Published: 00:00 GMT Standard Time - Saturday 15 November 2008
Global Jihad - book reviews
Bill Muehlenberg - 12/11/2008http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2008/11/12/a-review-of-global-jihad-by-patrick-sookhdeo/A review of Global Jihad. By Patrick Sookhdeo.
Isaac Publishing, 2007.
Everyone now knows about radical Muslim terrorists and their campaign of bloodshed and intimidation. In response, the West has declared war on terror, and military operations are underway, either covertly or openly, in order to bring this threat to an end.
Patrick Sookhdeo is well aware of the global terror campaign. But he is also aware that there is much more to this struggle than just suicide bombers. There are theological, political, moral and ideological issues as well. Thus this book is not entitled "Global Terror," for that would give a misleading impression of what this battle is really all about. Terrorism is simply one facet of a multi-lateral approach to achieving Islamic supremacy around the world.
Sookhdeo is eminently qualified to speak on this subject. Indeed, he was born into a Muslim household in South America (although now he is a Christian residing in London). He has spent his life studying Islam and the jihadists. He is more than familiar with Islamic history, theology, culture and practice.
In this substantial volume of nearly 700 pages, Sookhdeo examines how the global Islamic challenge is being manifest, and how it can be withstood. He looks primarily at the theology and beliefs of Islam, and argues that only a major reform of Islam itself can really turn things around.
While many are happy to believe that "Islam is peace," the truth lies elsewhere. In fact, the radical Islamists are not some aberration to Islamic belief and practice, but are really an integral part of it. Many people nonetheless want to distinguish between Islamist terrorism and Islamic terrorism.
"However this is really a meaningless distinction," says Sookhdeo. "Islamism is simply the essence of classical Islam, and violence and terror are found within both of them." Although the major sources of Islam provide the inspiration for terror, that does not mean that all Muslims are terrorists. Most Muslims in fact reject the jihadists.
But if Islamist violence can be justified by, and found within, the main Islamic sources (the Koran, the hadith, the life and teachings of Muhammad, etc.), then only a major reform of Islam, and a new reinterpretation of it, can help to curb the violence.
Thus the war on terror is really just a small part of a much larger war, that is, the 1400-year-long war of Islamic expansionism. The pursuit of Islamic power and hegemony is what jihad is all about. The struggle for Islam includes not just violent military means, but all manner of other means as well.
Islam understands jihad to be a permanent struggle, one which will continue until all of Allah's enemies are subsumed and sharia rules the earth. Until then, there can be no real peace. Sure, temporary peace can be negotiated when Islam is not in a position to achieve complete dominance. But whenever Islam becomes the ruling ideology of a country, then all non-Muslims must submit, or endure dhimmitude.
Dhimmis must submit to the demeaning regulations of Islam, including payment of the jizya (poll tax). Persecution of non-Muslims in Muslim lands is an ever-present reality, and more Christians are being killed today in Islamic lands than anywhere else. And many moderate Muslims are being killed by the Islamists as well.
Sookhdeo here offers extensive documentation and explanation of Islamic jihadist thought and practice. Countless Muslim thinkers, jurists, Imams, commentators and strategists are quoted here. He clearly makes the case that the ideology and aims of jihad are contained in the very heart and soul of Islam.
Meaty chapters explore various issues, such as the life and history of Muhammad; the nature of the Koran, the hadith and sharia; the Islamic understanding of peace; the theology of war and empire-building; and responses to Islamic terrorism.
Consider one chapter, on taqiyya. This is the Arabic term for deception or dissimulation. It has long been held by leading Muslim authorities that Muslims have a right to practice deception with non-Muslims if there is a conflict between faith and expediency.
This practice has especially served well Muslim apologists and evangelists who want to convince gullible Westerners that Islam is really a religion of peace. It is a regular practice of those who "expend much energy to convince non-Muslims that Islam is and has always been peaceful and tolerant". This puts non-Muslims off guard, and prepares them for eventual Muslim rule and domination.
