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The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global (Cambridge Middle East Studies) First Edition
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"Fawaz Gerges has written an authoritative, deeply-researched account of jihadist movements around the Middle East, and shows that these movements, far from monolithic, are rife with ideological and strategic debates. This stimulating and well-written book will be of great interest to the general reader and the specialist alike." Peter Bergen, CNN Terrorism Analyst and author of Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden
"No previous author has gone as far as Fawaz Gerges in explaining and illustrating the politics of Al Qaeda. On the basis of many interviews with jihadi militants, a close reading of the voluminous Arab literature thrown by its members, and, not least, the author's astute and historically informed judgment, he has produced a rich and most informative portrait of this movement. Identifying the political costs to the Arab world of this extreme, if very much minoritarian tendency, he also shows how repeated miscalculations by the West, from Afghanistan in the 1980s to Iraq after 2003, have given a new lease of life to the anger and fantasies of bin Laden and his followers." Professor Fred Halliday, London School of Economics, and author of Two Hours that Shook the World and 100 Myths About Islam
"His interviews are fascinating, disturbing and illuminating, and offer remarkably consistent arguments." Paula Newberg, Skidmore College
"...a few brave academics have stepped with books that evince a clearsighted vision and solid expertise. Among the best of these is Fawaz A. Gerges's The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global." --Chronicle of Higher Education, Juan R.I. Cole
"The title of Fawaz A. Gerges's incisive The Far Enemy refers to the al Qaeda term for the United States and its Western allies, but the book's focus is squarely on the internal divisions and ideological disputes that rent the jihadis during the mid-1990s." Bruce Hoffman, Washington Post Book World
The author uses primary Arabic sources and interviews with militants to give a fascinating account of one of the most complex phenomena in the contemporary Middle East. Highly recommended.
New York Times "Week in Review" section as suggested reading about Islam and its history.
"The book provides a remarkable picture of the complexity of the jihad movement in recent decades."
John Obert Voll, The International History Review
- Item Weight : 1.36 pounds
- Hardcover : 358 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780521791403
- ISBN-13 : 978-0521791403
- Dimensions : 6.3 x 0.98 x 9.25 inches
- Publisher : Cambridge University Press; First Edition (September 5, 2005)
- ASIN : 0521791405
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #5,064,250 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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This is a way of introducing this most important book by Fawz A. Gerges. Its central thesis is that the concept of Jihad is far from monolithic, but has splintered into many separate movements with very different agendas. According to Gerges these include a relatively small movement that adheres to the far enemy ideology of Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda movement. This movement see the principal threat to Islam as coming primarily from the U.S. and Israel as well as the West in general. Gerges does not discount the threat posed by this movement, but does note that it is very much a minority movement within a much broader spectrum of Jihadist movements. The inference from Gerges book is that if al Qaeda is understood for what it is, a relatively minor group in a much wider Jihadist movement, it can be better combated.
As Gerges makes clear the concept of Jihad is a complex one and requires a good deal knowledge to understand the implications of Jihadist movements for U.S. National Security. This is not a perfect book and Gerges is at best a pedestrian writer. Yet, the attentive reader can extract a good deal of relevant information about the ideology and institutional structure of the perpetrators of the dreadful attacks of September 11 2001.
the title of the work it-self 'The Far Enemy' begs in it-self, the rupture in the jihadist movement, as they turned their frame and focus from 'The Near Enemy', i.e the focus on toppling proxy regimes supported by the West, in Egypt in particular, and Algeria to the 'Far Enemy', i.e the United States in particular. with brutal suppression and oppression of the Islamists in Egypt and Algeria (which was an all out civil war), the very infra-structure of the irredentist movement, i.e the local jihadi movements was severely undermined, before the Russian Invasion
the Book contends, that the Russian Invasion, gave the likes of al-Zawahiri, the pre-text to train and re-organize them-selves in the beautiful land-scape of Afghanistan, not with the intent of assisting the Afghanis, but with the intent of garnering up more energy, training and organization, following the brutal repression of the jihadits in Egypt. many Islamic Countries, where happy to send elements of this Islamist out-fits to Afghanistan, to simply get them "off" their backs for the time being, and let the furor of their dis-agreements channeled into the Afghan conflict.
