Al-Qaeda: The true story of radical Islam

Al-Qaeda: The true story of radical Islam by Jason Burke (revised edition Penguin Books 2004)
An extremely detailed account of the rise of modern Islamic jihadism and analysis of the role of Osama bin Laden and a whole host of other militant activists.Burke describes the changes and developments in Islamic militancy over the last 25 years including the build-up to 9/11 and its aftermath. He puts bin Laden in context showing both his influence and the limits of his influence. The book is not an easy read because of the sheer volume of detail. I find Arabic names difficult to hold in memory during reading. Also the narrative is not linear but moves backwards and forwards over the period. Nonetheless it is a tour de force by a superior journalist who was there when many of these events happened and who has interviewed some of the key characters. This book shows that simplistic analysis of Islamic jihadism is not enough; that there is an increasingly widespead global hostility towards “the West” amongst alienated Muslims in many parts of the world which cannot be ignored; but that the way for the West to counter this threat ultimately is not to further alienate the Islamic world through the use of the military option but rather to tackle the social and economic poverty of the Middle East in particular and to build common cause with the vast majority of Muslims who eschew violence.

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