Sookhdeo has penned a number of previous works on Islam, but this is his magnum opus, at least for now. It is a gold mine of information, facts and figures on what is one of the greatest threats facing the free West today. It is only because of ignorance about the contents of this book - and others like it - that we are in such a predicament today.
We can no longer remain unaware about the threat that we face. Ignorance can no longer be an excuse. We must arm ourselves with truth, and with information. We must be aware of the Islamist enemy. As Sookhdeo says, "Ultimately to gain victory over the Islamists will require the exercise of the will and a right understanding of the situation."
This volume certainly provides all the necessary information for understanding the nature of the war we are in. Whether we have the will and the guts to stay in the battle and see it thought to the end is another matter altogether. But Sookhdeo's volume is a must read for everyone - Muslim and non-Muslim alike.
Available from the Barnabas Fund via the link here and also in the UK on Amazon, Waterstones, and WH Smith.
George Mason University's History News Network
Lee P. Ruddin - 30/01/2008
Lee P. Ruddin: Review of Patrick Sookhdeo's Global Jihad: The Future in the Face of Militant Islam (Isaac Publishing, 2007)
Source: Special to HNN (1-30-08)
It may seem sophisticated to seek out passages in the Koran that seem to explain "why they hate us." But that blindly misses the nature of the phenomenon. How comfortable to identify Islam as the source of "the problem"; it's certainly much easier than exploring the impact of the massive global footprint of the world's sole superpower.
So says Graham E. Fuller in the cover story ("A World Without Islam") of Foreign Policy (January/February 2008).
Global Jihad is a sophisticated tome which highlights passages in the Qur'an that underscore the phenomenon of our age: Islamic terrorism. Rev. Canon Patrick Sookhdeo, director of the Barnabas Fund, a British non-governmental organization, in deep contrast to Graham Fuller, opts for the uncomfortable route of identifying jihad as the true menace; less easy than the leisurely pursuit of Bush-bashing. Regrettably, there are many in whose work paranoia and pacificism pass for reason and scholarship. Fulminating against the Bush White House (neocons or not) is no answer; it is intellectual and moral bankruptcy.
Sookhdeo traverses history and theology with strategy and politics effortlessly, a point not to be undervalued. In effect what the adjunct professor at the George C. Marshall European Centre for Security Studies pens is a hard-hitting exposé of jihad-all 1400 years of it. For instance, the author introduces the Kharijites, a radical sect from the first century of Islam based in southern Iraq and Iran, who adopted an extreme interpretation of the Qur'an. Clive Ross, likewise, in the most recent edition of History Today, illuminates "Islam's First Terrorists" (December, 2007).
For those readers of Norman Podhoretz (World War IV) and Efraim Karsh (Islamic Imperialism) be prepared, for the best is yet to come. From the "war" thesis to pax Islamica, Sookhdeo delves deeply into the teachings of Islam (pursuing his recondite enquiries in dusty tomes), past and present, which form the driving force for Islamist violence. Thus does the Qur'an light the bonfire of hatred between two civilizations-despite prominent Medievalists, Geoffrey Hindley and David Nicolle, saying otherwise? If so, is the Qur'an indictable as an agent of cultural expropriation? Sookhdeo's analysis is damning.
The section headed "History of Revivals and Jihad" (pp.111-115) proves utterly page-turning. Sookhdeo masterly contemporizes Islamic history from Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792) and the Wahhabi movement in the Arabian Peninsula to Imam Shamil (1796-1871) against the Russians in the Caucasus and Muhammad Ahmad ibn ‘Abdullah (the Mahdi, 1844-1885) in Sudan. In a similar vein, "Some Modern Calls to Jihad" underscores the jihadi form of modern Islamic history. The comprehensive chronology of Salafi-Jihadi leaders, thinkers and their writings proves as much, if not more, enthralling (pp.299-311). Hardly a page goes by without the author throwing a contemporary light on Crusadian ideology or a nineteenth-century jihad-wager. We walk and talk with dead men.
