Ahmed Rashid reviews seven important books on jihadi terrorism in The New York Review of Books. Money quote:
Of course al-Qaeda is still engaged in conventional guerrilla wars, fighting US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but today, seven years after September 11, jihad for al-Qaeda and its worldwide allies increasingly means one thing—suicide bombing. This is the change that must be confronted. Now you are not a good jihadi until you kill yourself in the act of killing many others. Thus in the period after September 11 the extremist interpretation of jihad has undergone yet another metamorphosis, degenerating into a cult of suicide bombing against which there is often no plausible defense. In the martyrdom videos they make just before they blow themselves up, bombers like to taunt their audiences with phrases such as ‘while you Americans love life, we love death.’ When these videos are shown on Western television they make Muslims and the religion itself look quite ridiculous and half crazy. Such videos help fuel anti-Islamic xenophobia in the West—xenophobia that in turn helps provide more recruits to the ranks of suicide bombers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. It’s a vicious circle.