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Knowing the Enemy


Knowing the Enemy Cover

ISBN13: 9780300113068
ISBN10: 0300113064
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Publisher Comments:

After September 11, Americans agonized over why nineteen men hated the United States enough to kill three thousand civilians in an unprovoked assault. Analysts have offered a wide variety of explanations for the attack, but the one voice missing is that of the terrorists themselves. This penetrating book is the first to present the inner logic of al-Qa’ida and like-minded extremist groups by which they justify September 11 and other terrorist attacks.

Mary Habeck explains that these extremist groups belong to a new movement—known as jihadism—with a specific ideology based on the thought of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, Hasan al-Banna, and Sayyid Qutb. Jihadist ideology contains new definitions of the unity of God and of jihad, which allow members to call for the destruction of democracy and the United States and to murder innocent men, women, and children. Habeck also suggests how the United States might defeat the jihadis, using their own ideology against them.


An examination of the real reasons for 9/11 that will provoke fundamental rethinking of the War on Terrorism

About the Author

MARY HABECK is associate professor, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. She is coeditor of Spain Betrayed: The Soviet Union in the Spanish Civil War and The Great War and the Twentieth Century, both published by Yale University Press. 

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dyerushalmi, September 18, 2006 (view all comments by dyerushalmi)
A Book Review: Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror

Mary Habeck, an associate professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University has published a book that has been billed as an authoritative study of jihadist ideology. The book, Knowing the Enemy, published by the Yale University Press, has generally received good reviews, at least insofar as it gets at the explicit teachings and ideology of what Habeck has termed jihadism. While I would certainly agree that Habeck has done a good job of explicating this ideology and sharing with us the ideological nuances which distinguish one group of jihadists from another, the usefulness of the book might be said persuasively to end there.

Her failure, and it results in almost laughable recommendations on how to confront jihadism which she tosses in at the end of the book, is her inability or unwillingness to apply a rigorous and scholarly discipline to her own underlying theme made explicit throughout the book: Jihadism draws on historically traditional Islam for much of its ideology and creed. In making this connection, Habeck?s scholarship is half-baked, meaning literally half done. The part of the thesis drawing the line to traditional Islam and the Islamic sources is what one might call scholarship. But then this military historian does something akin to veering across several lanes on a highway to get to the exit ramp without as much as pausing to look in her rear or side view mirrors.

After making it clear to us that jihadism has deep and historical roots in Islam, Habeck feels compelled to proclaim that jihadists have perverted ?traditional? Islam to suit their purposes, have moved contrary to the flow of ?modern Islam?, and are heterodox in their condemnation of all of those who oppose them and in their use of terror against non-combatant citizens. But making these statements time and again in conclusory fashion does not make it so and she provides almost no source material or analysis of how the jihadists are in fact heterodox. If anything, her scholarship, as opposed to her polemics, establishes their pedigree.
Moreover, Habeck?s constant refrain that modern Islam opposes the jihadist ideology comes with neither evidence of any institutional showing that such ?modern Islam? exists outside of Islamic ivory towers nor a showing of any mass appeal of religious Muslims who are either liberal in outlook or tolerant of the West. At best Habeck buries in her footnotes a handful of ?Islamic scholars? who would attempt to westernize Islam as proof of an ?alternative? institutional Islam. Her only proffer of evidence that the peaceful alternative she terms ?modern Islam? exists is in the form of an empirical declaration she herself repeats several times throughout the book that jihadist ideology has not yet moved the billions of Muslims to enlist in actual combat or active support of the jihadists. While I will address each of these failures, let?s first examine what she does say that might make the book worth reading.

To read the entire review, see
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Product Details

Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror
Habeck, Mary R.
Habeck, Mary
Yale University Press
Islam - General
General Current Events
War on Terrorism, 2001-
Terrorism -- Religious aspects -- Islam.
Middle East
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
8.25 x 5.5 in 0.9 lb

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Related Subjects

Education » Writing
History and Social Science » Military » Terrorism Mercenaries and Guerrillas
History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » Politics » Terrorism

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Product details 256 pages Yale University Press - English 9780300113068 Reviews:
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An examination of the real reasons for 9/11 that will provoke fundamental rethinking of the War on Terrorism
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