The chapter entitled "The Practicalities of Jihad" encompassing hostage-taking and kidnapping, beheading and throat-slitting, not to mention, torture illustrates the age-old methods of Islamic war-waging. The Islamist call for a return to the source texts of Islam (via veritas perdita -‘the lost way of truth'-as described in Hebrew) has led to a renewal of the archaic and barbarous customs "sanctified by the example of Muhammad and his companions" (p.140). Sookhdeo reasons:
What in other cultures and religions... can be explained as primitive cultural excesses of a distant past are accorded by Islamists the prestige of being holy precedents set by the founders of Islam and divinely approval (p.140).
As the term "revivalist" suggests, Islamist movements define themselves and the desired future by reference to the past. Current debates about the relative merits of Western civilization and Islamism are so similar to their nineteenth-century counterparts that one can only verify that one is not reading a nineteenth-century fatwa by checking an article's publication date.
Last summer, exasperated at historians' hyper-analogizing, Niall Ferguson wrote in The Telegraph (UK):
Time and again in the last six years, leading Republicans have drawn these naive historical analogies. Al-Qaeda are Islamofascists. 9/11 was Pearl Harbor. Saddam Hussein was Hitler. The fall of Baghdad would be like the liberation of Paris. And so on.
Ferguson clearly has a point-though, if my memory serves me correctly, it was Ferguson's enthusiasm for historical parallels which acted as midwife to such thinking; Colossus is absolutely riddled with them.
That said, it is natural for policymakers to interpret the unfamiliar phenomenon of Islamic terrorism in terms of what was familiar to them already. For that reason they tended to present Islamism to themselves not as a new threat, but rather as the variant of an age-old adversary.
Sookhdeo has a couple of examples, worth mentioning-not so much novel as they are persuasively penned:
Seeing their piracy as a part of jihad against the infidels, the Barbary corsairs in many ways resemble modern Islamic terrorism and its methods, in which profitable criminal activities (such as drug-trafficking, kidnapping for ransom, fraud and robbery) are allied to religious Islamic jihadi goals (p.174).
It is interesting to note that the analogy of the Thirty Years War has been used recently by a British army officer in the context of the US counter-offensive against al-Qa'eda. ‘What is emerging from the counter-offensive is a new thirty years war in which extreme belief systems, old but massively destructive technologies, instable and intolerant societies, strategic crime and the globalisation of all commodities and communications combine to create, potentially at least, a multi-dimensional threat which transcends geography, function and capability (p.429).
Correspondingly, for Sookhdeo, the confrontation with jihad is a kind of Glaubenskrieg (religious war), the doctrinal war to be fought to the finish, despite the fact that-in the words of Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in Charlie Wilson's War-"America doesn't fight religious wars."
Lack of knowledge of their enemy creates difficulties for non-Muslims under attack by Muslims. The Byzantines failed to appreciate the true nature of their Muslim enemies. Today we are guilty of the same offence vis-à-vis Islamists. Sookhdeo, akin to Podhoretz, editor at large of Commentary, believes (poor) definition of the enemy is a cataclysmic handicap (p.423). Sookhdeo, albeit a paid-up member of the "war" thesis, does not exactly toe the Podhoretzian line (p.399).
History tells only a military defeat puts a halt to Islamic imperialism: the years 732, 1492 and 1683 are testament to the fact. Though contemporary totalitarian Islam wields an asymmetric mode of warfare; one not as easily subdued by conventional warfare as that on display at the Battle of Tours, the fall of Granada or the siege of Vienna. "However," says Sookhdeo, quick to remind the reader, "a modern example illustrating that the likelihood or otherwise of a strong physical response can still be an important motivation for Islamic terrorists" (i.e. "weakness is provocative" and the whole American Embassy siege in Tehran culminating with the election of the cowboy-like President, Ronald Reagan) (p.402).
