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Mark Steyn: The church dance that snowballed
Macleans ^ | 09/21/06 | Mark Steyn

Posted on 09/21/2006 7:11:39 AM PDT by Pokey78

A masterful new work on al-Qaeda and 9/11 explains how a loser cult has metastasized

On the fifth anniversary of 9/11, U.S. and Afghan troops in "eastern Afghanistan" -- a vague delineated land that doesn't necessarily stop at the Pakistani border -- captured a man called Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

Who?

Well, he was the head of Hezb-i-Islami -- or, latterly, one faction of it. And for a while he was prime minister of Afghanistan, and an opponent of the Taliban, and then an ally of the Taliban. And in recent years he's been Iran's Mister Big in the Hindu Kush. He's believed to be the guy who smuggled Osama's son, Saad bin Laden, and various al-Qaeda A-listers out of Afghanistan and to the safety of the ayatollahs' bosom. He's an evil man who knows a lot of high-value information, if you can prise it out of him.

He made his name in the eighties, when there were so many Afghan refugees in Peshawar that the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, decided to streamline operations and make the human tide sign up with one of six designated émigré groups in order to be eligible for aid. Hekmatyar headed one of the two biggest, with some 800,000 people under his banner. He also has the distinction of being the commander of Osama's first foray into the field. In 1985, bin Laden and 60 other Arabs were holed up in Peshawar doing nothing terribly useful until they got the call to head across the Afghan border and join up with Hekmatyar's men to battle the Soviets near Jihad Wal. So off they rode, with a single local guide. They arrived at Hekmatyar's camp at 10 in the evening only to find the Soviets had retreated and there was no battle to fight.

"Your presence is no longer needed," Hekmatyar told Osama's boys. "So go back." So the neophyte warriors shot a few tin cans off fence posts, handed in their weapons and caught the bus back to Peshawar: mujahedeen tourists who'd missed the show.

This poignant vignette occurs in Lawrence Wright's masterful work The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road To 9/11. I picked the book up a couple of weeks ago without much enthusiasm, mainly because of a growing suspicion these last five years that a "human interest" view of current events is bound to be misleading. Osama himself seems merely an extreme embodiment of larger globalized trends he's barely aware of. The praise the New York Times heaped on Wright for his portrayal of John O'Neill, the "driven, demon-ridden FBI agent who worked so frantically to stop Osama bin Laden, only to perish in the attack on the World Trade Center," suggested one of those artificially novelistic accounts too obviously aimed at getting a sale to Miramax. And most of the Wahhabist fellows over on the other side are too irrational for the psychological demands of fiction: it would surely be as unsatisfying as reading a detective novel where every character's insane.

But I was wrong. The human comedy in The Looming Tower is very illuminating. Bin Laden, for example, emerges not as the fearless jihadist and scourge of the Soviets but as a laggard and faint-heart with a tendency to call in sick before battle and, if pressed into service, to pass out during it due to his blood pressure. The "nap" he took during the battle of the Lion's Den in 1987 is spoken of by awed al-Qaeda types as evidence of his cool under fire, but it seems more likely he just fainted. In Afghanistan, the local lads were hard and brave, the Arab volunteers they dismissed as "useless." Had the Americans funded the mujahedeen directly, the Afghan resistance of the 1980s might have remained a conventional war of liberation against the Soviet invaders. But Zbigniew Brzezinski, facing the Congressional oversight of post-Watergate Washington, chose instead to run the operation through third parties and plumped for the Saudis' Prince Turki and the ISI. And next thing you know, a more or less straightforward nationalist resistance has become jihad central. The deeply sinister Prince Turki (full disclosure: he's not big on me, either -- "The arrogance of Mark Steyn knows no bounds") used bin Laden's money to attract to Afghanistan a bunch of freaks and misfits from the Arab world and beyond, and their natural tendency to self-glorification did the rest: from the Soviet point of view, the Lion's Den was an inconsequential tactical retreat; to Osama's boys, living in the heightened pseudo-religiosity of jihadism, it was an exhilarating victory, a moment when (as Wright puts it) "reality knelt before faith." When the Soviet empire fell apart a few years later, the bin Laden crowd genuinely believed it was they who had inflicted the fatal blow with their famous triumph at this rinky-dink no-account nickel 'n' dime skirmish the Commies had barely noticed. So their thoughts naturally turned to what they might do for an encore. And, having taken down one superpower, they figured the next move was pretty obvious.

