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Leena Olaimy

Leena Olaimy

Leena Olaimy is a Dalai Lama Fellow and Fulbright Scholar who has been researching terrorism since 9/11. She’s a social entrepreneur working at the intersection of peace, economy, and environment.

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Success! Fundamentalist sold 1505 pre-orders by Aug. 15, 2017, was queried to 83 publishers, and will be published by Berrett-Koehler.
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Fundamentalist

Why We Need Greater Inclusion to Counter Terrorism

This book explores the non-ideological drivers of violent extremism committed in the name of Islam and how we can all invest in peace as individuals, entrepreneurs, policy-makers, and civil society.

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Politics Politics, Sustainable Development, Social Entrepreneurship, Spirituality
65,000 words
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Bahrain
14 publishers interested

Synopsis

Sixteen years ago during Ramadan, Leena Al Olaimy was a senior at New York University volunteering at Ground Zero. Ironically, she was assigned to serve food and drinks to the rescue workers who--good-naturedly and relentlessly--tried to persuade her to take a break and eat with them at regular intervals throughout the day. “I will!” she kept promising. 

Twelve hours later, her discernibly evasive excuses were categorically rejected. After spending weeks pulling human remains out of rubble, how would they react when she told them she was Muslim and that she was fasting? She felt afraid. Betrayed. Confused. Angered by what her religion had come to represent, and at those brandishing their perverted version of it. 

Back in her native Bahrain a few years later in 2005, Leena befriended a group of US Navy SEALs. Three months into their deployment, they lost half of their team, when Taliban insurgents shot down their Chinook during Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan. Emotionally charged conversations ensued for months thereafter. As she attempted to suture the swelling Islam-West lacerations, she obsessively self-questioned: how do I explain what compels individuals to such violent extremism--even towards their own people--in the name of my religion? And more importantly; how can we prevent them?

At the time, terrorism experts had begun to debunk the ‘poverty causes terrorism’ argument. Yet weak and unstable governments, chaos, and lawlessness are precisely the fertile ground in which mass mobilized terrorism—the Al Qaeda and Daesh (ISIS) kind--can thrive, as we’ve seen in Iraq and Syria. 

But what surprised her the most were the patterns of unbelievable contradictions she discovered among terrorist martyrs, operatives, and in some cases even leaders. The 9/11 hijackers draped towels over pictures of semi-nude women hanging on the walls of their seedy Florida motel room, but ordered pay-per-view pornographic movies. They scraped the frosting off American muffins in case they contained pork fat, yet enjoyed boozing and nightclubbing. 

Forensic psychiatrists—including CIA officers—interviewing people convicted of terrorism since 9/11 concluded that the problem was not Islam, but rather, the ignorance of Islam: Two young men who left Britain to join the Jihad in Syria had ordered Islam for Dummies from Amazon.  Even Salman Ramadan Abedi, who carried out the recent suicide bomb attack at Manchester Arena, reportedly drank alcohol and smoked cannabis.

Although the leaders of terrorist organizations may often be ideologically driven, Fundamentalist focuses specifically on the non-ideological drivers of violent extremism, committed by the followers. In some cases these are ‘lone operatives’ who are inspired by, rather than instructed by, terrorist groups.

While terrorism experts are unlikely to reach a consensus on the instigators, nor discover an algorithm for violent extremism; there is one common thread entangled through the narratives of terrorists who vary in degrees of piety, and differ in race, gender, education, and socio-economic background. 

In some shape or form, they have all suffered from social, economic, or political exclusion. Most critically, this creates a sort of inner exclusion, and the resulting delusion that martyrdom can bring glory. Rather than going as unnoticed suicide statistic and sinner, it simultaneously offers self-validation and atonement; pacifying shame and self-disgust.

Yet throughout history, many marginalized peoples have not retaliated with such senseless violence, so what inner and outer enabling conditions drive individuals who have radicalized Islam? And more importantly, what solutions lie in our personal power to address them? 

This book examines these questions through a spiritual lens, reflecting on absolutism, moral humility, and the potential ‘fundamentalist’ in all of us: The perils of justifying the pursuit of what we believe to be a noble outcome using immoral means; and the parallels between literal interpretations of scripture to justify violence, with literal interpretations of scripture to vilify religion.

Those seeking traditional military, cyber warfare, or finance-related counter-terrorism strategies will not find them in this book. Instead, Leena offers evidence-based multi-disciplinary solutions to remedy the consequences of counter-terrorism policies that exacerbate exclusion, and the conditions conducive to violent extremism.

Looking to social entrepreneurship, public sector innovation, and community building that embeds inclusion and self-validation, Leena draws on examples of how we can re-purpose the willingness to die for a cause and the desire for a heroic life of meaning into constructive action. 

Case studies demonstrate the power of inclusion in countering fundamentalism--mindful of balancing global citizenship without letting those at home fall through the cracks (as we’ve seen with recent populist movements in the US and Europe).

Displacing the common rhetoric of Islam as the fountainhead of fundamentalism, this book also reframes Islam as a spiritual solution. At worst, these recommendations will create more socially cohesive and peaceful societies, and at best they will contribute to deterring terrorists. 

According to the 2017 Global Peace Index Report, the total economic impact of violence on the global economy was $14.3 or 12.6 per cent of world GDP. Paradoxically, our spending on peace-building is less than one per cent of global economic losses from conflict. If we are not willing to invest in preventative solutions, rather than curative policies, we need to question whether we really want peace.

The intellectually curious reader and concerned global citizen will find that Fundamentalist curates a rich collection of scholarly material, peppered with interesting anecdotes, personal reflections, and unconventional development approaches. This book is, in a way, like Leena's own multi-disciplinary background; traversing politics, sociology, business, development, and spirituality. As such, its appeal embraces a mainstream non-academic audience, as well as development agencies, entrepreneurs, multilaterals, and policy-makers.

Outline

CONTEXT

Chapter 1: Who’s the Terrorist?

Reflects on the varied and contentious definitions of terrorism, the historical origins of terrorism and its modern day evolution, facts and statistics concerning global terrorism, and people's implicit biases of terrorism—even as Muslims.

Chapter 2: Double-edged Sword

Overview of the three founding fathers of Islamic fundamentalism, who also--counterintuitively--sought to limit violence and even berated the ulama[1] for their literal, rather than contextual interpretation of the Quran, warning them of the dangers of taking too literal an approach to Quranic verses such as “Kill the idolaters wherever you find them!” This chapter also covers the tenets of peace and, yes, even democracy in Islam and gives a general, comparative overview of religious fundamentalism and violence.

Chapter 3: Make the Umma Great Again

A depressing, yet necessary overview of the rise and fall of Islamic civilization and its immense contributions to the sciences, philosophy, mathematics and arts; the significance of humiliation; and Al Qaeda’s rhetoric in calling for a return to a golden era. Concluding with the even more dispiriting twist, that, in their quest for Islamic ascendancy, radicals have regressed Muslims into a state of jahiliya; the pre-Islamic, scientific and intellectual state of ignorance, barbarism and immorality that Islam sought to remedy.

Chapter 4: Post-Colonial Hangover

While the majority of Muslims do not live in the Arab world, it is the birthplace of Islam and its more sinister mutation. This chapter covers the Arab world’s political memory, baggage and enduring post colonial hangover and how Islam became increasingly politicized.

Chapter 5: The Why

Beginning with the birth of Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden’s moral decline, this chapter focuses on ‘the why.' What magnetizes people varying in degrees of piety (often non-observant Muslims), race, gender, education and socio-economic backgrounds; women; “white jihadis;” and teenagers to terrorism and Daesh (ISIS) in particular? The running theme and lens through which the factors are explored is some form of exclusion--be it social, economic or political.

This chapter examines factors such as poverty as a mindset rather than merely economic; the rhetoric of humiliation characterizing speeches of leaders and martyrs, and the link with self-marginalization, validation and atonement; external social marginalization; the lack of recourse to legitimately express moral outrage in corrupt or repressive societies; and foreign intervention within the context of an existential threat to identity. 

MORALITY

Chapter 6: Mirror, Mirror

Many often pursue what they believe to be noble outcomes using immoral means, losing sight of the fact that the means do not justify the ends; the means are the ends. This is a spiritual reflection on ego, moral absolutism and embodying what it is people are fighting, while simultaneously drifting further away from what they are fighting for. This is an uncomfortable introspection into the unconscious fundamentalist in everyone--whether they are Muslim, non Muslim, liberal or conservative.

SOLUTIONS

Chapter 7: Curative Counter-Terrorism

What policy makers need to consider in their current curative (as opposed to preventative) approaches to counter-terrorism, including divisive language and policies, economic sanctions, and citizenship revocation, and how such policies can produce a proliferation of devastating effects on global security. For example, through denationalizing a citizen, a state is effectively forcing an individual to remain engaged with his terrorist group, making him a global problem.

Chapter 8: Spiritual Counter-Terrorism

In Islam, the best way to preach and invite others to Islam is through being a good Muslim. What can Islamic wisdom and spirituality teach us about how to overcome violent extremism? 

Chapter 9: Radicalizing Inclusion

This chapter offers evidence-based, multi-disciplinary approaches to social, economic and political inclusion in social entrepreneurship, public innovation and community-level action. Case studies demonstrate the power of inclusion in countering fundamentalism; remaining mindful of balancing global citizenship, without letting the local fall through the cracks (as we’ve seen with recent populist movements in the US and Europe).

Chapter 10: Call to Muslims

Like so many Muslims, Leena is outraged every time someone asks her to condemn the actions of the less than one percent who don’t represent her. Nevertheless, Muslims need to re-assert control and proactively change the global Muslim narrative, amplifying messages of compassion, stories of hope, and re-orienting themselves towards the future they want to create. This chapter is a call to action, illustrated with inspiring examples of Muslims who are already modeling the way forward.

Chapter 11: Our Biggest Global Threat

One of the first lessons Leena learned as a social entrepreneur is to spend time addressing the ‘root causes’ of social issues rather than curing symptoms. Yet isn’t the root cause of most global threats we face— whether it’s terrorism or climate change—the values and conditions that allowed these problems to exist in the first place? Policies can be signed in a second. Wars ended overnight. But if activism doesn’t plant the societal values, issues will keep manifesting themselves in different ways, from Al Qaeda to Daesh; Daesh to….

The book ends on a plea for a greater emphasis on 21st century values—not just 21st century skills—and a necessary consciousness evolution that parallels technological evolution, to ensure the survival of the human race.

[1] Community of legal scholars in Islam

Audience

Fundamentalist is for:

1.     Social entrepreneurs, policy makers, businesses and individuals who want to understand how they can contribute to counter-terrorism and enhanced peace and security through inclusion.

2.     The majority of 1.6 billion Muslims who are nauseated by both the hijacking of their religion and the growing anti-Muslim sentiment.

3.     A Western audience trying to make sense of terrorism and understand how their actions can make an impact on a societal level.

Global Concern about Terrorism

  • Terrorism is in the Top 10 Global Risks according to the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Report.
  • After the deadly attacks in Paris and San Bernadino, a Gallup study showed that 1 in 6 Americans named terrorism the top issue facing the U.S. While a 2016 NBC Poll stated one in four Americans rank terrorism as top issue.
  • Since 75% of fatalities from attacks are in Muslim majority countries, the issue is also of concern to the majority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims and majority Muslim nations.

Unsatisfied with Efforts to Counter Terrorism

  • Just under six in ten Americans said the U.S. government is not doing well in reducing the threat of terrorism.

  • In 2016, the French Institute for Public Opinion survey : 67% do not trust the authorities to face and fight terrorism effectively.

Appetite for a Different Approach From Multi-laterals, Think-tanks & Individuals

  • According to the European Parliament barometer for 2016, with specific regard to the fight against radicalization and recruitment of EU citizens by terrorist organizations, the fight against social exclusion and poverty (39%) is the most urgent measure for Europeans. 

  • Similarly, a World Economic Forum article, referencing a 2015 World Bank study concluded that, efforts to prevent violent extremism in the Arab World should include policies and programs that aim at improving economic and social inclusion.

  • 78% of Muslim Americans say military attacks on civilians are never justified. Therefore, alternative approaches to counter-terrorism that don’t result in ‘collateral damage' are favored.

  • As a Brookings' article asserts, the biggest post-9/11 counterterrorism challenge emanates from a small number of young Muslims who have radicalized with little direct guidance from the Islamic State—so called “Lone Wolves.” They might consume terrorist propaganda, but the Islamic State does not control or direct them. There is an interest in solutions addressing these lone wolves rather than just organizations.

Terrorist Attacks Increase Public Interest to Understand Islam and Terrorism

  • After the 2015 Charlie Hebdo Paris attacks, sales of books on Islam were three times higher in the first quarter of 2015 than this time last year, according to the French National Union of Bookshops. 

  • Out of Amazon’s 100 bestselling books on terrorism, around 15% are New York Times bestsellers,National Bestsellers or Pulitzer Prize Winners, including: Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, Defeating ISIS: Who They Are, How They Fight, What They Believe, and Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War.

  • In the one-year period between August 2015-2016, The New York Times covered terrorism more than 330 times.

  • Social media keyword analytics of the word ‘terrorism’ for the one week period from 27 May showed 1 million mentions and almost 6 million engagements--more than 78% of which were from the US and UK.

  • Searches conducted in February 2017 on the Dow Jones Factiva service yielded the following results: the general term “terrorist attacks” yielded 1,280,835 articles, while “terrorist attack” – more likely to refer to a specific terrorist event – produced 581,839. In 2016, More than 23,548 articles related to deadly acts of terrorism were published, a 155% rise over 2001.

Sources

https://priceonomics.com/our-fixation-on-terrorism/

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/atyourservice/en/20160623PVL00111/Europeans-in-2016-Perceptions-and-expectations-fight-against-terrorism-and-radicalisation

http://www.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/192695/american-public-opinion-terrorism-guns.aspx

http://www.gallup.com/poll/187655/americans-name-terrorism-no-problem.aspx

http://www.gallup.com/poll/148763/muslim-americans-no-justification-violence.aspx

http://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/sales-of-books-on-islam-rocket-in-france-after-terror-attacks

http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/poll-one-four-americans-rank-terrorism-top-issue-americans-split-n593886

Author

Leena is a Fulbright scholar who researched terrorism at Dartmouth College. She is cofounder of 3BL Associates, an award-winning social enterprise advancing progress on nine of the seventeen interconnected sustainable development goals (SDGs) like peace, climate change, and economic growth. Her work has included transforming youth adversarial activism from non-violent resistance to ‘non-violent resilience.’

She previously worked at the Bahrain Ministry of Foreign Affairs on key regional security forums convening Middle Eastern Heads of State, G8 Foreign Secretaries and other dignitaries. Post-Arab Awakening, she was invited to meet with instrumental leaders from both sides of "The Troubles” in Northern Ireland and Apartheid South Africa to learn from their experiences with reconciliation and social inclusion.

Leena has written on politics, entrepreneurship and sustainability for the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Blog, Open DemocracyStanford Social Innovation Review, the Huffington Post and Wamda. She has been quoted in Forbes and Arabic [email protected], and her multi-disciplinary insights have been sought by Chatham House, the Tri-Lateral Commission, and several United Nations organizations. She has given 150+ talks globally, including TEDxCarthage—the largest in Africa—and recently chaired a roundtable on 'Empowering Communities for Positive Change' during HRH the Prince of Wales' visit to Bahrain.

Leena is a Dalai Lama Fellow, a Salzburg Global Fellow, a Soliya Fellow and a Wall Street Journal ‘Woman of Note' and is listed among Bahrain's Most Influential Women by Business in Gulf. She previously served on the advisory board of HRH Prince El Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan’s West Asia-North Africa Forum and the Board of Trustees for the Bahrain Foundation for Dialogue. 

Leena holds a B.Sc. in Culture and Communications from New York University, a MA in Globalization Studies from Dartmouth College, and has studied at Harvard Business and Government Schools, and at the THNK School for Creative Leadership in Amsterdam.

Promotion

Since cofounding my social enterprise, I have given more than 150 talks on various cross-cutting sustainable development issues include peace, economic development, climate change etc.  for audiences including think-tanks, multilaterals and foreign governments. Already, such international think tanks and multilateral (United Nations) events, and social media influencers, have offered me a platform to speak about the book, once completed. 

Once the book has been completed, the greatest marketing support I can offer is leveraging my global multidisciplinary network of organizations, and events and fora like the UN General Assembly and World Economic Forum to promote the book. 

With limited time and resources over an inevitably slow summer period, I was interviewed by local newspapers and magazines in Bahrain, interviewed by Islam Channel One in London, and published an op-ed on the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Blog in support of my Publishizer campaign.

With the right publisher, we will work together to leverage my social capital and your marketing resources to ensure the book reaches the widest and most relevant audience.

I have outlined some Marketing Ideas in the hyperlinked document.

Competition

To summarize: many authors have focused on the inner workings of terrorist organizations like Daesh (ISIS) and Al Qaeda as opposed to the inner workings and commonalities between the individuals who join. Consequently, solutions proposed by scholars, military and security experts are largely centered on defeating organizations, rather than addressing the inner and outer forces driving individuals to join. Holistic perspectives through the lens of sustainable development, social entrepreneurship, public sector innovation and community building are markedly absent. Moreover, when religion is drawn into the discourse, it hinges on the vilification of Islam as the cause of radicalism, without consideration for how Islam could in fact provide a counter-terrorism solution. Religious discourse is also devoid of spirituality (think Rumi meets Buddhism) and a values-based approach...much like a radical’s approach to religion.

  1. Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization. Reza Aslan. Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2010.

This book contains similarities to Fundamentalist in that it offers an informed critique of good-and-evil dualisms on both sides of the war on terror. Terrorists and their opponents share an "us against them" conception of reality that vilifies the enemy as irredeemable and suited only for destruction. Aslan argues that political estrangement and isolation nurture the cosmic dualism inherent in violent jihadist ideologies. But a similar dualism lies behind ill-founded American responses to terrorism. Unlike Fundamentalist, which provides an intellectual and spiritual discourse on dualism, Aslan’s focus is purely intellectual. His solution centers on the premise that radical groups moderate their ideologies when they are drawn into the political process. Aslan’s focus is on terrorist organizations rather than individuals and political exclusion, over broader social, self and economic marginalization.

                                                      *****








2.     Anatomy of Terror: From the Death of bin Laden to the Rise of the Islamic State. Ali Soufan. W. W. Norton & Company, 2017. 

In Anatomy of Terror, former FBI special agent Ali Soufan dissects bin Laden’s brand of jihadi terrorism and its major offshoots, revealing how these organizations were formed, how they operate, their strengths, and—crucially—their weaknesses. By revealing the psychology and inner workings of al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and their spawn, the book shows how the spread of terror can be stopped.

3.     Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS. Joby Warrick. Anchor, 2015. 

This Pulitzer Prize winner provides a narrative account of the evolution of the Islamic State (in its various incarnations), the role that American missteps played in fueling its rise, and a sharply drawn portrait of the group’s godfather.

4.     The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. Lawrence Wright. Vintage, 2007. 

This book explains in detail the growth of Islamic fundamentalism, the rise of al-Qaeda, and the intelligence failures that culminated in the attacks on the World Trade Center. Lawrence Wright re-creates firsthand the transformation of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri from incompetent and idealistic soldiers in Afghanistan to leaders of the most successful terrorist group in history. He follows FBI counterterrorism chief John O’Neill as he uncovers the emerging danger from al-Qaeda in the 1990s and struggles to track this new threat.

                                                      *****

With regards to the three aforementioned books, a leader is only a leader with followers. We should consider that our biggest threat may not be that organizations like Daesh (ISIS) exist, but the personal drivers and external conditions compelling others to join. Fundamentalist focuses less on the organizational growth and inner workings of a particular group and penetrates the personal, inner workings of the ‘followers’ on a more human, rather than institutional, level. It’s less about defeating an organization per se, as it is addressing the roots of what compels individuals who are very often not ideologically driven, to escalate their actions to fatal levels of violence.

5.     ISIS: The State of Terror. Jessica Stern and J. M. Berger. Ecco, 2016.

The authors examine the rise of ISIS leader, Baghdadi, the group’s rivalry with Al Qaeda, its modus operandi and its cunning use of social media. They offer a comparative analysis of Al Qaeda as a more intellectually elite movement and ISIS as a more populist start-up operation amassing and empowering supporters through digital means. The authors also offer some recommendations on how they think the West should deal with the Daesh: focus on “containment and constriction” rather than overwhelming military force, and exert more effective control of the digital battleground.

6.     Defeating ISIS: Who They Are, How They Fight, What They Believe. Malcolm Nance. Skyhorse Publishing, 2016. 

Defeating ISIS provides an insider’s view to explain the origins of the group, its violent propaganda, and how it spreads its ideology throughout the Middle East and to disaffected youth deep in the heart of the Western world. It gives a step-by-step analysis of the street-level tactics the group has employed in assaults against fortified targets, in urban combat, and during terrorist operations such as those in Paris during the November 13 attacks. The book outlines a strategy entailing deep cover operations, disrupting enemy supply lines and the implementation of general mayhem designed to send ISIS reeling off balance.

                                                      *****

Again, the aforementioned two books deal with defeating Daesh  (ISIS) as an organization and still defer to military tactics, or containment and constriction, focusing on the organization. Offered solution come from either a scholarly perspective or a military mindset, rather than from a more holistic, sustainable, development approach by a practitioner who has worked with various forms of exclusion and adversarial activism.

