Customer Reviews: Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World
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VINE VOICEon July 26, 2011
"Tunisia and Egypt both saw regime change in less than 30 days. Syria has now been going on five months. And in many ways, Syria is the most surprising and the most difficult place because it is such a brutal regime and it's also geographically right in the middle of, whether it's Israel on one front, the Gulf states on another, ..., that it is so pivotal to what happens in so many other places." -- Robin Wright

The Casbah, is the fortified citadel in many North African cities, similar to the citadel of Algiers in Algeria, governor's headquarters. The name made its way into English from French in the late 19th century. "Rock the Casbah," expresses the mood of the Arab Spring and the revolt against their Muslim dictators. Over the last few decades, tensions have been brewing in Arabic and Muslim countries on the South and East Mediterranean shores, and around the Gulf of Aden. The Arab Spring has targeted several regimes in the Middle East; first, Tunisia's ruler Ben Ali, then Egypt's Mubarak was forced to step down, leaving the country with uncertain future; and Egypt western neighbor, Libya, has since a civil war to oust Qadhafi after forty years of lunatic dictatorship. Assad's cling to power caused Syria hundreds of deaths and thousands of civilian causalities. Meanwhile Yemen's president Ali Abdullah Saleh; is recovering from his wounds and burns caused by a rocket attack, has vowed to fight to the death against the Yemeni tribes lining up against him.

Robin Wright reviews the chaotic situation caused by the political unrest, populous revolts, and civil wars in the Middle East, and across the Islamic World. She portrays those events as part of a general trend, "the counter-jihad, which is unfolding in the wider Islamic bloc of fifty-seven countries as well as among Muslim minorities worldwide." Young Muslims under 30, constitute a majority in the Islamic world, they are at the forefront of this dramatic change. Not just the protestors blockades in Egypt and Tunisia, but on the demonstration platforms in Morocco and Jordan and even on television in Saudi Arabia. She believes that citizens of Muslim majority countries are not only rocking autocratic regimes, but are also counter revolting the violent extremism of terrorist organizations: Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and the fundamentalist Islamic ideology of Muslim Brotherhood, Wahabi Salafis financed by gulf autocratic regimes, and Iran's supported Hamas and Hizbullah fueling terrorism and theocratic rule in Iran.

Wright's in-depth knowledge of Islamic societies cultures and traditions imparts meaning to facts and circumstance provided in every paragraph of "Rock the Casbah." As she compellingly comments, the critical balance between religion and modernity may cause Western observers a great concern. Young generation of Muslim women, she describes as "committed to their faith, firm about their femininity, and resolute about their rights," will cause a pang of uneasy feelings in most observing feminists, distrustful of the Islamic proclamation that "hejab is now about liberation, not confinement" which uncovers an appeasing deal between Muslim girls and society. Meanwhile, she does not reduce the difficulty of the undertaking facing those in search of an authentic form of islamic democracy.

