[This article is reprinted from The Sydney Morning Herald.]
The 23-year-old Nigerian charged with trying to detonate a bomb on a Northwest Airlines flight over Detroit on Christmas Day was lonely and sexually repressed, according to messages left on an Islamic website.
As a US Senate Homeland Security committee continued to argue this week about how to handle Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the emotional anguish in his web posts provides an insight into fanatical Islam and what drives often hapless young men to become suicide bombers. Much as we would like them to be, they are not monsters.
Being the son of a wealthy banker, and living in London, Abdulmutallab had no real beef with Western life, did not complain about racism or express concern for downtrodden Muslim brothers.
But, like the September 11 bombers, who visited strip clubs before their date with destiny, when his devout religious beliefs conflicted with his corporeal desires, he found that blowing himself up along with a whole lot of infidels was preferable to being sexually frustrated.
As the New York Post put it: "The bomb wasn't the only thing burning in his pants."
On the Islamic Forum of the Gawaher website in 2005 and 2006 were more than 300 posts by Farouk1986 - Abdulmutallab's middle name and birth year.
Under the heading: "I think I feel lonely," Farouk1986 complains he has never found "a true Muslim friend".
"As I get lonely, the natural sexual drive awakens and I struggle to control it, sometimes leading to minor sinful activities like not lowering the gaze.
"And this problem makes me want to get married to avoid getting aroused … but I am only 18.'' In another post, he writes ''the hair of a woman can easily arouse a man''.
He also writes of "my dilemma between liberalism and extremism … how should one put the balance right?"
He talks at one point about his fantasies: ''The bad part of it is sometimes the fantasies are a bit worldly rather than concentrating in the hereafter.''
He tries instead to focus on more acceptable "jihad fantasies''.
''I imagine how the great jihad will take place, how the Muslims will win Insha'Allah and rule the whole world, and establish the greatest empire once again!!!"
As the youngest of 16 children and the son of his father's No. 2 wife, he reportedly spent most of his childhood at an English boarding school in West Africa. The trajectory to extreme violence of this gentle, pious young man who wanted so much to be good and consequential, and yet was consumed with guilt about sex, fits with much of what is known about other Islamist suicide bombers.
Perhaps the best psychological explanation comes from United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror, the recent book by Jamie Glazov, the managing editor of FrontPage Magazine.
In a chapter entitled "To Hate a Woman", he describes in chilling detail the oppression of women in parts of the Muslim world and the "theological justification" for violence against females "from the very moment of their birth".
Islamist hatred of women has "fertilised the soil in which … terrorism and the new death cult have grown".
He claims there is an "Islamist war on private love [which] derives most of its energy from a deep-seated misogyny. Women's empowerment, independence and self-determination, especially the sexual variety, pose a threat to Islamism's very existence."
Islamist misogyny, he claims, comes from Islam itself. "The notion that women are by their very nature inferior to men is the underpinning of the entire structure and derives its legitimacy from numerous traditional teachings."
It is no coincidence that the Arabic word "fitna" has two meanings - beautiful woman and social chaos.
Glazov writes that in many Islamic societies, "women are supposed to dehumanise themselves in order to be tolerated … Women are considered to be the incarnation of shahwa [desire] which comes from the devil. In this environment the pathological notion arises that a man and a woman cannot be alone without the ominous threat of evil in their midst.
"The men denigrate the object of their lust so as to diminish their own shame. In this dynamic of sexual repression and misogyny, love is reduced to violent domination which becomes directly intertwined with terrorism against societies that allow women freedom, especially sexual freedom."
Practices such as polygamy and repudiation - in which a man can divorce his wife by pronouncing certain words - conspire to "minimise the possibility of private love even among married couples".
"Islam teaches that the sexual act is dirty and consequently surrounds it with rituals. The objective is to build a wall between the lovers themselves."
Polygamy, Glazov writes, has a disastrous effect on Muslim boys who grow up with "all kinds of siblings born of different women which gives them the idea that none of these women, including their own mother, was good enough to be cherished alone. The boys internalise this misogyny which leads in turn to self hate."
Their psychological abandonment of their mothers is "directly connected to their urge for terror and suicide".
Female genital mutilation, in which a woman's clitoris - or entire external genital organs - is removed is an attempt to "deny women even the possibility of personal happiness and sexual satisfaction".
Glazov writes of Saudi instructional TV programs about wife-beating and cites a report from the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences which estimated 90 per cent of Pakistani wives had been beaten or sexually abused for offences such as cooking an unsatisfactory meal.
These stories are not remote from Australian concerns. The Islamic Women's Welfare Council of Victoria, in a 2008 report, since removed from its website, concluded that some Australian Muslim religious leaders condoned rape within marriage, polygamy and domestic violence.
In gang rape trials, Muslim men have mounted the defence that their strict religious upbringing made them believe they could rape Australian non-Muslim girls.
This week, in Melbourne, an Afghan refugee is being tried for allegedly strangling his wife with her veil after complaining she was "becoming Australian". The jury was told the victim had claimed her husband punched her and told her her only purpose was to have babies.
To order United in Hate, click here.