- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 2010

During the Christmas holiday season, while many may hear the song, few probably know its significance in connection to the Islamic extremism we fight today. Not originally intended as a Christmas carol,

the popular 1944 duet became a holiday favorite. In 1949, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” gained fame in the movie “Neptune’s Daughter.” Sung by Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban, it earned an Academy Award for best original song. But before that decade ended, it triggered one man’s anger and hatred. Unfortunately, long after his death, the anger would continue, manifesting itself as a violent Islamist philosophy claiming Muslim and non-Muslim lives alike.

Born in 1906, Sayyid Qutb was an Egyptian educator who devoted the first two-thirds of his 60 years to studying the Koran, writing books and maintaining a rather low profile. That changed after he lived in the United States.

Arriving in 1948 on scholarship to study the American education system, Qutb first spent several months at a college in Greeley, Colo. Locals invited him to a church social. Following dinner, lights were dimmed, Esther Williams’ song was played, and people began dancing. The close contact between young men and women, the provocative dress of the women and their suggestive moves enraged Qutb.


This event caused him to publish numerous writings highly critical of Western culture and particularly Western women. He wrote of his Greeley experience, “They danced to the tunes of the gramophone and the dance floor was replete with tapping feet, enticing legs, arms wrapped around waists, lips pressed to lips, and chests pressed to chests. The atmosphere was full of desire. …” He criticized American culture as obsessed with materialism, violence and “animalistic desires.” He found Americans “numb to faith in religion, faith in art, and faith in spiritual values altogether.”

Upon returning to Egypt, Qutb wrote that radical Islam must prevent the contamination of the Muslim world by Western culture. He joined a fundamentalist Islamic group - the Muslim Brotherhood. After Abdul Nasser came to power in Egypt by throwing out the British but failed to establish an Islamic republic, Qutb criticized Nasser, eventually leading to Qutb’s execution in 1966.

Qutb believed the Koran mandated men to be “the managers of women’s affairs.” Such an attitude, coupled with his lament that there was no woman of sufficient “moral purity and discretion” worthy to marry him, explains why he never married. He blamed women as provocateurs of the sins of the Western world. A psychiatrist might well have attributed his rantings about women to coming from someone harboring severe issues in dealing with the opposite sex.

With his death, Qutb’s anti-Western writings gained more prominence. Among those who came to embrace them were two men whom the world would come to know 35 years later: Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri. These top two al Qaeda leaders followed different paths in embracing Qutb’s teachings - arriving at the same conclusion: Western culture was evil and had to be stopped. Bin Laden’s path was through his attendance at weekly public lectures conducted by Qutb’s brother, Muhammad. Zawahri was mentored by an uncle who reportedly was among the last people to talk to Qutb before his execution.

Qutb’s philosophy has given rise to two generations of Islamists who firmly believe Western culture is anathema to the Koran’s teachings. It has given rise to the belief that, because of that, these Islamists must do Allah’s will, undertaking jihad to destroy the West. It has given rise to a male Islamist mindset that perceives no equals - empowering male believers even to submit female believers to intolerance and abuse.(Interestingly, according to a current Muslim Brotherhood ideologue, Sheik Yusuf Qaradawi, the only equal right Muslim women have is to attain martyrdom by blowing themselves up to kill Israelis.)

It is disturbing to think a social misfit morphed an innocent song into a battle cry for jihad against the West. But it is even more disturbing that so many supposedly educated readers of his writings reject any tolerant overtones of Islam’s teachings, choosing instead to blindly jump onboard the Qutb jihadi bandwagon. This speaks volumes about the struggle for us against Islamism that lies ahead.

In stealing an innocent Christmas carol, an Islamist grinch left us a “gift” that will keep on giving for generations to come.

James Zumwalt, a Marine veteran of the Vietnam and Gulf wars, writes often on national-security and defense issues.