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Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam by…

Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam (2004)

by Jason Burke

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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
For a really illuminating account of that loose network of networks generically called Al-Qaeda this is considered by many as the most trustworthy and lucid work. Written in an engaging prose, this history of the emergence and evolution of present day islamic radicalism is really unputdownable! ( )
  FPdC | May 24, 2010 |
London Observer Chief Reporter Jason Burke was featured in the recent BBC2 documentary "The Power of Nightmares" which compared the rise of Islamic militancy with the corresponding (and equally unnerving) rise of the religious right in US politics. The rather silly cover of his book on the subject belies what is in fact a thorough, erudite, dispassionate and compelling account of the rise of Radical Islam, of which "Al Qaeda" - in its strict sense - is really only a small part.

Burke has spent a number of years in various Islamic hot spots (Saudi, Afghanistan, Kurdish Iraq) and has apparently the spent the most of the last four years doing his homework. The account he sets out (which really ought not to be a surprise to anyone but the Neo-Conservatives) is that Islamic militancy is not centrally controlled; there is no "head of the snake" except the one Western foreign policy has created in Osama bin Laden. For nothing has assisted fundamentalism as a rallying point for (the in reality mostly social and political) discontent in the Islamic word than his vilification by Messrs Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and their friends. Indeed, Burke's case is that before the Western Hawks began targeting it, Islamic militancy was, amongst its own constituents, all but dead in the water.

Burke is convincing in his arguments that Al-Qaeda *the actual organisation* was never more than a hard-core of twenty or thirty militants, was not more than indirectly associated with many of the terrorist acts attributed to them, and was dispersed, incapacitated and in large part eliminated after the war in Afghanistan. But Al Qaeda *the idea* - which is the creation of western conservative political classes - has spread virus-like amongst the Islamic world, and is a much more threatening spectacle. Ideas are a whole lot harder to kill off than individuals.

In laying the groundwork for his thesis Burke is obliged to engage with a lot of minutiae of the history of Islamic dissent (every bit-player in the last twenty years gets a mention), and this part of the book is somewhat heavy going, though it certainly leads gravitas: without it, Burke would be open to criticism for a lack of thoroughness. But otherwise, this is a stimulating and important book. ( )
1 vote ElectricRay | Sep 30, 2008 |
The definitive book on Islamic militancy. Burke explodes the myths about 'al-Qaeda' and exposes the reality of the threat. Immensely readable, I found it hard to put down. Burke leaves the reader in no doubt about his authority on this particular subject, relating interviews with various militants and officials who have had dealings with Osama Bin Laden's 'hardcore'. Quite frankly, if you want to understand the workings of Bin Laden's network (such that it is), look no further than this. ( )
  ijclark | Aug 30, 2008 |
I haven't gotten through this book yet. I think that most of the more interesting bits I already knew about, so it really doesn't hold my attention at all. ( )
  dryfly | Jan 11, 2007 |
When this is required reading for all "coalition of the willing" political leaders and no-one in power can make a public statement or foreign policy decision without having having passed a test on their comprehension of it we will at last begin to see the beginnings of rationality and humanity in our dealings with the Middle East. I bought this after reading a piece by Chomsky in which he said this was probably the best book written on terrorism. Burke knows his subject well and gives a clear grounds eye view of who the terrorists are and how they operate. Burke demonstrates that there is no such thing as a Dr Evil type monster out there, but the real danger is our inability to see how our western leaders have so humiliated and raped and despoiled and oppressed (by proxy or directly) the democratic and human rights aspirations of Arabs and how there are literally as a result thousands of would-be suicide terrorists incognito and freelance the world over. I can just add to Burke's book the comment that it's not a problem with Islam -- otherwise we would have seen this sort of terrorism non-stop ever since the west has encountered islam. The 9/11 plotters and Bin Laden made their aims and motivations very plain (why do so many in the west still remain ignorant -- why do our leaders continue to deny it in public?) and the US conceded on their major demand (withdrawal from Saudi Arabia) after establishing new bases in Iraq. And Australia fully supported and backed the US proxy occupation and oppressoin of Moslem holy lands and peoples -- hence Bali. No prizes for guessing the motivations of the new wave of terrorist activities since then.

(This and other reviews on my blog at http://sweetreason.wordpress.com )
1 vote neilgodfrey | Oct 8, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141019123, Paperback)

Jason Burke has produced the definitive account of Islamic militancy - revolutionising our understanding of Al-Qaeda, retelling its history from scratch and critically exploding the myths that form the very foundations of the 'War on Terror'. Fully updated with new material on Iraq and Afghanistan.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:30 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Jason Burke's account revolutionises our understanding of Al-Qaeda, retelling its history from scratch and critically exploding the myths that form the foundations of the War on Terror.

» see all 2 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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