Humans developed in tribes and needed a common belief system to justify rules that ensured the survival of the group. Tribal religions are born. Conversion of others is unimportant to survival of the tribe.
The Romans come along with a new concept. Common beliefs don’t matter, we rule by overwhelming force. Eventually they get pestered by all sides and imposing order by the use of violence falters.
Christianity comes along and offers the waning Roman empire a way to bind multiple tribal groups into a common enough belief system to accept a central authority. Faith is essential, “pagan” rituals can remain if they are changed into statements of the common faith. Conversions, voluntary or forced, become a modus operandi. The Church becomes the power and the Law.
Islam follows the same course as an Arab response. Without the putative and nominal show of secular authority.
America and the evolution of a multicultural sociey comes on the scene. A group of many “tribes” is bound together by shared values that are not explicitly based on a religion. A secular value system providing a basis of government is created and spreads as a concept across the world. It becomes most manifest as part of globalization. Christianity, having tried to fight this trend and having lost the battle, is the dominant faith in this secular grouping, but faith in the religion is no longer required and, explicitly, the religion is seperate from the government.
Islam has not lost the battle in the Arab world and is still the justification for laws in much of this section of humanity.
What we see today is this battle being fought: the fight of the secular basis for law versus the rule of religion. What Bin-Laden and his ilk fear is that Islam will become like Christianity, a faith in a world dominated by secular values with the secular values providing the basis for law, instead of Islam being the basis of the law.
Osama bin Laden has taken advantage of a set of circumstances–poverty, extreme lack of education, and his own incredible wealth–to gather fanatical support for his cause. As we have seen, most of the Muslim world does not support the use of terrorism, nor do they support bin Laden. It’s in a socio-economical setting like Afghanistan where someone like bin Laden can really shine: twisting the fundamentalism, lack of worldview, and hatred of the United States to suit his own messianic delusions. The more modernized, educated, and globally savvy countries that are primarily Muslim would never tolerate an extremist like bin Laden.
Whether bin Laden’s beef is with secularized government or with the evil of America (and I’m not saying the Middle East doesn’t have a smorgasbord of things to dislike the U.S. for) is still a little foggy to me, but this is certainly an interesting topic. I think he would like that to be the reason behind his war, because it would unite the Muslim world behind his cause, but I think his problem is more with our secularized government than secularized government in general. I think if the Taliban were to slowly introduce new secular laws into their fundamentalist doctrine, he would not consider waging war against them. At least that’s how I see it.
It’s the modernization and globalization of countries that are predominantly Muslim that is the evil which he means to expunge. Indeed Al-Q’itah has been a real threat to many secularized Arab governments and has effectively waged war against some of them. And even these secularized Islamic countries are of mixed minds - much of Bin-Ladens backing is from wealthy Saudis. But a war against secularism would not unite all of the Arab world, defending the absolute power of religion would not unite people who include some that have embraced many middle-class values (such as blue jeans and McDonalds!). That is why he must falsely cast it as a war of secularism and America against Islam as a faith.