The Encyclopedia of Militant Islam by Bryan Griffin with Herb London and Jed Babbin (London Center for Policy Research, 319 pp., $16.95)
Rare is the book that qualifies as a serious reference work and a riveting “read” at the same time. Yet Bryan Griffin’s Encyclopedia of Militant Islam satisfies on both counts. The nations with the highest rates of terrorist attacks are majority Muslim, he informs us. Hence, ordinary, non-violent Muslims are the primary victims of Islamic terror.
The Encyclopedia presents detailed information on 44 different militant Islamic groups. Some, like Hamas and ISIS, are in the news in western nations. Others, like Jemaah Islamiyah (which has active terrorists in the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia) are virtually unknown in the West. Among the less well-known groups is the Caucasus Emirate, which operates mostly within former Soviet satellites and in Russia, bombing sites in Moscow and St. Petersburg. In 2009, the group assassinated an Orthodox Russian priest. The Caucasus Emirate also incubated the Tsarnaev brothers, notorious here for 2013’s deadly Boston Marathon bombing. At this writing, one can reasonably wonder if the recent Istanbul airport bombings were directed by the Caucasus Emirate or an affiliated group.
Groups like Hamas use the “social service model” to attract innocent and especially downtrodden citizens. That is, like the American Black Panthers of the 1960s, they supply food and income support, thereby purchasing support for extremist causes. Nigeria’s Boko Haram is likely the world’s most violent group, yet they too use handouts and welfare to generate support for their cause. Among the revelations contained within the Encyclopedia: the elite leadership of some of the radical Islamic groups actually embrace Marxism, a set of atheistic values that would seem to contradict Islamic teaching. The infamous Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine also generated some surprising allies, including the violent Japanese Red Army and Germany’s now-defunct Baader-Meinhof gang.
The Encyclopedia provides a useful history of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded by Egyptian schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna in 1928 and is the common ancestor of many of today’s violent jihadist groups. During the 1930s, the anti-Semitic Brotherhood maintained close contact with Germany’s Nazi leaders. By the 1960s, the Brotherhood had gained prominence and support in Egypt “by effectively providing social services where the security state failed,” according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
The Encyclopedia will be a helpful resource to police and anti-terrorist agencies around the world, and will enable academics involved in the study of governments and radical movements to understand the scope of militant Islam through the 44 organizations catalogued. Yet, as noted earlier, the book is readable and compelling, so that citizens simply desiring more knowledge about the history, goals, and methods of terrorist organizations will be engaged by each chapter.
Griffin, an associate fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, offers strategies for fighting and defeating groups like ISIS. We have to “recover confidence in our culture and its values,” he writes. “We have to both regain the courage to label oppression and extremism for what it is, and condemn it. . . .If we speak the obvious truths about the failure of the nations that ascribe to hard-line Sharia to protect their peoples against that violence and oppression, they—like the Soviets before them—can have no answer.” Good advice for the current and soon-to-be-elected U.S. presidential administration.
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