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Terror Patterns


B.G. Verghese

LANDSCAPES OF THE JIHAD: MILITANCY, MORALITY, MODERNITY
By Faisal Devji
Foundation Books, Delhi, 2005, pp. 184, Rs. 395.00

JIHAD, HINDUTVA AND THE TALIBAN: SOUTH ASIA AT THE CROSS
By Iftekhar H. Malik
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2005, pp. 294, Rs. 495.00

BANGLADESH, THE NEXT AFGHANISTAN?
By Hiranmay Karlekar
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 311, Rs. 320.00

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 5 May 2006

Jihad is a much misunderstood term according to Islamic scholars who say it means struggle, even against oneself or iniquity of any kind and not necessarily against the infidel. But many go by the dictionary meaning, which is given as “holy war”. And it is this that troubles modern society which now confronts jihadi terror and other varieties of mindless violence. India was a target of terror long before 9/11, which connotes a self-serving history and geography of this global menace. The “War on Terror” started late as many powerful actors, who should have known better, implicitly differentiated between “good” terror, as long as it did not affect them, and “bad” terror, until the moment it began to hurt. Some tragically still do.   Terror and the jihad species thereof has travelled a long way in public consciousness and geography over the past few decades. South Asia has been particularly afflicted, most recently Bangladesh. The books under review address the issue of jihad and its manifestations in the region Faisal Devji’s work marks an important contribution towards understanding what he calls “landscapes of jihad”, a term used to describe the new patterns of belief and practice (of Islam) produced by the actions of Al-Qaeda. The bombings of 1998 (Dar-es-Salaam – the author’s place of birth— and Nairobi)— followed by 9/11 “globalized” an Islamic consciousness among both believers and others. It is his thesis that Al-Qaeda not merely spawned a new kind of networked militancy but fragmented the traditional structures of Muslim authority, throwing open the world of Islam to new ways of conceiving the future. It thus broke down “the old-fashioned narratives of clerical, mystical and even fundamentalist authority” and their respective forms of organization. Does this then pave the way for new interpretations of Islam – ijtehad – leading in time to a new Islamic order?   Devji traces Al-Qaeda’s jihad genealogy to West Asian Wahabi Sunni Islam which, however, operates largely outside the region. The Taliban was influenced by Deobandi influences from India and was nurtured in Pakistani seminaries that were in turn funded by Saudi Wahabi money. Its leader, Mullah Omar, sough to annoint himself as Commander of the Faithful in Kandahar and was described as Caliph by Osama bin Laden. The author also distinguishes jihad from fundamentalism, as the latter is ideological and often territorial or local whereas the former is global. The jihad in Afghanistan took on the garb of ...


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