To understand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's mindset and behavior requires a close scrutiny of the elaborate and intricate theology of Hujjatiyyah Shiism, perhaps the most fundamentalist of the numerous Shiite sects.

In the 1950s, a group of Islamic clergies led by Sheikh Mahmoud Halabi (a close

He sees himself as the personal vassal of the Mahdi-Messiah.

associate of Ayatollah Khomeini) formed a society called the Anjoman-e Khayryyehye Hujjatiyyah-ye Mahdaviat (Charitable Society of the Mahdi), based in Mashhad, Iran. The Hujjatiyyah society was mostly made up of the bazaar-i businessmen and fanatical mullahs. Among many things, they were against the communists, Marxists, atheists and, especially, the Baha'i. Their overarching raison d'être, however, was to prepare the world for the coming of the 12th Imam - the Mahdi.

The egomaniac President Ahmadinejad is a member of the Hujjatiyyah society. He sees himself as the personal vassal of the Mahdi-Messiah, or Hidden Imam, with whom he has fantasized tête-à-têtes all the time.

In the same fashion that George W. Bush has a spiritual advisor in Billy Graham, Ahmadinejad has one, too - Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi (the de facto leader of the Hujjatiyyah). He is known for his extremist views on Islam; he promotes suicide bombings, attacks on civilians in the West and once said, "If anyone tells you their own interpretation of Islam, punch them in the mouth!"

Ahmadinejad has, thus, in a short time, acquired a great many appellations. He is viewed as a zealot, a fascist, a fanatic, an anti-Semite, a lunatic and more. One prominent Western columnist called him "unhinged." All these labels aim, in part, to dismiss the man as an aberration, as someone who is in urgent need of psychological help, a person out of touch with reality, who represents nothing of substance.

Once again, the West is misreading and misjudging the people and the events in the Middle East, because it views things through its own prism.

Looking at the man through Western spectacles, Ahamedinejad indeed appears to be all of the above and more. Yet, he is far from unhinged. As a matter of fact, he is firmly hinged to a set of beliefs that dictate his views of the world and how he should deal with it from his position of power. Ahmadinejad's views are firmly rooted in the most orthodox philosophy of Shiism.

A prominent feature of a mentally disturbed person is the display of contradictory thoughts and behavior. Ahmadinejad's words, deeds and beliefs, however, show a fully coherent person. His "hinge," to the perception of many, may be dangerous and faulty; yet, he is not unhinged.

There is a full internal consistency in Ahmadinejad. Below are a few examples of his sayings, beliefs and actions. Whether one agrees or disagrees with them, they all fit

There is a full internal consistency in Ahmadinejad.

perfectly into a consistent pattern.

He literally believes in the imminent emergence of the Mahdi - the Shiites' promised one, who is expected to appear to set aright a decadent and wretched world.

He views himself as the vassal of the Mahdi, working for him and being accountable to him.

His main task is to prepare the world so as to hasten the Mahdi's coming. If this preparation requires much destruction and bloodshed, so be it.

As a former mayor of Tehran, he developed elaborate and detailed plans preparing the city for the arrival of the Mahdi.

He allocated generous sums for extensive road improvement to a mosque at Jamkaaraan, near the city of Qom, where it is believed the promised Mahdi is hiding in a well since the age of nine, over 1,100 years ago.

He reportedly visits the well frequently and drops his written supplications into the well for the hidden Mahdi to act upon them.

He has said in private that it was he who asked the Mahdi to inflict the massive stroke on Ariel Sharon.

He sees the Jews as the sworn enemies of Islam. The hostility dates back to the time of Muhammad's own treatment of the Jews in Medina. (At first, expediently, Muhammad called the Jews "people of the book," and accorded them a measure of tolerance - until he gained enough power to unleash his devastating wrath on them.)

He says that the Holocaust is a myth. He is, in this respect, in good company with a number of other revisionist claimants.

He wants Israel to be wiped off the map or transferred to Europe.

In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly, he implored the Mahdi to come and save the world. He claimed that, during his speech of some twenty-odd minutes, a powerful light enveloped him and all participants were held transfixed, unable to move their eyes.

He believes that the earth is Allah's and all people must either become believers of his brand of Islam or must perish as infidels, najis (unclean) who, by their very presence, defile Allah's earth.

He believes that this earthly life is passing and worthless in comparison to the afterlife awaiting a devoted and faithful believer. Hence, he holds to the old belief that if a faithful Muslim kills an infidel, he goes to Allah's paradise; and, if the faithful gets killed in the process of serving the faith, again he goes to Allah's paradise. Hence, it is a win-win proposition for the faithful.

Unpredictability, self-contradiction and inconsistency are major symptoms of the mentally unstable. By these standards of insanity, Ahmadinejad emerges as completely sane. He is fully predictable, consistent and has shown no self-contradiction. He does not even pretend that he misspoke, nor does he apologize for his outrageous statements. He is not a typical politician who practices the devious art of doublespeak, deception and change of position to suit the audience. He is a true, devoted Muslim. 
Ahmadinejad knows who he is, what he believes, what he holds as veritable truth and what his own mission in life is - serving as the instrument for the revered Mahdi. By this belief system, Allah shall make the Mahdi emerge from his well as soon as the world's conditions hit the absolute hopeless bottom. Ahmadinejad sees himself as someone who can play a critical role in doing just that - driving the world to the very bottom.

Ahamadinejad is simply a fanatic who is wedded to an extremely dangerous, exclusionary system of belief. Humanity must learn that dismissing the likes of Ahmadinejad and Hitler as lunatic or unhinged, rather than squarely facing them as fanatics, results in great suffering.

Tragically, Ahmadinejad is not alone. He is the embodiment of several million people who are "hinged" exactly like him and are willing to give their life, and take as many lives as

Tragically, Ahmadinejad is not alone.

required, in the service of their belief. In the age of Weapons of Mass Destruction, a man with huge sums of petrodollars can indeed serve as the catalyst of total annihilation. It is by far more prudent to err on the side of alarmism than on the side of complacent dismissiveness.

Ahmadinejad and his ilk are not interested in any negotiation, any compromise or any live-and-let-live arrangements. They are determined to be the soldiers of the Mahdi, come what may. They have no problem with the total destruction of the world. They believe they are headed for a life of eternal bliss in Allah's paradise. They would hardly care - they may even rejoice - if the rest of humanity is subjected to a tragic death in a nuclear, biological and chemical wasteland on planet Earth.

Humanity cannot afford, and must not ignore, the emergence of the latest threat to its very existence on this planet.