The Future In The Face Of Militant Islam

by Esmerelda Weatherwax (Feb. 2008)

Global Jihad – The future in the face of Militant Islam
by Patrick Sookhdeo with foreword by Professor Richard Holmes
Isaac Publishing, 2007, 669 pp.

I wasn’t sure what to expect – a book on jihad which, on its own admission, is aimed at decision makers in politics, security, intelligence and the military and written by an Anglican priest. Of course Patrick Sookhdeo, founder and director of the Barnabas Fund is not your stereotypical (few are these days) C of E Vicar.

The book is divided into largely self contained chapters some of which depending on your interests and background will be more or less accessible than others. I found my interest heightened by Chapter 4, Jihad and the Sacralising of Territory which elaborates on a theme Dr Sookhdeo has written about before. Once land is Muslim it is forever Muslim and if lost (Spain, the Balkans, Israel) it must be reclaimed. When new territory is inhabited it must be claimed for Islam, with processions, such as those for Ashura, and an expanding network of mosques, madrassas and Islamic centres.

The basic tenets of Islam, the Qu’ran and ahadith underpinning the concept of jihad are explained in detail. Taqiyya, religiously mandated lies, gets a whole chapter (9) to itself.

Particularly fascinating, in my opinion is Chapter 10, History: Muhammad and his Successors. If you don’t know how the divisions between Shia and Sunni came about, this is essential reading. It even has a substantial section about the third division of Islam, the Khariji, largely wiped out by the other two groups by 900 but influential on the thinking of the Wahhabi and Salafiyya movements. Later in the Chapter entitled The Negative Impact of Islamic Jihad on Vanquished Populations Sookdheo gives a brief run down of the Islamic conquest and Islamisation of every area of the world affected. He covers a wider geographical area than Bat Ye’or in The Dhimmi but in far less depth, the level being suited to practical soldiers.

Wahhabi and Salafi, Hizbullah and Hamas (and the assassins, to put them into historical perspective) are covered in turn in Violent Sects and Movements: Past and Present. Of al Qa-eda he says


Western attempts to focus exclusively on al Qa-eda and isolate it from the mainstream Islamic tradition fail to understand the nature of Islamic terrorist networks. A good comparison would be the multitude of western NGOs or anti globalisation groups. These organisations have a great deal of interaction and overlap with each other; they support each other, evolve coalitions on issues of common interest, and combine their causes together. The boundaries between them are not clearly defined. In addition key individuals can be involved as trustees or directors of several different groups at once. Another feature of this comparison is the way different groups merge and split, or close themselves down only to reappear under a new name or as several different new groups. Contemporary Islamic terrorism is manifested in the same kind of fluid, complex, ever shifting networks, closely linked to and resourced by mainstream Muslim society, not as isolated, clearly defined entities.

In The Motivation of Terrorists and Suicide Bombers he has this to say about recognising a suicide bomber:

The next generation of suicide bombers is expected to prove well nigh impossible to detect. Practising taqiyya to a high degree, they will effectively blend into the society in which they are living. In a Western context they would be clean-shaven, will avoid visiting radical mosques or meeting in person with anyone publicly known as an extremist. Communications with their radical colleagues will be conducted by a variety of secure means. They will avoid travelling to places like Afghanistan or any other theatre of armed conflict but rather will go on holiday to expensive resorts. They will consort with non-Muslims of the opposite sex, drink alcohol and eat pork, and generally participate in popular culture eg sport, music etc. 

In considering the role that poverty plays, Sookdheo believes that while cutting off the pension and status accorded to the families of suicide bombers may go some way to dissuading them he also points to the high education and middleclass background of others.

In Muslims Against Violence: Progressive Reformers
he details the difficulties of understanding exactly what is meant by “reform” in the context of Islam. To some it can mean a return to the puritanical and violent interpretation of Islam which is not what the rest of us had in mind. He speaks highly of the risks faced by this, still small minority of progressive reformers, in opposing the ideas of mainstream traditional Islam. He believes that we must work more with them and rely less on the often self appointed community leaders. He examines the work and history of the main thinkers, like Mahmud Muhammad Taha, the elderly man executed for apostasy in Sudan in 1985, and looks at the secular Muslim states of Turkey and Tunisia.

In the penultimate chapter Responses to Islamic Terrorism Sookdheo sets out 15 possible responses. Some he deems impossible, like colonialism, as the clock cannot be turned back. His favoured response is the reform of Islam through the work of the men he considers in Chapter 16 (none of them are women). Whether or not it is because he is himself a churchman, he is forthright about the struggle being a religiously motivated war which he likens to the 30 Years War of the 17th century. We do ourselves a disservice when we ignore that element, and assert that it is purely political, or economic.

In Conclusion, while he favours the more peaceful of the options he sets out, he has no illusions that warfare will play a part, as will commercial aspects and law. A recurring theme is the starving of terrorist groups of their financial resources, be they the proceeds of drugs and crime, or the West’s dependence on oil which fills the Saudi coffers which then finances all manner of initiatives.

He sets out the facts for his target audience; they are intelligent enough to draw their own conclusions, as the endorsements from retired generals of the British Army on the back cover show, as does the foreword by Professor Richard Holmes Professor of Military and Security Studies at Cranfield University and best known for his War Walks history series. Those who have not yet heard of Dr Sookhdeo have heard of Professor Holmes.

He states, which is something I try never to forget, that:-

Although Islam is one, there is still an important distinction which must be drawn between Islam the ideology and Muslims the people who follow it. While Islam the ideology may cause great hardship and suffering to non-Muslims it also causes great hardship and suffering to many Muslims (particularly women). If an “enemy” is to be defined, then the enemy is not Muslims but the classical interpretation of Islam.


At present the West is too hesitant to assert its Judaeo-Christian culture, or indeed to assert other non-Muslim cultures and traditions now found in the West, for example Hindu and Buddhist. . . It must pay particular attention to the other non-Muslim cultures and societies (particularly India, China, South America and the many parts of Africa) who are facing the challenge of Islam, just as the West is. . . It will be fighting (war) an enemy that is defined by ideology and governed by rules of engagement which are very different from those of the West.

He concludes that we need spiritual, moral and cultural resources as well as technological resources, courage and perseverance to win what may well prove to be a very protracted war.

He doesn’t say 1400 years and counting, but we know what he means.

The text is followed by comprehensive appendices: a glossary, a bibliography and index.

I would go so far as to say that this book should be compulsory reading for all officers of the British Armed Forces and I recommend it to NCOs and ranks. It would also be of benefit to US, Commonwealth and NATO forces and the general reader, because it certainly benefited me.

Available from the Barnabas Fund via the link here and also in the UK on Amazon, Waterstones, and WH Smith.
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