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Out of the many modern branches and sects that make up the world's 1.3 billion Muslims emerged a minority, virulent offshoot called militant Islam. A fundamentalist, utopian ideology that often justifies violence for what is seen as a higher cause, in some respects militant Islam is not unlike past ideological enemies of the West, including fascism and Marxism.

The movement, comprising perhaps 10 or 15 percent of the Muslim world, harbors a deep hatred for that which the West stands for, including capitalism, individualism, and consumerism. Those who ascribe to the ideology seek instead to implement a strict interpretation of the Koran (Islam's holy book) and shari'a (Islamic law) in all Muslim lands. They also seek a united Muslim polity, spearheaded by the leadership of a caliph. Jihad, commonly translated as “holy war,” is often seen as the means to achieve these goals.

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