Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, Modernity [NOOK Book]

Overview

What are the motives behind Osama bin Laden's and Al-Qaeda's jihad against America and the West? Innumerable attempts have been made in recent years to explain that mysterious worldview. In Landscapes of the Jihad, Faisal Devji focuses on the ethical content of this jihad as opposed to its purported political intent. Al-Qaeda differs radically from such groups as Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and Indonesia's Jemaah Islamiyah, which aim to establish fundamentalist Islamic states. In fact, Devji contends, Al-Qaeda, ...

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Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, Modernity

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Overview

What are the motives behind Osama bin Laden's and Al-Qaeda's jihad against America and the West? Innumerable attempts have been made in recent years to explain that mysterious worldview. In Landscapes of the Jihad, Faisal Devji focuses on the ethical content of this jihad as opposed to its purported political intent. Al-Qaeda differs radically from such groups as Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and Indonesia's Jemaah Islamiyah, which aim to establish fundamentalist Islamic states. In fact, Devji contends, Al-Qaeda, with its decentralized structure and emphasis on moral rather than political action, actually has more in common with multinational corporations, antiglobalization activists, and environmentalist and social justice organizations. Bin Laden and his lieutenants view their cause as a response to the oppressive conditions faced by the Muslim world rather than an Islamist attempt to build states.

Al-Qaeda culls diverse symbols and fragments from Islam's past in order to legitimize its global war against the "metaphysical evil" emanating from the West. The most salient example of this assemblage, Devji argues, is the concept of jihad itself, which Al-Qaeda defines as an "individual duty" incumbent on all Muslims, like prayer. Although medieval Islamic thought provides precedent for this interpretation, Al-Qaeda has deftly separated the stipulation from its institutional moorings and turned jihad into a weapon of spiritual conflict. Al-Qaeda and its jihad, Devji suggests, are only the most visible manifestations of wider changes in the Muslim world. Such changes include the fragmentation of traditional as well as fundamentalist forms of authority. In the author's view, Al-Qaeda represents a new way of organizing Muslim belief and practice within a global landscape and does not require ideological or institutional unity. Offering a compelling explanation for the central purpose of Al-Qaeda's jihad against the West, the meaning of its strategies and tactics, and its moral and aesthetic dimensions, Landscapes of the Jihad is at once a sophisticated work of historical and cultural analysis and an invaluable guide to the world's most prominent terrorist movement.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A brilliant long essay on the ethical underpinnings of modern jihad. . . . Martyrdom, observes Devji rightly, 'only achieves meaning by being witnessed by the media.' It is, in short, a horrendous form of advertising."—Max Rodenbeck, New York Review of Books, 11 August 2005

"Do not approach this challenging essay . . . expecting a familiar narrative of al-Qaeda and its founder, or of the eponymous 'war on terror.' Devji dispenses with conventional analysis and with much that is regarded as received wisdom. . . . Devji describes how jihad has subordinated the local to the global. He plays down its Middle Eastern origins and he stresses its diverse sources (Shia and Sufi as well as Sunni) as well as its heterodox innovations. Bin Laden's transformation of jihad, for example, from a collective to an individual duty, is a radical departure from the classical Islamic tradition. But how else could a global movement operate in a post-modern world where Muslims are moved to applause or to action by some spectacular act of violence, which they see on a television or computer screen? Conventional forms of top-down recruitment and mobilisation are, it seems, as passe as conventional politics. . . .Landscapes of the Jihad is, in its unconventional thinking, an oasis in the wearisome desert of al-Qaeda studies. It is, in the best possible sense, subversive."—The Economist, 10 November 2005

"One of the most intelligent analyses of the world-view of the militant Islamist."—Pankaj Mishra, The New Statesman, 28 November 2005

"I enjoyed Faisal Devji's extended essay, Landscapes Of The Jihad, in which Devji points out just how deeply unorthodox a Muslim Bin Laden is—not just in his espousal of indiscriminate violence but also his cult of martyrs and frequent talk of dream and visions, all of which derive from popular, mystical and Shia Islamic traditions, against which the orthodox has long struggled."—William Dalrymple, Sunday Herald (Glasgow)

"Landscapes of the Jihad is very short, closely and narrowly focused, thought-provoking, and elegantly written. . . . One refreshing aspect of Devji's book is that it leans heavily on evidence from an area often neglected by scholars writing about Islam—the Indian subcontinent and Afghanistan."—Carole Hillenbrand, Times Literary Supplement, August 4, 2006

"An erudite analysis of the rise of jihadism as almost a new 'sect' within Islam—one that combines mystical and traditional elements of Islam with a sophisticated globalization effort based on an ethical, rather than political, worldview."—Reza Aslan, Slate.com

"Faisal Devji's very original book analyzes Al Qaeda and jihad in metaphysical terms, discarding geostrategic and cultural factors. The West is also presented as a metaphysical entity. Globalization is thus not linked to strategy, territory, or culture. There emerge different 'landscapes': of jihad, of mysticism, of media and of film, all of which combine with each other. Jihad may appear extreme, but there is, paradoxically, common ground between jihadists and their opponents. Devji's original analysis of the writings of Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri is very illuminating and substantiates his iconoclastic approach."—Olivier Roy, author of Globalised Islam: The Search for a New Ummah

"No political theorist, anthropologist, or student of Islam will fail to be provoked and inspired by this brilliant analysis of Jihadi discourse. Faisal Devji moves effortlessly among theology, history, and cultural studies to give us the first major English-language interpretation of the moral world of contemporary Jihad."—Arjun Appadurai, author of Globalization

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801459498
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 10/6/2005
  • Series: Crises in World Politics
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 298 KB

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements vii
Preface viii
1 Effects without Causes 1
2 A Democratic History of Holy War 33
3 Monotheistic Geographies 61
4 Media and Martyrdom 87
5 The Death of God 112
6 New World Order 135
Notes 165
Index 177
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