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      Books in Brief

      Arab Studies Quarterly
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            Main article text

            Global Jihad is a much-needed study about the Muslim phenomenon of jihad. Glenn E. Robinson’s well-documented book clarifies the origins of jihad, its development, and the various strands that resulted from the promulgation of Islam in the seventh century. The book comprises four chapters, with an introduction, conclusion, and an epilogue, with helpful notes and a bibliography. The introduction differentiates two meanings of Jihadism, a much-needed clarification. Jihad refers to the personal struggle, the “greater jihad” that involves the individual struggle against temptation, to achieve piety. The “jihad of the sword,” as it has been used by a few contemporary Muslim groups, connotes the violent struggle to defend Islam, Muslims, and their territory. “Jihad of the sword” is not sanctioned by any religious authority, which makes it illegal (1).

            When in the nineteenth-century European powers began infiltrating the region, Arab contact with the West was a double-edged sword: tragic and heroic. The former began with France occupying Egypt in 1789, followed by colonial Britain taking over in 1882. By World War I, France and Britain joined hands to divide the spoils of the Ottoman Empire and share the colonization of the territories they created in the Levant (Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria). They conquered and subjugated the Indigenous and continued to colonize the region for a number of decades. The colonial powers also built the infrastructure for government institutions and law, and they educated the colonized in the tools of modernity—what historian Albert Hourani terms the heroic aspect. According to Robinson, while some Muslims saw colonialism as a threat to their Faith, others embraced science and Western ideas of progress and culture. Had Robinson mentioned the negative impact of the colonial “training” and “education” on the colonized, the discussion would have been more fully nuanced. One Muslim response against Western intervention was the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood by the Egyptian religious leader Hassan al-Banna, in 1928.

            We learn of the emergence of Shia Jihad in the 1960s in Paris. It was advocated by the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini and his philosopher-affiliate Ali Shariati, a Sorbonne graduate. The author rightly reminds us that historically the 15% Shia had been demobilized by the 85% Sunni Muslims since the seventh century, when their leader Imam Husayn Bin Ali—the Prophet’s grandson—was killed by the Sunni Umayyad leader Yazid. Khomeini and Shariati re-conceptualized the death of Husayn as an injustice against Islam. They targeted the Shah rule in Iran as an anti-Islam corrupt autocracy. Khomeini called for jihad against the Shah to be replaced by an authentic Islamic government ( hukumat-i-islami) (19). Thus was born the revolution that gave birth to the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979.

            Robinson explains that the modern phenomenon of Global Jihad, which arose as a response to Western imperial interventions, became prominent in the Arab Muslim world by the 1980s. The four waves of Global Jihad are explored in four chapters. Chapter 1 relates the Afghan war against the Soviet invasion, the first wave that attracted Arab volunteers to join Afghan fighters ( mujahideen). This gave birth to al-qa᾿ida base whose local and international aim was to rid Muslims of infidel invaders. Saudi citizen Osama Bin Laden ushered in the second wave from Afghanistan, his adopted home. In 1996, he gave a speech declaring war on the United States and the Saudi regime, which launched Global Jihad against the infidels after the First Iraqi War in 1991. With Ayman al-Zawahiri and others, Bin Laden called for war against the apostate regimes whose survival depended on American support. The climax of this second wave was the attacks of September 11, 2001, on the US. A few smaller branches of al-qa᾿ida emerged in different regions since then, but they fizzled out after the killing of Bin Laden in 2011. Meanwhile, the Yemeni branch, named “al-Qa᾿ida in the Arabian Peninsula,” is the branch that continues to fight the local Yemeni war against the Saudi invasion, with no global agenda.

            The third and fourth waves are the subjects of chapters 3 and 4, respectively. The third wave, dubbed the “Caliphate Now”! explores the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that arose after the Iraq War of 2003 and the civil war in Syria. ISIS leaders sought to eradicate the regime apostasy caused by Western corruption, in order to capture territories and establish an Islamic state according to the Shariʾa. Their excessive violence, gore, and use of social media attracted many volunteers to their ranks, but they were eventually defeated by a coalition of American and Arab forces, in 2019. Finally, the defeat of the Taliban and the loss of Afghanistan in 2001 resulted in the fourth wave of Global Jihad, which continues in the present. Turning to individualized actions against corrupt westernized individuals, its main visionary leader is a veteran Syrian fighter by the name of Abu Musab al-Suri. Robinson describes this fourth wave as a “leaderless” “wiki-narrative,” to be carried out by radicalized, alienated Muslim individuals who carry out violent acts against civilians to generate public fear in the attempt to save the idea of Global Jihad.

            Global Jihad: A Brief History is a highly recommended primer for students in political science, international politics, and Islamic and cultural studies.

            Author and article information

            Arab Studies Quarterly
            Pluto Journals
            4 November 2022
            4 November 2022
            : 44
            : 3-4
            : 224-229
            © 2022

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            Page count
            Pages: 6

            Global Jihad: A Brief History. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2021. 264 pages. Paperback $25.00

            Books in Brief

            Social & Behavioral Sciences


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