Wright's book is a marvellously vivid recreation of a kind of sustained unreality. My talk-radio pal Hugh Hewitt calls it a "genealogy," and I think that's a very good way of putting it: The Looming Tower is a family tree of jihad, the chain connecting some weirdsmobile in Cairo with another in Riyadh and then Islamabad and then Hamburg and London and pretty much everywhere. One thing it demolishes is the lazy leftist trope that the "root cause" is poverty. The penniless yak herds aren't the problem. The very first words of the very first chapter are "In a first-class stateroom on a cruise ship bound for New York . . ." It's 1948 and inside the first-class stateroom is Sayyid Qutb, the first of a grand parade of privileged middle-class Westernized Muslims for whom a mis-wired encounter with the modern world is enough to make them hot for jihad. There's a sad inevitability when al-Qaeda's head honchos are ready to give up on 9/11 because they haven't any Muslim Westerners who can pull it off, and just at that moment a Hamburg engineering student called Mohammed Atta shows up. In the jihad, somebody always shows up, somebody middle-class and prosperous and educated and perfectly assimilated except for an urge to self-detonate on the London Underground.

It's tempting to think history might have turned out a little differently had that drunken floozy on the ship not come on to Sayyid late one night or the nurse in George Washington University Hospital not been showing quite so much cleavage. But reading of Qutb's sojourn in America in the late 1940s you begin to wonder whether the girl really did come on to him or if the nurse truly disclosed to him the particulars of what she sought in a lover. His disgust at the lasciviousness of America is vaguely reminiscent of the old joke about the spinster who complains that the young man across the street strips naked in full view every night: when the cop says he can't see anything, she explains you have to climb up on the wardrobe and crane your neck up over the skylight. If you're looking for it as assiduously as Qutb was, you'll find it everywhere.

The title of Wright's book comes from the Koran's fourth sura, the one Osama quoted in a speech on the eve of 9/11:

"Wherever you are, death will find you,

Even in the looming tower."

In an Islamist grievance culture, the tower doesn't have to be that tall to loom. The tragedy in Wright's book is that across little more than half a century a loser cult has metastasized, eventually to swallow almost all the moderate, syncretic forms of Islam. What was so awful about Sayyid Qutb's experience in America that led him to regard modernity as an abomination? Well, he went to a dance in Greeley, Colo.: "The room convulsed with the feverish music from the gramophone. Dancing naked legs filled the hall, arms draped around the waists, chests met chests, lips met lips . . ."

In 1949, Greeley, Colo., was dry. The dance was a church social. The feverish music was Frank Loesser's charm song Baby, It's Cold Outside. But it was enough to start a chain that led from Qutb to Zawahiri in Egypt to bin Laden in Saudi Arabia to the mullahs in Iran to the man arrested in Afghanistan on Sept. 11. And it's a useful reminder of how much we could give up and still be found decadent and disgusting by the Islamists. A world without Baby, It's Cold Outside will be very cold indeed.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: alqaeda; alqaida; binladen; binladin; jihad; loomingtower; marksteyn; qutb; sayyidqutb; steyn

1 posted on 09/21/2006 7:11:40 AM PDT by Pokey78
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To: Howlin; riley1992; Miss Marple; deport; Dane; sinkspur; steve; kattracks; JohnHuang2; ...

Steyn ping!

j
2 posted on 09/21/2006 7:13:20 AM PDT by Pokey78 (‘FREE [INSERT YOUR FETID TOTALITARIAN BASKET-CASE HERE]’)
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To: Pokey78

Wow. I guess I will have to read that book. Thanks for posting and the ping, Pokey.


3 posted on 09/21/2006 7:17:27 AM PDT by Miss Marple (Lord, please look over Mozart Lover's and Jemian's sons and keep them strong.)
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To: Pokey78

Another book I need to get.


4 posted on 09/21/2006 7:25:06 AM PDT by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: Pokey78
Oh, definitely, ping!
5 posted on 09/21/2006 7:26:04 AM PDT by Excellence (Vote Dhimmocrat; Submit for Peace!)
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To: Miss Marple

"Wow. I guess I will have to read that book. Thanks for posting and the ping, Pokey."



That is as enticing a review as I can recall ever reading.


6 posted on 09/21/2006 7:27:43 AM PDT by ansel12 (illicit sin holds a sway over their lives to the point where boldness begins to be craved.)
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To: Tax-chick

bttt


7 posted on 09/21/2006 7:28:13 AM PDT by Tax-chick (Please pray for Vlad's four top incisors to arrive real soon!)
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To: ansel12

I agree. The review really made me want to read the book. That doesn't often happen.


