Islamism and Its Enemies in the Horn of Africa
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Mohamed Salih, and Alex de Waal.
Militant Islam is a powerful force in the Horn of Africa, and the U.S. war on terrorism has thrown the region and its politics into the international spotlight. Since the 1990s, when a failed U.S. military mission was called in to maintain order, Islamist organizations, with heavy sponsorship from Saudi Arabia, have multiplied and established much-needed health and education services in the region. However, despite the good that they are clearly providing, these organizations are labeled "terrorist" by the U.S. Islamist extremists have been found to be responsible for the deadly embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania and the attack on an Israeli jet in Mombasa. Since September 11, 2001, global effort has been concentrated on bringing these groups to their knees. Focusing on how Islamist movements have been viewed post-9/11 and how the U.S. agenda is being translated into local struggles in the region, this book is an important step toward understanding the complex dynamics that enfold the region.
Contributors are Roland Marchal, A. H. Abdel Salam, M. A. Mohamed Salih, and Alex de Waal.
De Waal, a well-known activist and scholar of human rights in Africa, has put together a detailed, provocative book on the 1989, 2003 period, when Sudan and Somalia served as a laboratory for political Islam. De Waal and Sudanese human rights specialist A. H. Abdel Salam trace the failure and persistence of jihad and specific outcomes in Sudan. They argue that Islamists failed to overcome some major theoretical and practical weaknesses. The Somali civil war receives attention from French scholar Roland Marchal; M. A. Mohamed Salih writes on Islamic NGOs and the Somali civil war. Although Islamists have mounted small-scale projects (local social mobilization has both provided strength and proven adaptability), Islamic civil society as expressed in neo-fundamentalist Islamism is inherently limited, impeding freedom of expression and intellectual creativity. Mental closure, de Waal argues, is not inherent in Islamism itself, however. Muslims must exercise intellectual leadership in order to create a more open society, and external adversaries must allow space for this debate. Readers may disagree with the editor's assertion, The United States is so powerful that it no longer needs to know much about the rest of the world and adapt its power to local realities. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers and undergraduate collections.