Varagur wisely allows many voices to be heard—and shows how Saudi influence is now more transparent but still insidious.

THE CALL

INSIDE THE GLOBAL SAUDI RELIGIOUS PROJECT

An award-winning journalist follows the money to track the pervasive spread of Saudi Arabia’s particular brand of ultraconservative Islam.

Varagur, who reports on Indonesia for the Guardian and other South and Southeast Asian countries for a variety of publications, scrupulously lays out three case studies in which Saudi Arabia has managed to export Wahhabism, often in violent ways. The author looks at vibrant Salafi (the global brand of Wahhabism) communities in Indonesia, where her work took her in recent years; northern Nigeria, which has produced numerous states run by strict Sharia law and given rise to Boko Haram; and Kosovo, a small country of 1.8 million people that has nonetheless “contributed more foreign fighters per capita to ISIS than any other country in Europe.” The leaders of these “thriving Salafi ecosystems” were originally trained (indoctrinated) in Saudi Arabia, specifically at the Islamic University of Medina, which was built in the early 1960s by King Faisal and has become one of the most significant instruments of Saudi “dawa,” or call to Islam that “refers to proselytization more generally.” With the injection of oil money in the 1970s and the perceived threat of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the kingdom endowed several powerful charities—e.g., the Muslim World League, which developed into a violent “intolerance factory.” In her three riveting, thoroughly researched case studies, Varagur investigates why the Saudi brand of Islam is so appealing: It is radical in its simplicity, clearly instructs behavior, provides direct access to important texts, and offers a sense of community to its believers worldwide. The author also chronicles how Faisal personally sponsored delegations from IUM to African nations and how Saudi charities were key elements in the effort to rebuild Kosovo after the 1998-1999 war. Varagur wisely allows many voices to be heard—and shows how Saudi influence is now more transparent but still insidious.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73362-376-6

Page Count: -

Publisher: Columbia Global Reports

Review Posted Online: March 8, 2020

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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