Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, Modernity (Crises in World Politics) 1st Edition
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"Do not approach this challenging essay . . . expecting a familiar narrative of al-Qaeda and its founder, or of the eponymous 'war on terror.' Devji dispenses with conventional analysis and with much that is regarded as received wisdom. . . . Devji describes how jihad has subordinated the local to the global. He plays down its Middle Eastern origins and he stresses its diverse sources (Shia and Sufi as well as Sunni) as well as its heterodox innovations. Bin Laden's transformation of jihad, for example, from a collective to an individual duty, is a radical departure from the classical Islamic tradition. But how else could a global movement operate in a post-modern world where Muslims are moved to applause or to action by some spectacular act of violence, which they see on a television or computer screen? Conventional forms of top-down recruitment and mobilisation are, it seems, as passe as conventional politics. . . .Landscapes of the Jihad is, in its unconventional thinking, an oasis in the wearisome desert of al-Qaeda studies. It is, in the best possible sense, subversive."―The Economist, 10 November 2005
"One of the most intelligent analyses of the world-view of the militant Islamist."―Pankaj Mishra, The New Statesman, 28 November 2005
"I enjoyed Faisal Devji's extended essay, Landscapes Of The Jihad, in which Devji points out just how deeply unorthodox a Muslim Bin Laden is―not just in his espousal of indiscriminate violence but also his cult of martyrs and frequent talk of dream and visions, all of which derive from popular, mystical and Shia Islamic traditions, against which the orthodox has long struggled."―William Dalrymple, Sunday Herald (Glasgow)
"Landscapes of the Jihad is very short, closely and narrowly focused, thought-provoking, and elegantly written. . . . One refreshing aspect of Devji's book is that it leans heavily on evidence from an area often neglected by scholars writing about Islam―the Indian subcontinent and Afghanistan."―Carole Hillenbrand, Times Literary Supplement, August 4, 2006
"An erudite analysis of the rise of jihadism as almost a new 'sect' within Islam―one that combines mystical and traditional elements of Islam with a sophisticated globalization effort based on an ethical, rather than political, worldview."―Reza Aslan, Slate.com
"Faisal Devji's very original book analyzes Al Qaeda and jihad in metaphysical terms, discarding geostrategic and cultural factors. The West is also presented as a metaphysical entity. Globalization is thus not linked to strategy, territory, or culture. There emerge different 'landscapes': of jihad, of mysticism, of media and of film, all of which combine with each other. Jihad may appear extreme, but there is, paradoxically, common ground between jihadists and their opponents. Devji's original analysis of the writings of Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri is very illuminating and substantiates his iconoclastic approach."―Olivier Roy, author of Globalised Islam: The Search for a New Ummah
"No political theorist, anthropologist, or student of Islam will fail to be provoked and inspired by this brilliant analysis of Jihadi discourse. Faisal Devji moves effortlessly among theology, history, and cultural studies to give us the first major English-language interpretation of the moral world of contemporary Jihad."―Arjun Appadurai, author of Globalization
"Landscapes of the Jihad is very short, closely and narrowly focused, thought-provoking, and elegantly written.... One refreshing aspect of Devji's book is that it leans heavily on evidence from an area often neglected by scholars writing about Islam―the Indian subcontinent and Afghanistan."-- Carole Hillenbrand, Times Literary Supplement, August 4, 2006
- Item Weight : 12 ounces
- Hardcover : 208 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0801444373
- ISBN-13 : 978-0801444371
- Product Dimensions : 5 x 0.88 x 7.5 inches
- Publisher : Cornell University Press; 1st Edition (October 5, 2005)
- Reading level : 18 and up
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,946,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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1. Islamic terrorism is done as an ethical end in itself with vague political intentions.
2. Jihadists have failed to change politics in their home countries, so they get the international media's attention with violent attacks, and thus try to project responsibility for these local failures onto foreign (democratic) people that it is their responsibility to address the local political problems the jihadists have failed at.
3. Islamic terrorism is a disorganized movement that spreads organically--new cells are created by small, inspired groups...there is no hierarchy and no dogma...only the belief in suicide bombing against Westerners and secularists as a good deed.
4. Jihadism is historically divorced from other Islamic movements because it scorns the authority of ulama and because the individual terrorists have vastly differing individual beliefs. Its message is, in part, that each Muslim can interpret doctrine his own way, without a Qadi or other official to direct his beliefs.
However, there are a few problems with the book.
