Khaab Khayaal Saraab

Thursday, January 20, 2005

CSM on The War for MuslimMinds  

Christian Science Monitor, January 04, 2005

War on terror is part of a larger battle within the Muslim world

September 11 was only incidentally about Americans

By Thomas D'Evelyn

Reading Gilles Kepel's new book, "The War for MuslimMinds," challenges one's sense of scale. Crucial, irreversible steps such as George W. Bush's earlydecision not to pursue the Palestinian-Israeli peaceprocess and the neoconservatives' justification for theIraq war, take on new meaning when seen in contextof the enormous geopolitical scope of Islam today. In short, while the US administration believes thatWestern values will appeal to the hearts and minds ofthe Muslim world, the Muslim world is consumed withits own internal debates that dwarf those of the West.In this sense, 9/11 was only incidentally about "us."Kepel, a professor of Middle East studies at theInstitutde of Political Studies in Paris, gathers his earlythemes in the following statement: "The attacks on thetwin towers and the Pentagon were not a thunderboltout of the blue. They were part of a precise, carefullyconsidered program that combined the logic of jihad,the operational tactics of guerrilla warfare, theopportunistic advantages offered by the Arab-Israeliconflict during the second intifada, and the politicalinfluence of neoconservative ideology on US foreignpolicy - all of which worked to the advantage of radicalIslamism."While Kepel's book helps us to see how Americanstrategies influence debates within the Islamic world,we also begin to understand the "war on terror" notas "Bush's war" but as a war waged by militant Islamistsfor the minds of Muslims. Osama bin Laden, he argues,has not won that war yet, but both Russia, with its warin Chechnya, and the US, with its wars in Afghanistanand Iraq, have inadvertently fueled the cause ofradical Islam.In later chapters on "Saudi Arabia in the eye of thestorm," "the calamity of nation building in Iraq," and"the battle for Europe," Kepel describes thecrosscurrents and conflicts that characterize the Muslimworld today.Easy to read (no footnotes but a good bibliographyfor each chapter), this persuasive book challenges theAmerican perspective on the war on terror and, moreimportant reveals the rich complexity of contemporaryIslam.What's more, Kepel's final pages on the integration ofyoung progressive Muslims in Europe hold out apromise for a better world.? Thomas D'Evelyn is an editorial consultant inProvidence, R.I.The War for Muslim Minds: Islam and the WestBy Gilles KepelBelknap/Harvard320 pp., $26Full HTML version of this story which may includephotos, graphics, and related linkswww.csmonitor.com | Copyright © 2005 The ChristianScience Monitor. All rights reserved.For permission to reprint/republish this article, pleaseemail Copyright