Amir Taheri offers a very clear picture of "what they want":
Moments after yesterday's attacks my telephone was buzzing with requests for interviews with one recurring question: but what do they want? That reminded me of Theo van Gogh, the Dutch film-maker, who was shot by an Islamist assassin on his way to work in Amsterdam last November. According to witnesses, Van Gogh begged for mercy and tried to reason with his assailant. "Surely we can discuss this," he kept saying as the shots kept coming. "Let us talk it over."
Van Gogh, who had angered Islamists with his documentary about the mistreatment of women in Islam, was reacting like BBC reporters did yesterday, assuming that the man who was killing him may have some reasonable demands which could be discussed in a calm, democratic atmosphere.
But sorry, old chaps, you are dealing with an enemy that does not want anything specific, and cannot be talked back into reason through anger management or round-table discussions. Or, rather, this enemy does want something specific: to take full control of your lives, dictate every single move you make round the clock and, if you dare resist, he will feel it his divine duty to kill you.
He goes on to point out the majority of imams teach that peaceful conversion to Islam is the way to guide infidels to the right path, and that the Osama bin Ladens -- who believe the entire west is corrupted beyond the ability to hear their truth, and therefore must be annihilated -- are a small minority.
Within that minority, there are two powerful factions, bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri (ostensibly bin Laden's right hand man), "who insists that the Islamists should first win the war inside several vulnerable Muslim countries, notably Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq", as opposed to blowing us all up in our homes, offices, and streets.
Nevertheless, as I see it, it is that minority who are having the greater immediate impact upon world opinion of Islam. That bin Laden and al Zawahiri are divided over the direction their policy should take may be helpful to us in the long run (as was Hitler's decision to run his war on two fronts), but they are still, today, killing innocents of all faiths. And the majority of the members of their own faith don't seem to be doing much more than lip service toward controlling their recruitment and funding.