What is the Muslim Brotherhood?

From Harvard University Press, here is a forthcoming book on the history of the relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and the West, The Muslim Brotherhood and the West: A History of Enmity and Engagement, by historian Martyn Frampton (Queen Mary University of London):

The Muslim Brotherhood and the West is the first comprehensive history of the relationship between the world’s largest Islamist movement and the Western powers that have dominated the Middle East for the past century: Britain and the United States.

In the decades since the Brotherhood emerged in Egypt in the 1920s, the movement’s notion of “the West” has remained central to its worldview and a key driver of its behavior. From its founding, the Brotherhood stood opposed to the British Empire and Western cultural influence more broadly. As British power gave way to American, the Brotherhood’s leaders, committed to a vision of more authentic Islamic societies, oscillated between anxiety or paranoia about the West and the need to engage with it. Western officials, for their part, struggled to understand the Brotherhood, unsure whether to shun the movement as one of dangerous “fanatics” or to embrace it as a moderate and inevitable part of the region’s political scene. Too often, diplomats failed to view the movement on its own terms, preferring to impose their own external agendas and obsessions.

Martyn Frampton reveals the history of this complex and charged relationship down to the eve of the Arab Spring. Drawing on extensive archival research in London and Washington and the Brotherhood’s writings in Arabic and English, he provides the most authoritative assessment to date of a relationship that is both vital in itself and crucial to navigating one of the world’s most turbulent regions.

The Islamic State in Britain

Next month, Cambridge will release a study of a terrorist group called “The Emigrants,” whose goal was to create an Islamic state in the United Kingdom. I’ve never heard of this group, myself, but the blurb suggests it was involved in a number of terrorist incidents and eventually supplied fighters for ISIS in the Middle East. The book is The Islamic State in Britain: Radicalization and Resilience in an Activist Network. The author is international affairs scholar Michael Kenney (University of Pittsburgh). Here’s the description from the Cambridge website:

Drawing on extensive field research with activists on the streets of London, Michael Kenney provides the first ethnographic study of a European network implicated in terrorist attacks and sending fighters to the Islamic State. For over twenty years, al-Muhajiroun (Arabic for ‘the Emigrants’) strived to create an Islamic state in Britain through high-risk activism. A number of Emigrants engaged in violence, while others joined the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Kenney explains why young Britons joined the Emigrants, how they radicalized and adapted their activism, and why many of them eventually left. Through an innovative mix of ethnography and network analysis, Kenney explains the structure and processes behind this outlawed network and explores its remarkable resilience. What emerges is a complex, nuanced portrait that demystifies the Emigrants while challenging conventional wisdom on radicalization and countering violent extremism.

Around the Web

Around the Web

Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:

Manne, “The Rise of the Islamic State”

9781633883710From Prometheus, here is a new study of ISIS’s motivating ideology by Australian scholar Robert Manne (La Trobe University): The Mind of the Islamic State: ISIS and the Ideology of the Caliphate. Manne, a political scientist at La Trobe University in Melbourne, traces the roots of ISIS to earlier Islamic groups like al-Qaeda. Here’s the description from the Penguin Random House, the distributor:

In the ongoing conflict with ISIS, military observers and regional experts have noted that it is just as important to understand its motivating ideology as to win battles on the ground. This book traces the evolution of this ideology from its origins in the prison writings of the revolutionary jihadist Sayyid Qutb, through the thinking of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, who planned the 9/11 terrorist attack, to today’s incendiary screeds that motivate terrorism via the Internet.

Chief among these recent texts are two documents that provide the foundation for ISIS terrorism. One is called The Management of Savagery, essentially a handbook for creating mayhem through acts of violence. The other is the online magazine of horror called Dabiq, which combines theological justifications with ultraviolent means, apocalyptic dreams, and genocidal ambitions. Professor Manne provides close, original, and lucid readings of these important documents. He introduces readers to a strange, cruel, but internally coherent and consistent political ideology, which has now entered the minds of very large numbers of radicalized Muslims in the Middle East, North Africa, and the West.

However disturbing and unsettling, this book is essential reading for anyone concerned about terrorist violence.

