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Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, Modernity Hardcover – October 6, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0801444371 ISBN-10: 0801444373 Edition: 1st

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Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, Modernity + Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden + The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11
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Product Details

  • Series: Crises in World Politics
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (October 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801444373
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801444371
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,331,871 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A brilliant long essay on the ethical underpinnings of modern jihad. . . . Martyrdom, observes Devji rightly, 'only achieves meaning by being witnessed by the media.' It is, in short, a horrendous form of advertising."—Max Rodenbeck, New York Review of Books, 11 August 2005

"Do not approach this challenging essay . . . expecting a familiar narrative of al-Qaeda and its founder, or of the eponymous 'war on terror.' Devji dispenses with conventional analysis and with much that is regarded as received wisdom. . . . Devji describes how jihad has subordinated the local to the global. He plays down its Middle Eastern origins and he stresses its diverse sources (Shia and Sufi as well as Sunni) as well as its heterodox innovations. Bin Laden's transformation of jihad, for example, from a collective to an individual duty, is a radical departure from the classical Islamic tradition. But how else could a global movement operate in a post-modern world where Muslims are moved to applause or to action by some spectacular act of violence, which they see on a television or computer screen? Conventional forms of top-down recruitment and mobilisation are, it seems, as passe as conventional politics. . . .Landscapes of the Jihad is, in its unconventional thinking, an oasis in the wearisome desert of al-Qaeda studies. It is, in the best possible sense, subversive."—The Economist, 10 November 2005

"One of the most intelligent analyses of the world-view of the militant Islamist."—Pankaj Mishra, The New Statesman, 28 November 2005

"I enjoyed Faisal Devji's extended essay, Landscapes Of The Jihad, in which Devji points out just how deeply unorthodox a Muslim Bin Laden is—not just in his espousal of indiscriminate violence but also his cult of martyrs and frequent talk of dream and visions, all of which derive from popular, mystical and Shia Islamic traditions, against which the orthodox has long struggled."—William Dalrymple, Sunday Herald (Glasgow)

"Landscapes of the Jihad is very short, closely and narrowly focused, thought-provoking, and elegantly written. . . . One refreshing aspect of Devji's book is that it leans heavily on evidence from an area often neglected by scholars writing about Islam—the Indian subcontinent and Afghanistan."—Carole Hillenbrand, Times Literary Supplement, August 4, 2006



"An erudite analysis of the rise of jihadism as almost a new 'sect' within Islam—one that combines mystical and traditional elements of Islam with a sophisticated globalization effort based on an ethical, rather than political, worldview."—Reza Aslan, Slate.com

"Faisal Devji's very original book analyzes Al Qaeda and jihad in metaphysical terms, discarding geostrategic and cultural factors. The West is also presented as a metaphysical entity. Globalization is thus not linked to strategy, territory, or culture. There emerge different 'landscapes': of jihad, of mysticism, of media and of film, all of which combine with each other. Jihad may appear extreme, but there is, paradoxically, common ground between jihadists and their opponents. Devji's original analysis of the writings of Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri is very illuminating and substantiates his iconoclastic approach."—Olivier Roy, author of Globalised Islam: The Search for a New Ummah

"No political theorist, anthropologist, or student of Islam will fail to be provoked and inspired by this brilliant analysis of Jihadi discourse. Faisal Devji moves effortlessly among theology, history, and cultural studies to give us the first major English-language interpretation of the moral world of contemporary Jihad."—Arjun Appadurai, author of Globalization

From the Inside Flap

"Faisal Devji's very original book analyzes Al Qaeda and jihad in metaphysical terms, discarding geostrategic and cultural factors. The West is also presented as a metaphysical entity. Globalization is thus not linked to strategy, territory, or culture. There emerge different 'landscapes': of jihad, of mysticism, of media and of film, all of which combine with each other. Jihad may appear extreme, but there is, paradoxically, common ground between jihadists and their opponents.   Devji's original analysis of the writings of Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri is very illuminating and substantiates his iconoclastic approach."— Olivier Roy, author of Globalised Islam: The Search for a New Ummah

"No political theorist, anthropologist, or student of Islam will fail to be provoked and inspired by this brilliant analysis of Jihadi discourse. Faisal Devji moves effortlessly among theology, history, and cultural studies to give us the first major English-language interpretation of the moral world of contemporary Jihad."—Arjun Appadurai, author of Globalization


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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By TF on March 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
How did Islam become a global phenomenon in Al-Qaeda's Jihad? This is the question that Faisal Devji seeks to address in his Landscapes of the Jihad. Devji argues that while violence is certainly the most visible part of Al-Qaeda's jihad, it should be taken into consideration with a "world of ethical, sexual, aesthetic, and other forms of behaviour" (xvi). Devji avoids attempting explaining contemporary Jihad as the result of political or nationalistic motivations. Instead, he argues that while Jihad is indeed meant to accomplish certain ends, it has become more ethical that political in nature. For example, Al-Qaeda, unlike the image portrayed by media in the west, actually has no "coherent vision or plan for the future" (4). Thus, it is absurd to suggest that Al-Qaeda's motivations stem from oppressive or disturbed conditions in the Muslim world. Indeed, most of the fighters in Al-Qaeda are actually privileged and inexperienced middle-class youth, who never had any experience of such conditions, choosing instead to "battle in more exotic locations like Bosnia, Chechnya, and Afghanistan" (4).

Devji believes it is high time scholarship began to distinguish global Jihad from local struggles. For Devji, Jihad today has become so globalized that it can be compared to environmental groups, supporters of disarmament, anti-abortion groups, etc. (12). Furthermore, contrary to popular views that all members of Al-Qaeda espouse a single school of Islamic law or thought, Devji shows that there instead exists a kind of pluralism, one that is accepting of "Arabs and non-Arabs, including even the Chinese" (16).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Charles P. Frederick on March 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a pretty good book with a few flaws. It has four main points.

1. Islamic terrorism is done as an ethical end in itself with vague political intentions.

2. Jihadists have failed to change politics in their home countries, so they get the international media's attention with violent attacks, and thus try to project responsibility for these local failures onto foreign (democratic) people that it is their responsibility to address the local political problems the jihadists have failed at.

3. Islamic terrorism is a disorganized movement that spreads organically--new cells are created by small, inspired groups...there is no hierarchy and no dogma...only the belief in suicide bombing against Westerners and secularists as a good deed.

4. Jihadism is historically divorced from other Islamic movements because it scorns the authority of ulama and because the individual terrorists have vastly differing individual beliefs. Its message is, in part, that each Muslim can interpret doctrine his own way, without a Qadi or other official to direct his beliefs.

However, there are a few problems with the book.

1. First of all, 75% of Devji's sources are interviews with bin Laden and al-Zawahiri from 1998, or 2001 interviews. He needs to interview a greater variety of jihadists in order to have a better picture.

2. Second, he completely ignores the situation in Iraq. Since 2003, the number of suicide attacks in Iraq has been vastly greater than those anywhere else in the past 10 years. And I would guess that the majority of those attacks have a specific goal--an Islamic state in Iraq. It's suspicious and statistically ridiculous to overlook Iraq.

All in all, he explains international terrorism well, but not local terrorism in places like Iraq or Palestine--which have specific political aims.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful By reader on April 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Since the previous reviewer has done an excellent job summarizing this complex, dazzling, often exhilirating book, I should just say that I was really struck by Devji's writerly gifts that make layered arguments accessible to a lay reader such as myself.
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