Al-Qaida has always been a propaganda power. Its dark genius has been to connect the Muslim world's angry, humiliated and isolated young men with a utopian fantasy preaching the virtue of violence. That utopian fantasy seeks to explain and then redress roughly 800 years of Muslim decline.
Al-Qaida's rage predates any offense at Danish cartoons of Muhammad, protests over the ground zero mosque or goofy sectarian grandstanders in Florida threatening to burn the Quran. Al-Qaida's dedication to the destruction of its ideological enemies -- including its Muslim enemies -- lies at the organization's malign spiritual and savage philosophical core.
That malignant ideological core is the target of U.S. Navy Commander Yousef H. Aboul-Enein's extraordinary new book, "Miltant Islamist Ideology" (Naval Institute Press, 2010).
Aboul-Enein is an officer with a stellar professional resume and a compelling personal background. His book is immediately valuable to everyone engaged in the fight against Militant Islamist terrorism -- and Aboul-Enein would insist on militant with a capital M.
When viewed as a treatise on information warfare (which is what the book is, though the author might debate this description), the volume's utility extends well beyond combating Militant Islamists. Aboul-Enein provides an intellectual framework for analyzing and countering the ideology for every transnational terror organization, whether its creed is secular political, tribal, anarchist or religious.
As for the fascinating background: Aboul-Enein is a U.S. Navy Medical Service Corps officer who advises the Department of Defense and the U.S. intelligence community "at the highest levels." He was born in Mississippi and raised in Saudi Arabia, and has a master's degree in strategic intelligence from the National Defense Intelligence College.
Aboul-Enein establishes a goal: He intends to distinguish Islam as a religion from two other groups, Islamists and Militant Islamists. He then seeks to "disaggregate" Militant Islamists from both Islamists and Islam. This, he argues, is key to defeating Militant Islamists, the violent actors who scar Islam, harm Islamists, and murder Muslims and non-Muslims alike. He makes an insistently strong, and often profound, intellectual argument.
"Militant Islamist" Aboul-Enein defines as "a group or individual advocating Islamist ideological goals, principally by violent means." Islamists are a group who advocate "Islam as a political as well as religious system. Chief Islamist objectives include implementing sharia (Islamic) law "as the basis of all statutory issues." Islam is "the religious faith of Muslims, involving ... belief in Allah as the sole deity and in Muhammad as his prophet."
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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