Wednesday, 23 September 2015

God's Terrorists: The Wahhabi Cult and the Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad - Charles Allen

Title: God's Terrorists: The Wahhabi Cult and the Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad
Author: Charles Allen
ISBN: 978-0-349-11879-6
Publisher: Abacus
Pages: 349
Photos/Maps: 30/5

Wahhabism has been in existence for centuries and has been the source of radical destabilization within regions of the British Raj, India, the Ottoman Empire, the Nejd and, in more modern times, the Western world. It also maintains very deep and traditional ties with and enjoys ongoing patronage and support from one of the most longstanding allies of the West in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia. It represents perhaps the most extreme form of Islam in history and has been traditionally disavowed by moderate and mainstream Islamic schools. It has also been the subject of repeated efforts to destroy it through military action and, while it may have been diminished, it has never been eliminated.

Given that it is the foundation of the groups that represent the perceived greatest threat to the West and its tenants (Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Hindustani Fanatics etc), relatively little is known and even less understood about the motivations and religious underpinnings that drive these followers to act as they do. Allen has undertaken to not only trace the history and development of Wahhabism but to also provide the context within which the doctrine of this group has been nurtured. This is critical to the understanding of what drives the Wahhabist and the author has done a superlative job at boiling down a very complex issue into a manageable and comprehensible narrative. Most importantly, he has done this without diminishing the message or 'dumbing down' the content.

It is interesting to see how the cult of the personality figures so prominently within Wahhabism. Centred upon religious Madrassahs or schools, the students are indoctrinated from a young age, with limited external exposure and often from economically challenged backgrounds. They are vulnerable to the influences and charisma of their teachers who operate free from external oversight. Like cults anywhere, they prey upon the weak and impressionable. However, it must be stated that the roots of wahhabist discontent stem from a complex cocktail of disillusionment with the status quo, fear of change to the tenants of Islam and a perceived inability to influence from within the traditional structure.

Wahhabists are not interested in debate or discussion. Allen's book paints a very clear picture of a group operating under the notion that, regardless of the source of the challenge, the initiator is wrong and they are correct. He does not suggest ways to address or undermine the influence of wahhabism, merely outlining the how's and why's relating to the creation and flourishing of it.
A fascinating read and a superb synopsis of the history of this religious organization. It is not going away nor will it be stamped out through military action alone. It is not a movement that relies upon centralized direction, nor will it be short of recruits while misguided teachers prey upon the uneducated and destitute. I strongly recommend this book; it is fair, balanced and, above all, educational.

1 comment:

  1. Great review, Buck! Hope all is well.