Journey of the Jihadist
Inside Muslim Militancy
Fawaz A. Gerges
• Paperback: 336 pages
• Publisher: Harvest Books; Reprint edition (March 5, 2007)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 0156031701
• ISBN-13: 978-0156031707
• Amazon.com Sales Rank: #23,862
Review on 08 April 2007 by Donald N. Anderson (a version of this review is on Amazon.com under the title “Raw data about the violent sects of Islam”):
Fawaz Gerges has written an easy to read description of his interviews with a number of Salifi / Wahabbi Muslims particularly the Egyptian Islamacist Kamal el-Said Habib.
These interviews and impressions provide an revealing glimpse into the minds of these potentially violent actors. I found the progression of thought over the years as well as the internal differences of opinion inside the Salifi sects to be fascinating.
As Gerges admits he initially did not understand the extent to which these violent actors were driven by a detailed reading of the Qu’ran. I hope there are few Western people in 2007 who still think these Jihadists are some crazy folks perverting a great religion. Rather they are trying to discard 13 centuries of revisionist scholarship and return this political religion to it’s roots.
Gerges generally stays away from moralizing and his few attempts at evaluating policy prescriptions fall very flat. Never the less, this book is quite valuable if you have never probed the mind of a terrorist.
A further aspect is the extent of the support for terrorism within the Muslim world. It has always been larger than most Westerners have been willing to admit and is growing as they feel threatened by the West, Israel, and America in general. At the same time each accommodation by a Western culture is evaluated as weakness and an opportunity for more aggression.
This is definitely not a stand alone book on Egyptian or any form of Middle Eastern culture. For a more comprehensive history of recent Egyptian culture see Nonie Darwish’s “Now they Call Me Infidel.” For a very insightful glimpse of recent Lebanese culture and the civil war try Brigitte Gabriel’s “Because They Hate.”
“Journey of the Jihadist” complements these books in both countries by focusing on the potential terrorists, their similarities, and their differences.
When Gerges discusses Iraq he identifies it’s utility to the Jihadists in obtaining recruits, but does not show the fall of Saddam as putting a significant funding source for terrorists out of business. He credits Iraq with pulling al Qaeda back to center stage and attracting significant funding for the terrorists. He fails to identify the role Iraq has in attracting and exterminating the more violent elements in the Middle East. His evaluation could be summed up by Ann Coulter’s phrase “Damn that Bush! He's made people who hate our guts not like us.”
Gerges historic references are disappointing as he normally gives the Jihadist version of the Crusades, the Lebanese civil war, and Jewish history without providing context or correction of their extremely myopic views. A reader unfamiliar with Middle Eastern history would come away misinformed.