Love death. This is the improbable instruction that the founder of an Egyptian sect called the Muslim Brotherhood imparted to his followers in the 1920s. A disciple named Mohammed Atta copied this instruction into his journal just before leading the attack on the World Trade Center three days before my biopsy. Was it a coincidence that this dark creed took root in a country of monuments to the human quest for life beyond the grave? The sentence Mohammed Atta actually jotted down was this: “Prepare for holy war and be lovers of death.”
How can one love death? This is a question that is incomprehensible to us unless we are overwhelmed by personal defeats. But it is the enigma at the heart of human history, which is a narrative moved by war between men. For how can men go to war unless they love death, or a cause that is worth more than life itself?
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