Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy
, 2007 - History
- 328 pages
Fawaz Gerges is one of this country's leading scholars of and media commentators on the Middle Eastern. Starting in the late 1990s, Gerges went to Cairo on a McArthur Fellowship, to interview (Arabic is his first language) those involved in the Jihadist Movement, which had begun in the 1970s as a fight against the secularization of Arab countries, hence was national rather than international in scope. But events--the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Iranian Revolution, war in Iraq—began to extend its influence. The new Jihadists were not looking now merely to affect local but worldwide change. In Cairo, Fawaz began a long series of conversations with Kamal al-Said Habib was one of the founders of the modern Jihadist movement and one of its key spokesman. Habib had been jailed after Anwar Sadat’s assassination—organized by the Jihadist Movement—and then become allied with Osama bin Laden’s fringe group, which he subsequently renounced, before the 9-11 attacks. Habib’s life-story emerges as a counterpart to those events and forms the basis of this book. JOURNEY OF A JIHADIST gives readers a look at religious extremism from the inside—from the point of view of someone who founded, shaped, and changed with a movement. The Koran uses "jihad" figuratively to refer to humanity's lifelong struggle with the dictates of faith. This book gives us Habib’s quest, among others, personalizing issues that would otherwise seem inexplicable. It also gives us Fawaz Gerges’ quest. Gerges family was forced out of Lebanon by Muslim extremists during the Civil War, and his brother—a Lebanese army officer—was killed in fighting. He offers a gripping, accessible, even visceral account of the force with which we have been dealing since 9-11 and its aftermath, but which still seems so alien to most Americans.