A U.S. Army War College instructor shares his scholarship about the Muslim faith through the centuries to explain how a minority of Muslims became global terrorists.
In a book that is part chronological religious history and part contemporary political science, Ibrahim (The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar's Hidden Genocide, 2016, etc.), a former British army paratrooper who speaks Urdu, among other languages, offers a refreshingly nuanced approach rather than a jeremiad. He quickly establishes that most Muslims oppose violence but that the exceptions are mostly young Sunni males. With convincing evidence, the author explains how the roots of most of the Islamic violence aimed at the United States and other target nations began at least a century ago in the region in and around Saudi Arabia. At first, the Saudi brand of the Muslim faith was known as Wahhabism; later, the philosophy of religious violence became known as Salafism. As Ibrahim rightly notes, the prophet of Islam, Muhammad, almost surely would not have endorsed terrorism, despite what some zealots preach. Those teachings have been corrupted by these fanatical warriors, most of whom are often ignorant of—or willfully distort—the fundamental principles of their faith. Although the author finds no logic behind the violence, he attempts to explain the thinking of renegade Muslims who endorse terrorism. Combating such terrorism, as carried out specifically by al-Qaida and the Islamic State group, is far from simple, but Ibrahim feels certain the current plans put in place by the U.S. government are counterproductive. Part of the refreshing nuance of the book comes from Ibrahim’s differing formulas for combating violence in different regions, including Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, and Egypt. Throughout the book, the author writes clearly and accessibly, and he provides summaries at the end of each chapter. His section on the antidotes to violence is especially lucid.
Required reading for those who want to understand the connections between Muslims and terrorism.