Sample

While the book is around 50 % complete, none of the chapters are ‘polished’ enough yet to send as a final draft. Here are three samples from Chapters 1, 3, 4 and 5.

Also, this is a link to an op-ed I wrote relating to the book, which was recently published in the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Blog: https://www.weforum.org/agenda...

Since the op-ed was edited to fit WEF’s style, kindly contact me directly if you’d like me to share the original unedited version as it is a more accurate reflection of my writing style.

LONG SAMPLE FROM CHAPTER 5: Understanding Terrorism: The Why

     “What’s the difference between a Muslim doll and an American doll?” a navy seal asked me. We were at a summer barbeque in Juffair, minutes from the U.S. Naval Base headquarters responsible for the Fifth Fleet in the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea and Persian Gulf. I looked at him, raising my eyebrows in expectation of his politically incorrect punch-line. “A Muslim doll blows itself up.” That was not the first incident provoking me to scrutinize my religion, its interpretation, and the drivers of violent extremism. Almost 20 years later, while non-religious drivers are more widely acknowledged, they are often received with skepticism.

       While writing this book, for instance, I published an op-ed on the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda blog, focusing on the role of shame and conflicted identity in suicide terrorism. Patterns of unbelievable contradictions among terrorist martyrs, operatives—and in some cases even leaders—were so blatant, I kept wondering whether this piece of the discourse was somehow misplaced. Mohamed Atta and his 9/11 hijacking squad draped towels over pictures of semi-nude women hanging on the walls of their seedy Florida motel room, but later ordered pay-per-view pornographic movies. Careful to scrape the frosting off American muffins in case they contained pork fat, yet carelessly boozing and nightclubbing. Salman Ramadan Abedi, who carried out the more recent suicide bomb attack at Manchester Arena in 2017, reportedly drank alcohol and smoked cannabis. Anwar al-Awlaki, the “respected” married Muslim cleric and Al-Qaeda leader who has reportedly inspired several terrorists—including the Charlie Hebdo attackers, the Boston marathon bombers and others—paid upwards for USD 500 a month for upscale “escort” services. As you will read in this chapter, these examples are not anomalies.

          Since this narrative distorts the lens through which we classify people and information, the article attracted a familiar fusillade of accusations for having been written by a Muslim apologist and liberal propagandist. It is both counter-intuitive, and for many, an exhausting exercise in both situationism and moral relativism. And yet, we haven’t even scratched the surface of spiritual contradictions that should give us pause to interrogate the motives of violent extremists. To put it simply: just because someone claims to have done something for religion, that doesn’t make it true. Haven’t wars been fought over the same claims for millennia? Religion has the intoxicating ability to delude us into “noble-izing” any selfish or impure motivation: a vendetta, a lack of self-worth, power hunger. In Africa, an analysis of 500 former members of various extremist organizations found that while over half of respondents said they were motivated to join an extremist organization because they perceived their religion to be under attack, 57 per cent admitted to having a limited understanding of religious texts in the first place[1]. I suspect that in reality, this number is actually higher.

         That is not to claim that religion has absolutely nothing to do with violent extremism. How Islam is taught, manipulated and interpreted remains problematic and must be confronted. But we may consider the reality and implications if Islam was indeed the driver of terrorism. In other words, if 1.7 billion Muslims—less than 0.1% of whom are violent extremists—truly decided to declare (a fundamentalist interpretation of) jihad…if even one tenth of the world’s population detonated themselves for the “wider good” of establishing a caliphate…Essentially, if religion is a driver of the violent 0.1%, it is worth considering how religion is also a driver of the other 99.9% who are not.

         So, acknowledging that there is never a definitive “why”, nor an algorithm (yet) that can predict or alert us to an individual’s propensity for, or transition to violent extremism, this chapter sketches the non-ideological drivers of terrorism to frame both the shortcomings of military solutions, and more importantly, the opportunities presented by non-military solutions and interventions to countering violent extremism, in the chapters that follow. Terrorism experts, scholars, intelligence officers, military institutions, think-tanks and multi-laterals have generally come to a consensus on the push and pull factors of violent extremism which are outlined in this chapter. And one discovers that despite the nuances, there is one common thread entangled throughout the narratives of terrorists who vary in degrees of piety, and differ in race, gender, education, and socio-economic background. In some shape or form, they have all suffered from significant social, economic, or political exclusion. Poverty as a mindset rather than merely economic poverty; local and foreign corruption; an existential threat to identity; social marginalization; the rhetoric of humiliation; shame, purification and atonement—characterizing a violent inner conflicted identity. 

         Indeed, many others have also been marginalized, suffered from poverty, or been conflicted and yet have not been compelled towards a path of mutual destruction. One may even argue that to some degree, everyone has suffered from such exclusion. While this is true—and some personal factors simply cannot be examined until the convergence of humans and technology means that our neurological, hormonal and chemical changes are monitored in a decentralized web of information—through the research and first-hand accounts, patterns begin to emerge. As a 2017 United Nations (UN) Counter-terrorism report, Enhancing the Understanding of the Foreign Terrorist Fighters Phenomenon in Syria, notes, “there is inevitably a ‘personal’ factor that persuades one individual to become a FTF while his neighbour, or even his sibling, although exposed to exactly the same environment and subject to the same conditions conducive to radicalisation and extremism chooses to remain at home.”

         Without absolving the responsibility of the individual, one cannot ignore the existence of both inner and outer conditions and circumstances. Thích Nhất Hạnh, a 90 year-old Vietnamese Buddhist monk and Zen Master—most renowned for his peace activism and mindfulness retreat center, Plum Village in southwest France—captures this best when he writes:

“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don't blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change”

         Scholarly consensus has converged with spiritual wisdom on this one. Unlike earlier decades where academics traced the roots of terrorism to personal pathology and affliction, today, it is largely accepted that the drivers consist of a more complex confluence of conditions, and the environment in which terrorists live and function. Situationism is elaborated further in the next chapter on Morality—not as a means to exonerate a terrorist or any individual from immoral behavior. But to recognize that violent behavior simply does not occur in a vacuum.

Global Terrorism Overview

         Since 2000, the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) has provided the world’s most comprehensive database and summary of global terrorism trends. Having codified more than 170,000 terrorist incidents, the report is produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace. The GTI is based on data from the Global Terrorism Database which is collected and collated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), a Department of Homeland Security Centre of Excellence led by the University of Maryland. Emphasizing that individual attacks and incidents are unpredictable, the report highlights some statistical patterns which are intended to inform the design (and effectiveness) of counterterrorism strategies and operations.

         Among the report highlights are the assertion that there are multiple paths to radicalization and that individuals can exhibit both high and low levels of education, income, religious or political knowledge. Relative deprivation can drive terrorist recruitment as it perpetuates an ‘us vs them’ mentality. Terrorism in 2016 cost the global economy US$ 84 billion (this does not account for the indirect costs of additional security to counter-terrorism, reduced FDI or impact on business and other costs). When it comes to the ways in which terrorist groups end, since 1970, groups have more or less ended in these three ways: attainment of their political goals; internal splintering; or military or police defeat. This does not, however, account for the reinventions of terrorist groups or ideologies that simply manifest in new groups and in new ways.

         For the second consecutive year, deaths from terrorism declined globally to 25,673 people, which is a 22 per cent improvement compared to the peak of terror activity in 2014. The deadliest groups are Daesh, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and the Taliban. Terrorism deaths have fallen significantly in Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. However, ISIL defied this positive trend killing 50% more people; with over 9,000 deaths, primarily in Iraq and increased activity in OECD countries. And while the number of deaths in Nigeria showed the most significant improvement falling by 80%, this has coincided with the splintering of Boko Haram into three separate groups. In Nigeria, attacks were executed by 13 separate groups in 2016, including attacks in the Niger Delta, and by Fulani extremists in the Middle Belt.

         Nigeria, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq also represent the ‘Big Five’ most impacted by terrorism. Disproportionate media coverage and public attention surrounding terrorism incidents in Western countries may distort the fact that since 2000, 99% of deaths have occurred in countries with high levels of political terror (defined as extra-judicial killings, torture and imprisonment without trial), or are engaged in some form of internal or international conflict. In 2016, 94 per cent of all terrorist deaths were located in the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. By contrast, OECD countries experienced 265 deaths in 2016. And while deaths have declined globally, more countries experienced at least one death from terrorism; two out of every three countries in the Index, or 106 nations, experienced at least one terrorist attack.[2]

         This trend is connected with the shift towards less sophisticated attacks targeting non-traditional softer civilian targets. Such attacks require less planning and can be executed more easily and at a lower cost, making them more difficult to detect and foil. Globally, attacks against civilians increased by 17 per cent from 2015 to 2016. Over the past decade, “lone actor” terror attacks in OECD countries have increased from one in 2008 to 56 in 2016. The greatest number of such attacks have occurred in the United States.[3]  Since 2006, 98 per cent of all deaths from terrorism in the US have resulted from attacks carried out by lone actors, resulting in 156 deaths.[4] This is both a consequence of technology enabling the decentralization of attacks, as well as a consequence of the systems-level impact of successful military interventions which often provoke new problems to emerge.

         Fear Thy Neighbour: Radicalisation and Jihadist attacks in the West, a study by the Institute for International Studies in Italy, found that 73% of attackers were “homegrown” citizens of the country in which they committed the attack. Another 14% were either legal residents or visitors from neighboring countries. Only 5% were refugees or asylum seekers at the time of attack, while 6% were residing in the country illegally at the time of the attack. At least 57% of attackers had a prior criminal background and only 18% of attackers are known to have previously been foreign fighters. A little less than half (42%) of attackers had a clear operational connection to an established jihadist group— which was Daesh in most cases. According to the same report, France suffered the highest number of attacks overall (17)—both lone actors and Daesh directed—followed by the United States (16). In fact, only 8 countries in Europe and North America were targeted during this period, which also included: Germany (6), the UK (4), Belgium (3), Canada (3), Denmark (1) and Sweden (1).

         The number of incidents of domestic terrorism across Europe and North America, however, pale in comparison to the alarming numbers of foreign fighters that were flocking to the so-called Islamic state in Iraq and Syria circa 2014. Based on its own investigations, a study by The Soufan Group, a security intelligence consulting firm, calculated that between 27,000 and 31,000 people from at least 86 countries had traveled to Syria and Iraq to join Daesh and other violent extremist groups. Peter Neumann, Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) puts these numbers into perspective drawing attention to the fact that this surpasses the 20,000 foreign fighters who fought in Afghanistan during the 10-year Afghan-Soviet war[5]. Numbers in the Soufan Group’s 2015 study, which are based on information directly provided by government officials, academic studies and other research and reports by the UN and other bodies, corresponds with US intelligence estimates.

