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Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror Hardcover – November 13, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: I. B. Tauris (November 13, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1850433968
  • ISBN-13: 978-1850433965
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,518,674 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Not many reporters have firsthand experience of terrorist camps, but Burke, chief reporter for London's Observer, achieved it during the 2001 war in Afghanistan. His nuanced investigation into Islamic extremist groups benefits as a result; his depth of knowledge is clear as he paints a complex portrait of al-Qaida and related groups. The outfit often called al-Qaida is, he says, actually a loose amalgam of groups that share a similar worldview: a belief in Islamic fundamentalism and antagonism toward the West. This is not new, but Burke writes clearly, and his descriptions of terror camps and religious schools-even a brief description of a bombing campaign in Afghanistan-make his work more lively and powerful than most of the recent books on the subject. Similarly, he shows that Osama bin Laden is less central to the enterprise than Western leaders think; the Islamist movement is longstanding and widespread: "This movement is growing. Osama bin Laden did not create it nor will his death or incarceration end it." As a result, he argues, the U.S. focus on bin Laden and al-Qaida is misguided and ultimately a waste of time-in fact, he says, it will only create more bin Ladens. Only a battle to "win the hearts and minds" of the Islamic world will effectively counteract the terrorist phenomenon. Unfortunately, Burke fails to address how this might be done, but he's made a strong argument that it is the road to take. Maps not seen by PW.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"An accurate analysis...an informative book."-- Albert Smith, The Irish Independent
"A must-read...Burke's sophisticated view of Al-Qaeda is convincing. Burke's book is the one that will last. It's a triumph."--Giles Foden, The Guardian
"This book is an eye-opener... authoritative and detailed"--Hazhir Teimourian, The Literary Review
"This young, impassioned journalist has made an important contribution to the growing literature on al Qaeda."-Jeff Stein, Washington Post Book World
"He has given us an indispensable guide to the multidimensional reality of Al-Qaeda"-- John Gray, New Statesman
"...more lively and powerful than most of the recent books on the subject."--Publishers Weekly
"...Burke has taken the time to sort it out...compulsory reading for Rumsfeld and his clique."--Sam Kiley, The Evening Standard (UK)
"Fascinating...packed full with totally new material."--Gilles Kepel, author of Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam
"...a book which vastly increases our understanding of the Al-Qaeda phenomenon. Burke writes with admirable lucidity and the benefit of his frontline reporting and deep research."--Peter Bergen, author of Holy War, Inc.


"...more lively and powerful than most of the recent books on the subject."
(Publishers Weekly 20030707)

" This book is an eye-opener... authoritative and detailed"
(Hazhir Teimourian The Literary Review )

"This young, impassioned journalist has made an important contribution to the growing literature on al Qaeda."
(Jeff Stein Washington Post Book World )

"He has given us an indispensable guide to the multidimensional reality of Al-Qaeda"
(John Gray New Statesman )

"...Burke has taken the time to sort it out...compulsory reading for Rumsfeld and his clique."
(Sam Kiley The Evening Standard (UK) )

"Fascinating...packed full with totally new material."
(Gilles Kepel Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam )

"...a book which vastly increases our understanding of the Al-Qaeda phenomenon. Burke writes with admirable lucidity and the benefit of his frontline reporting and deep research."
(Peter Bergen Holy War, Inc. )

"Jason Burke... has made an entirely persuasive case. ...This young, impassioned journalist has made an important contribution to the growing literature on al Qaeda."
(Jeff Stein Washington Post Book World 20030914)

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Customer Reviews

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This book is the definitive account for both experts and amateurs.
Eyes Have Miles
It's the most honest book I've read on radical islam, so for that reason it's the best.
Colin
I recommend this book as the definitive guide on Terrorism in the 21st century.
Munawar Ali

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Tim F. Martin on October 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
_Al-Qaeda_ by Jason Burke is an excellent and well-researched book on the structure, history, philosophy, goals, and future of not only of al-Qaeda itself but of other militant movements within the Islamic world.

Most fascinating to me was that the book was as much as about what al-Qaeda wasn't as about what it was (and is). Al-Qaeda is one of the most misused, overused, and misunderstood words in the media today, one that has artificially been imposed upon a rather large and diverse group of Islamist groups beginning in the early 1990s.