In a study combining extraordinary sweep with riveting historical detail, Sookhdeo demonstrates how jihad is a tactic employed by generations of Islamists from the Maghreb to the Mashrek and beyond. Surprisingly, despite his desire to see common threads linking the past to the present, the author does not ignore fundamental differences between various groups.
Amid an avalanche of information surrounding jihadist violence Sookhdeo provides much-needed policy recommendations. Global Jihad is the sober examination of terrorism that our age requires. For decades to come, this will serve as a standard work for the terrorologist on the understanding of jihad. A must for any serious commentator operating in the post-9/11 milieu.
Available from the Barnabas Fund via the link here and also in the UK on Amazon, Waterstones, and WH Smith.
New English Review
Esmerelda Weatherwax - 02/2008
The Future In The Face Of Militant Islam
I wasn't sure what to expect - a book on jihad which, on its own admission, is aimed at decision makers in politics, security, intelligence and the military and written by an Anglican priest. Of course Patrick Sookhdeo, founder and director of the Barnabas Fund is not your stereotypical (few are these days) C of E Vicar.
The book is divided into largely self contained chapters some of which depending on your interests and background will be more or less accessible than others. I found my interest heightened by Chapter 4, Jihad and the Sacralising of Territory which elaborates on a theme Dr Sookhdeo has written about before. Once land is Muslim it is forever Muslim and if lost (Spain, the Balkans, Israel) it must be reclaimed. When new territory is inhabited it must be claimed for Islam, with processions, such as those for Ashura, and an expanding network of mosques, madrassas and Islamic centres.
The basic tenets of Islam, the Qu'ran and ahadith underpinning the concept of jihad are explained in detail. Taqiyya, religiously mandated lies, gets a whole chapter (9) to itself.
Particularly fascinating, in my opinion is Chapter 10, History: Muhammad and his Successors. If you don't know how the divisions between Shia and Sunni came about, this is essential reading. It even has a substantial section about the third division of Islam, the Khariji, largely wiped out by the other two groups by 900 but influential on the thinking of the Wahhabi and Salafiyya movements. Later in the Chapter entitled The Negative Impact of Islamic Jihad on Vanquished Populations Sookdheo gives a brief run down of the Islamic conquest and Islamisation of every area of the world affected. He covers a wider geographical area than Bat Ye'or in The Dhimmi but in far less depth, the level being suited to practical soldiers.
Wahhabi and Salafi, Hizbullah and Hamas (and the assassins, to put them into historical perspective) are covered in turn in Violent Sects and Movements: Past and Present. Of al Qa-eda he says
Western attempts to focus exclusively on al Qa-eda and isolate it from the mainstream Islamic tradition fail to understand the nature of Islamic terrorist networks. A good comparison would be the multitude of western NGOs or anti globalisation groups. These organisations have a great deal of interaction and overlap with each other; they support each other, evolve coalitions on issues of common interest, and combine their causes together. The boundaries between them are not clearly defined. In addition key individuals can be involved as trustees or directors of several different groups at once. Another feature of this comparison is the way different groups merge and split, or close themselves down only to reappear under a new name or as several different new groups. Contemporary Islamic terrorism is manifested in the same kind of fluid, complex, ever shifting networks, closely linked to and resourced by mainstream Muslim society, not as isolated, clearly defined entities.
In The Motivation of Terrorists and Suicide Bombers he has this to say about recognising a suicide bomber:
The next generation of suicide bombers is expected to prove well nigh impossible to detect. Practising taqiyya to a high degree, they will effectively blend into the society in which they are living. In a Western context they would be clean-shaven, will avoid visiting radical mosques or meeting in person with anyone publicly known as an extremist. Communications with their radical colleagues will be conducted by a variety of secure means. They will avoid travelling to places like Afghanistan or any other theatre of armed conflict but rather will go on holiday to expensive resorts. They will consort with non-Muslims of the opposite sex, drink alcohol and eat pork, and generally participate in popular culture eg sport, music etc.
