glory.

Qutb's work concludes with a resounding call to true-believing Muslims to stand up for Islam against the Western infidel and against those apostate Muslims who have sold out to the West for money and power. Many of his followers have interpreted his work as a call to jihad. Kill the apostates. Kill the infidels. Qutb's writing stops short of advocating violence, but his long association with the Muslim Brotherhood would suggest that he approved of terrorism.

Today, we need to take Qutb's views seriously for two reasons: because they are taken seriously in the Islamic world, with which we must find ways to communicate; and because, for all his vehemence, Qutb raises a fundamental challenge. For Qutb, Western prosperity, pluralism, and equality of the sexes are as nothing, worthless. The true Islamic society is superior to Western society because it makes virtue as laid down by the Koran the chief end of government. To counter this idea will require a full-bodied defense of freedom as understood in the West, as a gift from God and a necessary pre-condition for true virtue.

Dinesh D'Souza's book "What's So Great About America" has just been published by Regnery. He is the Rishwain Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution.