I am heartbroken as I watch the magnificent Taj Hotel in Mumbai burning, smoke billowing from its windows. I hear an Indian reporter for the Times of India, his voice choking with incredulity describe the scene. “Terrorists strike India again!”

I am chilled to my marrow about the brazenness of the attacks, the intelligence failure, the rampage of the assassins, the gunbattle they waged on the streets and the helplessness of the Indian police. There have been many such attacks in India recently. They are not even covered in American newspapers.

In Hyderabad, in Bangalore, in a marketplace in Delhi, in historic and exquisite Jaipur, Islamic militants have struck repeatedly and fearlessly. Some are homegrown terrorists and others interlopers from scattered parts of the Islamic world, young Muslim men belonging to groups with creative names like SIMI or Student Islamic Movement of India, Indian Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, and now the Deccan Mujahideen.

They seem to sprout from the soil like weeds. Whack one and another takes his place at lightning speed. Those who have been caught are educated, highly adept at computers, many with engineering degrees, unapologetic about their violent activities, imbued with zeal and a sense of purpose about their war against humanity.

They have an assortment of grievances. They are furious about India’s hold on Muslim Kashmir, India’s presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, India’s cooperation with the United States in the war on terror and India’s treatment of her Muslim minority. To them their jihad is righteous because it exterminates Hindus who are idolaters and pagans. A few incidental Muslim casualties are sacrifices that must be made to advance the supremacy of Islam and avenge Islamic lives lost in Chechnya, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kashmir, Iraq and Afghanistan.

But if they had nothing to avenge, if the world rolled over at their feet and capitulated they would still fight. Fundamentally these men are bored with their lives. There is so much more excitement in striking fear across the world while global leaders look helpless, in chuckling over the defeat of entire squadrons of intelligence agents, police forces and armies, in being guerrilla warriors across cityscapes than there is in staying home, studying hard, being responsible and making something useful out of themselves.

Most young Islamic militants spring from moderate Islamic homes where parents seem asleep at the wheel. When their sons wear the Muslim garb, read the Koran and attend a mosque, many are hoodwinked into believing that this is a sign of deep spirituality. It may be the first sign of deep hate.

Extreme Islam is no more than a cult, it has the allure of addictive drugs, in its believers it causes the dysfunction of megalomania, it promises a utopia but it can only deliver a dystopia, and moderate Muslim parents must wake up to these facts. They should counsel their children better, stop sending them to dubious places of worship, supervise them more closely and teach them a different Koran from the one Osama bin Laden would have them learn.

Instead moderate Islam’s practitioners invent excuses for their inaction. They harp that Islam is peaceful and Muslims are unfairly demonized by the rest of the world. They blame the Jews, the Christians, the Hindus, the decadent and discriminatory West, the still to be settled Palestinian problem, the Kashmir issue, the Bush doctrine, anything but their own parental ineptitude for the Islamic terrorism that now grips the world in its diabolical arms.

Unless moderate Islam wages a successful war against the medieval forces of darkness for the hearts and minds of its misguided sheep, we are all lost. This war cannot be waged with guns and arms. It is a psychological war, a war of words and ideas, a war that should be fought and won within the four walls of each Muslim home.

I weep for beautiful Mumbai. It is a city that never sleeps, a city of lights and laughter, a vibrant place where rascals and saints, Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs struggle together for a better India. I am distraught and filled with a sense of doom as I was seven years ago on another fatal day, now simply known as 9/11.

Usha Nellore is a columnist living in Bel Air. Reach her at unellu@gmail.com.