 

Mekhennet, “I Was Told to Come Alone”

Souad Mekhennet is a German journalist of Turkish-Moroccan descent. She has covered the Islamic State and other jihadi groups extensively for papers like The New York Times and the Washington Post. This month, Henry Holt releases her memoir of some of her experiences tracking down and interviewing extremists, I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad. Here’s the publisher’s description:

9781627798976“I was told to come alone. I was not to carry any identification, and would have to leave my cell phone, audio recorder, watch, and purse at my hotel. . . .”

For her whole life, Souad Mekhennet, a reporter for The Washington Post who was born and educated in Germany, has had to balance the two sides of her upbringing – Muslim and Western. She has also sought to provide a mediating voice between these cultures, which too often misunderstand each other.

In this compelling and evocative memoir, we accompany Mekhennet as she journeys behind the lines of jihad, starting in the German neighborhoods where the 9/11 plotters were radicalized and the Iraqi neighborhoods where Sunnis and Shia turned against one another, and culminating on the Turkish/Syrian border region where ISIS is a daily presence. In her travels across the Middle East and North Africa, she documents her chilling run-ins with various intelligence services and shows why the Arab Spring never lived up to its promise. She then returns to Europe, first in London, where she uncovers the identity of the notorious ISIS executioner “Jihadi John,” and then in France, Belgium, and her native Germany, where terror has come to the heart of Western civilization.

Mekhennet’s background has given her unique access to some of the world’s most wanted men, who generally refuse to speak to Western journalists. She is not afraid to face personal danger to reach out to individuals in the inner circles of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS, and their affiliates; when she is told to come alone to an interview, she never knows what awaits at her destination.

Souad Mekhennet is an ideal guide to introduce us to the human beings behind the ominous headlines, as she shares her transformative journey with us. Hers is a story you will not soon forget.

Kepel, “Terror in France”

Last weekend, France held a presidential election; as expected, the independent candidate Emmanuel Macron prevailed. A key issue in the election, as in all French politics, was what to do about Islamist terrorism in France. Last month, Princeton released an English translation of a 2015 work by French political scientist Gilles Kepel (École Normale Supérieure), Terror in France: The Rise of Jihad in the West.  Here’s a description of the book from the Princeton website:

j10926The virulent new brand of Islamic extremism threatening the West

In November 2015, ISIS terrorists massacred scores of people in Paris with coordinated attacks on the Bataclan concert hall, cafés and restaurants, and the national sports stadium. On Bastille Day in 2016, an ISIS sympathizer drove a truck into crowds of vacationers at the beaches of Nice, and two weeks later an elderly French priest was murdered during morning Mass by two ISIS militants. Here is Gilles Kepel’s explosive account of the radicalization of a segment of Muslim youth that led to those attacks—and of the failure of governments in France and across Europe to address it. It is a book everyone in the West must read.

Terror in France shows how these atrocities represent a paroxysm of violence that has long been building. The turning point was in 2005, when the worst riots in modern French history erupted in the poor, largely Muslim suburbs of Paris after the accidental deaths of two boys who had been running from the police. The unrest—or “French intifada”—crystallized a new consciousness among young French Muslims. Some have fallen prey to the allure of “war of civilizations” rhetoric in ways never imagined by their parents and grandparents.

This is the highly anticipated English edition of Kepel’s sensational French bestseller, first published shortly after the Paris attacks. Now fully updated to reflect the latest developments and featuring a new introduction by the author, Terror in France reveals the truth about a virulent new wave of jihadism that has Europe as its main target. Its aim is to divide European societies from within by instilling fear, provoking backlash, and achieving the ISIS dream—shared by Europe’s Far Right—of separating Europe’s growing Muslim minority community from the rest of its citizens.

Zehr, “The War against al-Qaeda”

In May, Georgetown University Press will release The War against al-Qaeda: Religion, Policy, and Counter-narratives by Nahed Artoul Zehr (Executive Director of the Faith & Culture Center in Nashville). The publisher’s description follows:

The War Against al-Quedia.jpgIn this original and provocative book, Nahed Artoul Zehr explores the theological underpinnings of al-Qaeda and related Islamic movements such as ISIS. She demonstrates how this marginal narrative transformed al-Qaeda from a relatively hierarchical and regional organization to a globalized, decentralized, and diffuse system of networks. She draws connections between religious ideas and strategy in her translation and analysis of leading theoretical and tactical jihad text, The Global Islamic Resistance Call, by Mustafa abu Mus’ ab al-Suri.