sad is the reality, that when the altristic jihadis who went there to defend the defenseless Afghanis returned home, they had to face the wrath, not only of the authorities, but also that of the un-willigness of the societies to integrate them. importantly, the doctrinal brain-washing which represented, the perpetuation of "jihad" as a defensive posture, was turned around and suggested as a "continious struggle" against the other. (this is the Qutbian paradigm, which is the hall mark of many jihadis)! left with such a large pool of highly trained, social mis-fits (it makes me think, about the prophetic tradition, that 'who-ever moves forward of the jama'ah ...', it places the onus and responsibility of the jama'ah to create avenues where their energies and motivations are duly applied and appreciated, and not let to wander off to the rants and raves of mis-fits like al-Zawahiri and Usama b Laden), it really presented a "social problem of sorts"!
but the reader ought not to be confused, and lump sum all jihadis and Islamists within the same category. there are and continue to exist various variations of Islamic Activities that are non jihadi in nature, and only contend a defensive jihad, building up societies, working with the given institutions.
so what was the turning point of this radical departure from the 'Near Enemy' to the 'Far Enemy', as it relates to al-Zawahiri, and his collusion with Usama b. Laden? several factors, but most of it with the decay and the loss of leadership within the Islamic Lands of these regional Islamists, followed by the utter failure of the Islamists to "integrate them-selves" within the Community (i.e they had seceeded out-side the realm of the Community). the Gulf War I provided for a pretext for Usama b Laden to turn the tables around, after being snubbed by the Saudi Royal Family, and the Saudi 'Ulama (including bin Baz and Uthmayin, who feared their lives). such an insult to the persona of Usama b Laden really catapulted him, and his journey from various Islamic Lands, eventually to Afghanistan, under the protection and aegis of the Taliban, and the Commander of the Faithful, Mulla Omar!
it was the collusion between al-Zawahiri and Usama b Laden that lead to the formation of al-Qaeda, with a very large following.
but the work, also sets to de-bunk and de-mythologize these aspects
1. that the jihadist movement was organized: there was and continues to be great opposition to the al-Qaeda Organization, evident even from the ranks and files of those who had served within al-Zawahiri. targetting the United States, lead in and of it-self the opening of two frontiers, which the Islamists were not able to contend with, and voiced their large opposition to it, but to no avail
2. that the jihadist movement represents the collectivity of the muslim participation: again, the current organization is lead mostly by "arabs", and there was extreme dis-pleasure expressed by non Arab jihadis on the preference given to the arab Jihadis, vis a vis money and positions of power within these organizations
3. the presence of shura: practically absent, since Usama b Laden, was not only able to gather followers by the dint of the personality cult, but was also able to suppress any dissenting opinions under the pre-text of the baya that was given to him/organization the work truly breaks down our frame of thought in lumping all jihadis, whether they by regional, irredentist (re-deeming the land of Afghanistan from the Russians) and trans-national as simply self-serving and false. given the retractions of several Islamists in the Islamic World and their out-spokenness against the jihadi posture that calls for a "clash of civilizations", it also helps to under-stand the short-comings of the 9-11 Commission in treating the subject at hand. while the 9-11 commission report does a brilliant work in breaking down the tragic events of 9-11 "tactically", there is a very little from the pespective of the nuanced analysis that comes from this work.
Top reviews from other countries
Gerges offers a penetrating critique of the shallow way in which terrorism and Islam are generally seen in the West. Through interviews with jihadis, a close reading of Al Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahiri's memoirs and examination of countless captured documents Gerges provides a look into the inner workings of the jihadi world--and acts as a counterweight to the sloppy scholarship that informs the prevailing ideas about Islamist terrorism.
The jihadist movement originates in the early 1970s as a reaction against the authoritarian regime in Egypt and was inspired by Sayyid Qutb. Qutb and the jihadis who followed in his wake elevated the importance of jihad, which they equated with armed struggle, believing it to be equal with the five pillars of Islam, a notion rejected by virtually every religious authority in the Islamic world.
