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Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam [Paperback]

Jason Burke
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 Aug 2007

Jason Burke's bestseller Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam shows Islamic militancy to be a far broader phenomenon than previously thought, demolishing the myths that underpin the 'war on terror'.

Prize-winning journalist Jason Burke's Al-Qaeda - now updated with new material on Iraq, Afghanistan and the July 2005 London bombings - is acknowledged to be the most accurate, readable and expert account yet of the complex nature of Islamic extremism.

Burke has spent a decade reporting from the heart of the Middle East and gaining unprecedented access to the world of radical Islam. Drawing on his frontline experience of recent events, on secret documents and astonishing interviews with intelligence officers, Taliban foot soldiers, militants, mujahedeen commanders and Osama bin Laden's associates, he reveals the full story of al-Qaeda.

'A must-read ... Jason Burke's book is the one that will last. It's a triumph'

'If you read one book about the troubles, make it Jason Burke's Al-Qaeda'
  Tony Parsons

'Essential reading'
  Noam Chomsky

'An indispensable guide to the multidimensional reality of Al-Qaeda'
  John Gray

Jason Burke is the South Asia correspondent for the Guardian. He has reported around the world for both the Guardian and the Observer. He is the author of two other widely praised books, both published by Penguin: The 9/11 Wars and On the Road to Kandahar. He lives in New Delhi.

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Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam + Taliban: The Power of Militant Islam in Afghanistan and Beyond
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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; 2Rev Ed edition (30 Aug 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141031360
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141031361
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 100,939 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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A must-read ... Burke's book is the one that will last. It's a triumph (Giles Foden Guardian )

The most reliable and perceptive guide to the rise of militant Islam yet published (William Dalrymple Observer )

Indispensable (John Gray New Statesman )

From the Inside Flap

"Fascinating....packed full with totally new material". Gilles Kepel, author of Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam

"A book which vastly increases our understanding of the al-Qaeda phenomenon. Burke writes with admirable lucidity and the benefit of his frontline reporting and deep research". Peter Bergen, author of Holy War

