Last Shabbat, I stayed with the Jewish chaplain of West Point, Rabbi Huerta, a true gentleman and scholar. He has served two tours of duty in Iraq, and is studying Arabic to better understand the political situation. During our conversation he mentioned something I had never heard before about Wahhabi Islam; the Wahhabis are hyperliteral in their reading of the Qur'an, surpassing even the Jewish Karaites of the Tenth Century. Their literal reading goes so far as to say that if the Qur'an speaks of "the hand of Allah," then Allah must have a hand, an actual physical hand.
Indeed, Rabbi Huerta possessed books of Wahhabi commentaries stating that anyone who did not believe in a physical, tangible God was a heretic and an apostate.
This explains many things about our enemy. First, they are so cavalier about murdering those who we perceive to be fellow Muslims because they are not truly "fellow Muslims" at all; to the Wahhabi, those from the more traditional Islamic communities are heretics deserving of death. Second is their astonishing emphasis on Paradise as a place of sexual excess. To the typical religious mind, sex is as irrelevant to the afterlife as suntan lotion is to a deep-sea diver; the afterlife is a world of the spirit, far removed from the physical. But if you believe (as the Wahhabis do) that Allah has a physical form, then surely the afterlife must be physical as well; therefore, it will be marked with the most sublime experiences available on the physical level, i.e. sex, hallucinogens, and delicious foods.
Moreover, it becomes easier to understand how Wahhabi Islam can be so devoid of the Judaic spirit that is found, in some measure, in both Christianity and traditional Islam. Wahhabis are unconcerned with the spiritual world; for them, the realm of action is entirely the physical. This must be the source of their characteristic impatience with opposing groups. If you believe, as we Jews do, that setbacks in the physical realm can be offset by spiritual efforts, at a time when your physical adversaries are too strong to be challenged directly you will focus your attention on good deeds, charity, scholarship, internal cohesion, and all the myriad ways in which you can shape the spiritual battlefield, as it were, in your favor; patience and prudence will eventually win the day. But for a Wahhabi, the war can never pause, only change form. And none of their deeds are intended to have abstract effects, but are relentlessly practical and geared toward the political realm.
Note that the Sufis, skilled mystics whose practices influenced Maimonides and his descendants, are viscerally hated by Wahhabis.
We must realize two things about our enemy. First, Wahhabism is as fundamentally different from the old Islam as Christianity was from Judaism, if in a different manner. Though both depend on the same text, the Qur'an, Wahhabism's reading of the text diverges sharply enough from Islamic tradition to effectively make it a new religion entirely. And Wahhabism promotes a rigid adherence to ceremonial law on the one hand, and a frighteningly sloppy view of interpersonal law on the other, compared to traditional Islam. To lump the two together and call both Islam is to be complicit in the destruction of one of the world's monotheisms, for the original Islam will be destroyed in the end unless steps are taken.
Second, Wahhabism is ultimately a pagan religion. I mean this in the Jewish sense of the term, meaning that Wahhabism's belief in a physical deity is repugnant and violates the Noahide code under which all mankind is bound. Under the law, those who practice this abomination must either repent or be suppressed by the courts, by any means necessary including the death penalty.
In a free country, this is to some degree academic. But even if we prefer to allow the free exercise of religion, we have no obligation to allow foreign states like Saudi Arabia to actively promote a new religion that preaches violent war against the West. They call it Islam not only to gain internal legitimacy but external as well; we would be far less tolerant if Scientology started advocating terror bombings. Yet the situation today is functionally equivalent; and Saudi Arabia must be restrained, with force if need be. We must realize the stakes, and react accordingly, or else we will see unending war to the death.
All of which raises the question: why are most Muslims so quietly accepting a descent into paganism?
[UPDATE 19 Dec: Soccer Dad sent me an email in which he noted a disagreement between two prominent Jewish medieval commentators, Maimonides and the Ra'avad, about the belief in a corporeal God. Maimonides says that such a belief is heretical; the Ra'avad says that such a belief is wrong, but not actual heresy in the legal sense.]