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The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia

Ahmed Rashid

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The terrorist attacks of September 11 have turned the world’s attention to areas of the globe about which we know very little. Ahmed Rashid, who masterfully explained Afghanistan’s Taliban regime in his previous book, here turns his skills as an investigative journalist to the five Central Asian republics adjacent to Afghanistan. Central Asia is coming to play a vital strategic role in the war on terrorism, but the region also poses new threats to global security.

The five Central Asian republics—Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan—were part of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991. Under Soviet rule, Islam was brutally suppressed, and that intolerance has continued under the post-Soviet regimes. Religious repression, political corruption, and the region’s extreme poverty (unemployment rates exceed 80 percent in some areas) have created a fertile climate for militant Islamic fundamentalism. Often funded and trained by such organizations as Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda and the Taliban, guerrilla movements like the IMU (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan) have recruited a staggering number of members across the region and threaten to topple the governments of all five nations. Based on groundbreaking research and numerous interviews, Jihad explains the roots of militant rage in Central Asia, describes the goals and activities of these militant organizations, and suggests ways in which this threat could be neutralized by diplomatic and economic intervention.

Rich in both cultural heritage and natural resources—including massive oil reservoirs—Central Asia remains desperately poor and frighteningly volatile. In tracing the history of Central Asia and explaining the current political climate, Rashid demonstrates that it is a region we ignore at our peril.

Ahmed Rashid is a journalist based in Lahore. He is the Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review and the Daily Telegraph. He also writes for the Wall Street Journal.

Rashid’s previous book, Taliban (published by Yale University Press), reached number one on the New York Times bestseller list and has been translated into more than twenty-five languages.

A Policy Institute Book

“A very valuable and readable account of important and little-understood events. Ahmed Rashid’s unique experience of reporting from the ground and of reporting from Afghanistan, as well as his knowledge of his own country, Pakistan, make him uniquely qualified to write this book.”—Barnett R. Rubin, author of The Fragmentation of Afghanistan

“An amazing, comprehensive, learned and very frightening book. Ahmed Rashid has, once again, provided unique insight and analysis of an explosive region and given all of us the ability to understand its contemporary crisis.”—Fred Halliday, author of Two Hours that shook the World 

Jihad is but the latest of Ahmed Rashid’s insightful books on religion and politics in South and Central Asia. It would be welcome at any time but is critical reading today. A must read for policymakers, scholars, the media, and informed citizens.”—John L. Esposito, author of Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality?

“For many years now, Ahmed Rashid has been the journalistic interpreter of the changing nature of Islam in Central Asia. He has always been ahead of the curve, and America’s war on terrorism makes his new book more important than ever.”—Robert D. Kaplan, author of Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos

“Rashid has long been one of the best historians of Central and South Asia. . . . Like Taliban, this book brings a complicated political, economic, and religious situation to life for a wide audience.”—Booklist

“A complicated tale . . . and Rashid is the right person to tell it. As a correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review and The Wall Street Journal, among others, he has borne witness to the civil war and economic strife that have swept Central Asia since the fall of the Soviet Union. As he did in Taliban, Rashid weaves his firsthand experiences—including interviews with many of the regional leaders, both governmental and Islamicist—into the story, along with a heaping portion of historical perspective. . . . Rashid . . . paints a nuanced picture of an increasingly important part of the planet.”—Scott Bernard Nelson, Boston Globe

“Rashid has delivered a powerful warning that the West, only now turning its attention to Central Asia after years of neglect, must not ignore.”—Paul Starobin, Business Week

“Americans, and especially U.S. policymakers, should read Jihad. . . . Rashid has delivered a powerful warning that the West, only now turning its attention to Central Asia after years of neglect, must not ignore.”—Paul Starobin, Business Week

“Rashid . . . has become a leading commentator on Islam-leading fundamentalism.”—Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah and R.C. Longworth, Chicago Tribune

“One of the best works on militant Islam in Central Asia, this valuable and comprehensive account on religion and politics in the region will primarily interest policymakers, scholars, and the media.”—Choice

“Rashid tells the story of a specific region in flux. He provides readers with a critical model for thinking about Islamic militancy throughout the world, using numerous interviews and his own research. . . . Considering the level of detail and context Rashid presents, Jihad is a minor miracle of efficiency. The author has reached into the murky depths of history and regional politics and pulled out a vibrant and nuanced portrait of human beings in crisis. . . . In an age when people are groping for quick explanations and easy solutions, Jihad presents something more valuable: tools for understanding a problem of real complexity and incredible urgency.”—James Norton, Christian Science Monitor

“A masterful commentary on Islamist militancy and the trouble with Central Asia.”—Justin Marozzi, Financial Times

“Rashid has written another masterful commentary. . . . [An] engrossing study of militant Islam. . . . Jihad combines the research of a skilled investigative journalist with an academic’s clear-headed and weighty analysis. Rashid’s portrait of Juman Namangani, the charismatic and elusive IMU leader, Central Asia’s answer to Osama bin Laden, is probably the best we have.”—Justin Marozzi, Financial Times (London)

“Rashid, the author of the best book on the Taliban, has again produced a fine study. This achievement is no mean task. Rashid not only treats the five separate ‘stans’ but also their various Islamist movements, not to mention the neighboring and outside states involved in Central Asia.”—L. Carl Brown, Foreign Affairs

"Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia is full of the same kind of firsthand detail and insight that characterized [Rashid’s] bestseller Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia. . . . Rashid’s mastery of his material and lucid and unadorned journalistic style make Jihad highly recommended reading for those seeking to understand the tangled strands and complex array of forces operating in a region of the world which is so little known by us and yet so important to our well-being."—Benjamin Tua, Foreign Service Journal

“This book is a good introduction to the realities of militant opposition movements in Central Asia, and should be read by anyone interested in radical Islam, Afghanistan, and/or Russian and United States foreign policy and aspirations in the region.”—David Cook, Journal of Church and State

“A brilliant discussion of the many elements that are in contention in this unstable region.”—Joshua Sinai, Journal of Homeland Security

“This is an important, authoritative and timely book.”—Hazhir Teimourian, Literary Review

“A must for anyone interested in Operation Enduring Freedom, foreign area officers, and intelligence personnel. They will find this book a valuable guide.”—Youssef H. Aboul-Enein, Military Review

“Rashid’s work is well researched, very insightful, and critical reading for all those who desire a more thorough understanding of the myriad issues pertaining to militant Islam in Central Asia. Moreover, while it provides a comprehensive overview, it is still quite understandable even for those with no previous exposure to Central Asia or Islam.”—Justin L. Miller, Nationalities Papers

“An indispensable guide to the geo-strategic background of the Afghan conflict.”—John Gray, New Statesman

“[An] important work.”—Publishers Weekly

“An important resource. . . . Rashid takes us on a 2,000-year tour of a region that has always retained interest for explorers and exploiters—from Alexander the Great to Genghis Khan, from Jalal al-Din Rumi to Josef Stalin. . . . Rashid fills Jihad with exclusive details that can only come from someone who has covered the region for more than 20 years. . . . Rashid’s tome is really a warning to anyone who will listen. . . . Americans can’t afford to ignore Central Asia. September 11 proved that ignorance has a huge price. No one knows that better than Ahmed Rashid..”—Jonathan Curiel, San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

“[An] eye-opener on a region many Americans, even now, may know only through National Geographic. . . . This is first-class reporting.”—Pete Carey, San Jose Mercury News

“By way of substantiating this argument, Ahmed Rashid skilfully chronicles the development of Islamic militancy in Central Asia.”—Efraim Karsh, Sunday Telegraph

"The most influential journalist in the world."—Alex Spillius, The Daily Telegraph (London)

“No journalist or academic, and probably very few spooks, know Central Asia better then Ahmed Rashid, the Pakistani writer whose earlier book, Taliban, became an instant bestseller after September 11th. Now he has followed up with a valuable survey of the spread of Islamic militancy beyond Afghanistan into the five former Soviet republics of Central Asia. The book deserves to be widely read, this time before catastrophe strikes rather than afterwards.”—The Economist

“Anyone who thinks George Bush and his absurd Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have done well in Afghanistan should read Rashid’s excellent book and think again.”—Frank McLynn, The Glasgow Herald

“Rashid’s book—which follows his bestseller, Taliban . . . is the first good, hard look at the region’s Islamic movements and deserves the attention of policymakers and interested everyday readers alike. The careful consideration Rashid has given the grassroots causes that set these insurgencies into motion will keep this book relevant for a long time to come.”—Raffi Khatchadourian, The Nation

"At a time when learning as much as possible about the history, politics and implications of militant Islamic influence is advisable, Rashid’s follow-up to his bestselling guide, Taliban, is welcome."—Carson Howat, The Scotsman (starred review)

“Rashid’s reporting uncovers chilling information. . . . His skills as a journalist are obvious in a flowing writing style that overshadows academic treatments of the area and which were also on display in last year’s best-selling Taliban. . . . It would be wise for the power brokers in the area, as well as the general reader, to listen and learn.”—Bruce Olson, The Seattle Times

"Jihad is a warning to the West . . . . A book of enormous authority."—Michael Binyon, The Times (London)

“Excellent. . . . Rashid argues persuasively that the central Asian territorial status quo that the US is intent on defending is flawed, and has done more than anything to bring about dangerous fanaticism.”—David Mattin, Times (London)

“[Rashid is] Pakistan’s best and bravest reporter.”—Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair

“A compelling account of Islamist movement that has spread like wildfire in Central Asia’s repressive regimes. . . . This is a jihad that is much less known in the West , and Mr. Rashid . . . makes it vividly real.”—Adrian Karatnycky, Wall Street Journal

“Rashid’s . . . tour d’horizon is a tour de force, illuminating one of the murkier regions of the world.”—Peter Bergen, Washington Post Book World

“Rashid sets out to redress this information deficit [on Central Asia], and his tour d’horizon is a tour de force, illuminating one of the murkier regions of the world.”—Peter Bergen, Washington Post Book World

Selected by as an "Outstanding" Academic Title for 2003 by Choice Magazine

Selected as an "Outstanding" book by University Press Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries
ISBN: 9780300093452
Publication Date: January 11, 2002
304 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4

Sales Restrictions: World excluding India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives. Rights sold to Orient Blackswan Private Limited

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