HOLY WAR by Wilhelm Dietl


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Yet another inflammatory title that does a disservice to author, subject, and prospective reader: Dietl is a West German journalist with extensive Mideast experience; his subject is the role of fundamentalist Muslim organizations, including but not confined to the Muslim Brotherhood (itself not a mere ""terrorist"" underground), in the resurgence of Islam from North Africa to East Asia; and his book, though more journalistic than Edward Mortimer's Faith and Power: The Politics of Islam (1982), is the nearest complement to that stalwart work. For the current-affairs reader or the student of modern Islam, Dietl has several things to offer. One: he identifies and then elaborates on 20th-century Islamic thinkers and political leaders--showing how Islamicism developed in opposition to Western domination and Westernized rulers, giving these persons individuality and, in some cases, moral and intellectual stature. Acquaintance with Musa Sadr, leader of Lebanon's oppressed Shiites (""the first man in history of Islam to preach in a Christian church""), or with Dr. Ali Shariati, Iranian prophet of Islamic socialism under the Shah, tempers the Khomeni/fanatic image. Two: Dietl deals with the conflict between religious and nationalist forces, and with relations between the Islamicists, the socialists, and the PLO. Three: he looks closely at news-making and news-worthy events--Sadat's inevitable assassination (""seven to nine political groups competed to eliminate him""), the 1981 Hamah massacre (when Syria's president Assad wiped out a Muslim Brotherhood stronghold), the 1979 seizure of Mecca's Grand Mosque, the murder of Ali Shariati (by a SAVAK agent, says Dietl, using a CIA-devised projectile dipped in cobra venom) and the disappearance of Musa Sadr (more thriller-intrigue, involving Libya's Qaddafi). Among those who make brief, tantalizing appearances are Algerian liberation hero Ahmed Ben Bella, Marxist turned Muslim fundamentalist, and Dr. Tigani Abu Guideri, leader of Islamic missionary activity in Africa, ""a Sudanese with an American passport."" The geographic sweep extends not only across the Third World (and into Soviet Muslim lands), but into Europe (and, more skimpily, the US). Dietl writes with horror of Qaddafi, Assad, and Khomeni--and somewhat equivocally about Muslim Brotherhood traditionalists. But on the whole this is a respectful, unsensationalized tour of what Dietl does see as a dynamic Islam.

Pub Date: Jan. 6th, 1984
Publisher: Macmillan