8 posted on 09/21/2006 7:29:37 AM PDT by Miss Marple (Lord, please look over Mozart Lover's and Jemian's sons and keep them strong.)
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To: Pokey78; Peach; Mo1
But I was wrong. The human comedy in The Looming Tower is very illuminating. Bin Laden, for example, emerges not as the fearless jihadist and scourge of the Soviets but as a laggard and faint-heart with a tendency to call in sick before battle and, if pressed into service, to pass out during it due to his blood pressure. The "nap" he took during the battle of the Lion's Den in 1987 is spoken of by awed al-Qaeda types as evidence of his cool under fire, but it seems more likely he just fainted

BWAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAA!! Even if this part turned out to not be true, it's a great visual, ROFL!

Ping and this one goes out to the email list. I don't recall Steyn doing too many book reviews, so his endorsement is intriguing.

9 posted on 09/21/2006 7:31:10 AM PDT by prairiebreeze (No religion demands so much of it's members and so little of itself, than islam.)
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To: Allan

B.


10 posted on 09/21/2006 7:33:26 AM PDT by Allan (*-O)):~{>)
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To: Pokey78
And it's a useful reminder of how much we could give up and still be found decadent and disgusting by the Islamists.

It's not about how much we give up or how much we don't give up. It's about who we pay tribute to.

bin Laden is not secure in his faith until everyone validates it by sharing it. And he doesn't trust his god to be able to take care of himself.

Shalom.

11 posted on 09/21/2006 7:39:58 AM PDT by ArGee (The Ring must not be allowed to fall into Hillary's hands.)
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To: Pokey78
His disgust at the lasciviousness of America is vaguely reminiscent of the old joke about the spinster who complains that the young man across the street strips naked in full view every night: when the cop says he can't see anything, she explains you have to climb up on the wardrobe and crane your neck up over the skylight.
Mark Steyn is my hero!
12 posted on 09/21/2006 7:44:52 AM PDT by AmishDude
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To: Pokey78
The 40s song that started it all. We would be a poorer world without it:

BABY, ITS COLD OUTSIDE

I really can't stay - Baby, it's cold outside
I've got to go away - Baby, it's cold outside
This evening has been - Been hoping that you'd drop in
So very nice - I'll hold your hands they're cold as ice
My mother will start to hurry - Beautiful, what's your hurry
My father will be pacing the floor - Listen to the fireplace roar
So really I'd better scurry - Beautiful, please don't hurry
Well, maybe half a drink more
Put some records on while I pour

The neighbors might think - Baby, it's bad out there
Say, what's in this drink - No cabs to be had out there
I wish I knew how - Your eyes are like starlight now
To break the spell - I'll take your hat, your hair looks swell
I ought to say no, no, no, sir - Mind if I move in closer
At least I'm gonna say that I tried - What's the use in hurting my pride
I really can't stay - Baby don't hold out Baby, it's cold outside

I really must go - Baby, it's cold outside
The answer is no - Ooh baby, it's cold outside
Your welcome has been - I'm lucky that you dropped in
So nice and warm - Look out the window at that storm
My sister will be suspicious - Gosh, your lips look delicious
My brother will be there at the door - Waves upon a tropical shore
My maiden aunt's mind is vicious - Gosh, your lips are delicious
Well, maybe just a half a drink more - Never such a blizzard before

I've got to get home - Baby, you'll freeze out there
Say, lend me your comb - It's up to your knees out there
You've really been grand - I'm thrilled when you touch my hand
But don't you see - How can you do this thing to me
There's bound to be talk tomorrow - Just think to my life long sorrow
At least there'll be plenty implied - If you caught pneumonia and died
I really can't stay - Get over that cold out Baby, it's cold outside

13 posted on 09/21/2006 7:49:34 AM PDT by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: Pokey78

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1705238/posts


14 posted on 09/21/2006 7:54:49 AM PDT by Rummyfan
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To: Pokey78

Steyn PING!


15 posted on 09/21/2006 7:54:50 AM PDT by Gritty (A world without 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' will be very cold indeed - Mark Steyn)
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To: Pokey78

Thanks for the ping, Pokey! Another brilliant critique from the master!


16 posted on 09/21/2006 7:57:03 AM PDT by alwaysconservative (Who on earth dresses those women on the Weather Channel? Can't they find clothes that fit?)
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To: ArGee
And he doesn't trust his god to be able to take care of himself.

Man do you have that right.

L

17 posted on 09/21/2006 7:58:10 AM PDT by Lurker (islam is not a religion. It's the new face of Fascism in our time. We ignore it at our peril.)
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To: Pokey78

Bump for interesting read


18 posted on 09/21/2006 8:00:20 AM PDT by zeugma (I reject your reality and substitute my own in its place. (http://www.zprc.org/))
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To: Pokey78

bttt


19 posted on 09/21/2006 8:04:59 AM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: Miss Marple

I'm already in the middle of it. Definitely worth reading.

