Sunday, February 06, 2005

NY Review of Books: Political Islam

The New York Times Sunday Book Review writes about Political Islam
The Search for a New Ummah.

By Olivier Roy.
Columbia University, $29.50.

In an influential pre-9/11 book, ''The Failure of Political Islam,'' Olivier Roy, a French student of contemporary Islam, argued that utopian Islamic revolutions in Muslim countries failed during the 1980's and 90's. Now, in ''Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah,'' he pushes the point farther, suggesting that the important events in the world of Islam are taking place not in the regions we ordinarily think of as Islamic but in Europe. As Exhibit A, Roy points to today's global terrorists, who, he says, are overwhelmingly likely to have studied and lived in Europe (or occasionally the United States) and to have embraced radical Islamic ideas there, not in the Muslim countries where they were born. ...

Islam and the West.

By Gilles Kepel.
Harvard University, $23.95.

If the United States seems missing from Roy's story at times, Gilles Kepel puts America's reaction to 9/11 front and center in ''The War for Muslim Minds: Islam and the West.'' Kepel's central thesis can be summed up simply: the United States is losing the war, and badly. Instead of encouraging resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Bush administration has played directly into Al Qaeda's hands by invading Iraq. It failed to recognize that the war would further inflame the Muslim world, convincing more Muslims than ever before that the United States was their enemy. Now, Kepel says, Europe will inherit the whirlwind, in the form of growing Islamic extremism and terrorist acts like the Madrid bombings. ...

Radical Islam and the American Left.

By David Horowitz.
Regnery, $27.95.

David Horowitz is [a] relic of traditional left-right struggles (and like many of the toughest grapplers, he has been on both sides). In ''Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left,'' this leftist-turned-conservative provocateur aims to discredit his old allies by arguing that the left is in bed with Osama bin Laden because of their shared anti-Americanism. He writes that ''self-described progressives'' have formed ''inexplicable alliances . . . with Arab fascists and Islamic fanatics in their war against America and the West.'' ...

Islam, Jihadists, and America's War on Terrorism.

By Monte Palmer and Princess Palmer.
Rowman & Littlefield, $24.95.

A more sensible and productive set of proposals for understanding Muslim extremism comes to us from two Americans who have considerable experience in the Middle East. An academic and a World Bank consultant respectively, Monte Palmer and Princess Palmer are particularly good at describing the Lebanese and Palestinian jihad movements. In ''At the Heart of Terror: Islam, Jihadists, and America's War on Terrorism,'' they analyze jihadi strategies with a nuanced common sense all too hard to come by in the sometimes sensationalist literature on the topic. They provide, for example, a detailed chapter on Israeli counterterrorism efforts that identifies both its successes (large numbers of suicide bombings thwarted) and its shortcomings (no significant reduction in Palestinians prepared to undertake terrorist acts)....

Allah, the Army, and America's War on Terror.

By Hassan Abbas.
M. E. Sharpe, cloth, $69.95; paper, $25.95.

Even more specific is an engaging, quirky book on terrorism's largest growth market: Pakistan. Hassan Abbas, the author of ''Pakistan's Drift Into Extremism: Allah, the Army, and America's War on Terror,'' served in the Pakistani police in the still-wild North-West Frontier Province, and did stints in the governments of both Benazir Bhutto and Pervez Musharraf. He therefore has an insider's angle on the story of the gradual infiltration of Islamic ideology into the government over the last several decades....


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