         Daesh misfits represented 86 countries—the majority of whom came from Arab states. Tunisia topped the list with 6,000, followed by Saudi Arabia, Russia, Turkey and Jordan, which each had between 2,000-2,500 fighters, respectively. France led the European Union with 1,700 recruits, followed by 760 fighters from the United Kingdom, 760 from Germany, and 470 from Belgium as of October 2015. Daesh’s more recent loss of control over its “state” and economic resources has correlated with a decline of in-flows and an exodus of foreign fighters; many of whom were drawn by both prosperity and an apocalyptic promise of victory. Given the average rate of returnees to Western countries is now at around 20-30%, this presents a significant challenge to security and law enforcement agencies that must assess the threat they pose[6]. Moreover, given this decentralization and shift in terror attacks, the increase in “softer” civilian targets highlighted by the GTI is not surprising.

Not Religion

         Imagine a “Muslim” terrorist. Perhaps you picture a long-bearded, AK-toting, religiously austere fanatic. One who apostacizes everything from the ungodly sight of an uncovered woman; to the depravity of Western culture. Devoting every waking moment not spent in prayer, to plotting against infidels and the reign of a Caliphate. Now imagine this Islamic militant’s social media feed. It features comments like “This night deserves Hennessy a bad bitch and an o [ounce] of weed the holy trinity”. Probably not what you expected…This counterintuitive blasphemy of alcohol, drugs, sex and thuggery may initially render disbelief, and eventually be reconciled as an anomaly. But is it an anomaly?

         One of my most memorable teachers as a child (and I had many!) was Mr. Ibrahim. Unlike most of my other Islamic studies teachers who taught of kindness, tolerance and forgiveness, Mr. Ibrahim’s version of faith focused on invoking fear and a famine of experience. Long bearded and dressed in a shin-length thobe, his never-ending list of haram (forbiddens) included listening to music or remotely melodious sounds—except for the recitation of the Holy Quran (given the chance, he would have apostacized the singing of the birds). Adorning our bedroom walls with posters, “idolizing” celebrities was also haram. Girls sitting in front of boys in the classroom was most definitely haram. And even as we sat in the back rows, Mr. Ibrahim was clearly perturbed by our bare knees protruding from under our ugly pleated grey skirt uniforms. As girls, we were ordered to cover our legs with our school cardigans during the mild Bahrain winters.

         Disturbingly paranoid with the occasional over-sharing of his government conspiracy theories, Mr. Ibrahim perpetually warned us that the walls were bugged and that we were being listened to at all times. As 11 year olds, we mocked and ridiculed his eccentric behavior. We shared provocative stories with our parents, who were firm in their dismissal of his excessive assertions, but not sufficiently concerned by what we all perceived as entertaining—if considerably extremist—idiosyncrasies. After all, we were attending a British private school in one of the more liberal countries in the Middle East, so that was considered a sufficient counterbalance.

         But as I grew older, my view of extreme religious piety became much more nuanced; cultivating an increased awareness of our deeply embedded cultural contradictions. At some point it stopped surprising me to discover that those who were fanatically pious in public, had “impure” pasts, and occasionally “impure” presents. And those who had outwardly rejected and abandoned their past were significantly more self-righteous than those who delicately tried to balance their see-sawing identity. For instance, as a twenty-something, I recounted an incident of an extremist Parliamentarian inappropriately ogling me at a work event. Naively, I was puzzled by how someone with such religiosity could behave in such a manner—publicly. A family member of mine snickered with contempt as she raised her eyebrows, “But of course!” she exclaimed. “Everyone knows he used to be a playboy before growing his beard and shortening his thobe!” This was the first—but would not be the last—time I would encounter outwardly extremist men (and women) who were once a version of what they now loathed. And it was always the ones who carried the most shame who were the loudest and most self-righteous in their takfir (apostasy) of others.

         Every weekend, thousands of cars cross the causeway linking Saudi Arabia—the birthplace of Islam and its strict Salafi interpretation of Wahhabism—into Bahrain, for the liberal respite it provides. Among the shoppers, diners and beach goers, are also the alcoholics, the drunk drivers, the prostitute patrons. This is not remarkably different to many other countries in the world. But what makes it unique is the polarity between extreme repression and habitual hedonism. It’s not quite as drastic as going from Afghanistan to Las Vegas, but the same idea. And it’s not necessarily any particular type of behavior in isolation, but rather, the lack of moderation and dramatic fluctuation in one’s identity.

         While none of the individuals I had personally encountered were violent extremists, there are innumerable narratives of spiritual dissonance between the non-observant behaviors of so-called “Muslim” suicide attackers in the West, and their self-proclaimed religious motivations. These martyrs are almost always recent radicals adopting newly embraced religious fanaticism after an indulgent, secular, and sometimes criminal lifestyle. And while some analysts have indeed widened their sphere of inquiry beyond the lazy argument of ideological causality—drawing demographic parallels, and postulating archetypes of domestic violence—one human element has remained largely unexplored: shame. In particular; the shame of not being a “good Muslim” and the desperate and extreme measures ultimately taken towards spiritual redemption.

         Before blowing himself up at Manchester Arena in 2017, Salman Ramadan Abedi, had been a pothead and regular party-goer who smoked cannabis and drank vodka. Maybe this was to cope with his cultural displacement as a disconnected second generation European immigrant; not feeling Libyan enough, nor British enough. But also, coming from an extremely religious family, it is likely that the escapism of drink and drugs paradoxically pacified, and later amplified, Abedi’s feelings of shame.

         After shooting a police officer and careening down the motorway in a vehicle stolen at gunpoint, Ziyed Ben Belgacem, a French-born citizen, made a phone call to his father. "Dad, please forgive me. I've screwed up," Belgacem pleaded. He proceeded to Orly Airport in Paris where he put a gun to a soldier’s head declaring: "I am here to die in the name of Allah...There will be deaths."[7] Belgacem’s aggregate criminal history included drug dealing, armed robbery, theft, and receiving stolen goods. Post-mortem toxicology tests revealed the presence of alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine in his blood. Hardly Allah-approved, one would argue. And Belgacem was probably both acutely aware of, and deeply uncomfortable with, this caustic moral incongruity.

         In the summer of 2016, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel “answered ISIS calls” by bulldozing through a Bastille Day parade in Nice, killing 86 people. Was he a devoted Muslim who dutifully performed his obligatory daily prayers? On the contrary; he ate pork and had an unbridled penchant for alcohol, drugs, and wild sex—allegedly with men and women. In the 2017 Barcelona attacks on La Rambla, even the mastermind imam behind the attacks drank alcohol, while his subordinates had a record of drug offenses!

         Marginally different were the Belgian-born Abdeslam brothers. Salah, the younger of the two, was involved in the gruesome Bataclan theatre shooting in Paris. The older brother, Brahim, self-detonated outside the Comptoir Voltaire cafe in Brussels (killing no-one but himself). The Abdeslam brothers didn’t need to go bars because they owned one. This is the ultimate Islamic sin because by extension, one is responsible for any lives detracted or destructed by intoxication. Repentantly, the brothers sold Les Beguines bar (which also served hallucinogenics) 6 weeks before the attacks[8]. In a spectacle of revolting hypocrisy, the Bataclan gunmen’s first order of business was to shoot everyone standing at the theatre’s bar. They proceeded to subject victims to horrific torture like castration and gouging out their eyes, according to witnesses. As irony would have it, the ‘Abdeslam’ surname refers to one of God’s 99 qualities and translates into ‘servant of peace’.

         These characterizations are neither anomalies nor unique to Europe. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the deceased Jordanian tattooed one-legged mac daddy of Al Qaeda in Iraq, was a notorious pimp, thug, heavy drinker, and junkie. With thirty-seven criminal cases against him, he “returned to Islam” after a missionary group convinced him that it was time to cleanse himself of his salacious lifestyle. And despite differences in the integration of immigrants in Europe and the US—the latter being more assimilated into Western society—spiritual incongruities are also discernible across the Atlantic.

         Major Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas in 2009, was a non-observant Muslim who reinvented himself as a jihadist militant and a self-appointed “Soldier of Allah” according to his business cards. Computer science major, Faisal Shahzad, who was sentenced to life in prison for an attempted Times Square car bombing in New York, spent his weekends like a typical college student: drinking at nightclubs and hitting on women. Jahar Tsarnaev, the younger of the Boston marathon bomber brothers, was also a typical American college student. His party-going lifestyle, sleeping in, girls, sex, alcohol and marijuana were unabashedly plastered on Facebook and Twitter. Yes, including the tweet: “This night deserves Hennessy a bad bitch and an o of weed the holy trinity”.

         Hardly a case of bottom up perversion, “the fish rots from the head down” adage applies to the Boston brothers and many others, including the 2005 London bombers, and three of the 9/11 hijackers, who were influenced by American Muslim cleric and al-Qaeda leader Anwar Al-Awlaki. The deceased-by-drone infamous spiritual guide is said to have inspired many, even from the grave. It is unclear whether or not Al-Awlaki drank, but this supposed exemplar of faith did engage in other extra-curricular activities. In 1996 and 1997 Al-Awlaki was arrested in San Diego for soliciting prostitutes. When the news of his arrest later became public, the married and “respected” Al-Awlaki claimed he had been set up by the government. Still, old habits die hard, and in the months following 9/11, he continued to visit high-end Washington DC escorts to relieve his stress—paying upwards of three hundred dollars a session for sexual services.[9] Perhaps he over-compensated his sexual debauchery with religious fanaticism. Or perhaps he justified antecedently rewarding himself for what he believed were his paradise-worthy achievements. We will never know for sure.

         What is evident, however, is that these accounts demonstrate an emblematic undulation between self-disgust and radical piety. My intention is not to voice judgement over the non-Islamic activities these individuals engaged in. But rather, to highlight the fundamental absence of moderation in their actions, and the inner struggle such a conflicted identity inevitably creates. Like yo-yo dieting; from soul starvation to immoral indulgence. The latter powerfully emoting feeling ashamed for the loss of control brought about by a wild pendulum swing away from piety; a lack of worthiness; and self-disgust. That is not to say that repression—or any single factor discussed in this chapter—is causally coherent with violent extremism. But it certainly warrants an interrogation.

         Even the 9/11 hijackers epitomized this moral polarity by embodying two extremes as they were confronted with overt Western sexuality. In a lame attempt to shield their lustful wandering eyes, they draped towels over pictures of semi-nude women hanging on the walls of their seedy Florida motel room. Instead, they satiated their desires by devouring pay-per-view pornographic movies. They scraped the frosting off American muffins in case they contained pork fat, yet indulged in gambling, boozing and lap dances. And, in complete dissonance with the pervasive generosity characteristic of Muslims, they weren’t even good tippers according to one of the dancers at the strip club they visited! Suggesting a sort of displaced aggression and self-hatred, one of the hijackers, Mohammed Atta reportedly beat the prostitute whom he regularly hired when he lived in Hamburg[10].