In considering the role that poverty plays, Sookdheo believes that while cutting off the pension and status accorded to the families of suicide bombers may go some way to dissuading them he also points to the high education and middleclass background of others.
In Muslims Against Violence: Progressive Reformers he details the difficulties of understanding exactly what is meant by "reform" in the context of Islam. To some it can mean a return to the puritanical and violent interpretation of Islam which is not what the rest of us had in mind. He speaks highly of the risks faced by this, still small minority of progressive reformers, in opposing the ideas of mainstream traditional Islam. He believes that we must work more with them and rely less on the often self appointed community leaders. He examines the work and history of the main thinkers, like Mahmud Muhammad Taha, the elderly man executed for apostasy in Sudan in 1985, and looks at the secular Muslim states of Turkey and Tunisia.
In the penultimate chapter Responses to Islamic Terrorism Sookdheo sets out 15 possible responses. Some he deems impossible, like colonialism, as the clock cannot be turned back. His favoured response is the reform of Islam through the work of the men he considers in Chapter 16 (none of them are women). Whether or not it is because he is himself a churchman, he is forthright about the struggle being a religiously motivated war which he likens to the 30 Years War of the 17th century. We do ourselves a disservice when we ignore that element, and assert that it is purely political, or economic.
In Conclusion, while he favours the more peaceful of the options he sets out, he has no illusions that warfare will play a part, as will commercial aspects and law. A recurring theme is the starving of terrorist groups of their financial resources, be they the proceeds of drugs and crime, or the West's dependence on oil which fills the Saudi coffers which then finances all manner of initiatives.
He sets out the facts for his target audience; they are intelligent enough to draw their own conclusions, as the endorsements from retired generals of the British Army on the back cover show, as does the foreword by Professor Richard Holmes Professor of Military and Security Studies at Cranfield University and best known for his War Walks history series. Those who have not yet heard of Dr Sookhdeo have heard of Professor Holmes.
He states, which is something I try never to forget, that:-
Although Islam is one, there is still an important distinction which must be drawn between Islam the ideology and Muslims the people who follow it. While Islam the ideology may cause great hardship and suffering to non-Muslims it also causes great hardship and suffering to many Muslims (particularly women). If an "enemy" is to be defined, then the enemy is not Muslims but the classical interpretation of Islam.
At present the West is too hesitant to assert its Judaeo-Christian culture, or indeed to assert other non-Muslim cultures and traditions now found in the West, for example Hindu and Buddhist. . . It must pay particular attention to the other non-Muslim cultures and societies (particularly India, China, South America and the many parts of Africa) who are facing the challenge of Islam, just as the West is. . . It will be fighting (war) an enemy that is defined by ideology and governed by rules of engagement which are very different from those of the West.
He concludes that we need spiritual, moral and cultural resources as well as technological resources, courage and perseverance to win what may well prove to be a very protracted war.
He doesn't say 1400 years and counting, but we know what he means.
The text is followed by comprehensive appendices: a glossary, a bibliography and index.
I would go so far as to say that this book should be compulsory reading for all officers of the British Armed Forces and I recommend it to NCOs and ranks. It would also be of benefit to US, Commonwealth and NATO forces and the general reader, because it certainly benefited me.
Available from the Barnabas Fund via the link here and also in the UK on Amazon, Waterstones, and WH Smith.
General (retired) Sir Hugh Beach GBE KCB MC, works mainly on defence policy, arms control and disarmament, but is also active in raising concerns about the ethical issues of peace and war.