Just as importantly, she questions al-Qaeda’s understanding of the Islamic tradition on the use of force, arguing that it reflects a weak understanding of this tradition. More specifically, it is al-Qaeda’s (and related groups’) break with this tradition that is key to an al-Qaeda defeat.

Simultaneously, Zehr critiques the US military and policy establishment as it attempts to offer counter-narratives to the al-Qaeda phenomenon that emphasizes “good Muslims” versus “bad Muslims” in order to embrace a “moderate” form of Islam. According to Zehr, this approach is misguided: it is beyond the US government’s purview and expertise to make such theological claims about Islam. Better, she argues, to note the counter-narratives that are coming from within the Muslim community and other nongovernment institutions interested in moving this work forward.

By refocusing our attention on al-Qaeda’s narrative and the various ways that
it is being contested, the book provides an alternate lens from which to view
al-Qaeda and the al-Qaeda phenomenon for Islamic and US foreign policy scholars and students.

 

“Understanding Boko Haram” (Solomon & Hentz, eds.)

In April, Routledge will release “Understanding Boko Haram: Terrorism and Insurgency in Africa,” edited by James Hentz (Virginia Military Institute) and Hussein Solomon (University of the Free State).   The publisher’s description follows:

The primary objective of this book is to understand the nature of the Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria.

Boko Haram’s goal of an Islamic Caliphate, starting in the Borno State in the North 9781138696228East that will eventually cover the areas of the former Kanem-Borno Empire, is a rejection of the modern state system forced on it by the West. The central theme of this volume examines the relationship between the failure of the statebuilding project in Nigeria and the outbreak and nature of insurgency. At the heart of the Boko Haram phenomenon is a country racked with cleavages making it hard for Nigeria to cohere as a modern state. Part I introduces this theme and places the Boko Haram insurgency in a historical context. There are, however, multiple cleavages in Nigeria: ethnic, regional, cultural, and religious, and Part II examines the different state-society dynamics fuelling the conflict. Political grievances are common to every society; however what gives Boko Haram the space to express such grievances through violence? Importantly, this volume demonstrates that the insurgency is, in fact, a reflection of the hollowness within Nigeria’s overall security. Part III looks at the responses to Boko Haram by Nigeria, neighbouring states, and external actors. For Western actors, Boko Haram is seen as part of the “global war on terror” (GWOT) and the fact that it has pledged allegiance to ISIS encourages this framing. However, as the chapters here discuss, this is an over-simplification of Boko Haram and the West needs to address the multiple dimension of Boko Haram.

This book will be of much interest to students of terrorism and political violence, insurgencies, African politics, war and conflict studies, and IR in general.

Bergen, “United States of Jihad”

Forthcoming from Penguin Random House, a new book by Peter Bergen, United States of Jihad: Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists. The publisher’s description follows:

Thurston, “Salafism in Nigeria”

In September, Cambridge University Press released “Salafism in Nigeria: Islam, Preaching, and Politics,” by Alexander Thurston (Georgetown University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The spectre of Boko Haram and its activities in Nigeria dominates both media and 9781107157439academic analysis of Islam in the region. But, as Alexander Thurston argues here, beyond the sensational headlines this group generates, the dynamics of Muslim life in northern Nigeria remain poorly understood. Drawing on interviews with leading Salafis in Nigeria as well as on a rereading of the history of the global Salafi movement, this volume explores how a canon of classical and contemporary texts defines Salafism. Examining how these texts are interpreted and – crucially – who it is that has the authority to do so, Thurston offers a systematic analysis of curricula taught in Saudi Arabia and how they shape religious scholars’ approach to religion and education once they return to Africa. Essential for scholars of religion and politics, this unique text explores how the canon of Salafism has been used and refined, from Nigeria’s return to democracy to the jihadist movement Boko Haram.

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