         We underestimate the influence of a confused identity, which can carry considerable weight in the decision to seek an avenue of militancy and terror. Most sexually frustrated males, for instance, channel their feelings into religious or moral defense, rather than directing them towards countering socio-economic injustice.[11]  This diverges from the hypothesis that sexually frustrated males become radicalized to achieve the promise of sexual fulfillment and any number of virgins in paradise. Fatima Mernissi, a social psychologist who was regarded the founder of Islamic feminism, long observed that as Islamists internalize the discomfort experienced by Western seduction, those feelings become compounded by an obsession with sexual purity. Indeed, Sayyid Qutb, one of the forefathers of fundamentalism discussed in Chapter 2, lamented to his readers that he was never able to find a woman of sufficient "moral purity and discretion" and had to reconcile himself to bachelorhood. Qutb was, speculatively, repulsed by his own desire.

                                    Particularly for such conflicted individuals, the most compelling message of martyrdom is the promise of purification, redemption and atonement. A promise that is consecrated into rites and rituals—like the ceremonial script discovered in the baggage of one of the 9/ 11 hijackers. Detailing their final preparations, the document instructed them to purify their souls from all unclean things and to bless their bodies by rubbing verses of holy scripture on their clothes, passport, and even their luggage. Unlike the ghastlier Daesh and Daesh-inspired attackers—gouging out eyes and burning people alive—the Al Qaeda-led 9/11 hijackers were directed to ensure their knife blades were sharp to avoid discomforting their sacrifice; a practice necessitated for the halal Islamic way of humane animal slaughter.

Scholars like the French political scientist and terrorism expert[12], Olivier Roy, have postulated that many seeking martyrdom simply have a death wish—and I would agree. “The large majority of Al-Qaida and Islamic State jihadis, including the Manchester attacker Abedi, commit suicide attacks not because it makes sense strategically from a military perspective or because it’s consistent with the Salafi creed…These attacks don’t weaken the enemy significantly, and Islam condemns self-immolation as interference with God’s will. These kids seek death as an end-goal in itself,” says Roy. As Daniel Benjamin, a former State Department coordinator for counterterrorism[13] and a Dartmouth professor, says “…the Islamic State and jihadism has become a kind of refuge for some unstable people who are at the end of their rope and decide they can redeem their screwed-up lives”.

Substantiating this hypothesis are explicit examples like Major Nidal Hasan, who, months after the Fort Hood attack,  told a psychiatric panel he had wished to die during the assault. Expressing his hopes for execution, Major Hasan reasoned that, “If I died by lethal injection, I would still be a martyr.” Similarly, Amor Ftouhi, the attacker who stabbed airport police in Michigan, seeking retribution for America’s killing of people in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, later asked an officer who subdued him why he did not kill him[14]. I should also point out that this doesn’t only apply to Muslims. Darren Osborne, the Londoner who drove a van into Muslim worshippers near Finsbury Park Mosque in June 2017, had attempted suicide a few weeks earlier, according to his sister. A life and aspirational death made less ordinary through a “heroic” gesture of moral outrage and the decisive stance of “doing his bit” to kill all Muslims.[15]

Whether explicitly referenced or implicitly demonstrated by spiritually incongruent behavior; like human traffickers preying on those seeking a better life, extremist rhetoric sequins martyrdom with the promise of a better after-life. A pass to paradise bestowing purification, redemption and atonement, while also pacifying unbearable shame and self-disgust.  Presented with the options of glory, or being written off as an irrelevant and unnoticed suicide statistic or sinner, attackers are seduced with the prospects of both atonement and self-validation. Suddenly, a miserable or conflicted existence is cosmetically reconstructed into a more meaningful martyr’s badge of honor. Daesh media frequently and intentionally post smiling dead jihadists with their right-hand index finger pointing heavenward.[16] 

Replete with spiritual contradictions, these examples should, at the very least, give one pause to challenge the motivations of suicide attackers proclaiming “Holy war”. A conflicted sense of identity, compounded with insufferable shame, seems to be a greater instigator of the decision to seek militant self-sacrifice. Paradoxically, while drugs and alcohol serve as more palatable indicators of Islamic insubordination, the most compelling giveaway should really go without saying: murdering innocent people.

These men were not simply non-observant Muslims, but rather, non-observant human beings. Even in Saudi Arabia, during Islam’s holiest month of Ramadan, authorities thwarted a suicide attack on the Grand Mosque in Mecca; considered Islam’s godliest site and congregating 15 million pilgrims annually. Imagine a “Catholic” terrorist attempting to blow up the Vatican on Good Friday.  So let’s go ahead and explode the stereotype of the Muslim—or even radical Muslim terrorist. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama quite fittingly asserts: there is no “Muslim terrorist” or “Buddhist terrorist”; terrorists have renounced religion.

Echoing this sentiment in an interview on her book Fields of Blood. Religion and the History of Violence, historian Karen Armstrong contends that the problem is not Islam, but rather the ignorance of Islam:

“Had they had a proper Muslim education they wouldn’t be doing this. Only 20% of them has had a regular Muslim upbringing. The rest are either new converts – like the gunmen who recently attacked the Canadian Parliament; or non-observant, which means they don’t go to the mosque – like the bombers in the Boston marathon; or self-taught. Two young men who left Britain to join the Jihad in Syria ordered from Amazon a book called Islam for Dummies. That says it, you see.[17]

         Since Islam does not require an intermediary to connect with God, not going to the mosque is not necessarily synonymous with not being observant—though one would reasonably expect a person with the religious zeal to “join the jihad” to at least congregate in the mosque for Friday prayers. Nevertheless, prayer at home is perfectly acceptable and a pre-requisite of the faithful, as one of the five pillars of Islam. Yet over half of foreign trained fighters (FTFs) who joined Daesh in Syria and Iraq did not even know how to pray, according to a study by the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNOCT). Similarly, when Boko Haram militants in Nigeria are exposed to proper Islamic education and given copies of the Quran as part of a prison de-radicalization program, it turns out that many have never even seen one before.

         Those skeptical of the UN and even Armstrong—a former British nun, interfaith advocate, and TED Prize winner who called for the creation of a global Compassion Charter—will find that these views are also shared with forensic psychiatrists, including one who worked for the CIA. After interviewing hundreds of people convicted of terrorism at Guantanamo and other prisons since 9/11, they concluded that “Islam had nothing to do with it”. At least not any more than Jesus (pbuh) had to do with the Crusades. A leaked M15 report also found that those involved in terrorism lacked religious literacy, while some consumed drugs and alcohol, and visited prostitutes. On the contrary, the M15 report pointed to evidence that a secure religious identity actually protects from violent radicalization.[18]

         US military researchers also concluded that religion is far from being the most influential factor driving thousands of foreign trained fighters (FTFs) to join Daesh and other terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria. Analyzing leaked Daesh documents, the study conducted by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) found that the vast majority of militants in the dataset (over 85%) had no formal religious education. Most (around 70%) had not adhered to Islam for their entire lives; and 32% were identified as converts to Islam. Depth of religious knowledge also appeared to influence the roles chosen by fighters. Those who had advanced knowledge of Islam and Sharia law were far less likely to choose a suicide role over their less knowledgeable peers.[19] Given the contradictory martyr narratives described, this should come as no surprise.

         When comparing homegrown militants with FTFs, the research also found the latter to have even less formal religious training. This suggests that although extremist local spiritual leaders may influence homegrown networks, the role of such figures in the recruitment of foreign fighters is more limited. Most of the foreign fighters appeared to be more isolated from both local figures and from their communities at large, according to the report[20]. Predictably, militant groups have a recruiting preference for the religiously uneducated since they are less capable of critically scrutinizing the jihadi narrative and ideology, and tend to have less exposure to contrasting schools of Islamic jurisprudence.

         Moreover, young Muslim jihadis don’t see their faith in terms of piety and spirituality, and rather in terms of justice and injustice, according to the previously mentioned UN Counter-Terrorism Centre study entitled, Enhancing the Understanding of the Foreign Terrorist Fighters Phenomenon in Syria. Most FTFs interviewed were driven by a sense of injustice and a duty to defend their “in-group” in Syria[21] rather than religion. Another institution, the London-based International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR), which has been monitoring the number of foreign fighters in the Syrian/Iraqi conflict since 2012, said the most commonly cited reasons for joining are “…the horrific images of the conflict, stories about atrocities committed by government forces, and the perceived lack of support from Western and Arab countries.” As the female war reporter, Souad Mekhennet, notes when speaking to European-born members of both Daesh or Al Qaeda about their motivations for joining, “most of them talk about politics and social issues, not faith. It is not the religion that has radicalized them, they have radicalized the religion.[22]” It is not the religion that has radicalized them. They have radicalized the religion.

         Consequently, any military operations perceived to be unjust and aggressive are likely to substantiate the perceived conspiracy to eliminate their (Muslim) community. In Mosul, for example, 46 per cent of the population believed coalition air strikes were the biggest threat to the security of their families—coming second to the 38 per cent naming Daesh as the greatest threat[23], according to a Pentagon-funded meta study of public opinion polls taken during 2015 and 2016. To put this in perspective, Daesh executed thousands of civilians in Mosul, abducted thousands of others to use as civilian shields, deployed children as young as nine years old with explosive belts against Iraqi soldiers, and indiscriminately burned and defaced churches and mosques. Given that 40,000 civilians were massacred in the take-back of Mosul, according to Kurdish intelligence sources, the population’s fears were not entirely displaced.[24]

         Knowing such fears, groups like Daesh are adept at constructing and exploiting the narrative of ongoing deprivation of Muslims in specific Western polities and globally, as well as framing the conflict in sectarian terms. As the distressing situation in Syria continued to nosedive into a humanitarian abyss, a follow-up survey by the ICSR in 2015 found ‘atrocities that have been carried out by the Syrian Government’ against the Sunni population to be the most potent pull factor. The second most important motivation related to ‘faith and ideology…’. While the final driver was the promise of material needs and wants: food, homes, luxury cars, financial debt fulfillment. Others in the study also admitted they were seduced by notions of adventure, brotherhood, fighting, and the chance to become a hero.

         Unlike the ICSR’s earlier study, it seems as though faith and ideology play a more prominent role, however, as established earlier, the FTFs’ religious scholarship is largely superficial. Upon questioning, the interviewees in the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre study defended their knowledge of the specific conditions and stipulations of jihad, responding with vague statements like ‘we know jihad by intuition. Every Muslim knows it by intuition. You don’t need to study it.’ In any case, only 35 per cent of the sample even deemed the role of ‘jihad’ as ‘extremely important’ in their decision, and even less (16 per cent) believed in the idea of establishing an Islamic State or Caliphate in the Levant.