Global Jihad: The Future in the Face of Militant Islam - Patrick Sookhdeo
This book fills a long-felt need. Can you, for example, distinguish reliably between Wahabism, Salafiyya and Deobandi? Do you get muddled over al Zarqawi, al Zawahiri, al Qaradhawi, et.al.? And when you hear the agonized question of Americans after 9/11 ‘Why do they hate us so much' can you be confident of the answer? If you are shaky on any of these, join the club. With over 400 pages of text, seven appendices,a glossary, 50 pages of bibliography, 1100 end-notes and a reasonably complete index this is a reference book you cannot do without.
Patrick Sookhdeo's antecedents are unusual. He is a Pathan by tribal origin and was born a Muslim. His father lived in Guyana and became a noted dissident, alongside the labour activist Cheddi Jagan. In the early 1960s the family moved to the UK. As a student Patrick converted to Christianity and studied to become an Anglican priest. He explored inter-faith dialogue and became increasingly concerned at the brutality being directed against Christian minorities in Islamic countries; not least the death penalties for conversions from Islam. As a parish priest in London during the late 1970s he became involved in various initiatives among the churches in Tower Hamlets and was one of the organisers of the early "Greenbelt" Christian Arts Festivals. In 1989 he founded the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity, setting up a global database of Muslim extremist movements actively persecuting religious minorities. He gained a doctorate in Islamic Studies from the School of African and Oriental Studies at London University and wrote several books on Islam. He also founded the Barnabas Fund, a charity that supports persecuted Christian minorities around the world. In this way he has become exceptionally well informed on the sinister side of ‘radical Islam', and in recent years he has been much in demand by military schools and headquarter staffs for briefings on the threat from Islamic Terrorism. He is a senior visiting fellow at the Defence Academy of the UK, a visiting fellow at Cranfield University and a guest lecturer at the NATO School Oberammergau. The fruits of all this experience, both theoretical and practical, he has distilled into this remarkable book, something not far short of an encyclopedia of Jihadist studies.
His basic thesis is simple enough. There is a peaceable strand within Islam, and most Muslims want simply to enjoy democratic freedoms and economic wellbeing. Under Western colonial control Islam lost its political power and became a faith without ideological dimensions. But most Muslim states have now been independent for decades. Majority opinion in these countries has been greatly impacted by what Sookhdeo calls ‘traditional and Islamist' concepts. Liberals are in a minority, cowed by the vehement drive against them which includes physical violence and the stigma of apostacy. Many Western politicians, academics and journalists, being keen to support multiculturalism and fearful of being thought racist or Islamophobic, stress only the harmonious aspects of Islam and attribute its intolerant and violent side to a few marginalised heretical groups that have nothing to do with ‘true Islam'. This is wrong. Islamist movements are simply emulating the early model of universal Muslim hegemony in politics and culture. The classical aim of Islam is to bring about a world revolution, a world-wide Islamic government based upon Sharia. Therefore Jihad, in its traditional military sense of warfare, is at the heart of the Islamic system for dealing with non-Muslims, not only externally but also internally within the Islamic state. Those who say, as Prime Minister Tony Blair did in March 2006, that ‘extremism is not the true voice of Islam', are standing the situation on its head. So far from being a modern and local aberration, Jihadism is tapping into the deep roots of classical Islamic faith. There is certainly a stark contrast to be drawn
with the first three centuries of Christianity, during which its adherents were a pacifist minority within an all-powerful Roman state. After the death of Muhammad in 632 the next 80 years saw the Muslim conquest of Arabia, North Africa, Spain, Turkey, Mesopotamia, Armenia, Persia and Afghanistan, extending from Poitiers via the Caucasus to Samarkand. These were the fruits of Jihad.
The present situation is paradoxical. The Muslim world is a community of over 1.2 billion people, including some 52 independent Muslim-majority states, controlling more than half the world's oil resources and making up the largest voting bloc in the United Nations. Yet their prevailing self-image is of a community that is internally weak, relatively backward, frustrated, conflict ridden, suffering from internal tensions, often controlled and abused by foreign powers and in a state of enduring crisis. The community which this description best fits is, of course, the Palestinian Arabs. But these feelings of victimhood have been generalised and redirected into feelings of rage against the West, as the main cause of Muslim weakness and humiliation.
