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Jihad: The Trail of Political Islamby Gilles Kepel
Synopses & Reviews
The terrorist attacks of September 11 have turned the world?s attention to areas of the globe about which we know very little. Ahmed Rashid, who masterfully explained Afghanistan?s Taliban regime in his previous book, here turns his skills as an investigative journalist to the five Central Asian republics adjacent to Afghanistan. Central Asia is coming to play a vital strategic role in the war on terrorism, but the region also poses new threats to global security.
The five Central Asian republics — Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan — were part of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991. Under Soviet rule, Islam was brutally suppressed, and that intolerance has continued under the post-Soviet regimes. Religious repression, political corruption, and the region?s extreme poverty (unemployment rates exceed 80 percent in some areas) have created a fertile climate for militant Islamic fundamentalism. Often funded and trained by such organizations as Osama bin Laden?s Al Qaeda and the Taliban, guerrilla movements like the IMU (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan) have recruited a staggering number of members across the region and threaten to topple the governments of all five nations. Based on groundbreaking research and numerous interviews, Jihad explains the roots of militant rage in Central Asia, describes the goals and activities of these militant organizations, and suggests ways in which this threat could be neutralized by diplomatic and economic intervention.
Rich in both cultural heritage and natural resources — including massive oil reservoirs — Central Asia remains desperately poor and frighteningly volatile. In tracing the history of Central Asia and explaining the current political climate, Rashid demonstrates that it is a region we ignore at our peril.
"For many years now, Ahmed Rashid has been the journalistic interpreter of the changing nature of Islam in Central Asia. He has always been ahead of the curve, and America?s war on terrorism makes his new book more important than ever." Robert D. Kaplan, author of Warrior Politics
"[Kepel] is one of the world's leading experts on the Islamic resurgence: [He] began doing fieldwork among fundamentalists in the Middle East in the 1970s, and he has remained attuned to their world ever since. Only a handful of scholars can command as much authority, and none of these is as bold as Kepel...Kepel's willingness to investigate the entire Muslim world in a single volume helps us greatly in our attempt to understand al Qaeda, whose tentacles extend into almost every Islamic country. The combination of scope and expertise puts this book in a league of its own. Kepel grounds his argument in a sophisticated analysis of inter-Muslim relations. Given all the stale talk of a clash of civilizations, there is a freshness to Kepel's focus on the international Muslim debate. We have never been sufficiently aware that the primary architects of the Islamic revolt against the West have regarded their struggle as a tool for gaining power over fellow Muslims." Michael Scott Doran, Washington Post
"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...Amid the plethora of books on Islam released since September 11, this work stands out, both for its erudition and its provocative thesis." Publishers Weekly
"Jihad is but the latest of Ahmed Rashid?s insightful books on religion and politics in South and Central Asia. It would be welcome at any time but is critical reading today. A must read for policymakers, scholars, the media, and informed citizens." John L. Esposito, author of Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality?
Jihad is the first extensive, in-depth attempt to follow the history and geography of Islamist political movements. Fluent in Arabic, Gilles Kepel has traveled throughout the Muslim world gathering documents, interviews, and archival materials inaccessible to most scholars, in order to give us a comprehensive understanding of the scope of Islamist movements, their past, and their present. As we confront the threat of terrorism to our lives and liberties, Kepel helps us make sense of the ominous reality of jihad today.
2002 Translation Prize, Non-Fiction Category, French-American Foundation and Florence Gould Foundation
2002 Translation Prize, Non-Fiction Category,
About the Author
Gilles Kepel is Professor and Chair of Middle East Studies at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris.
Senior Researcher, CNRS (National Board for Scientific Research), Paris
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History and Social Science » Middle East » General History