Today is the 20th anniversary of the World Trade Center bombing. It also marks three weeks since the attempted murder of Lars Hedegaard, the intrepid Danish champion of free speech. These events are not unrelated.
Back in 1993, there was a tireless effort to limn the WTC bombers as wanton killers. They were, we were to understand, bereft of any coherent belief system, unrepresentative of any mainstream construction of Islam. In reality, though, they were devout Muslim operatives who belonged to a jihadist cell formed in the New York area by Omar Abdel Rahman — whose notoriety as the shadowy "Blind Sheikh" obscured the basis of his profound influence over Islamists across the globe.
Sheikh Abdel Rahman is an internationally renowned Islamic jurist, having earned a doctorate in the jurisprudence of sharia — Islam's societal framework and legal code — from Egypt's al-Azhar University, the center of Sunni Islamic learning for over a millennium. Blind from early youth and plagued by several other maladies, Abdel Rahman was physically incapable of building a bomb, hijacking a jetliner, carrying out an assassination — in short, of performing any blood-soaked activity that would be useful to a terrorist organization . . . other than leading it.