Book review: The way of strangers, Encounters with the Islamic State

With the growing appeal of ISISism in the Middle East, the importance of an effective US diplomatic focus on religious freedom, with new paradigms that take into account the gravity of the situation, is only growing. Last week I attended an important conference hosted by the University of Notre Dame that did a great job at helping take that discussion to a new level.

And on a related note, over the weekend, I finished this new book on ISIS:

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In a nutshell, should you read this book and why? 

Continue reading “Book review: The way of strangers, Encounters with the Islamic State”

Why Saudi/UAE views on radical Islam during the Trump era will be more influential than the Qatari narrative of the Obama years

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Given the Trump administration focus on rebuilding damaged alliances with traditional Middle Eastern allies that were neglected by President Obama, Israeli, Emirati, Saudi and Egyptian views on issues such as terrorism and whatever relationship the Muslim Brotherhood has to that, will have more influence in the US in the coming years than say, the Qatari narrative that had much weight during the Obama years.

On that note, this is a fascinating article that was published in Al-Hayat, a major regional newspaper, by a distinguished Saudi anthropologist. It sheds some interesting light on those perspectives mentioned above, so I decided to translate it. Continue reading “Why Saudi/UAE views on radical Islam during the Trump era will be more influential than the Qatari narrative of the Obama years”

Beating ISIS the “State” was the easy part – the 100 year ideological war is just getting started

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Over the weekend I read an article by former Obama administration official Andrew Exum stating that “President Trump will defeat ISIS” but that “it will mostly be due to the work of his predecessor.”

My two cents: defeating the geographic entity in Syria and Iraq is great yet hardly the end of the problem.

As I noted in an article I wrote for Arabist.net in Fall 2015:

Defeating ISIS the geographic entity is the easy part:

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Continue reading “Beating ISIS the “State” was the easy part – the 100 year ideological war is just getting started”

Can Egypt’s Muslim Establishment neutralize the anti-Establishment Jihadist narrative?

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Below I have translated a February 13th article in Alaph newspaper titled “Daesh and the Muslim Brotherhood Call Upon Their Followers to Kill the Sheikh of Al-Azhar.”

It highlights the extent to which the political violence associated with Jihadist movements everywhere in the Muslim World is best understood using this paradigm:

Establishment versus Anti-Establishment 

The basic divides as relates to  Egypt in particular:

(Group A) Establishment Islam: Continue reading “Can Egypt’s Muslim Establishment neutralize the anti-Establishment Jihadist narrative?”

My review of “Defeating Jihad” by senior Trump CT Advisor Sebastian Gorka

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It is often said that “personnel is policy.”

Today, Dr. Sebastian Gorka – recently appointed to a high-level Counter-Terrorism position in the Trump administration – was the subject of an  in-depth Politico profile.

Over the weekend I read Dr. Gorka’s 2016 book and will review in this post.

Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War is an important text that I recommend.  If the recommendations are only generally followed it’s an improvement for US national security. Here are the broad takeaways about what we can extrapolate about the new administration’s CT approach: Continue reading “My review of “Defeating Jihad” by senior Trump CT Advisor Sebastian Gorka”

The Countering Jihadism Reading List – 19 recommended books

To be continuously updated

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Below are 19 books that I consider essential reading* for understanding the nature of the Jihadism** problem and formulating the toughest and most strategic CT approach (as opposed to only tactical) during the Trump administration.

As a doctor will say, correctly diagnosing the cause of a problem is the key to figuring out how to stop it from happening.

Continue reading “The Countering Jihadism Reading List – 19 recommended books”

Why It’s Not True to Say that the Saudi government “exported” Radical Islam

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I am reposting this piece that I wrote in November 2015.

 

November 2015.

As policy makers focus on what to do about the Islamic State  over the coming months — you will hear people talking about the  role of the Wahhabi version of Islam of Saudi Arabia, and what connection it has to the spread of this new wave of terrorism everyone is talking about.

For decades, there has been a school of thought that blames the Saudis for Al-Qaeda, or Salafism, and now, the Islamic State, as a result of some conscious strategy by the Saudi ruling class to “export” their version of Islam.

Here are eight links ( one two three four five six  seven eight)  from reasonable mainstream media outlets that state some variation of the thesis of this headline:

How Saudi Arabia Exported the Main Source of Global Terrorism

Central to this idea is that, if the Saudis did not take these actions to export their version of Islam, different things would be happening.  Such as:

  • Islam as practiced in many Arab countries would be more moderate
  • Certain radical mosques in say France, wouldn’t exist
  • Fewer Belgians would have traveled to fight in Syria.
  • Radical clerics would have less followers on Twitter.

I have always argued — and will argue in this post — that the spread of more conservative Islamic views across the Middle East, and amongst Muslims in the West, both now, and over the course of the last several decades, cannot be blamed on any conscious strategy by people or organizations inside Saudi Arabia.

It is merely a natural reflection of the “demand” for more conservative religious views.  People chose more conservative Islam because it is logical to them based on their personal surrounding environment.

Continue reading “Why It’s Not True to Say that the Saudi government “exported” Radical Islam”