         Clearly, the superficial 2-week religious indoctrination courses taught to the new recruits in Daesh territories also failed to impart any profound knowledge. On the contrary, for some, it marked a defection point. One said: “I began to think about leaving Syria as soon as I arrived. I started to think, could the armed group, with its reputation and might, provide a kind of teaching and teachers as simple as that? I started immediately to question the reputation of the armed group altogether: its purpose; its teachers; its philosophy; everything.” While Daesh’s public brand identity and media apparatus rivals that of a Fortune 500, its internal culture and operations are a shell of its grandiose claims. Failing to make good on its promises, the main reasons FTFs renounced their allegiance to the militant group were:

1.       The perception that ‘IS is more interested in fighting fellow (Sunni) Muslims than the [Government of Syria].’

2.       The perception that ‘IS is involved in brutality and atrocities against (Sunni) Muslims.’

3.       The perception that ‘IS is corrupt and un-Islamic,’ with the ‘corruption narrative cover[ing] a range of behaviours that defectors considered unjust, selfish, and contrary to the group’s ideals and standards of conduct.’

4.       The perception that ‘life under IS’ is ‘harsh and disappointing.’

         Despite cultural differences, another one of the top five countries most severely impacted by terrorism as measured by the Global Terrorism Index (GTI), also shares parallels with its Arab and Western counterparts. In areas of northeastern Nigeria that have been regularly attacked by Boko Haram militants, the polling agency ORB International conducted a face-to-face survey of 3,910 people between December 2016 and January 2017. They found over 83 percent of Muslims to be unsupportive of extremist groups and an overwhelming 97 percent of Muslims surveyed indicated that they had a negative view of violent extremists. Interestingly, unemployed respondents were more than twice as likely to sympathize with extremists than their employed counterparts—regardless of their level of education. Like Mosul, where Daesh came second to coalition airstrikes as the primary threat; survey respondents in Nigeria named unemployment as their most critical problem, followed by the inter-related issues of rising prices and corruption. Terrorism was ranked as the fourth most serious problem. With unemployment levels ranging between 42 and 74 percent in the three states surveyed, one is hardly puzzled by the fact that 58 percent of respondents cited income and employment as the number one reason people join Boko Haram. Correspondingly, the researchers found a correlation between the visibility of USAID job training and educational programming, with decreased levels of support for the terrorist group[25].


SAMPLE FROM CHAPTER 1

Sayyid Qutb

In parallel with hippies and the counterculture of the 1960s, the latter part of the decade saw Arab nationalist uprisings against Western imperialism. Foreign influences were displaced by an Islamist movement. The primary ideologues of which, were: Mawdudi in Pakistan, Khomeini in Iran, and Sayyid Qutb, a leading author and intellectual of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Since Qutb operated within a Sunni Arab framework—unlike the non-Arab Mawdudi, and the Shiite Khomenini—he was a revered source of inspiration to many contemporary Islamists. Osama Bin Laden, who studied under the tutelage of Qutb’s brother, at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, was one such figure.[1]

Having pursued his higher education at a teachers college in Colorado, Qutb was also an educator. He was vehemently disapproving of US culture, which he viewed as morally loose, materialistic, and salacious. His moral indictment extended to the “animalistic” mixing of the sexes in supposed places of purity and worship. The jazz standard “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, which Qutb first heard in a Colorado church, exemplified his disgust with American licentiousness.

To be fair, the song has been subject to recent debate for its predatory and sexually coercive innuendo. Although, it is unlikely that the “date-rapey” undertone of the song is what vexed Qutb, and more likely the feminist “women owning their sexuality” counter-interpretation. Personally, as a jazz aficionado, his distaste for jazz is also symbolic of his deep discomfort for a lack of structure, seemingly frenetic improvisation, and shared leadership between the different musicians.

Upon returning to Egypt, Qutb He surrounded himself with a circle of influential and intellectual elite, thinkers, literary figures and politicians. Consequently, many of his writings were integrated into official educational curricula at schools, colleges and universities. He also joined the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded by Imam Hassan al-Banna in opposition to British rule. Although Islamists and nationalists would divorce in later years, during Qutb’s time they were united in their opposition to the nefarious British presence in Egypt—representing a tour de force against the British troops attempting to suppress rising nationalism.

Qutb’s embittered distaste for America intensified when President Truman backed an initiative to admit 100,000 Jewish refugees from Europe, into Palestine—blatantly disregarding the rights of Arab sovereign control over their own territory.[2] Which is not to debate the moral responsibility of world nations to absorb those fleeing war, genocide or natural disasters. But to put this in context, the U.S. is more than 365 times the size of what was Palestine in the 1940s, and the highest number of refugees it has willingly accepted in more recent years was 84,995 in 2016.[3] Imagine another country imposing the intake of 100,000 Syrian refugees into America, Israel or any other nation today.

Besides his hatred for America, the Manichean Qutb also loathed those he believed to be false Muslims. In his view, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser—a poster-child for Arab nationalism—had made no serious attempt to implement Shariah law in matters of government. Qutb was convinced that the West had corrupted Middle Eastern governments in general, veering them off a morally austere path.[4] In his eyes, the modern world had become akin to the era of jahiliya: a time of paganism and pre-Islamic ignorance during which the Prophet waged war in the name of righteousness.[5] Unsurprisingly, Qutb was disillusioned with the popular Arab nationalism ideology—particularly given his imprisonment and torture at the hands of the Nasser regime.


During his time in prison, Qutb produced two seminal works: a multi-volume commentary on the Qur’an entitled Fi zalal al-Qur’an (In the Shade of the Qur’an), and Ma’alim fi’l-tareeq (Signposts on the Road). The impact of the latter has been compared to Lenin’s What Is To Be Done? , which—along with Marx and Engel’s Communist Manifesto—fomented Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution.[6] Qutb’s works have had a profound influence on Islamic militants, although, like his predecessors, he did not advocate indiscriminate violence. Solidifying his status as a martyr, Qutb was eventually executed by hanging after being convicted of plotting the assassination of Nasser.

 
SAMPLE A FROM CHAPTER 3

Age of Enlightenment

Two weeks after the 9/11 attacks Carly Fiorina, who was CEO of Hewlett Packard at the time, and more recently a 2016 GOP Presidential hopeful, gave a daring speech at the corporation’s worldwide manager meeting:
There was once a civilization that was the greatest in the world. It was able to create a continental super-state that stretched from ocean to ocean and from northern climes to tropics and deserts. Within its dominion lived hundreds of millions of people, of different creeds and ethnic origins…its military protection allowed a degree of peace and prosperity that had never been known…And this civilization was driven more than anything, by invention. Its architects designed buildings that defied gravity. Its mathematicians created the algebra and algorithms that would enable the building of computers, and the creation of encryption. When other nations were afraid of ideas, this civilization thrived on them, and kept them alive…I’m talking about…the Islamic world from the year 800 to 1600…The technology industry would not exist without the contributions of Arab mathematicians.[7]

For centuries, Islamic civilization represented the greatest military power on earth; it was at the forefront of trade, and the world’s most superior economic power. The only other contemporary civilization comparable in terms of achievement and quality was China.[8] The enraged humiliation stoking Islamic fundamentalism today cannot be understood without an appreciation for the Islamic Empire’s former greatness, which—even 100 years after the Prophet’s death—surpassed that of Rome at the zenith of its power. [9]

As Western Europe experienced the ‘Dark Ages’ of cultural and economic decline, the establishment of the Islamic Empire in the 7th century marked an age of Arab enlightenment. (The term ‘Islamic’ here is used as a civilizational adjective rather than a religious one; Islamic sciences did not contain a religious component.) Arab texts on science, mathematics, and medicine were translated into Latin. Antecedent Greek scientific and methodological thought was furthered and enriched. The arts and sciences flourished.

Germaphobes, the “selfie” obsessed, Rumi devotees, and anyone who sees a therapist, all have the Islamic Empire’s contributions to thank for good hygiene, cameras, mystical poetry and psychotherapy—among a myriad of other indispensables.

Unlike the silo-ed specialist roles many of us adopt in modern day, the great Muslim thinkers were commonly polymaths. Their expertise crisscrossed through disciplines, enabling complex insights and solutions. Al-Kindi, who is generally acknowledged to be the first true Muslim philosopher, wrote on an eclectic range of topics including philosophy, metaphysics, psychology, ethics, mathematics, religion, medicine, and astrology, in addition to commenting on Aristotle, Euclid and Ptolemy.

Born in late 10th century Uzbekistan, Ibn Sina, who is commonly known by his Latinized name Avicenna, was yet another brilliant physician, philosopher, astronomer, chemist, geologist, paleontologist, mathematician, logician, physicist, psychologist, scientist, teacher, musician and a poet.[10] Please pause to re-read that sentence again and take it in. Imagine how Ibn Sina’s CV would look like today. Better yet, imagine a job description in today’s world that would accommodate such ingenuity!


SAMPLE B FROM CHAPTER 3

The Knowledge Gap

In the sixth century, Imam Ali Ibn Abi Taleb wrote, "If God were to humiliate a human being, he would deny him knowledge."[11] Although Arabs today spend a higher percentage of GDP on education than the world average, there is still a significant knowledge gap causing the region to lag behind.

Consider this question: "On school trips, there must be one teacher for every 12 students. If there are 108 students, how many teachers should be present?” According to the World Bank, more than half of all grade 8 (13-year-old) students in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region did not know the answer.[12] Apart from Algeria, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, all Arab countries are either at or below the predicted mean in years of schooling. All six Arab Gulf countries scored well below the global average for math on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study assessment.[13]

While literacy rates have improved—particularly youth literacy—Arab schooling methods largely employ rote learning, which instruct students not to defy tradition or authority since truth is to be found only in the Quran and not in experience. Having never set foot in a public school until I volunteered as a Business Ethics teacher for InJAz (an organization dedicated to educating students about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy) I was at once shocked and saddened by the didactic approach to learning. As the ‘teacher’ I was expected to instruct and inform, rather than to facilitate and stimulate. The students were equally disoriented as I prodded them to voice their dissent of views that had been expressed—including my own.


A deeply engrained fear of fawda (chaos) and fitna (schism) dominates much of the Arab and Islamic teaching paradigms. In many cases this is both religiously and politically motivated so that citizens do not question authority of state-power in non-democratic countries. Creative pursuits are also neglected with generations of Arabs who have neither learned to play a musical instrument nor read literary works. Faint traces of the great Muslim thinkers are found--not in classrooms--but occasionally as namesake hospitals and other buildings.

Depressing as this may be, consolingly, this has not produced an army of extremists in the making. On the contrary, according to the 2016 Arab Human Development Report, youth perceived Daesh as the biggest obstacle facing the Middle East, followed by the general threat of terrorism, and thirdly, unemployment.  The latter typifies the blatant mismatch between education and the skills needed by the labor market. A study by the multinational professional services firm, EY, found that only 29 per cent of employers in the Arab Gulf states feel that the education system provides students with the “requisite skills, training and attitudes for the workplace”.

