- Hardcover: 384 pages
- Publisher: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press; Annotated edition edition (April 30, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 067402804X
- ISBN-13: 978-0674028043
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,433,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Al Qaeda in Its Own Words Hardcover – April 30, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
With this book, Kepel and Milelli, professors at the Institute for Political Studies in Paris, have produced a seminal study of al-Qaeda, introducing the key texts and figures inspiring this still shadowy movement. Al-Qaeda's roots can be traced to Palestinian scholar/activist Abdallah Azzam, the Imam of Jihad, whose writings imbued messianic and militant elements into the struggle in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi were profoundly influenced by Azzam's work and eventually established martyrdom operations as the vehicle to secure religious legitimacy for their political aims. Al-Qaeda's writings, mostly disseminated electronically, emphasize Islam's unending struggle to establish its domination over its eternal enemies: the unbelievers, the infidels, the apostates. Kepel and Milelli compellingly present the online texts that serve as al-Qaeda's doctrine, dissecting the discourse and identifying the images and rhetoric al-Qaeda depends upon. This view of al-Qaeda from within presents sobering evidence of the threat al-Qaeda poses and is an indispensable read. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Most Americans may think they already know everything they need to know about Al Qaeda's founding figures, short of the survivors' physical location. Sooner or later, from natural or unnatural causes, Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri will die. Their positions, arguments, and references, however, will not. This book--and especially the information supplied in the notes--offers its readers a guided tour of Al Qaeda's intellectual and discursive world. It is a tour we all need to take, and the sooner the better.
--Anne Sa'adah, Dartmouth College
With this book, Kepel and Milelli, professors at the Institute for Political Studies in Paris, have produced a seminal study of al-Qaeda, introducing the key texts and figures inspiring this still shadowy movement...Kepel and Milelli compellingly present the online texts that serve as al-Qaeda's "doctrine," dissecting the discourse and identifying the images and rhetoric al-Qaeda depends upon. This view of al-Qaeda from within presents sobering evidence of the threat al-Qaeda poses and is an indispensable read. (Publishers Weekly 2008-02-11)
Despite all the political and popular attention that it has received in the last six years, Al Qaeda's essential worldview still remains largely unexplained. Written statements and television appearances by its leaders provide an occasional glimpse. This book is an incisive insight into the intellectual and discursive world of Al Qaeda that might just survive the lifetime of its present leadership. To reveal its inner workings, Gilles Kepel and his collaborators have collected and annotated key texts of the major figures from whom the movement has drawn its beliefs--Azzabdallah Azzam, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama Bin Laden, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. (Businessworld 2007-12-28)
Impeccably researched and richly detailed...[Al Qaeda in Its Own Words] provides readers with some insight into and understanding of the theology and doctrine that forged al-Qa'ida and the rationale that has driven its global terror campaign for almost two decades...[The] collection of jihadist excerpts and extant commentary offers fascinating views of the personal motivations and historical influences that shaped bin Laden...A volume indispensable to a better understanding of the group's world view. Kepel's precise and brilliantly written introduction to the writings and statements, of bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Abdallah Azzam and Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, immediately articulates the difference between the tactic of terrorism (so much the focus of Western democracies' war on terror) and al-Qa'ida's overarching doctrine as an organization that seeks to reshape the world in its own image.
--Peter Khalil (The Australian 2008-09-03)
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The actual words of Al-Qaeda are rarely analyzed or placed in context. Obvious contradictions--such as Al-Qaeda's constant protestations to Americans that its war on them is a response to and derives from U.S. foreign policy while telling Muslims that the jihad must persevere until the globe is governed according to Islamic law--are ignored.
Where objective analysis is wanting, apologetics and hackneyed psychoanalyses predominate: Thus, the "neocons" are akin to Al-Qaeda since "the dual undertakings of 9/11 and the American attack on Iraq ... mirrored each other"; bin Laden--that "nervous, flaccid, eternal adolescent"--opted for a life of jihad due to his "devouring" need for "recognition"; whereas Islamists such as Sayyid Qutb and Ayman al-Zawahiri chose jihad due to the "trauma" and "humiliation" they underwent in Egyptian prisons.
The editors also fail to explain the logic of their selections. Aside from the natural inclusion of bin Laden and Zawahiri--the two men at the heart of Al-Qaeda before and after 9/11--how, exactly, do the two dead fellows (Azzam, Zarqawi) fit in?
Though his writings are an important contribution to the vast corpus of jihadi literature, Azzam, dead since 1989, "can be held responsible only indirectly for the transformation of some Afghan Arab factions into terrorist organizations [i.e., Al-Qaeda]." As for Zarqawi--who had his own agenda and whose claim to fame lay in sheer barbarism and the practice of decapitation--one is at a loss to understand what value his anti-Shi'i diatribes have for understanding Al-Qaeda as an organization and not merely an amorphous body of Salafi jihadism.
To justify the decapitator's inclusion, the editors magnify his legacy, telling us that Zarqawi "ignited and fuelled a civil war with religious overtones between Shi'ites and Sunnis." In fact, the 1,400-year-old Sunni/Shi'i conflict required the elimination of an iron-fisted Saddam Hussein rather than the appearance of a Zarqawi to flare up again.
Much of this confusion could have been excused if the material contained in the book offered readers, as the jacket-cover promises, an "unprecedented glimpse" into the worldview of Al-Qaeda. The fact is that nearly every document contained in Al Qaeda was published earlier in other volumes or on the Internet.
In order to make an original contribution, the editors could have tried offering new insights or analyses on their unoriginal material. Instead, they seem to have taken the easy road by putting together a hodgepodge of previously published material, while offering only banal "analyses" and no synthesis.