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The War for Muslim Minds

The War for Muslim Minds

Islam and the West

Gilles Kepel

Translated by Pascale Ghazaleh

ISBN 9780674019928

Publication date: 04/30/2006

The events of September 11, 2001, forever changed the world as we knew it. In their wake, the quest for international order has prompted a reshuffling of global aims and priorities. In a fresh approach, Gilles Kepel focuses on the Middle East as a nexus of international disorder and decodes the complex language of war, propaganda, and terrorism that holds the region in its thrall.

The breakdown of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in 2000 was the first turn in a downward spiral of violence and retribution. Meanwhile, a neo-conservative revolution in Washington unsettled U.S. Mideast policy, which traditionally rested on the twin pillars of Israeli security and access to Gulf oil. In Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, a transformation of the radical Islamist doctrine of Bin Laden and Zawahiri relocated the arena of terrorist action from Muslim lands to the West; Islamist radicals proclaimed jihad against their enemies worldwide.

Kepel examines the impact of global terrorism and the ensuing military operations to stem its tide. He questions the United States' ability to address the Middle East challenge with Cold War rhetoric, while revealing the fault lines in terrorist ideology and tactics. Finally, he proposes the way out of the Middle East quagmire that triangulates the interests of Islamists, the West, and the Arab and Muslim ruling elites. Kepel delineates the conditions for the acceptance of Israel, for the democratization of Islamist and Arab societies, and for winning the minds and hearts of Muslims in the West.


  • Mr. Kepel's book is less about ideology and culture and more about war and geopolitics; with a full account of the Madrid bombings last spring, and the upsurge of fighting in Iraq at around the same time, it is remarkably up to date. The book includes a succinct anatomy of America's neoconservative camp, along with that camp's bitterest enemies in the world of ultra-militant Islam. It shows how both these parties were intensely frustrated by the Oslo peace process, and relieved by its collapse...Mr. Kepel is unsparing in the way he contrasts Iraq's present situation with the post-Saddam vision once promised by the neoconservatives...He also insists that ultra-militant Islam has not won either...It is possible, [he] suggests, that European Islam might evolve in new ways that could co-exist with modernity, asserting its distinctiveness without pretending, dishonestly, to live in another century...In the development of such an understanding, [The War for Muslim Minds] can make a large and highly intelligent contribution.

    —The Economist


  • Gilles Kepel is Professor and Chair of Middle East Studies at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris.

Book Details

  • 336 pages
  • 0-15/16 x 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press

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