Consequently, the MENA region has the highest youth unemployment rate in the world, at around 27 per cent in the Middle East and 29 per cent in North Africa.[14] This is exacerbated by the region’s demographic ‘youth bulge’ where half the region’s citizens are under 25. By some estimates, more than 100 million jobs will need to be created for youth entering the workforce by 2020.[15] However, there is also a less daunting and more optimistic outlook with many Arab countries embracing the youth dividend as an opportunity to drive the mushrooming entrepreneurship and innovation in the region.

Nonetheless, innovation in the once enterprising Islamic civilization largely lags behind. In Bloomberg’s 50 Most Innovative Economies, only 4 Muslim countries—Malaysia, Tunisia, Morocco and Turkey—are among the rankings. Only one of the world’s top 100 highly cited scientists comes from the Arab world (Professor Boudjema Samraoui, an Algerian biologist). The average production of research per million citizens in Arab countries was 41, compared to a world average of 147, and published research only constitutes 0.8% of the global average. [16]

Bin Laden pointed to the 2002 Arab Human Development Report. Among other sobering statistics, Arab countries had collectively produced a meagre 171 international patents between 1980 and 1999, whereas South Korea alone had produced 16,328 patents in that same period.[17] Furthermore, the total GDP of the Arab world at the time (US$ 531 billion) was less than Spain's.[18] Summing up the feelings of humiliation and longing for a golden era, Bin Laden sent a taped message to Al Jazeera in 2004, saying:


It is enough to know that the economy of all the Arab countries is weaker than the economy of one country that had been part of our [Islamic] world when we used to truly adhere to Islam. That country is the lost Andalusia. Spain is an infidel country, but its economy is stronger than our economy because the ruler there is accountable. In our countries there is no accountability or punishment, but there is only obedience to the rulers and prayers of long life for them.[19]

In a sad twist, it is the fanatical adherence to Islam that appears to have been a greater agent in the Islamic world’s regression to a state of jahiliya; marking the pre-Islamic state of scientific and intellectual ignorance, barbarism and brutality. Nonetheless, appreciating how a former star has been sidelined for the greater part of modern history, one begins to understand one of the forces behind the detrimental and imprudent ‘Make the Umma Great Again’ approach.



SAMPLE FROM CHAPTER 4

Colonial Overview
Of all the regions in the world the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) needs to transform and reimagine itself the fastest. Once, we cradled civilization. Today, our challenges confront our potential to prosper over thousands—even hundreds of years. We spend billions of dollars on arms yet have the biggest security deficit. We live in one of the most water-stressed regions with the highest per capita CO2 emissions—threatening both our biodiversity and food security. Rising obesity and diabetes rates are juxtaposed with hunger and malnutrition. Our region is one of the unhappiest on earth. Our education systems teach children what to think rather than how to learn. We have the world’s highest youth unemployment rates. And in an age of globalization, the gulf between our relations with the rest of the world is increasingly widening.

As an Arab, it’s hard not to lament the irony of our fate. God gave us everything... geo-strategically positioned at the intersection of three continents (Asia, Africa and Europe)…three major world religions and minority faiths and the most sacred spiritual and holy sites…architectural marvels like Petra and the Pyramids…the world’s most Ancient and spellbinding civilizations…a foundation of scientific, literary, artistic and philosophical brilliance catalyzing a once prolific innovation output… black gold riches to leapfrog our economic development through the era of modern industrialization…more sunlight hours than most world regions so we can seamlessly transition to a post-oil economy through solar energy…the sea’s most coveted treasures, with an abundance of natural pearls in the waters of the Arabian Gulf…My own country Bahrain had the highest GDP per capita in the world during the 1940s through its pearl trade and the discovery of oil.

There are other books detailing Orientalist and non-Orientalist perspectives on where we went wrong. For the purposes of this one, my objective is to provide you with enough of an overview of the Middle East’s most significant socio-political baggage and its enduring post-colonial hangover. With no intention to justify terrorism, it is simply for you to appreciate the sources of moral outrage that radical Islam exploits.

Even the term ‘Middle East’ is somewhat charged because of its imperialistic connotation. It was supposedly popularized in the 1850s by the British India Office—from which the British government held dominion over several Asian territories. The controversy also springs from the typically imperial practice of flinging together culturally heterogeneous Arab and non-Arab states (Israel, Iran and Turkey). And although out of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, less than 20 per cent are from the Middle East (almost one billion are in the Asia-Pacific region), the radical Islamist identity was birthed in the region, so it is on this part of the world map that our history begins.

Arabs had transitioned from isolated scattered tribes, to a unified umma, then to become part of an Islamic empire in the 16th century. Therefore, the concept of a nation-state was somewhat obscure. Consequently, the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in 1922 left much of the population disoriented. Ottoman rulers had ruled over the majority of Arabs for four centuries (as well as Greece and other parts of Europe). In an unprecedented window of opportunity, the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire gave the Allies (Britain and France) the entitled sense to act as they pleased. Since the Arabs had been ruled for so long, they were considered ‘subject races’ rather than ‘governing races’. Further characterizing their arrogance was the fact that they felt the Arabs should be grateful for their liberation from the Turks![20]

The Allies’ decisions on how they carved up the Middle East were made according to their respective strategic objectives, creating artificial state boundaries that bore no consideration for the desires of the indigenous peoples of the region. As Benjamin Barber notes in Jihad vs. McWorld, the colonizers drew “…arbitrary lines across maps they could not read with consequences still being endured throughout the ex-colonial world, above all in Africa and the Middle East. Jihad is then a rabid response to colonialism and imperialism and their economic children, capitalism and modernity…”[21] While this oversimplifies the reasons for waging (un)holy war, many of the ethnic tensions and conflicts that taint Middle Eastern politics today have more than little to do with these decisions. Daesh’s jurisdiction over parts of Syria and Iraq as one ‘Islamic State’ was a symbolic erasure of the Western fingerprints that had artificially divided the Muslim umma.

[1] Kepel, Gilles. Jihad The Trail of Political Islam. New York: Belknap P, 2002. 314
[2] Ruthven Chapter 3
[3] Krogstad, Jens Manuel, and Jynnah Radford. "Key Facts about Refugees to the U.S." Pew Research Center. N.p., 30 Jan. 2017. Web. 09 Feb. 2017. .
[4] Irwin, Robert. "Is this the man who inspired Bin Laden?" The Guardian UK 1 Nov. 2001.
[5] Ruthven 86
[6] Ibid 84-5
[7] Al-Hassani, Salim T S, ed. 1001 Inventions. Muslim Heritage in Our World. 2nd ed. Manchester: Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilization, 2006.
[8] Lewis, Bernard. What Went Wrong? New York: Oxford UP, 2002. 6
[9] Arnold 2
[10] Yarshater, Ehsan, ed. "Avicenna." Encyclopaedia Iranica. 2006. 1 May 2009 .
[11] "Self-Doomed to Failure." The Economist 06 July 2002: 24-26. .
[12] Hoel, Arne. "Education in the Middle East and North Africa." World Bank, 27 Jan. 2014. Web. 23 Dec. 2016.
[13] "Meeting the Needs of a Growing Youth Population in the Middle East." Oxford Business Group, 18 May 2016. Web. 23 Dec. 2016.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Alghanim, Omar Kutayba. "Solving the Problem of Youth Unemployment in the MENA Region." World Economic Forum, 27 May 2015. Web. 24 Dec. 2016. .
[16] Arab Knowledge Report 2014 Youth and Localisation of Knowledge. Rep. UNDP, 2014. Web.
[17] Friedman, Thomas L. The World Is Flat A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005.561
[18] Ibid.
[19] Friedman 564
[20] Mansfield, Peter. A History of the Middle East. 2nd ed. London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1991. Ch. 9-10
[21] R., Barber, Benjamin. Jihad vs. McWorld. New York: Times Books, 1995. 11

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  • Kamel Al-Asmar on June 9, 2017, 1:02 p.m.

    Looking forward to reading it, and good luck :)

  • Lana Alattar on June 9, 2017, 1:24 p.m.

    Much Needed! So excited for this Leena <3

  • Mark Vernooij on June 9, 2017, 1:36 p.m.

    I cannot wait to get my hands on this book! I love the dark blue design.

    Big up Leena!

    Mark

  • Merlijn Twaalfhoven on June 9, 2017, 1:49 p.m.

    good luck!!

  • Elham Fakhro on June 9, 2017, 1:57 p.m.

    Great initiative. Best of luck !

  • Willow Williamson on June 9, 2017, 2:05 p.m.

    I can't wait to read your book.

  • Abdulla Al Khalifa on June 9, 2017, 2:33 p.m.

    Dark Blue :)

  • Maryanne Müller on June 9, 2017, 3:03 p.m.

    Wonderful work!

  • Alanoud Alsharekh on June 9, 2017, 3:15 p.m.

    Good luck Leena!

  • Nada Alaradi on June 9, 2017, 4:30 p.m.

    very proud of you!

  • Medea Nocentini on June 9, 2017, 5:01 p.m.

    Well done Leena! Looking forward to read the book!

  • Abdallah Absi on June 9, 2017, 5:05 p.m.

    Can't wait to read the book!

  • John Murray on June 9, 2017, 7:13 p.m.

    Good luck! Can't wait to read it.

  • Alaa Alhashem on June 9, 2017, 7:14 p.m.

    Good luck Leena, looking forward to a good read..

  • Amelia Hurlbut on June 9, 2017, 7:24 p.m.

    Congratulations on the book, can't wait to read it!!!

  • Regina Rodriguez on June 9, 2017, 7:39 p.m.

    Dear Leena, you are doing such a great work. I admire you very much. Keep doing what you do.

    Regina (we met at HBS)

  • Jacqueline Hardt on June 10, 2017, 12:06 a.m.

    Best of luck Leena! Can't wait to read it.

  • craig heslop on June 10, 2017, 1:21 a.m.

    Many thanks Leena. Best of luck exceeding the big 1000!

  • susan veksler on June 10, 2017, 3:55 a.m.

    Very happy to support you and look forward to reading the book!

  • Jan-Gunnar Mathisen on June 10, 2017, 6:45 a.m.

    Anything you need from Norway please let me know
    Best
    jan

  • Tahira Nizari on June 10, 2017, 6:54 a.m.

    Hi Leena - we met a few times when I was still living in Dubai and its SocEnt world was just born. I was always inspired by you, so thank you for sharing this. I'm looking forward to this read and will share with others - especially my colleagues in Afghanistan and here in East Africa as fundamentalism is evolving in unexpected and challenging ways in so many pockets. We're implementing some youth programs and inclusion is our priority: job creation, civil society, local government engagement, SME acceleration. Your book will be instrumental in our design process. Thank you again and congratulations!

  • rana barbour on June 10, 2017, 7:02 a.m.

    The topic of your book is so important and vital. I hope it will be available on bookshelves worldwide soon. Good luck and I hope to hear good news soon.

  • Liu Yan on June 10, 2017, 9:29 a.m.

    white

  • Ruth Anne Stevens-Klitz on June 10, 2017, 10:22 a.m.

