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Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, Modernity

by Faisal Devji

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Benjamin Kerstein
  alexstein | Apr 8, 2011 |
The militant Islam represented by Al Qaeda is often described as a global movement. Apart from the geographical range of its operations and support, little else is held to define it as 'global'. Its militants' international mobility and their technological sophistication are portrayed as the only signs of the jihadis' globalisation. Landscapes of the Jihad explores the features that Al Qaeda and other strands of militant Islam share in common with global movements such as environmentalists and anti-globalisation protesters. These include a decentralised organisation and an emphasis on ethical rather than properly political action. Devji brings these and other characteristics of Al Qaeda together in an analysis of the jihad that locates it squarely within the transformation of political thought after the Cold War. The jihad emerges from the breakdown of traditional as well as modern forms of authority in the Muslim world. It is neither dogmatic in an old-fashioned way nor ideological in the modern sense, and concerned neither with correct doctrinal practice in the present nor with some revolutionary utopia of the future. Instead it is fragmented, dispersed and highly individualistic. ( )
  HurstPub | Nov 5, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0801444373, Hardcover)

What are the motives behind Osama bin Laden's and Al-Qaeda's jihad against America and the West? Innumerable attempts have been made in recent years to explain that mysterious worldview. In Landscapes of the Jihad, Faisal Devji focuses on the ethical content of this jihad as opposed to its purported political intent. Al-Qaeda differs radically from such groups as Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and Indonesia's Jemaah Islamiyah, which aim to establish fundamentalist Islamic states. In fact, Devji contends, Al-Qaeda, with its decentralized structure and emphasis on moral rather than political action, actually has more in common with multinational corporations, antiglobalization activists, and environmentalist and social justice organizations. Bin Laden and his lieutenants view their cause as a response to the oppressive conditions faced by the Muslim world rather than an Islamist attempt to build states.

Al-Qaeda culls diverse symbols and fragments from Islam's past in order to legitimize its global war against the "metaphysical evil" emanating from the West. The most salient example of this assemblage, Devji argues, is the concept of jihad itself, which Al-Qaeda defines as an "individual duty" incumbent on all Muslims, like prayer. Although medieval Islamic thought provides precedent for this interpretation, Al-Qaeda has deftly separated the stipulation from its institutional moorings and turned jihad into a weapon of spiritual conflict. Al-Qaeda and its jihad, Devji suggests, are only the most visible manifestations of wider changes in the Muslim world. Such changes include the fragmentation of traditional as well as fundamentalist forms of authority. In the author's view, Al-Qaeda represents a new way of organizing Muslim belief and practice within a global landscape and does not require ideological or institutional unity.

Offering a compelling explanation for the central purpose of Al-Qaeda's jihad against the West, the meaning of its strategies and tactics, and its moral and aesthetic dimensions, Landscapes of the Jihad is at once a sophisticated work of historical and cultural analysis and an invaluable guide to the world's most prominent terrorist movement.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:42:14 -0400)

"Landscapes of the Jihad explores the features that Al Qaeda and other strands of militant Islam share in common with global movements such as environmentalists and anti-globalisation protesters. These include a decentralised organisation and an emphasis on ethical rather than properly political action. Devji brings these and other characteristics of Al Qaeda together in an analysis of the jihad that locates it squarely within the transformation of political thought after the Cold War." "The jihad emerges from the breakdown of traditional as well as modern forms of authority in the Muslim world. It is neither dogmatic in an old fashioned way nor ideological in the modern sense, and concerned neither with correct doctrinal practice in the present nor with some revolutionary utopia of the future. Instead it is fragmented, dispersed and highly individualistic."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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