Gerges points out that since the time of Mohammad, jihad has been seen as fard kifaya, or a collective duty, the agenda of which can only be determined by the whole community. Jihadis, on the other hand, consider it to be fard 'ayn, or a permanent and personal obligation. As such, jihadis believe that they are justified in taking up arms on their own authority.
Fawaz corrects misconceptions regarding jihad and its place in Islam. The first is to note that while all jihadis share this conception of jihad, they represent "a tiny ... minority," even among Islamists. Theirs is far from the dominant view. The second misconception--and the crux of this book's argument--is that the jihadist movement has always seen the U.S. as its primary enemy. Quite the contrary, Al Qaeda's attack on America was the result of a "civil war within the jihadist movement" and "represented a monstrous mutation, an implosion from within, not just another historical phase in the movement's evolution."
Jihadis always saw the near enemy as their main foe. `Apostate' rulers stood in the way of establishing an Islamic government. It was to this end that al-Jama'a al-Islamiya and Tanzim al-Jihad assassinated Anwar Sadat. As late as 1995, Zawahiri was preaching jihad against the near enemy exclusively. Despite his subsequent alliance with Osama bin Laden and his conversion to transnational terrorism, "the overwhelming majority of jihadis have been religious nationalists whose fundamental goal was to effect change in their own society."
Gerges exposes the fissures within jihadist movements which led to the rupture that created Al Qaeda style transnational terroristm. The Jihadists were defeated in Egypt and Algeria. By the mid-1990s, most of the leaders were dead or imprisoned. The place remaining for the jihadis was Afghanistan, home to mujahedeen who had served American foreign policy. Gerges points out that Muslim states themselves encouraged local jihadis to travel to Afghanistan in order to deflate the jihadist threat at home.
Zawahiri made the choice to join Bin Laden in the 1990s and subsume Tanzim al-Jihad into Al Qaeda--without the knowledge and against the wishes of his top lieutenants--because joining Al Qaeda would allow him to keep some of his influence in the jihadist universe. The only choices left to him were to join forces with a new breed of terrorists whose ideas he had never before championed, or to fade away into obscurity.
The collapse of traditional jihadis was intellectual as well as military. Far from being a vanguard, the jihadis "have conceptually reached a dead end and no longer possess radically original ideas of any consequence." Al Qaeda striking out at the United States was not the pinnacle of the jihadist movement. Rather, it was an act of desperation that aimed to save the sinking ship by precipitating a "clash of civilisations" with America that would bring the ummah, into the battle on the jihadists' side.
So, the 9/11 attacks were an utter failure. Islamic opinion after the attacks on America were almost universally critical of Al Qaeda. The criticism of the attacks in Muslim lands was barely mentioned in the Western media who, instead, prefer to portray Muslims in an almost universal bad light.
Gerges corrects this imbalance by delineating prevailing public opinion following the 9/11 attacks. While members of the intelligentsia and the religious leadership throughout Muslim lands were united in their opposition to Al Qaeda, the most vehement criticism came from members of al-Jama'a al-Islamiya itself, who hold Al Qaeda responsible for sullying the name of jihad and recklessly endangering the ummah as well.
No such complexities exist in the Western media, however. The schism within the jihadist movement simply does not fit the template of terrorism. Much more common is an uncritical acceptance of the notion of a `clash of civilisations'.
When seen through the lens of the Western media, the multiplicity of cultures in the Islamic world merges into an undifferentiated soup of anger and discontent. As Gerges points out, nothing could be further from the truth.
One of the reasons that people tend to conflate Al Qaeda's nihilistic vision with general Muslim sentiment is that too much Al Qaeda propaganda is taken at face value. Gerges takes the 9/11 Commission to task for their reliance on Al Qaeda sources, who are misleading. The transnational jihadis, who represent a tiny fraction of a tiny fraction, would like people to believe that they carry more weight than they do.
Gerges points out that Al Qaeda, after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, was on the verge of collapse. It was Bush's decision to invade Iraq that breathed new life into the organisation. The Bush administration has played into Al Qaeda's hands by uniting a substantial portion of the ummah in opposition to America's imperialist aims.