- Hardcover: 364 pages
- Publisher: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. (April 26, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1860646859
- ISBN-13: 978-1860646850
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,435,108 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam Hardcover – Import, April 26, 2002
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Gilles Kepel's Jihadis an intense, detailed examination of the militant Islamist movement over the last quarter-century. Kepel divides his book into two parts--"Expansion" and "Decline"--and posits that the September 11, 2001, attacks, rather than demonstrating "strength and irrepressible might," highlighted the "isolation" and "fragmentation" of a "faltering" and probably doomed extremist ideology. Kepel follows Islamism from its theoretical underpinnings in the late 1960s and its rapid expansion into Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans, and Central, South, and Southeast Asia, through the Taliban's ascendancy in Afghanistan and beyond. He explains Islamism's attractions, and outlines its severe shortcomings. With consummate skill, he illuminates the bewilderingly intricate effects global events (oil prices, the fall of Communism) have had on internal politics of individual countries, and vice versa. Kepel, wisely, refuses to prognosticate. Instead, his achievement is in providing--for the determined reader--a deeply authoritative context for the seemingly inexplicable events of the recent past. --H. O'Billovich --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
In this history of fundamentalist Islam, Kepel stands conventional wisdom on its head, asserting that the spate of Islamist violence during the last few years is a result not of the movement's success, but of its failure. A professor at Paris's Institute for Political Studies, Kepel clearly traces the rise of the contemporary Islamist movement from its origins in the mid-20th century through its later appearance in countries such as Malaysia, Algeria and Turkey, as well as in Western Europe. Its apogee, he argues cogently, was the 1979 revolution in Iran that brought about the defeat of the Shah and the rise of a fundamentalist Islamic regime. But while ideologies that fused Islam with political power gained adherents throughout the world in the ensuing 20 years, says Kepel, in no other country were Islamists able to seize and hold power for more than a few years, a factor that he attributes to the ideology's inability to attract both the middle class and the poor. "Muslims no longer view Islamism as the source of utopia, and this more pragmatic vision augurs well for the future," he writes. Despite some outpourings of support, he believes, Osama bin Laden and his followers squandered much of the movement's political capital with its attacks on American institutions, most notably the World Trade Center. Kepel's approach is not without weaknesses in many places around the globe, fundamentalist political Islam has transformed society and politics, even if Islamists have not been able to attain political rule. But amid the plethora of books on Islam released since September 11, this work stands out, both for its erudition and its provocative thesis.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Kepel comes to an interesting and controversial conclusion. At a time when the US administration is making vast increases to the budget to fight the war on terror (against Muslim terrorists), Kepel writes that Islamism has seen its peak as a political movement and has been on the decline since the mid 1990's. He wrote in his conclusion:
"In spite of what many hasty commentators contended in its (September 11th) immediate aftermath, the attack on the United States was a desperate symbol of isolation, fragmentation, and decline of the Islamist movement, not a sign of its strength and irrepressible might."
My reaction to this conclusion (I read the conclusion before reading the entire book) was similar to what Walter Laqueur wrote in his article `A Failure of Intelligence', published in The Atlantic Monthly - March 2002:
"However, the same conditions that gave birth to Islamism thirty years ago persist: economic stagnation or even negative growth, the unemployment of the young. So do resentment and free-floating rage. If Islamism is bankrupt, where is the ideology to replace it?"
These are good observations, but they miss the point of Kepel's book. Kepel does not cover what he thinks will replace Islamism. Laqueur's arguments make me wonder if he even read the entire book. (Laqueur also finishes with some ridiculous statements about a lack of Middle Eastern self-criticism, which makes it sound like Laqueur has digested the ideas of the famous orientalist Bernard Lewis more than anything Kepel wrote.) Kepel is not making a sweeping statement about Islam and the West - that the tension is over and everyone will live happily ever after. Kepel realizes there will be violence in the name of Jihad. For example, his conclusion also stated:
"This does not mean that we shall not see other outbursts of terrorism that claim the mantle of jihad. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular will be ripe for more violence."
Kepel's book is more informed and specific than Laqueur acknowledges. It is about specific movements within the Islamic world, started by theorists such as Mawdudi from Pakistan or Qutb from Egypt. These movements seemed to be ready to take over the Middle East as recent as five years ago. Islamist movements succeeded in Iran and Afganistan, and in various other places in the Middle East. But since then the theories behind Islamism have not been as accepted. This is due to complex reasons, such as the increased power of the middle class in the various countries, which Kepel covers in detail.
If there is a fault in Kepel's `Jihad', it is that the text takes a while to get used to, since it was originally written in French. I found myself reading some paragraphs two or three times over - especially in the first half. I'm not sure if I got used to the text in the second half, or the writing improved. Also, he could have spent some pages on a definition of Islamism - what theorists such as Mawdudi and Qutb wanted. You would have to get that research from another book, such as Qutb's `Milestones'.