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Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam Paperback – 30 Aug 2007

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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: 12.9 x 2.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 141,427 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


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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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Richmond (Nottingham) on 26 Jan 2005
Format: Paperback
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 By "donkeywiggle" on 27 Nov 2003
Format: Hardcover
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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Olly Buxton on 28 Nov 2004
Format: Paperback
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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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 19 Oct 2004
Format: Paperback
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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