In Arabic, al-Qaeda is basically an abstract noun, one meaning "base," as in a camp or a home, or "foundation," as is what is under a house. It can also mean "pedestal," such that what supports a column, and also can mean "rule," "formula," "method," and "pattern." It has been in use since at least the mid-1980s among the Islamic radicals fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, though Burke wrote that this should not be surprising, as it is a common Arabic word. Generally the term since then has not been used to describe an extant organization, but actually a purpose and a function. One of the first times the term was encountered was from the name of a terrorist manual, entitled _Al-Qaeda_, obtained from Ahmed Ajaj, detained months before the 1993 World Trade Center attack and later convicted for his role in that assault. The title was translated at the time as meaning "the basic rules" and Burke felt that was the correct translation; that it is not the name of a group being used but rather it is being used in its sense of a "maxim" or the "fundamentals.
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31 of 39 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Ever since 1998 (the year of the embassy bombings), I've actively searched for good books about al-Qaeda. This book is probably the best that I've read. Only Peter Bergen's "Holy War Inc" approaches it in quality. In a comparison of Burke and Bergen's books, I would say the former is more up-to-date and with more analysis; the latter is slightly more readable. In total, I would give Burke's book the edge simply by reason of it being newer:
The Very Good:
1. The chapters explaining the al-Qaeda viewpoint are excellent.
2. The details about the Cole plot and the Millenium conspiracy are very good.
3. The analogy of the hard-core al-Qaeda being a "venture capital firm" of terrorism (or a library or newspaper) is quite apt and very interesting.
The Not So Good:
1. The book rambles in a couple of spots.
2. The author does not provide any concrete road map for combating the al-Qaeda "ideology."
**************************
Another thing I would like to comment on is the fact that both Clarke and Bergen's books pass a number of tests for me about whether they are worth reading (I suggest readers apply them when considering buying future books on this topic):
1. They don't blame the US or the West for the problem. This is a very annoying characteristic of a lot of writing about Bin Laden. Some people out there just refuse to accept that sometimes people do very bad things for no good reasons at all.
2. They don't say that our problems with Bin Laden will disappear if we are more even-handed in dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
3. They don't propose or even waste time by considering idiotic conspiracy theories such as the idea that Bin Laden was behind Oklahoma City, TWA 800, and other unconnected tragedies and terrorist events.
So read this book and learn something!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Munawar Ali on August 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is a compilation of really good research (all footnoted), personal interviews, and eyewitness accounts of events that have occurred from 1990 forward. Mr. Burke's analysis is top notch, and accurate for the most part.

That's all jim-dandy, but what sets this book apart from the rest, is Mr.Burke's understanding of the religion of Islam, Muslims, and the extremist mindset. Generally, most authors lack knowledge of Islam, and thus draw incorrect conclusions.

The book is objectively written, with minimal personal opinions or diatribes. (That's a positive). I recommend this book as the definitive guide on Terrorism in the 21st century.

Having said that, the Conclusion chapter is bad, and seems to be written by a PR person. Conclusions that do not line up with what Mr.Burke said in the book...But aside from this, a good read.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
At last! What is destined to become the seminal publication on this important issue. Does not buy into the media myths about Al-Qaeda. Highly accessable, readable and tells you everything you need to know about modern Islamic terrorism and the philosphy that is Al-Qaeda.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By David Anderson on December 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Thematically and factually Burke has done it better than any of his peers. This is a must read.
He glosses over a few things (why the Pentagon changed his name from non-threatening Osama to icky and frightening sounding Usama, as well as the fact there's no Iraqi terrorism against the US) perhaps in a bid to be non-partisan, which he is.
But his intensive research and unique and thoughtful assertions that militant Islam is so much bigger than Al Qaida, and his exploration of Al Qaida itself as a vague sideline player challenges the dumbed down childish media image of the organization. And he does it all without recourse to "send a message" "wake up call" mindless cliche drivel. This book is the "anti Fox news" without being partisan.
There's no better book on this subject, and I've read almost all of them.
David Anderson, JD, BA ( Middle East politics), NYC
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