Osama Bin Laden, Islamic protestant

“No official scholar’s juridical decrees have any value as far as I’m concerned,” he has declared. In fact, he routinely refers to the traditional Muslim clergy as “imams of infidelity,” “defeatist imams,” or “hypocrite imams.” He has even made the astonishing claim that following the leadership of Islam’s clergy is “tantamount to worshiping [them] rather than God.” All the while, he has taken upon himself the duty, traditionally reserved for Islam’s clergy, of “enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong.” And therein lies the key to bin Laden’s success in reaching out to young Muslims: first, get them to stop obeying their own religious leaders; then assume for oneself those leaders’ religious authority…

In my book, No god but God, I suggested that generations from now, historians may place bin Laden not alongside the fascist leaders of the 20th century like Mussolini or Hitler (an utterly laughable proposition), but rather among the Christian revolutionaries of the 16th century—men like Thomas Muntzer, Jacob Hutter, Hans Hut, or even Martin Luther—as one in a long and sometimes unsavory line of so-called “reformation radicals” who pushed the principle of religious individualism to its terrifying limits.