Since September 11, Al Qaeda has been portrayed as an Islamist front united in armed struggle, or jihad, against the Christian West. However, as the historian and commentator Fawaz A. Gerges argues, the reality is rather different. In fact, Al Qaeda represents a minority within the jihadist movement, and its strategies have been criticized and opposed by religious nationalists among the jihadis, who prefer to concentrate on changing the Muslim world rather than taking the fight global. Based on primary field research, the author unravels the story of the jihadist movement and explores its philosophies, its structure, the rifts and tensions that split its ranks, and why some members, like Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, favored international over local strategies in taking the war to the West. Gerges asks where the jihadist movement is going, and whether it can be transformed into a non-violent, socio-political force.
• Gerges, seasoned commentator and scholar of the Middle East, explains why al-Qaeda took its war to the West • Through personal encounters and interviews with front-line operators, Gerges uncovers deep divides in the jihadist movement and challenges al-Qaeda's monopoly and durability • Articulate, penetrating, informed, Gerges' book is the story from the inside, the jihadis account of 9/11
Acknowledgments; Glossary; Preface; Introduction: the road to September 11 and after; 1. Religious nationalists and the near enemy; 2. The Afghan war: sowing the seeds of transnational Jihad; 3. The rise of transnationalist Jihadis and the far enemy; 4. Splitting up of Jihadis; 5. The aftermath: the war within; 6. The Iraq war: planting the seeds of Al Qaeda's second generation?; Notes; Index.
'In this well-grounded and … gripping account of militant Islamist activism, Gerges gives the most persuasive explanation yet for the direction taken by those jihadis who have set their sights on nothing less than a shift in the global balance of power. Taking these ruthless idealists of the new century seriously, through their writings and through interviews, he brings an immediacy to the story which shows up their limitations, but also underlines the ferocity of their desire to eliminate those who stand against them.' Charles Tripp, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
'Fawaz Gerges has written an authoritative, deeply-researched account of jihadist movements around the Middle East, and shows that these movements, far from monolithic, are rife with ideological and strategic debates. This stimulating and well-written book will be of great interest to the general reader and the specialist alike.' Peter Bergen, CNN Terrorism Analyst and author of Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden
'No previous author has gone as far as Fawaz Gerges in explaining and illustrating the politics of Al Qaeda. On the basis of many interviews with jihadi militants, a close reading of the voluminous Arab literature thrown by its members, and, not least, the author's astute and historically informed judgment, he has produced a rich and most informative portrait of this movement. Identifying the political costs to the Arab world of this extreme, if very much minoritarian tendency, he also shows how repeated miscalculations by the West, from Afghanistan in the 1980s to Iraq after 2003, have given a new lease of life to the anger and fantasies of bin Laden and his followers.' Fred Halliday, London School of Economics and author of Two Hours that Shook the World and 100 Myths About Islam
'Those interested in jihadist thought should consider Fawaz A. Gerges's The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global, a well-researched account of how the Islamist movement is riven by ideological disputes and petty feuds.' Peter Bergen, author of The Osama Bin Laden I Know, Washington Post