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Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World

Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World

4.4 5
by Robin Wright

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A decade after the 9/11 attacks, this groundbreaking book takes readers deep into rebellions against both autocrats and extremists that are redefining politics, culture, and security threats across the Islamic world. The awakening involves hundreds of millions of people. And the political transformations— and tectonic changes—are only beginning.


A decade after the 9/11 attacks, this groundbreaking book takes readers deep into rebellions against both autocrats and extremists that are redefining politics, culture, and security threats across the Islamic world. The awakening involves hundreds of millions of people. And the political transformations— and tectonic changes—are only beginning.

Robin Wright, an acclaimed foreign correspondent and television commentator, has covered the region for four decades. She witnessed the full cycle, from extremism’s angry birth and globalization to the rise of new movements transforming the last bloc of countries to hold out against democracy. Now, in Rock the Casbah, she chronicles the new order being shaped by youthinspired revolts toppling leaders, clerics repudiating al Qaeda, playwrights and poets crafting messages of a counter-jihad, comedians ridiculing militancy, hip-hop rapping against guns and bombs, and women mobilizing for their own rights.

This new counter-jihad has many goals. For some, it’s about reforming the faith. For others, it’s about reforming political systems. For most, it’s about achieving basic rights. The common denominator is the rejection of venomous ideologies and suicide bombs, plane hijackings, hostage-takings, and mass violence to achieve those ends.

Wright captures a stunning moment in history, one of the region’s four key junctures—along with Iran’s revolution, Israel’s creation, and the Ottoman Empire’s collapse—in a century. The notion of a clash of civilizations is increasingly being replaced by a commonality of civilizations in the twenty-first century. But she candidly details both the possibilities and pitfalls ahead. The new counter-jihad is imaginative and defiant, but Muslim societies are also politically inexperienced and economically challenged.

Editorial Reviews

Lee Smith
As one of this country's top Middle East reporters for more than four decades and the author of five other books about Islam and the Middle East, she deftly escorts her readers around the region. Wright introduces significant, albeit lesser-known, figures…and breathes life into the stories that have made the news over the past couple of years.
—The Washington Post
Michiko Kakutani
Ms. Wright writes with authority, drawing on her decades of experience reporting for publications like The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and The New Yorker, and in these pages she uses her intimate knowledge of the region to look at how much-covered recent events (like the role an obscure Tunisian street vendor played in inciting the Arab Spring and the popular revolt that led to the fall of Egypt's longtime president Hosni Mubarak) are related, and to situate them within a larger historical and political context.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
To tell the story of the new world order forming in many Islamic nations, Wright begins in Tunisia, where the self-immolation of fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi inspired his angry fellow citizens to oust President Ben Ali in what is now referred to as "The Jasmine Revolution." Just a few weeks later, bloggers and activists in Egypt used Facebook and Twitter to organize protests against the government of Hosni Mubarak. Similar protests broke out in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Yemen, and other countries. Wright posits that the Muslim world is currently experiencing a sentiment of counter-jihad, "a struggle within the faith itself to rescue Islam's central values from a small but virulent minority." In Part Two of the book, Wright examines the cultural significance of anti-extremism, from the lyrics of the Tunisian hip-hop artist El General, to the feminist interpretations of the Koran by Amina Wadud. Maz Jabroni and other comedians on the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour are "waging their own often quirky campaigns against extremism," and creating alliances across cultural and religious lines. Part Three sums up what is at stake for these nations in turmoil and questions the Obama administration's wavering policies in addressing these international uprisings. Wright is an expert on the subject and this book is an accessible and riveting account for readers looking to learn more about the post-9/11 Islamic world.
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From the Publisher
Praise for Rock the Casbah

“[Wright] provides invaluable context for what she rightly terms ‘the epic convulsion across the Islamic world’ by listening to voices we don't usually hear....Anyone seeking deeper understanding of the Arab Spring needs to read Wright's formidably well-informed book ….Wright's richly textured portrait of ancient cultures in the throes of wrenching but liberating transformation makes it quite clear that Muslims themselves will decide their future.”
— Los Angeles Times

“…Wright is an expert on the subject and this book is an accessible and riveting account for readers looking to learn more about the post-9/11 Islamic world.”
Publishers Weekly

“…Wright is one of the most capable observers of the Middle East….her chronicles of counter-jihad, anti-militancy, and women's mobilization are a timely contribution.”
—Huffington Post

Praise for Robin Wright’s

Dreams and Shadows

“Wright has long been one of the best-informed American journalists covering the Middle East, and her reputation is born out here. . . . Her book will be essential reading for anybody who wants to know where it is heading.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Only Wright could have written Dreams and Shadows because only Wright has traveled so widely, interviewed such diverse leaders, and brought so much wisdom to analyzing the region’s many-sided puzzles. This volume, full of mesmerizing detail and large truths, sets a new standard for scholarship on the modern Middle East.”

—Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State

“If there is such a thing as a pinnacle in the landscape of international journalism, Robin Wright surely stands atop it.”

The New York Review of Books

“Robin Wright is well aware of the complexities, paradoxes and the seemingly insurmountable dilemmas facing the Middle East today. She reminds us that in facing these challenges we need not resort to military force and violence or resign ourselves to compromise with extremism and tyranny.”
— Azar Nafisi, author Reading Lolita in Tehran

“The best of all possible worlds: An old hand guides us through the changes in the post-9/11 Middle East, and is able to sort out in a sober, smart way what is really going on.”

—Thomas Ricks, author Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq

Library Journal
You've heard this complaint before: Why don't Muslims challenge the violent extremists among them? Well, they do, explains Wright—and she should know. An Overseas Club and UN Correspondents Association Gold Medal winner for her coverage of foreign affairs, she's reported from 140 countries, with a special focus on the Muslim world; her most recent book was Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East. Here she cites the clerics, comedians, and rappers who challenge al Qaeda violence; the women who are launching liberation movements; and the former jihadists who openly reject violence. These Muslims all want to build a better Islam—on their own, not Western, terms. Relevant and engrossing; I want this book now.
Kirkus Reviews

In one of the first of a flood of books that will inevitably follow Osama bin Laden's death and the Middle East uprisings, Wright (Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East, 2008, etc.) delivers the stirring news that jihadism is fading, and Arab nations are finally entering the modern world.

Touring the region, reporter and scholar the author interviewed participants and recounts these changes, often through their eyes. Early chapters recap recent, familiar events—revolutions in Arab states, unrest in Iran, defections from al-Qaeda and increasing efforts within the Islamic world to discourage violence. Half of the narrative consists of magazine-like essays on Islamic culture, ranging from the predictable (the struggle for women's right, Islamic television) to the exotic (Islamic rap music, Islamic comedians, Islamic satirical theater, popular TV preachers). An astute observer and no Pollyanna, Wright delivers a jolt in her conclusion—even the successful revolutions have made matters worse by destroying the only thriving industry, tourism. Too many Middle East nations, oil rich or not, are economic basket cases on the level of sub-Saharan Africa with massive unemployment, widespread poverty, dreadful infrastructure and no tradition of democracy or even honest leadership. More than $1 trillion from the United States has produced unimpressive results in Iraq and Afghanistan, and there is no chance these nations will receive a fraction of that. Achieving freedom solves their easiest problem.

More journalism than deep analysis, the book paints a vivid portrait of dramatic changes in the Islamic world that may or may not end well.

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Simon & Schuster
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Meet the Author

Robin Wright has reported from more than a 140 countries on six continents for The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Foreign Policy, the International Herald Tribune, and others and is a frequent television commentator on foreign affairs. Her books include Rock the Casbah, Dreams and Shadows, The Last Great Revolution, Sacred Rage, and Flashpoints.

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Rock the Casbah 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
NomadGorman More than 1 year ago
Somehow, back in 2011, when Robin Wright's enlightening book, "Rock the Casbah" was first published, I missed it! Then Ms. Wright was a panelist on Fareed Zakaria's GPS program on CNN and I realized this was a Must Read book! Her epic work deftly summarizes the modern history of the Middle East, interprets and analyzes the evolution of political Islam and the basis for the use of terrorism to carry out jihad. She goes on to provide what The Economist termed a "corrective" to the impression that prevails in most media news reports that there are no voices of tolerant, peace-loving Muslims. Through her conversations with poets, dramatists, bloggers, rappers, comedians, movie makers, and feminists, she shows that those voices are there, struggling to be heard. Since these counter-jihad voices have been directed mostly toward the rest of the Muslim world, perhaps we can be excused for not knowing of their existence. And, after all, it is the rest of the Muslim World who must be convinced that not only are the acts of terror not been effective, as evidenced by the continuing poverty, unemployment, war, and violence in the Middle East, but that these acts of terror have done much to damage the reputation of this great religion and it's followers in the eyes of the rest of the world. I find it significant that the more dramatic episodes of atrocity and cruelty perpetrated by the extreme jihadists, such as ISIS have reached a level that has caused the counter-jihad voices to become more frequent and more vehement. I look forward to Ms. Wright's observations as these events continue. Ms. Wright has written an essential book for anyone who wishes to learn more about the Islamic world as it is today and its a good read, too!
AbdosGirl More than 1 year ago
A must read!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
No comment.