Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Mini-Review: “Militant Islam in Southeast Asia – Crucible of Terror” by Zachary Abuza

I acquired this book, "Militant Islam in Southeast Asia," in order to do some background research for a novel I am writing. My book is a long-term project with no projected publication date as yet. It is a rather ambitious undertaking – a retelling of "The Odyssey" set as an Al Qaeda terrorist story that takes place partly in Indonesia! So, in preparation for an eventual fact finding trip to Indonesia, I have been doing some reading about terrorism and Southeast Asia.

Zachary Abuza is on the faculty in the Political Science and International Relations Department at Simmons College in Boston. He has traveled extensively in researching this book, which has received enthusiastic praise from many quarters.

W. Scott Thompson of Tuft’s University’s legendary Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy had this to say about Abuza’s work:

“Showing an astonishing persistence in tying together the threads of the terrorist threat, Abuza has come up with a dazzling display of Al-Qaida at work. It is rare that a book comes out with so deep and thoughtful analysis of a contemporary subject – this may well become the standard reference on everything happening in the Southeast Asian theater of the world terror crisis.”

Barnett, in “The Pentagon’s New Map,” and in his recent “Blueprint for Action,” makes it clear that Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia, will play a pivotal role over the next several decades in impacting the balance of power among the leaders of what Barnett calls “the Core” and the “New Core.” Indonesia is the largest Muslim nation in the world, and will play a significant part in determining the relationship between the United States and the Muslim world. Therefore, Abuza’s seminal work becomes a very helpful tool in understanding how terrorism in general - and Al-Qaeda in particular – may serve as a crucial factor in determining how the relationship between the West and the worldwide Muslim may evolve.

Using painstakingly well-documented and footnoted research, Abuza traces the growing influence of Al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia - from Afghanistan and the jihad against the Soviets to the bombing in Bali and beyond. His basic premise follows a logical chain of events. Following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, many zealous Southeast Asians who had fought as mujahadin returned to Asia to use their skills and battlefield experiences to bring the passion of jihad to several local struggles to establish autonomous Muslim states through Southeast Asia. These struggles included the secessionist movements in Mindanao, East Timor, Sulawesi and the Malukus and Aceh – among others. Once the U.S. attacked Afghanistan to topple the Taliban and neutralize the command and control of Bin-Laden’s team, Al-Qaeda was forced to flee from its lair in Afghanistan and scatter among a handful of safe havens – many in Southeast Asia. At first, these safe havens – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand – were used as a convenient “back offices” for Al-Qaeda to conduct training, money-laundering, weapons acquisition and coalition building. Al-Qaeda also funded and co-opted many local insurgents and gave them a vision of taking part in a global jihad against the “savage intervention of the American Crusade Armed Forces and their allies [who are involved] in the Muslim cleansing scheme. . . as a ‘harsh reprimand’ to Jews and Christians led by American heathens in oppressing and tainting the Islamic holy land, where the Revelation of the Prophets descended.” (Pages 166-167).

Eventually, the terrorists took advantage of lax security and political dissent in these nations to launch terrorist attacks on soft targets within these host nations – the bombing in Bali being the most spectacular and deadly among these incidents.

For anyone who wants to develop a more comprehensive understanding of where Al-Qaeda is heading in its long-term strategy and short-term tactics, this book as a valuable resource.


1 comment:

Mark said...

The book you're working on sounds fascinating. Of course I expect a FREE autographed copy! :)