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the Message Continues i/56   -   Newsletterfor April 2006

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The Far Enemy : Why Jihad Went Global
Fawaz Gerges - (Cambridge Middle East Studies, Cambridge Press)
 
A Review by Ali Abbas Qureshi
 
It is a panoramic view of the Jihadist endeavor (different from Islamist, regional Islamists
 and transnationalist jihadsits), particularly in the early 70's through the emergence of 
several Islamist Organizations, in the lands of Islam, from Egypt, Algeria, the Kingdom 
of Saudi Arabia, and culminating with the Russian Invasion in Afghanistan. from the 
treatment of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Tanzim (which was then lead by al-Zawahiri), 
and Tanzims eventually marriage with al-Qaeda
 
The title of the work it-self 'The Far Enemy' begs in it-self, the rupture in the jihadist 
movement, as they turned their frame and focus from 'The Near Enemy', i.e the focus 
on toppling proxy regimes supported by the West, in Egypt in particular, and Algeria to 
the 'Far Enemy', i.e the United States in particular. with brutal suppression and 
oppression of the Islamists in Egypt and Algeria (which was an all out civil war), the very 
infra-structure of the irredentist movement, i.e the local jihadi movements was severely 
undermined, before the Russian Invasion.
 
The Book contends, that the Russian Invasion, gave the likes of al-Zawahiri, the pre-text 
to train and re-organize them-selves in the beautiful land-scape of Afghanistan, not with 
the intent of assisting the Afghanis, but with the intent of garnering up more energy, 
training and organization, following the brutal repression of the jihadits in Egypt. many 
Islamic Countries, where happy to send elements of this Islamist out-fits to Afghanistan, 
to simply get them "off" their backs for the time being, and let the furor of their 
disagreements channeled into the Afghan conflict.
 
Sad is the reality, that when the altristic jihadis who went there to defend the 
defenseless Afghanis returned home, they had to face the wrath, not only of the 
authorities, but also that of the unwillingness of the societies to integrate them. 
importantly, the doctrinal brain-washing which represented, the perpetuation of "jihad" 
as a defensive posture, was turned around and suggested as a "continuous struggle" 
against the other. (this is the Qutbian paradigm, which is the hall mark of many jihadis)! 
left with such a large pool of highly trained, social mis-fits (it makes me think, about the 
prophetic tradition, that 'who-ever moves forward of the jama'ah ...', it places the onus 
and responsibility of the jama'ah to create avenues where their energies and motivations 
are duly applied and appreciated, and not let to wander off to the rants and raves of 
misfits like al-Zawahiri and Usama b Laden), it really presented a "social problem of sorts"!
 
But the reader ought not to be confused, and lump sum all jihadis and Islamists within 
the same category. there are and continue to exist various variations of Islamic Activities 
that are non jihadi in nature, and only contend a defensive jihad, building up societies, 
working with the given institutions.
 
So what was the turning point of this radical departure from the 'Near Enemy' to the 
'Far Enemy', as it relates to al-Zawahiri, and his collusion with Usama b. Laden? 
several factors, but most of it with the decay and the loss of leadership within the Islamic 
Lands of these regional Islamists, followed by the utter failure of the Islamists to "integrate 
them-selves" within the Community (i.e they had seceded out-side the realm of the 
Community). the Gulf War I provided for a pretext for Usama b Laden to turn the tables 
around, after being snubbed by the Saudi Royal Family, and the Saudi 'Ulama (including 
bin Baz and Uthmayin, who feared their lives). such an insult to the persona of Usama b 
Laden really catapulted him, and his journey from various Islamic Lands, eventually to 
Afghanistan, under the protection and aegis of the Taliban, and the Commander of the 
Faithful, Mulla Omar!
 
It was the collusion between al-Zawahiri and Usama b Laden that lead to the formation 
of al-Qaeda, with a very large following but the work, also sets to de-bunk and demythologize 
these aspects
 
1. that the jihadist movement was organized: there was and continues to be great 
opposition to the al-Qaeda Organization, evident even from the ranks and files of those 
who had served within al-Zawahiri targeting the United States, lead in and of it-self the 
opening of two frontiers, which the Islamists were not able to contend with, and voiced 
their large opposition to it, but to no avail. 
 
2. that the jihadist movement represents the collectivity of the muslin participation: 
again, the current organization is lead mostly by "arabs", and there was extreme 
displeasure expressed by non Arab jihadis on the preference given to the arab Jihadis, 
vis a vis money and positions of power within these organizations
 
3. the presence of shura: practically absent, since Usama b Laden, was not only able to 
gather followers by the dint of the personality cult, but was also able to suppress any 
dissenting opinions under the pre-text of the baya that was given to him/organization
 
The work truly breaks down our frame of thought in lumping all jihadis, whether they by 
regional, irredentist (re-deeming the land of Afghanistan from the Russians) and trans-
national as simply self-serving and false. given the retractions of several Islamists in
the Islamic World and their outspokenness against the jihadi posture that calls for a 
"clash of civilizations", it also helps to under-stand the short-comings of the 9-11 
Commission in treating the subject at hand. while the 9-11 commission report does a 
brilliant work in breaking down the tragic events of 9-11 "tactically", there is a very
little from the perspective of the nuanced analysis that comes from this work.
 
It is an important reading, and should be included in halaqa readings, particularly with the 
youth, as topics of civil society (engaging and staying with the jama'ah), the role and limits 
of war, the role of amrbil maruf wa nahiy anil munkar, the state of Islam's interaction with
Modernity, the legitimate grievances of the Islamic Polity towards self serving US interests, 
the role of the 'ulama and the laity. The misinformed media here and even to an extent 
my-self were not aware of such nuances, until I read this work. 
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