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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Explaining Al-Qa'ida
Abdel Bari Atwan, a Palestinian exile in London and editor at al-Quds al-Arabi, has written an interesting book on Al-Qa'ida. The book itself is a useful introduction to the Al-Qa'ida movement that in a matter of fact way gives the reader an insight into the grievances that brought Al-Qa'ida into existence, a description of the organisation and how it functions, its...
Published on 17 Sep 2009 by S Wood

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4 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the place to start reading about Al Qaeda
Despite an early statement about being against Al Qaeda's methods, Bari Atwan shows all the signs of a supporter. If this is your first book on Al Qaeda, you'll be mislead by Bari Atwan's spin. Therefore, it's not a great place to start your reading on the topic.

Bari Atwan twists events (e.g. Marid bombing) and makes broad statements (e.g. Western governments...
Published on 30 Aug 2007 by A. Goodvach


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Explaining Al-Qa'ida, 17 Sep 2009
By 
S Wood (Scotland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Secret History of Al-Qa'ida (Paperback)
Abdel Bari Atwan, a Palestinian exile in London and editor at al-Quds al-Arabi, has written an interesting book on Al-Qa'ida. The book itself is a useful introduction to the Al-Qa'ida movement that in a matter of fact way gives the reader an insight into the grievances that brought Al-Qa'ida into existence, a description of the organisation and how it functions, its strategy and its methods.

It is obvious that the Muslim world in general has many legitimate grievances regarding western interference stretching over a number of decades: the lack of any meaningful intervention with regard to the Israel/Palestine conflict, the support for the dictatorial regimes of a number of states in the area - Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Saudia Arabia, etc, the sanctions (pre 2003) against Iraq and the subsequent invasion of that same country. In the authors opinion they do not hate us for what we are but for what we have done, or at any rate what our governments have done in our name. The grievances in short are real regardless of what you think of the methods of Bin Laden who evidently thinks that the bombings in London, Madrid, Kenya, Tanzania and the attacks of 9/11 are a price worth paying (ala Madeline Albright) in pursuit of his agenda.

The chapter on suicide bombers is probably the strongest piece of writing in the book. Atwan considers this phenomena in a number of places at different times: Sri Lanka, Palestine, Vietnam, Iraq and of course the 9/11 attacks on the United States. A number of myths regarding this practice, which Mike Davis (see Buda's Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb) calls the "poor mans airforce" are examined, the most widespread of which is that it a method that is particularly "Islamic" which it evidently isn't as a cursory glance at the list of countries where suicide attacks have occurred makes clear. Also covered are the formation of Al-Qa'ida and its roots in the U.S/Saudia Arabian/Pakistan sponsored Jihad in 1980's Afghanistan (Bin Laden being one of Ronald Regans "freedom fighters") and further back. Other chapters cover the interview the author had with Bin Laden and Al-Qa'idas operations in Saudia Arabia, Iraq and Europe. The chapter on "cyber Jihadis" was the least interesting but that might be more a function of this readers ignorance of the technical side of the Internet rather than the any failure on the authors part.

In short the book examines the Al-Qa'ida movement from a perspective that is sympathetic to the grievances that motivate them, not the methods that they use, and is as useful an introduction to the subject as I can think of. The shortcomings of the book are generic to this type of writing as Atwan, a journalist who has covered these issues for many years, on many occasions refers to sources which he is unable to make public. This is understandable given the subject he is reflecting and writing upon, though it always leave room for some doubt. To be fair to the author none of his claims seem dubious and other writers on Al-Qa'ida including Jason Burke (see Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam) who called it "intelligent and informative".
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Secret History of Al-Qaida, 26 Feb 2006
By 
Dr W.Roy Pickering (Exmouth, Devon, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Abdel Bari Atwan has made a genuine contribution to our understanding of the complex issues associated with Al-Qaida. The book has the considerable dual merit of being very readable whilst being informative in depth. The author is at pains to be objective in his appraisal of the situation and, as a consequence, the book is relevant to both Muslim and non-Muslim readers. Likewise, there is no particular political stance but, notwithstanding, one can only hope that those who make decisions on our behalf are influenced either directly or indirectly by Abdel Bari Atwan's analysis and, more importantly, his conclusions.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Details, 23 Jan 2006
By 
This book, is meant as the title says, with a lot of knowledge of the subject. The author is perhaps the most qualified author of such a book as he has been in the field of Arabic and Islamic news coverage and analysis for decades as well as he have personally met with Bin laden in Tora Bora caves, it is useful and can be used as a reference.
The author is also rather funny in the way he describes his adventuress trip to Bin Laden and the fears he encountered; he also distinguished between the legitimate Jihad resistance and terrorism, the book goes deep into the war in Iraq and the long term strategy of alqaeda to defeat the Americans on Arabic territory. This book is a must read.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-written, Well-researched., 16 April 2007
By 
Adil Hussain "adilson05uk" (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
A well-researched (including a 1996 visit to bin Laden in the mountains of Afghanistan) and well-written (seemingly free from bias) book. Why should you read it? In the words of the author: "There was a historical inevitability about the rise of bin Laden, who has become for many the figurehead of a resurgent Muslim identity. For many people in the West this is unthinkable, as there he is presented and perceived as an evil terrorist. Yet it is important to understand how he is viewed by his admirers in the Islamic world. How can the very real threat that al-Qa'da's ideology represents to global security be countered if its identity and nature remains shrouded in obscurtiy?"
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4 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the place to start reading about Al Qaeda, 30 Aug 2007
By 
Despite an early statement about being against Al Qaeda's methods, Bari Atwan shows all the signs of a supporter. If this is your first book on Al Qaeda, you'll be mislead by Bari Atwan's spin. Therefore, it's not a great place to start your reading on the topic.

Bari Atwan twists events (e.g. Marid bombing) and makes broad statements (e.g. Western governments are putting their population at risk) which generate fear and blame the West for Islamic terrorism.

His facts stand in stark contrast to the more objective but far older "Inside Al Qaeda" by Rohan Gunaratna. For example, Gunaratna speaks of the myriad causes of Osama bin Laden leaving Afghanistan and Sudan in the 1990s while Bari Atwan makes it seem that bin Laden was simply deserted by his former friends.

His legitimacy as an author on this topic is heavily based on having gained access to bin Laden in 1996 (at bin Laden's invitation which should tell you something) and his 30 years of reporting on the Middle East. This closeness, however, effects his ability to question bin Laden's actions. One example is the murder of Abdullah Azzam. Many sources blame this on a difference of opinion with bin Laden about the direction of Al Qaeda. However, Bari Atwan fails even to hint that bin Laden may have been connected.

Even the summary of Islamic history is designed to push an agenda. He talks of Mohammed settling in Medina with three Jewish tribes to show his tolerance. He omits to say that two of the tribes were expelled and the third was whiped out to the man, woman and child.

If you're a fan of the Islamic world, as I am, you'll enjoy the new, updated insights this book provides. It is not, however, a probing analysis of the Islamic legitimacy and tactics of Al Qaeda and it's leader. if you read the book with an appreciation that it contains a subtle spin that pushes an agenda which blames the West, you'll extract a more honest impression of Al Qaeda. If your looking for your first book about the subject, try Gutaratna for a more balanced view.
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The Secret History of Al-Qa'ida
The Secret History of Al-Qa'ida by Abdel-Bari Atwan (Paperback - 5 April 2007)
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