"Fundamentalist [Muslim] leaders are not mistaken in seeing in Western civilization the greatest challenge to [their] way of life," Lewis concludes. "And since the United States is the legitimate heir of European civilization and the recognized and unchallenged leader of the West, the United States has inherited the resulting grievances and become the focus for the pent-up hate and anger."
This anti-Americanism is primarily philosophical. It has flourished not primarily because of American foreign policy, but sometimes even in spite of it. It has persisted even in the face of such actions as U. S. intervention in 1956 to have Israel, Britain, and France withdraw from Egypt, and our many subsequent efforts to compel Israel to cede to Palestinian demands at the negotiating table. America is now the fundamentalists' reflexive target of opportunity even when it has nothing to do with a particular grievance. When, for example, a group of Muslim dissidents seized the Great Mosque in Mecca in November 1979, an angry mob in Pakistan targeted and burned the U. S. embassy.
For many years the anti-American rage of Islamic fundamentalists festered impotently. But with their takeover of Iran, then their defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan, they began to feel empowered once again. To many Muslim revivalists, their centuries-old dream of a World of Islam seems at last within their grasp. And with the aid of oil money and supportive regimes, they now have the means to fight the hated infidels—led by the Great Satan.
For a violent subset of Islamic fundamentalists, this hatred has now become a holy war, a jihad against America itself—but more: against the whole of Western civilization to which America is heir. These zealots are pushing Islamic fundamentalism to the point of pure nihilism—to becoming an envy-eaten, hate-driven excuse for the obliteration of all civilized values.