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Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy Hardcover – May 8, 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In September 2005, Gerges, an academic turned news commentator, published a rare and thoughtful piece of scholarship, The Far Enemy, that sought to map the different views within militant Islam's explosive underworld. Gerges argued nimbly, drawing upon numerous primary sources and firsthand interviews. After traveling across the Middle East and meeting with former jihadists, he learned that Islamic militants often disagreed on critical issues (including whether to attack the United States) and that their movement was far more variegated than Washington's official portrayal suggests. Published less than a year later, this new volume reads like a quicky follow-up. It covers similar ground, draws upon similar sources and is considerably more limited in its scholarly aspirations—although not, perhaps, in its commercial ones. Yet the follow-up may be the better book. Gerges has distilled his ideas to their core and done away with some of The Far Enemy's repetitions. The book's structure is also improved. It's now built around a series of profiles that give focus to each chapter and shed light on how key personalities within the jihadist vanguard see the world. Gerges even devotes time to his own upbringing in war-torn Lebanon, and although the veers into his personal story are not always relevant, they are fascinating in their own right, adding both intimacy and depth to this valuable book. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In America before 9/11, understanding violent Islamic radicalism was a prime concern mostly of Middle Eastern-studies academics. For that we can be grateful, at least when those academics write as unstuffily and accessibly as Gerges. A Greek Orthodox Lebanese Arab, Gerges has won the trust of some very prominent, formerly violent jihadists, whose personalities and words he uses to limn radical Islam with an intimacy other good explanatory works on violent Islam lack. His principal informants are Kamal al-Said Habib, cofounder of the largest jihadist organization, and, through interviews he didn't conduct, Osama bin Laden's former bodyguard, Abu-Jandal. Both have forsaken terrorism, though not violence. They exemplify a split in jihadism over whether to unite Muslim-majority nations under Islamic law or to radically expand Islam by destroying its enemies throughout the world (bin Laden's strategy). The split rather recalls that between Stalinists (advocating socialism in one country first) and Trotskyites (fomenting world revolution) in 1930s Communism, and Gerges insists that politics, not religion, is the root motivation of all organized jihad. The good news is that nonterrorist jihadists vastly outnumber terrorist jihadists; the bad, that Gerges' informants repudiate terrorism, not violence per se. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1 edition (May 8, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 015101213X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151012138
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,469,569 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In `Journey to the Jihadist', Fawaz Gerges, a professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Sarah Lawrence College, provides extremely valuable insight into the mindset of Islamic jihadist. Or more correctly, make that plural `mindsets' because the central message of Gerges work is that even among jihadists opinions vary widely as to correct principles, strategies, and tactics.

Gerges starts out with some background to the modern jihad movement and its founder Sayyid Qutb who matriculated at Stanford and Colorado State College of Education for two years in the 1940s. Qutb was appalled by the empty materialism and especially the sexual license he perceived. He returned to play an instrumental role in radicalizing the Muslim Brotherhood. Try The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (Vintage) by Lawrence Wright for a more detailed consideration of Qutb's role in the radicalizing of Islam.

Gerges, who was raised as Greek Orthodox in Lebanon, traces the development of the jihad through three generations starting with Kamal el-Said Habib. Kamal played a role in the 1981 assassination of Anwar Sadat, but later forswore violence as means to Islamize society for political means. The second generation is represented by Osama bin Laden's personal bodyguard Abu-Jandal . Gerges identifies the third generation as uneducated youth being radicalized by the American occupation of Iraq.

Gerges attempts to demonstrate that many if not most jihadists rejected bin Laden's attack on the West, some for moral reasons, more because they viewed it an ill-advised assault on the world's superpower. Much of the antipathy toward bin Laden flows, of course from Shiites.
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Format: Hardcover
Fawaz Gerges gives an intimate and nuanced look what constitutes as a Jihadist in today's post 9/11 world in this very anecdotal book. Gerges interviews a diverse cast of self proclaimed Jihadists from across the Arab world and mixes in a few personal tales from his childhood days in war torn Lebanon. As a result this book is relatively easy to read, flows well and is not as dry as other books on this subject that I've read.

Gerges's principal thesis seems to be that the Jihadist movement is far from being monolithic, elements within the community will differ on a wide variety of subjects that will range from goals to methods. This book does an excellent job in showing the various insights of Muslims. What was most surprising to me was the views of some of the very anti-American Jihadists that were interviewed by Gerges and their opposition to Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda movement. While they detest American foreign policy in general and specifically our support for Israel, they also believe that Bin Laden's actions are largely un-Islamic and extremely counterproductive for the global Jihad movement. I especially found fascinating his interviews with members of Hezbollah just after 9/11. They go to great lengths to denounce the horrific attack and to distinguish their movement from Bin Laden's.

What becomes apparent after reading this book is that there was an unique opportunity post-9/11 to engage some of the more moderate Jihadists and to quarantine the extreme sect represented by those like Bin Laden and Zawahiri. The war on terror cannot be won alone by smart bombs and soldiers. We need to find common ground and détente with the vast Muslim world that does not view world in the same nihilistic way as Bin Laden and his followers.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
_Journey of the Jihadist_ by Fawaz A. Gerges is a fascinating look at the evolution of Islam in the last three decades. Having done extensive interviews with many Islamists and translated documents previously not available in the West, Gerges showed how that for the last thirty years "an internal struggle has been waged for the soul of Islam," a struggle that affects the very foundations of Muslim society and politics.

The author believes that many in the West don't really comprehend the true relationship between religion and politics in the Middle East. Religion plays a huge role in Middle Eastern politics but often either as a tool or because it is the only outlet available for those unhappy with their governments (politicized religion has replaced secular nationalism as the dominant force in Muslim society). In many authoritarian regimes the only means of organizing and mobilizing activists who wish to change the political regime that governs their country is that centered on the mosque, as regional dictators have largely been successful in silencing their secular and non-religious opponents but would not dare to close down the mosques. Additionally, many of those who violently oppose a regime will couch their rhetoric and actions in religious terms in order to try and gain mass support, even though there might be many Muslims who come to regard the actions of ultramilitants as un-Islamic and even "nihilistic," having more in common with "more recent European, radical, ultraleftist, or Third Worldist movements" than with Islam. These ultraviolent groups wrote Gerges use religion only to serve their political goals, despite the fact that they don't act particularly religious at all.
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