Her final chapters briefly describes political chaos following revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, and the ongoing battles of brutal oppression in Libya, Syria and Yemen. Various demonstration of dissatisfaction, modes of protest in the hope of achieving some success across the Islamic world, are surveyed; without any attempt to predict their near or ultimate outcomes. She warns that, "There is still a wild ride ahead," because new government will be in a position to meet the popular high expectations of either jobs or social justice in the foreseeable future.
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on August 13, 2011
Remarkable book both in details and perspective that most of the US media are missing. Listening to poets historically revered in the Middle East, hip-hop rappers utilizing new technology, feminists in pink hejab, standup comedians mocking irrational fears of all Muslims, and Muslim clerics with a wide television following, Robin Wright has caught the backlash within the Muslim community against Islamic extremism that only her years of experience as an international journalist can interpret. This is a must read for any American who really wants to understand the current turmoil across the Middle East. Despite Wright's warning that the young revolutionaries expect too much too soon, and her cautions that all change encounters setbacks, her overall perspective is definitely encouraging. She has great faith that it will be the worldwide Muslim community that determines its own fate. It would be helpful if American politicians and diplomats were listening more closely to this reporter who has spent years developing an understanding not only of Middle Eastern leadership but the vast variations among Sunni and Shia populations in countries with very different cultures. For the majority of Americans who do not have a close Muslim friend nor the opportunity to travel in a Muslim country, reading this book is the next best thing.
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on September 5, 2011
I heard Robin Wright interviewed on PBS NewsHour. That interview led me to purchase this book which is essentially a series of events that occurred in Arabic/Muslim countries over the past 12-15 months. The book provided to me an understanding of what ignited the recent protests in the Arab/Muslim world. I now have considerably more hope for democratic style freedoms in those areas of the world. This is a very readable book, one that the reader will enjoy while being informed.
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on September 3, 2011
Anyone who has wondered, "Why don't Muslims speak out about Islamic extremism?", or wants to know the behind-the-scenes details about the "Arab Spring" revolutions and where the Arab world is headed, must read this book. It's a fascinating, well-researched, detailed account of what the Muslim youth (primarily) are doing about taking control of their futures -- and their religion -- and how they're doing it.
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VINE VOICEon January 26, 2013
This book had weaknesses before the last few months, arguing as it does that Muslims all over the Middle east are mounting a "counter-jihad." Apparantly, the counter-jihad will not be televised because I have never seen it.

It argues how much Muslims turned against bin-Laden prior to his death. It does NOT mention that those same Muslims hid bin-Laden, not in some cave in the border regions of Pakistan but in the major city of Abbattobad, near one of the Pakistani Army's largest bases. It does NOT mention the large-scale rioting and the destruction of supply convoys to Afghanistan. It does NOT mention that the Pakistani doctor who helped us confirm the target was charged with TREASON (!) and is now serving time in a prison... for assisting us to get rid of this guy that Muslims supposedly hate.

It argues that the Arab Spring is a bunch of democratic movements across the Middle East, in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Syria, a form of Islamic democracy which is not like that of our nasty and confusing western democracy. This democracy simplifies things by simplifying the electorate to exclude women and eventually excluding voting of any kind. Or at least that seems to be the way I've seen Africa and the Middle East go.

But three months has made a difference.

Benghazi showed us that Libya clearly is not a happy-go-lucky terrorist-free democracy.

Pakistan has seen the Taliban attempting to kill or disfigure girls trying to get an education.

Gaza had the Arab world cheering for Hamas as it "defended itself" by hurling high-explosive rockets at Israeli towns.

Turkey had the Arab World condemning them for the "aggressive act" of asking for NATO Patriot units to defend themselves from Syrian attack.

President Morsi tried a huge powergrab in Egypt after Gaza settled down and has rammed through a new constitution which only pleases the Islamists. He clearly misjudged how popular he thought he was as he was overthrown by the military in scenes puncuated by fireworks and celebrations in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria.

Syria has collapsed into a civil war which sees a rebel eating the heart of his enemy on YouTube... and this is supposed to be one of the GOOD guys.

And of course, there is the most recent unpleasantness in Algeria...

Sorry, but this book is simply someone trying to see something that isn't there because you WANT it to be there, like the canals of Mars.
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on February 9, 2012
Robin Wright's latest book, Rock the Casbah, is a one idea book, but the idea that she presents is important. The one idea that surfaces on every page of this book is - to use her phrase - the "counter-jihad" that is taking place in almost every Arab and Middle Eastern country.

This "counter-jihad" is a pervasive and powerful reaction against the authoritarian regimes that have dominated the Middle East for the last 50 years. It takes a variety of expression from straight-out political protest, to poetry, to music, to plays, to feminism, etc. But it has one common theme, namely, liberation from the stranglehold with which these dictators have exercised complete control over their populations.