One thing of interest is that while the bookstores in my area are piled up deep with books that say we failed in iraq, this fascinating account is very difficult to find, with just one copy hidden back in the current events section. It's a pity one of the few books on such an important subject has been given short shrift.

So look hard for it. It's worth it.

D


20 posted on 09/21/2006 8:05:40 AM PDT by daviddennis
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To: Pokey78

The Sept. 11th capture of Hekmatyar that Steyn refers to has not been confirmed. It seems to have been an error by the German press agency, DPA.

FYI

d.o.l.

Criminal Number 18F


21 posted on 09/21/2006 8:10:29 AM PDT by Criminal Number 18F (Build more lampposts... we've got plenty of traitors.)
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To: 1rudeboy

If you have ever been mauled by one of those horny Muslims, you develop a taste for church dances, anew.


22 posted on 09/21/2006 8:14:54 AM PDT by ClaireSolt (Have you have gotten mixed up in a mish-masher?)
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To: Miss Marple
Some things sort of stick in my mind. Like why did the Pakistani leader agree to pull out of the area next to the Afghanistan border. The deal he said, was that in return for drawing out of that area of Pakistan, the Tali ban and Al Queada would not interfere with the rest of Pakistan.

What followed next was an increase in the size and quantity of attacks by the Taliban in Afghanistan. That would make sense if the Taliban did not have to retain forces to fight the Pakistani army they could send all their forces to fight in Afghanistan.

But then today President Bush reversed his position on invading that area of Packistan. It seems obvious to me that the US could not attack into Pakistan when there was a good chance we would find ourselves fighting the Pakistani army.

I think it is clear that the Taliban has lost the game. They agreed to the removal of all the Pakistani troops because that would give them enough forces to take out the NATO forces. That has failed and now the USA is going into Pakistan with out fear of confronting the Pakistani Army.

Bin Laden may be a dead duck. It remains to be seen if the little guy from Iran will tolerate the competition from Bin Ladin. I think he won't. He wants the entire spot light.

If that be the case then look for Bin Laden to be captured in the not too distant future.

How would you like to be Lindsay Graham defending bin Laden's civil rights.

23 posted on 09/21/2006 8:20:49 AM PDT by Common Tator
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To: Pokey78
Qutb

Yes, it has always amused me that the decadent, sinful, America that Qutb saw was pre rock 'n' roll, pre-Elvis, pre-Punk, pre-Rap, pre-Doors, pre-Hip-Hop, pre-Roe-v-Wade, pre-gay-rights, pre-no-fault-divorce. Indeed, it was the allegedly prudish (according to liberals) early-50s, church-going America that shocked him.
24 posted on 09/21/2006 8:21:16 AM PDT by Steve_Seattle
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To: SirKit

Vey interesting!


25 posted on 09/21/2006 8:28:23 AM PDT by SuziQ
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To: Common Tator
How would you like to be Lindsay Graham defending bin Laden's civil rights.

Ouch.

26 posted on 09/21/2006 8:33:18 AM PDT by FlyVet
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To: daviddennis
One thing of interest is that while the bookstores in my area are piled up deep with books that say we failed in iraq,

Hope it's because they aren't selling.

Libs know the party line instinctively. They don't need to read actual books for that.

27 posted on 09/21/2006 8:35:33 AM PDT by thulldud ("Para inglés, oprima el dos.")
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To: goldstategop

Reminds me of one of my favorite lines in music--similar setting too:

"And my dear, we're still goodbying."


28 posted on 09/21/2006 8:38:25 AM PDT by ModelBreaker
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To: goldstategop

That's one of our favorites when the Christmas season (Oops!, I mean Winter Festival Season) CDs come out. It exudes a sort of relaxed, 1940's jazzy feel to it that undoubtedly arouses people to commit all kinds of awful acts. My wife and I actually enjoy the song even more with a glass or two of wine. How insensitive of us!


29 posted on 09/21/2006 8:45:45 AM PDT by neocon1984 (end the idiocy of post-modernism)
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To: Pokey78

If even a pinch of this is true, these people are truly insane! But I state the obvious. They need to be put down like the rabid dogs they are.


30 posted on 09/21/2006 9:05:58 AM PDT by 7thson (I've got a seat at the big conference table! I'm gonna paint my logo on it!)
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To: Toadman

bookmark


31 posted on 09/21/2006 9:20:52 AM PDT by Toadman (RUMSFELD/ROVE 08)
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To: Pokey78
There's a sad inevitability when al-Qaeda's head honchos are ready to give up on 9/11 because they haven't any Muslim Westerners who can pull it off, and just at that moment a Hamburg engineering student called Mohammed Atta shows up.