1. First of all, 75% of Devji's sources are interviews with bin Laden and al-Zawahiri from 1998, or 2001 interviews. He needs to interview a greater variety of jihadists in order to have a better picture.
2. Second, he completely ignores the situation in Iraq. Since 2003, the number of suicide attacks in Iraq has been vastly greater than those anywhere else in the past 10 years. And I would guess that the majority of those attacks have a specific goal--an Islamic state in Iraq. It's suspicious and statistically ridiculous to overlook Iraq.
All in all, he explains international terrorism well, but not local terrorism in places like Iraq or Palestine--which have specific political aims.
Devji believes it is high time scholarship began to distinguish global Jihad from local struggles. For Devji, Jihad today has become so globalized that it can be compared to environmental groups, supporters of disarmament, anti-abortion groups, etc. (12). Furthermore, contrary to popular views that all members of Al-Qaeda espouse a single school of Islamic law or thought, Devji shows that there instead exists a kind of pluralism, one that is accepting of "Arabs and non-Arabs, including even the Chinese" (16). Thus, some of the hijackers on September 11 were not averse to consuming alcohol, gambling in Las Vegas, or even attending lap-dances in clubs just a few days before their suicide missions (17). Devji explains such behaviour not as "schizophrenic" or "incongruous," but as "yet another sign of the disintegration of old-fashioned distinctions, whether religious or political, in a universe of global effects that is best represented by the mass media"-a theme that is repeated throughout the book (91). In addition, despite claims made by the popular media, Al-Qaeda has "no formal procedure of recruitment or indoctrination, not even by way of sleepers who supposedly lurk in mosques to trap the unwary martyrs of tomorrow" (20). As a result, the new Jihad is a series of global effects that subverts traditional forms of Islamic devotion.
Devji dismisses Osama Bin Laden's statements about Americans having a "government within the government," as conspiracy theories-something that Osama could have picked up while watching "a television show like the X-Files or a film by Oliver Stone" (6). However, it might be erroneous to dismiss Osama so simply since covert and surreptitious operations by the Americans to overthrow regimes, to cover up "blowbacks" or to support other unsavoury operations have been quite well documented. Furthermore, Devji points out that while most scholarship, and even the media, remains fixated specifically upon Sunni Islam and Middle East, "the most successful examples of political Islam have been revolutionary Iran and the Hezbollah in Lebanon, both [of which are] Shia movements" (21). Similarly, Devji criticizes scholars for not noticing that most Jihad today "happens to be based fore the most part outside the Middle East...among populations that have barely an inkling of Salafi or Wahhabi conditions" (21). The fact that they have Arab fighters or funding from Salafi or Wahhabi groups is not sufficient to convince Devji of the resulting nature of the Jihad there: "That the reverse might be true, with Arab fighters and financiers importing the jihad from these regions to the Middle East, is not seriously considered" (22). Despite these criticisms, Devji provides little convincing evidence to prove otherwise, mentioning insignificant movements such as the Tablighi Jamaat and the fundraising activities of Ayatullah Sistani in Iraq.
Another popular notion that Devji addresses in his work is the idea that Al-Qaeda is a puritan organization, inspired by Salafi and Wahhabi principles, and is therefore vehemently against Sufi or Shia practices. Instead, Devji shows that within Al-Qaeda such genealogies and structures have broken down, and that there exists a synthesis of various practices. For example, certain practices in the Al-Qaeda compare favourably with Sufi or mystical brotherhoods, "even if these happen to be disapproved by members of the movement itself" (42). There are also elements of mysticism that are frequently invoked, as well as Shia practices venerating the Prophet and his family. Devji points that there even is a tradition of the mahdi or messiah, as evidenced by Juhayman al-Utaibi's claim when he captured the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979 (48). Devji also explains why Hollywood movies (such as the Long Kiss Goodnight) are accepted as fact against news reports-"simple political intentions no longer suffice to explain events in a global landscape" (89).
The last half of Devji's book draws heavily from letters by Bin Laden, which present him as an erudite and well-informed man, not a radical and misinformed terrorist. For example, Bin Laden clearly explains Islam's right to Palestine based upon the faith's universality while making Muslims true heirs of the Jewish and Christian traditions (85). Indeed, there are even echoes to Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 in one of Osama's statements. Ultimately, Devji's book offers fresh and new insights towards understanding Jihad today. A sorely needed book, it breaks the vicious cycle of tired and hackneyed arguments that one so often reads in the common media today while providing compelling insight into what is rightly now a global phenomenon.