On September 11, 2001, the action of 19 persons changed the dynamics of global politics. Since then, the two countries have been invaded, the War on Terror continues unabated and, as a result, if remedial measures are not taken then, Huntington's theory of a "Clash of Civilisations" may actually become a reality. The motivation and justification behind the action of those 19 men was an ideology propounded by Al-Qaeda. Men and women professing Islam have been motivated alike to sacrifice even their own lives by a lunatic fringe, numbering no more than a few thousand out of an estimated Islamic population of 1.5 billion, who subscribe to this extremist ideology. This ideology resurfaced during the first Gulf war when Osama Bin Laden was expelled from Saudi Arabia due to his criticism of the Saudi royal family for allowing foreign troops to enter the Arabian Peninsula. He was then brought to Afghanistan during the Burhanuddin Rabbani government, which, after the capture of Kabul by the Taliban on September 27, 1996, relocated to Mazar-e-Sharif and became known as the Northern Alliance. Subsequently, Bin Laden remained south of the Hindu Kush and became closely associated with Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban. Under the protection of the latter he further camouflaged his personal vendetta in the guise of waging a jihad against the infidels. The support of the Taliban, who were inward looking and never had an external agenda, was bought by providing them substantial financial assistance. In return, he was assured political asylum and given a freehand to establish training camps for various militant outfits. Some of the so-called jihadis from these training centres were later used as 'proxy warriors' by the establishment in Islamabad in pursuance of its objectives in Indian occupied Kashmir. On a parallel track, the Al-Qaeda ideology was propounded by Bin Laden and his henchmen through a series of public relations and media campaigns to gain support, recruits and finances from the Muslim world. His propaganda line was built around the manipulation of longstanding grievances of the Muslims through the distortion and de-contextualisation of the Quran. On more than one occasion, Bin Laden has referred to the political philosophy of Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328) to justify Al-Qaeda's jihad. The latter's theology was influenced by the Mongol invasions of the time and, therefore, was radical in nature. He discounted the Hadith that distinguishes the lesser jihad (waging war) and the greater jihad (combating inner desires that are contradictory to basic Islamic tenets). As if this was not damaging enough, Al-Qaeda further distorts this by declaring, "preaching has nothing to do with torture: jihad is the way of torturing the infidels at our hands." Another senior Al-Qaeda leader, Shaykh Sa'id, recently referred to Pakistan's nuclear capability by stating: "God willing the nuclear weapons will not fall into the hands of the Americans and the mujahideen would take them and use them against the Americans." Furthermore, Al-Qaeda claims that its mission is to protect the Muslim Ummah and eventually unite the latter under a Pan-Islamic entity that practices 'true Islam.' There are three main flaws in this mission statement and they are as follows: Protect the Muslim Ummah: A majority of the victims of Al-Qaeda-motivated terrorist violence have been Muslim civilians. As a result, contrary to Al-Qaeda aspirations of uniting the Muslim Ummah against the West, for the first time both Muslims and non-Muslims alike have a common enemy. The Muslim Ummah uniting under a Pan-Islamic entity: The possibility of the emergence of such an entity is absurd. The undeniable truth is that the Islamic world, far from being a monolith, is a house divided against itself. True Islam: In one of his statements, Osama Bin Laden described the Taliban-governed Afghanistan as an ideal Islamic state. This false premise was rejected by the overwhelming majority of the Islamic countries and only three of them i.e. Pakistan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia extended formal recognition to the Taliban government. Saudi Arabia subsequently withdrew its recognition after the Taliban, despite an earlier undertaking, refused to hand over Osama Bin Laden during a stormy meeting in Kandahar between Mullah Omar and the then Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Turki. One only has to scratch the surface to realise how fragile Al-Qaeda's attempt at legitimising its heinous crimes against humanity really is. It is time that the self-proclaimed militant spokesmen of the Islamic world are neutralised. Furthermore, the non-Islamic world must stop stereotyping Muslims as extremists because of the actions of a group of misguided religious ideologues. Al-Qaeda must be exposed for what they really are before they further corrupt the minds of future generations of both Muslims and non-Muslims in their effort to impose their doctrinaire interpretation of Islam on the world. The writer is editor-in-chief of the Criterion Quarterly E-mail: mushfiq.murshed@gmail.com