Reason enough for me to stop all student Visa from Muslim countries.

Steyn's breadth of reading material impresses me as much as his eloquence.

32 posted on 09/21/2006 11:08:45 AM PDT by Ruth A. (we might as well fight in the first ditch as the last)
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To: scholar; Bullish; linear; yoda swings

Ping


33 posted on 09/21/2006 1:06:50 PM PDT by knighthawk (We will always remember We will always be proud We will always be prepared so we may always be free)
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To: Pokey78
I'm reading the book now. It's great. The part at the beginng about Sayyid Qutb reminded me of the Chaos Theory and the flapping butterfly wings. An evil Western woman bats her eyelashes at Qutb and 50+ years later the WTC comes crashing down.

I'm only 1/4 the way through so far but I would highly recommend reading The Looming Tower.

34 posted on 09/21/2006 3:03:54 PM PDT by Roscoe Karns
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To: Roscoe Karns

beginng= beginning


35 posted on 09/21/2006 3:04:57 PM PDT by Roscoe Karns
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To: SunkenCiv

Mark Stein book review, don't miss it,


36 posted on 09/21/2006 3:20:12 PM PDT by Fred Nerks (ENEMY + MEDIA = ENEMEDIA)
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To: Pokey78

If Steyn likes the book, so will I.


37 posted on 09/21/2006 3:31:56 PM PDT by Dog Gone
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To: Pokey78

I'm pleased to report that my library system has 8 copies of the book, all 8 copies are checked out and 31 people are on the waiting list. Guess I'll be #32.


38 posted on 09/21/2006 4:12:35 PM PDT by sunshine state
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To: Pokey78
Marking.
39 posted on 09/21/2006 4:20:05 PM PDT by stripes1776
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To: Fred Nerks

Thanks.

"Zbigniew Brzezinski, facing the Congressional oversight of post-Watergate Washington, chose instead to run the operation through third parties and plumped for the Saudis' Prince Turki and the ISI."

Oh, yes, I remember those blistering questions from the Congressional committee which investigated this. ;')


40 posted on 09/21/2006 4:55:18 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (updated my FR profile on Saturday, September 16, 2006. https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: Cacique

btt


41 posted on 09/21/2006 4:57:18 PM PDT by Cacique (quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat ( Islamia Delenda Est ))
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To: Steve_Seattle

I suggest we "rock his world", or as an Englishman said, "Make the rubble bounce".


42 posted on 09/21/2006 5:37:14 PM PDT by GladesGuru (In a society predicated upon Liberty, it is essential to examine principles, - -)
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To: Pokey78
In the jihad, somebody always shows up, somebody middle-class and prosperous and educated and perfectly assimilated except for an urge to self-detonate on the London Underground.

Truly it is written that when you set your mind on enlightenment, you will find boddhisatvas to help you every step of the way.

That's almost in the Koran, isn't it?

43 posted on 09/21/2006 7:13:41 PM PDT by irv
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To: ClaireSolt
If you have ever been mauled by one of those horny Muslims, you develop a taste for church dances, anew.

No, I can't say that I have. :-)

Cheers!

44 posted on 09/21/2006 10:35:29 PM PDT by grey_whiskers
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To: Pyro7480
Sayyid Qutb ping

Steyn on Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower

45 posted on 09/22/2006 12:10:32 AM PDT by Dajjal
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To: Dajjal

Thanks Dajjal!


46 posted on 09/22/2006 5:17:32 AM PDT by Pyro7480 ("Give me an army saying the Rosary and I will conquer the world." - Pope Blessed Pius IX)
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To: Tax-chick

bttt


47 posted on 09/22/2006 7:01:36 PM PDT by Tax-chick (Please pray for Vlad's four top incisors to arrive real soon!)
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To: Pokey78; Pyro7480

Now I think of Sayyid Qutb every time they play "Baby, It's Cold Outside" on the radio. Another reason to hate the jihadis.


48 posted on 11/23/2006 1:34:27 AM PST by Dajjal (See my FR homepage for new essay about Ahmadinejad.)
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To: Pokey78

Mark


49 posted on 11/23/2006 1:36:24 AM PST by Jezebelle (Our tax dollars are paying the ACLU to sue the Christ out of us.)
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To: Miss Marple

I am reading it now (checked it out from our local library) and it is very good.


50 posted on 11/23/2006 1:50:03 AM PST by Citizen Soldier
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