Is Islam An Enemy Of The West? by Tamara Sonn

The Blurb On The Back:

New York, Washington, Madrid, London, Paris, and Brussels – the list of Western cities targeted by radical Islamic terrorists waging global jihad continues to grow.  Does this extreme violence committed in the name of Islam point to a fundamental enmity between the Muslim faith and the West?

In this compelling essay, leading authority on Islam Tamara Sonn argues that whilst the West has many enemies among Muslims, it is politics not religion that informs their grievances.  The longer these demands remain frustrated, the more violence has escalated and recruitment to groups like Islamic State has increased.  Far from fuelling the spread of Islamic extremism, Western military intervention has helped to turn nationalist movements into radical terrorist groups with international agendas.  Islam, Sonn concludes, is not the problem, just as war is not the solution.   

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Tamara Sonn is a Professor in the History of Islam at Georgetown University and in this essay she sets out the basic tenets driving Al Qaeda and Daesh’s campaign against the West, including a summary of the events governing how they were founded and operate and a brief discussion of how their ideology differs from Islamic teaching.  It’s an interesting read and a good summary for those seeking an introduction to the subject but anyone who has been following this in the press won’t find anything new here and while Sonn argues that the terrorists’ beliefs are incompatible with Islam, there is no analysis about whether they are nevertheless deeply and sincerely held beliefs that use some Islamic teaching to support them and nor is there any real mention of the Saudi’s funding of Wahhabism and how that feeds into Daesh recruitment.

Where the essay is strongest is in summarising the background to Al Qaeda’s founding and the role played by both the US in terms of foreign policy and Russia.  It’s also interesting to read how Daesh’s methodology owes much to Maoist revolutionary thought, how the US invasion of Iraq and policy towards Palestine has fed into their promotional material and the differences between Shia and Sunni Islam.  An aside on the attributes that Daesh looks for in recruits (taken from one of their manuals) is genuinely chilling.  I found it interesting that Sonn couches her solution to the issue in terms of economic and social justice although there isn’t scope in the essay to suggest how this can be targeted or any analysis in the context of existing efforts.  I also wanted more analysis of the Muslim Brotherhood (who Sonn seems to consider to be more of an ally than an enemy, despite opposition to them within Egypt before the military coup).  Ultimately this is a decent introduction to the subject and Sonn sets out some further reading for those seeking to know more, which I have added to my Wishlist.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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