The heart of this book consists of eighteen chapters in which the author methodically works through the implications of this thesis in terms of facts on the ground and possible ways to respond. He writes of Muhammad and his immediate sucessors; of the literary sources and their interpretation - the Qu'ran, Hadith and Sharia; the Muslim theology of war, empire building and the sacred status of land; Islamic doctrines of the End Time; the practicalities of Jihad, including deception, peace making and the treatment of conquered populations; violent sects past and present, the motivation of terrorists and suicide bombers and how they are recruited and trained; the contemporary Muslim debate on Jihad and the views of its opponents. The penultimate chapter surveys fifteen strategies for dealing with Islamic terrorism. The last chapter gives an admirably balanced summary of what the non-Muslim world can and cannot achieve by way of confronting militant Islam. The things to be avoided figure as prominently as the positive measures that could be taken. The approaches lie in the field of ideology, political and diplomatic engagement and economics. This is not a manual of counter-insurgency or asymmetrical war. It would be easy to dismiss the book as an anti-Islamic rant, driven by the author's outrage at the cruel way some Christians are treated in Muslim lands and his practical involvement with relieving their sufferings. It is true that little is made of the hardships suffered by Muslim minorities at the hands of Christians (in Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya) and Jews (in Palestine). But this is not the subject. No one could question the author's grasp of his material based on personal experience and life-long study, his erudition and mastery of detail. The question is whether this book is fairly balanced, accurate in its broad sweep and constructive in approach. In the opinion of
this reviewer the answer is clearly yes. It is written in simple plain English and meticulously organised. Where there is difficulty it comes from the sheer volume of information and the difficulty in handling large numbers of Arabic names and phrases. It is more of a text-book than something to be read straight through from cover to cover. And it is absurdly cheap. No serious book collection should be without it.
Dr. John J. LeBeau
Dr. John J. Le Beau is Professor of Strategy and Security Studies in the College for International and Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Germany. He is also Chairman of the Partnership for Peace Consortium's Combating Terrorism Working Group and a former Senior Operations Officer who retired from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in 2005. Full biography here.
Review of "Global Jihad: the Future in the Face of Militant Islam, Patrick Sookhdeo, Isaac Publishing, McLean, Va., 2007".
Patrick Sookhdeo has provided a valuable and considerable service with the publication of this major work. With over four hundred pages of text and an additional two hundred pages consisting of a glossary, appendices and footnotes, this is a book of real merit and legitimate substance. The overall utility of the work is due to its value at several levels: as a primer on some of the fundamental beliefs of Islam, as an inquiry into the historical association between violence and Islam, as an informed commentary on contemporary Islamist terrorism (and, in Sookhdeo’s view, the inadequacy of Western responses) and as a reflection on how to confront the challenge of international jihad in future. Exhaustively researched and annotated, Global Jihad also has ‘shelf life’ as a reference that can be consulted time and again. Accordingly, the book should be of interest to a broad readership.
Sookhdeo writes persuasively and with authority both on Islam sui generis and on the phenomenon of Islamist terrorism and violent jihad which, he remind us, is not only a contemporary scourge but a reality with deep historical roots. A recognized scholar on Islam (originally schooled in a madrassa) and fluently conversant with Koranic texts and other aspects of the Islamic canon, he writes with commendable clarity on how events from the lifetime of Mohammed have relevance to the contemporary terrorist challenge faced by dozens of countries globally. He reminds the reader that while the venerable shadows of ancient history may be of only minor importance to the Western mind, the past is neither distant nor irrelevant to the Moslem umma, or community of believers. To the extent that those charged with confronting Islamist terrorism fail to grasp this point, of course, their efforts are not likely to be effective. Just as Sun Tzu counseled us to know our enemy, the strategists of the “global war on terrorism” may be found wanting in that regard, not understanding that the primary threat is not some vague form of ‘terrorism’ but, troublingly, one with theological roots.