    I look forward to reading this! Good luck with your campaign. I like the blue-grey cover but it's all about what's inside that counts.

  • Hala Sulaiman on June 10, 2017, 5:16 p.m.

    Proud of you Leena. Must sign my copy please. wishing you all the best.

  • NAJLA ALMIDFA on June 10, 2017, 8:17 p.m.

    Good luck, Leena! Proud of you!

  • Daniel Lawson on June 10, 2017, 8:34 p.m.

    White cover

  • Julia Dandy on June 11, 2017, 7:02 a.m.

    Leena, truly wishing you the best of luck with this project. I echo your sentiments completely and whilst I can't relate to them through religious beliefs, I can through misperceptions of the place I call home from family and friends back in the West. Looking forward to reading the finished product. Julia

  • Julian Clarke-Jervoise on June 11, 2017, 7:29 a.m.

    A thought provoking and much needed alternative to the current 'popular' approach to counter terrorism

  • Luma Shihabeldin on June 11, 2017, 7:31 a.m.

    Can't wait to read it!

  • Amin Al Arrayed on June 11, 2017, 9:59 a.m.

    Looking forward to the book! Best of Luck! Amin

  • Raed Abdulla on June 11, 2017, 11:26 a.m.

    This is a great book Leena! I wish you all the best

    Raed

  • Stephen Harrison on June 11, 2017, 4:22 p.m.

    Good luck with this, Leena. Happy to suppprt your worthy cause. Steve H

  • Baher Haroun on June 11, 2017, 4:59 p.m.

    Leena,
    Your observations and approach are resonating. You may have to delve into some possible culprits, orthogonal or not, from devolved religious dogmas, entrenched cultural injustices and mental preconditions.

  • Brandon Mitchell on June 11, 2017, 9 p.m.

    Look forward to reading it!

  • Amanda Chien on June 12, 2017, 2:45 a.m.

    Thanks for doing the right thing! :) White+1

  • Julien Contarin on June 12, 2017, 5:49 a.m.

    Excited to be a part of this! Dark blue cover please.

  • Sarah Parker on June 12, 2017, 3:18 p.m.

    We are extraordinarily blessed to you have you as the voice of reason in these troubled and misunderstood times. We are equally humbled to call you our friend. All the best with your inspiring adventure, Sarah.

  • Amin Al Arrayed on June 13, 2017, 6:06 a.m.

    Good to see you last night. Glad we got a chance to talk. Got my hard copy! Blue is my preference for colour.

  • saskia maas on June 13, 2017, 6:33 a.m.

    He sweet heart, so proud of you. Just put in the order and can't wait. Love saskia

  • Kawkab Almoayed on June 13, 2017, 11:34 a.m.

    Dark blue

  • Anthony Tesar on June 13, 2017, 3:54 p.m.

    You have raised a critical element here that addresses the core issue. Due to its complexity, it is often overlooked/ignored by the media in lieu of easier answers that are better received and understood by the general public (more police/stricter immigration/more security measures etc). The removal of 'hope' and 'identity' is both dangerous and provides others the opportunity to fill this vacuum. Well done and I look forward to reading it once published. Tony

  • Femke Bartels on June 13, 2017, 5:55 p.m.

    Looking forward to read the book. Congratulations!

  • Awatif Aljishi on June 13, 2017, 6:38 p.m.

    Blue-grey cover! Good luck! :) - Khala & Sahar

  • Teresa Hernandez on June 13, 2017, 8:49 p.m.

    Good luck my friend!!! :)

  • Brian Finley on June 14, 2017, 2:33 a.m.

    Looking forward to learning

  • Durry Atassi on June 14, 2017, 6:54 a.m.

    Hi Leena
    I'm so excited about the book, I hope you succeed in delivering your thoughts to the whole world. I have access to the American Muslim community in Southern California, if you like a platform to promote your book, please let me know, I might be able to help.
    Best of luck to you
    Durry Atassi

  • Eveline van Beek on June 14, 2017, 8:04 a.m.

    Leena: this is very exciting! I'm incredibly curious to read the contents of this book. If your introductory text is any indication then this promises to be a very thorough and superbly written piece of thought-provoking insights that I'm eager to learn from.
    Eveline

  • Nawaf Alkoheji on June 14, 2017, 10:17 a.m.

    Good luck

  • Claudia Maffettone on June 14, 2017, 11:39 a.m.

    Go Leena!! Love this project!!

  • georges gurkovsky on June 14, 2017, 11:41 a.m.

    Does this mean I don't need to read your thesis?
    Bises from Paris.

  • Annie Shagra on June 14, 2017, 1:06 p.m.

    So proud of you Leens way to go my dear 😘

  • McKenna Blackstone on June 14, 2017, 5:21 p.m.

    This is powerful and I am so proud of you!
    YITS
    McKenna Blackstone

  • Iris van den Berg on June 14, 2017, 8:41 p.m.

    Way to go Leena!! I'm supporting you whole heartedly <3 Thank you for your great work. Sending you super positive vibes. Hug, Iris

  • Ron Adler on June 14, 2017, 11:48 p.m.

    This is great to see - keep making a difference, and best of luck.

  • Mohamed AlAAli on June 15, 2017, 8:27 a.m.

    Good luck with the book. Wish you all the best.

  • Ghalib Alwan on June 15, 2017, 1:53 p.m.

    Peace is the ultimate civilization, efforts to achieve peace is a duty of us all

  • Seren Dalkiran on June 15, 2017, 1:56 p.m.

    So proud to see this coming together as a brave and nuanced perspective that is truly needed in the times we are living in. May it reach many hearts, trigger minds and join many hands!

  • Adel Hameed on June 16, 2017, 7:17 p.m.

    White

  • Christoph von Toggenburg on June 17, 2017, 8:56 a.m.

    So much looking forward! Warm regards from Geneva

  • Nazeeha Saeed on June 17, 2017, 9:39 a.m.

    best of luck habebti

  • Hanar Albalooshi on June 17, 2017, 11:55 a.m.

    Absolutely can't wait to read this. Will spread to the USN community in Bahrain. As per the color preference, dark blue.

  • Hisham Shehab on June 17, 2017, 7:22 p.m.

    Mabrook Leena. Strength to you, this project and all that is to come!

  • Michell Zappa on June 18, 2017, 2:06 p.m.

    <3

  • Moyez Kassam on June 18, 2017, 3:16 p.m.

    Can wait to receive my copy!

  • Heather Barrett on June 19, 2017, 4:05 a.m.

    white cover

  • Michael Barrett on June 19, 2017, 6:57 a.m.

    Blue-grey

  • Rami Al Jallad on June 19, 2017, 9:36 p.m.

    All the best Leena

  • Hanna Chalhoub on June 20, 2017, 10:01 a.m.

    Good luck, Leena. Look forward to reading it.
    Hanna

  • Wael Abu-Adas on June 20, 2017, 11:56 a.m.

    Good luck Leena

  • maysa aljishi on June 20, 2017, 1:12 p.m.

    all the best
    wish you luck
    cant wait to read it

  • Hala Fadel on June 20, 2017, 4:16 p.m.

    Looking forward to reading it

  • Mohd Hassan on June 22, 2017, 1:52 p.m.

    White would make for a beautiful cover. Good luck!

  • Rachel Schaevitz on June 26, 2017, 2:29 p.m.

    dark blue! YITS!

  • Nina Curley on June 28, 2017, 8:52 a.m.

    Dear Leena,
    I love the Sufi cover! Brilliant. Looking forward to seeing a mention of mysticism in the book if present. :-)
    Much love,
    Nina

  • Karim Maarek on June 29, 2017, 10:43 a.m.

    Love this angle, keep on spreading this wonderful message.

  • Abion Dorhosti on June 29, 2017, 11:16 a.m.

    White

  • Saleh Hussain on July 2, 2017, 6:04 a.m.

    God Bless you and wish you all the best.

  • Wael Juju on July 2, 2017, 11:40 a.m.

    Dearest Leena , thank you for all your efforts toward this great Mission, wish you all success !! Looking forward to read and share your thoughts about this deadly disease we all know about , yet no one prescribed a treatment . Wael J

  • Phoebe Middleton on July 5, 2017, 4:10 a.m.

    Blue-Grey or White

  • Arthur Norins on July 8, 2017, 4:39 p.m.

    Awesome!!! The RIGHT stuff!!! Congrats!!! - BIG HUG, Art (White or Dark Blue)

  • Sabrina Veksler on July 10, 2017, 1:20 a.m.

    This sounds amazing, Leena! Can't wait to read your book.

  • Michele ernsting on July 12, 2017, 8:35 a.m.

    Very much looking forward to reading your work Leena! Lots of love, Michele

  • Abena Apau on July 12, 2017, 5:16 p.m.

    Leena, you are an incredibly gifted person and I'm so excited to read this book. Lots of love, Abena

  • Jane Yaffe on July 17, 2017, 5:44 p.m.

    Thank you for your devoted efforts. I wish 'us' the very best. Peace.

  • M. Jawad on July 17, 2017, 8:23 p.m.

    we need more of this intellectual library - well done!

  • Ameena Al jishi on July 18, 2017, 8:59 a.m.

    Good luck Leena !

  • Ahmad Al-Sari on July 20, 2017, 11:37 a.m.

    Great cause Leena. Can't wait to read you book

  • Megan O'Hara on July 20, 2017, 11:49 a.m.

    Blue-grey

  • Vithika Yadav on July 20, 2017, 2:59 p.m.

    Good luck Lena!

  • Michael Woolf on July 21, 2017, 6:29 p.m.

    White or Dark Blue

  • Mashael Fakhro on July 21, 2017, 7:31 p.m.

    Blue-grey

  • Marcus Breekweg on July 22, 2017, 9:32 a.m.

    Hi Leena, I am sure you will get to the 1,000 today!

  • Liezl Thom on July 22, 2017, 11:50 a.m.

    Sending loads of love and light 🌟💖

  • Ebrahim Al Mulla on July 22, 2017, 2:44 p.m.

    Thank you for writing this book and sharing your knowledge and experience. Hope it shines a light in the dark, and be beneficial. Wish you good luck and prosperous success.

    P.s.: I think White would go nice for the cover, as it represents purity and peace :)

    - Ebrahim

  • Jelani Hale on July 25, 2017, 2:02 p.m.

    I am very excited to read your new book Leena. It seems like you are taking a unique look at a very important topic.

  • Scott Hibbard on July 27, 2017, 4:22 p.m.

    Blue - I hope this note finds you well. Art Norins sent me the link to your book. I teach at DePaul University and have a lot of overlapping interests. Be well and in touch. Ma as-Salaam. S

  • Iris Berg on July 28, 2017, 11:48 a.m.

    Leena, I'm so super proud of you for reaching your goal and more!! Privileged to call you my brave and courageous friend. Let me know where and when I can support in whichever way you need. Lots of <3, Iris

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