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The Taliban: War, Religion and the New Order in Afghanistan Paperback – September 15, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Marsden has written a compact book about the ultra-fundamentalist Islamic movement known as the Taliban that has ruled most of Afghanistan since 1996. Afghanistan, one of the world's least developed countries, has had a tortuous history in recent decades. The Soviet invasion in 1979 led to a brutal war that set the stage for the internecine civil war that has engulfed Afghanistan unabated. The Taliban's leaders view other Muslim groups as not sufficiently Islamic and have set out to replace them by force. The author, information coordinator of the British Agencies Afghanistan Group and a research associate at Queen Elizabeth House in Oxford, traces the genesis and development of the Taliban and places the movement within Afghanistan's societal and ethnic mosaic. He also analyzes the group's ideology and policies within the context of domestic Afghan and regional politics. This informative and readable guide to the labyrinth of contemporary Afghanistan is useful for both general readers and academics alike.?Nader Entessar, Spring Hill Coll., Mobile, AL
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

The Taliban, following their takeover of all but the northern sliver of Afghanistan in 1996, have become rather notorious in the West for the severity of their imposition of religious law, particularly for ejecting women from all workplaces. No girls may be educated, so the Taliban order, until a proper Islamic school system is in place. So whence come the beliefs behind these policies and the people who hold them? Among the several positive attributes of Marsden's survey of recent Afghan history is his tracing of Taliban views to the ascetic Sunni Wahhabi movement in 1700s Arabia. The inheritors of Wahhabiism, the Saudis, supported the Taliban movement, but Marsden explains that it grew fast for reasons internal to Afghanistan--namely, the perceived corruption of the Mujahidin factions that fought the Soviets and the anarchy their infighting visited upon the country. Striving for objectivity, Marsden elucidates what the Taliban have done, the spectrum of opinion within the movement, and its tense relations with international aid agencies. This is the only book in print about the Taliban. Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Politics in Contemporary Asia
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Zed Books (September 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1856495221
  • ISBN-13: 978-1856495226
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,808,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Sandra D. Peters on September 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
In light of the tragedy in the United States of America, this book may become popular as more people attempt to learn more about Afghanistan and the Taliban. I was able to read this book in a couple of hours; it is very short. The material itself sheds light on the Taliban, religious law, history, politics and its relationship with international agencies. In our modern-day North American society, it is difficult to comprehend women being ejected from the workplace under religious law, but as the author points out, it is a fact.
While the book did provide some concrete knowledge on the Taliban, I found there were parts of the book that did not thoroughly address the issues presented, and at the end of the book, I was left with more questions than answers. It touched on many issues but seemed to only very briefly skim the surface and the reader was left feeling there was more left out than said. For this reason, the book lost stars in the rating.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By sootica on October 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
I found this book to be more "textbookish" than the other books I have read recently about the Taliban. It has a more dry academic style than the other two books that I'd recommend about the subject: The New Jackals: Ramsi Yousef, Osama bin Laden, and the Future of Terrorism, by Simon Reeve, and Taliban, Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, by Ahmed Rashid. However, I felt that this book was still valuable. It has a more indepth discussion of the history of Afghanistan than the other two, and much more detail about the Northern Alliance, and makes it clear how difficult it will be to unite the Afghan people even after the Taliban are gone. As I read about the various factions there, I began to feel that I needed to write out a cast of characters, just to keep track of them all, and I also gained a sense that none of the various factions involved are particularly savory. Since it is several years old, recent events such as destruction of Bamiyan Buddhas, and of course, the WTC, are not discussed, but the book still presents a valuable overview of the backgrounds of the war we are facing now.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ken Miller on September 29, 2001
Format: Paperback
I just read Peter Marsden's book _The Taliban: War, Religion, and the New Order in Afghanistan_. It's a short, well-reasoned introduction to the Taliban.
Chapters on The Mujahaddin illuminate the Afghan-Soviet War, and the Islamic Resistance. Marsden comes to tell how several specific factions within Afghanistan were recognized by the government of Pakistan...then, American weaponry was channeled through Pakistan to those groups. After the Soviet-Afghan war, those groups fought among themselves for power in Afghanistan. Years later, out of the chaos sprang the Taliban.
There are other good chapters on the history of Afghanistan in general, The Taliban creed, earlier movements in Afghanistan, Taliban's relationship with the rest of the world, esp. humanitarian agencies in Afghanistan, and the gender policies of the Taliban.
Marsden's angle is definitely one of cultural relativism. He repeatedly asserts that the Taliban are operating out of a totally different value system than the "liberal" or "Western" world. Humanitarian agencies are serving in a country where women cannot vote, work as they wish, drive, or walk uncovered in public. Indeed, women have been beaten for violating the strict public dress code. However, Marsden states, common ground must be found, if there is to be any humanitarian aid at all. The author also reminds us that our view of Islam and The Taliban is colored by our place in the world, our "Western" biases, et cetera.
All in all, this is a good introduction to the Taliban. I'm not sure if I can agree with the author's assessment of how many Afghans actually support the Taliban, but generally this is a good introductory book on the subject. The book is short and to the point. There is a helpful chronology in the front, and a short bibliography and index are in the back.
If you're only going to read one book on The Taliban, you could do worse.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By M. Pollard on September 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
Written in 1998 this book will seem dated to those who have become CNN junkies over the past weeks. Good coverage of the rise and roots of the Taliban but, Ahmed Rashid's Taliban:Militant Islam,Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia is more up to date and detailed.(also cheaper...)
Good coverage of NGO and UN relations with the Taliban that you will not find covered as well elsewhere.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
Reading this book made me wish I had read it before I read Ahmed Rashid's book, Taliban. It puts many issues in focus, giving the reader a basic starting point for further research, but that is all it really does. His bibliography was limited to 13 book resources and the text is scattered with clips from Taliban radio but it doesn't really "break out the box" per se, giving no real indepth viewpoints any more than a school textbook. And it is much related to a school textbook because those book sources seem mostly to be secondary sources. He mentions Osama Bin Laden in only one paragraph and never at all speaks of Al Qaeda forces.
But in the conclusion he mentions the purpose of his book being to rid people of stereotypes about Islamic movements and to show the conflict in communication between Islam and the West. In the case of the former, he pretty much succeeds. In the later, I'd read Rashid for a better anwer than Marsden.
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