Wright believes that this "counter-jihad," the leadership of which is youthful, is so powerful that it is destined to totally and completely "Rock the Casbah," i.e., it will overcome the prevailing dictatorships in most if not all of the 21 Arab and 70 Middle Eastern countries about which she writes.

Wright is , as they say, "cautiously optimistic" about this movement. She thinks that it is destined to prevail, By that she means that the "old order" will not survive, but as to what will replace it she is agnostic. No one, she argues, has a crystal ball as to what the ultimate fate of these countries will be.

She does point out, however, that this movement is definitively not "pro western." It is an authentic intra-middle eastern revolution, based on the totalitarian experences that these several hundred million people have experienced for the last several generations.
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on January 16, 2012
This book makes some good points, but suffers from being overly anecdotal at times. Should have been edited just a bit more, to remove repetitiveness. The organizational themes are excellent, yet Wrights neglects a few key aspects in her analysis. She could have dwelt more on the intellectual ferment on a host of progressive Arabic [and other Middle East/South Asian language] websites that allow freedom of expression not experienced within Islam since days of Caliph Haroun al-Rashid. The plight of religious minorities [Christian, Jewish, Bahai, Yezedi, Sabean, Zoroasterian] is glossed over, also that of key ethnic minorities [Kurds, Amazigh]. The absence of quotations or input from key Muslim or ex-Muslim scholars like Fouad Ajami, Amir Taheri, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ali Sina and Ibn Warraq is puzzling and greatly diminishes the value of this otherwise promising book. I commend Wright on having the courage to author this counter-intuitive book, so early in an ongoing movement. I hope that someday she'll write an updated and improved 2nd edition.
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on September 5, 2015
This book is totally out of date. The author tries to paint a rosy picture of life in the Islamic world. There are chapters about rap and hip-hop, poets, comedians, pink hejabs, young rebellion against jihad and Islamic extremism and Arab Spring. All these things may have been true in 2011 when the book was written, but with the rise of Isis and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula they seem to be a a thing of the past. I only wish that the picture she paints could be a reality.
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on September 6, 2015
Robin Wright is experienced and knowledgeable of the Middle East and of Islam in general. Her exemplary historical reviews and the complexities of Islam are truly noteworthy. Her book, "Rock the Casbah" was written in 2011 however, the nascent ISIS has surfaced as a threat to the region. The information contained in her book is still relevant and influential.

Robin Wright is a gem, a widely acclaimed author with a worldwide appeal as a professional journalist. She visited over 20 countries in the region and interviewed key clerics and other notables. Her writing style made for interesting reading. She explains her idea of a "soft revolution" where "Hip-Hop" music, and other protest models, as new challenges, are used by young people to rant against the regimes of oppression and treachery. These ideas have not been revealed before as a tactic of dissent. Accordingly, change is slowly coming to the Middle East by way of the transplanted American genre of "rap".

This is an excellent book, filled with stories from native folks about their culture and how they are coping with the demands of their leaders, living in a "bubble" often without "free will".

Bruce E. McLeod, Jr.
Las Vegas, Nevada
6 September 2015
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on August 17, 2014
Most books written by journalists tend to feel like "compilations" (word stolen from a fellow reviewer), and this one is no exception. The basic theme -- Islam as laid down in the Koran is far more inclusive and accepting than most Westerners think -- is established early on, and the later chapters merely echo the core assertion. Proof tends to be anecdotal, with the second section -- which quotes at great length from comedians, rappers and poets -- being the least persuasive of the lot.

But in its eagerness to open our eyes to the "counter-jihad" within the religion, Wright skips a more interesting point, namely the power struggle between conservatives and modernists. As other reviewers have noted, the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt -- which came after the book was completed -- shows that turning back clearly IS an option for many countries in the region. And it suggests there is more support for the old ways than Wright would lead one to think.

For Westerners who associate all Muslims with Osama Bin Laden, this book is an eye-opener. But as a guide to understanding the internecine conflicts going on today in Syria, Libya, Iraq, etc. it contributes very little.
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