Regarding a possible link between Islam and violence, the author notes that the expansion of the Moslem world (Dar al-Islam) was accomplished largely through bellicose means and not through persuasion. Conquest for the faith by sword was justified historically by reference to religion. As Sookhdeo notes, “Islam teaches that all lands belong to Allah who has given them to the Muslims. Some they already possess, the rest are theirs in theory and will gradually become theirs in practice.” This absolutist sentiment, of course, is hardly fertile ground for compromise with non-Moslems, past or present. Similarly, Sookhdeo makes a persuasive case that the subjugation of non-Moslems during periods of Moslem conquest was often harshly conducted, forced conversion and massacre more than occasionally meaning that vanquished populations became vanished populations. The notion of dhimma – a status of protection afforded non-Moslems in Moslem-majority lands accorded in exchange for taxes and a demeaned state of existence – is likewise discussed by the author. Institutions such as this, of course, are hardly conducive to the flourishing of broad ecumenism in the Islamic world, a state of affairs clearly relevant to the current divide between Islam and the West.
Regarding contemporary terrorism, Sookhdeo places this phenomenon squarely within the context of strains of violence and an enduring string of violent sects and movements that have existed at various times throughout the existence of Islam. Sookhdeo does not suggest that the link between active Jihadist terrorism and religion is coincidental or marginal. Rather, he observes, “Most terrorists are extremely devout Muslims, who regularly say prayers and attend mosques…All are motivated with a sense of intense rage, hatred and revenge towards those they see as their oppressors who have humiliated their religion and their people. They feel they are breaking out of a state of impotency and striking back from their position of humiliation.” Sookhdeo does not believe that the evidence suggests socio-economic deprivation or similar phenomenon play a central role in terrorist recruitment, although they may provide contributory factors. The common thread linking Jihadist terrorists is their interpretation of the Islamic message, seen as an imperative to be acted upon.
Sookhdeo acknowledges that there has been and is a struggle within Islam as to what the belief system rightly condones and rightly means. He provides a thorough list of what he terms ‘progressive reformers’ within the Islamic tradition. The problem for them, as for us, Sookhdeo argues compellingly, is the concept of violent jihad within the House of Islam and the acceptance of violence, at least under certain circumstances, as a perfectly acceptable method of defending, preserving or expanding the realm of the faithful. From Sookhdeo’s vantage point, the unwillingness to distance from selective violence is not restricted to a few fanatics but represents one (not the sole, of course) mainstream interpretations of Islam. Accordingly, “Although many Muslim descriptions of their own faith in the context of war have painted a picture of peace and tolerance, denying that war is central to their faith, this does not reflect either mainstream Islamic doctrine or Muslim historical practice.” Sookhdeo notes that most Moslems probably concern themselves with daily prayer and other quotidian devotions and do not worry much about expanding the Dar al-Islam or requiring others to accept the requirements of Mohammed’s faith. The difficult is that a considerable minority within Islam translate their faith differently, actively and remorselessly in a manner that is irrational from any dispassionate perspective. “Of course at times there have been rationalists who sought to interpret Islam in the light of reason, but they have been relatively few and more often than not have come to a sticky end.” The role of reason and the rejection of violence as inherently permissible in a theological code are, of course, the areas addressed by Pope Benedict in Regensburg last year. The violent reaction within Islam, perhaps tellingly, would appear to underline the validity of Sookhdeo’s assessment. Again, Global Jihad is a book of consequence, much deserving of serious attention.
Dr. John J. Le Beau is a retired career officer of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Directorate of Operations (Clandestine Service). He is currently Chair of the Partnership for Peace Consortium’s Combating Terrorism Working Group (CTWG) and a Professor of Security Studies specializing in counterterrorism at the George C. Marshall Center, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.