"Jason Burke has undertaken an impressive amount of both desk and field research to challenge the myth of al-Qaeda as a monolith orchestrating terrorist activity world-wide". Peter Marsden, author of the Taliban:War and Religion in Afghanistan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, and a must read 26 Jan 2005
I came across Jason Burke on the BBC program The Power of Nightmares, and a lot of what this program covered is expanded on in this book.
It does not say there is not an Al-Qaeda but shows the way this "organisation" is portrayed in the West is wrong, and shows how our "War on Terror" will not tackle the real events going on in our world today.
I did find some of the book heavy going, especially in places where there a lot of names mentioned. I must admit to my ignorant western eye, a lot of the Arabic names started to look the same. Even so I found the subject matter fascinating.
His obvious knowledge of Afghanistan shines through, and the fact that he has come as close as possible to some of the other sources of information is remarkable.
It makes you question the view we get on this subject by the mass media, and you realise most journalists covering this matter are either ignorant or towing a line to reinforce the myth of Al-Qaeda. It is interesting that i have seen recently some British ex-ministers talk along the same lines as this book, now they do not have to toe party lines.
I would give this book 5 stars, but I do think that maybe the books chronological order and story telling could have been a bit tighter, but otherwise a definite recommendation.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars comprehensive, unbiased, and enthralling 27 Nov 2003
While so much of the literature or journalism about 'Al-Qaeda', and the melange of issues that the name 'Al Qaeda' spews up, tend to leave the reader more confused, Jason Burke has written a book that grounds specific judgements in specific historical facts and brings the reader to some very balanced conclusions about the size, scale, threat, and disparate structure of 'Al-Qaeda' while implicitly pointing out the folly of our 'war on terror'.
For those however seeking snippit, Michael Moore-style, ammunition to aim at the Bush administration and their cronies, disappointment will prevail because this is not a book of soundbites. It contains the narratives of various terrorist attacks pre and including September 11th 2001 that have been dubbbed posthumously 'Al-Qaeda'. Burke explores, with remarkably lucid prose, the histories and associations of the characters involved in the various episodes and paints quite a terrifying picture. Throughout the incidents told, connections to Osama Bin Laden are sought and much of his motivation is explained. From disillusionment with the Saud dynasty and his dismissal of indulgence in the Bin Ladens' riches Burke traces Osama's international trail. Burke has not been too timid to address the relationship of Islam with the terrorist movement either, much of the book in fact revolves around the idea of Islam being a massively political religion and argues that although many terrorists are currently aiming their hostility at the west it is in order to remedy political hypocrisy in their native lands. It is a very well balanced book that has a lot of contemporary importance. It shows what the political Islamists are fighting for and goes some way to categorising the different strands of the movement without making it seem too straightforward.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear-sighted and level-headed 19 Oct 2004
This does an excellent job of penetrating the fog of myth and misconception around the subject of radical Islam. Burke traces the development of militant movements and the interactions of extremist individuals and groups. He shows how extremism has developed in different regions and for what reasons. He is very good on disproving the idea that "Al-Qaeda" is a single organisation with a clear command structure, and that shows that bin Laden is not "the CEO of Terror, Inc.". Unfortunately, he identifies the reality as potentially far more dangerous.
This is readable and informative, and fascinating. If you want a clear, dispassionate, explanation of the subject you need look no further.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough, thoughtful and well argued 28 Nov 2004
Observer Chief Reporter Jason Burke was featured in the recent BBC2 documentary "The Power of Nightmares" which compared the rise of Islamic militancy with the corresponding (and equally unnerving) rise of the religious right in US politics. The rather silly cover of his book on the subject belies what is in fact a thorough, erudite, dispassionate and compelling account of the rise of Radical Islam, of which "Al Qaeda" - in its strict sense - is really only a small part.
Burke has spent a number of years in various Islamic hot spots (Saudi, Afghanistan, Kurdish Iraq) and has apparently the spent the most of the last four years doing his homework. The account he sets out (which really ought not to be a surprise to anyone but the Neo-Conservatives) is that Islamic militancy is not centrally controlled; there is no "head of the snake" except the one Western foreign policy has created in Osama Bin Laden. For nothing has assisted fundamentalism as a rallying point for (the in reality mostly social and political) discontent in the Islamic word than his vilification by Messrs Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and their friends. Indeed, Burke's case is that before the Western Hawks began targeting it, Islamic militancy was, amongst its own constituents, all but dead in the water.
Burke is convincing in his arguments that Al-Qaeda *the actual organisation* was never more than a hard-core of twenty or thirty militants, was not more than indirectly associated with many of the terrorist acts attributed to them, and was dispersed, incapacitated and in large part eliminated after the war in Afghanistan. But Al Qaeda *the idea* - which is the creation of western conservative political classes - has spread virus-like amongst the Islamic world, and is a much more threatening spectacle.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and Interesting
I came away having finished this book feeling much better informed about radical islam. Jason Burke's description of the structure and role that Al-Qaeda play as being similar to... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mad Geographer
3.0 out of 5 stars An ok read
This book was an ok read. I found it a little convoluted, but none the less it give me some new insight into the subject.
Published on 13 Sep 2011 by Ben Rawson
5.0 out of 5 stars Dry Roasted
Burke roasts the old neocon and media chestnuts regarding al-Qaeda. Beginning with the history of Islamic radicalism and its cast members (with the odd digression into general... Read more
Published on 5 May 2010 by Oliveman
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent!
this is an excellent book to get back to the basics of where is all started, very hard going, but i would say dont give up, read to the end and it all kind of falls into place to... Read more
Published on 24 Jun 2008 by Christine Mann
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing but stylistically lacking
This is an interesting exploration of some of the myths and realities surrounding Al Qaeda, and is a book which remains deeply relevant. Read more
Published on 7 Mar 2008 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive, nuanced, readable - glittering
This book is the al-Qaeda bible, comprehensive and nuanced enough for academic audiences, while never becoming turgid or unreadable. Read more
Published on 31 Mar 2007 by S. O'Dwyer
4.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the best insight into Al-Qaeda there is
Jason Burke's book is an illuminating guide to Al Qaeda, perhaps the single best study there is on the subject (Burke can also be seen interviewed in the superb BBC documentary... Read more
Published on 4 Jan 2007 by Mr. Tristan Martin
5.0 out of 5 stars A welcome antidote to oversimplification
Jason Burke provides a wide-ranging and coherent description of the rise of radical Islam, and a persuasive analysis of how the conditions which the world is now facing have come... Read more
Published on 23 July 2006 by lmhh
5.0 out of 5 stars The truth behind the headlines
Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam is a superb work of investigation and historical analysis into the shadowy world of Islamic terrorism. Read more
Published on 15 July 2005 by Armourer
5.0 out of 5 stars review Al-Qaeda: The True Story
A interesting look at al-qaeda from a out-sider he may of met bin laden, but i would think it was a controled meeting and he would be able to know what bin laden was thinking and... Read more
Published on 27 April 2005 by "glenjenvey2"
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