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Monday, September 22, 2008

Book Review: Perilous Power

Both thinkers strongly feel that Islamist fundamentalism is only a reaction to the political and economic insecurity in the world. It was only the failure of secular nationalism in the Arab world, especially in Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt, or in Iraq and Iran that led to the rise of Islamist fundamentalism. And in such a scenario, strangely, it is the non-governmental type of terrorism that is largely palpable, whereas governmental terrorism working under the garb of state legitimacy is hardly castigated.

Achcar argues, “The present strength of Islamic fundamentalism is a direct product of very direct U.S. policies.” Interestingly, the U.S. has always backed fundamentalism in Saudi Arabia and used it for its political ends to oppose secular nationalism as well as to counter any intervention by communist forces. This support of fundamentalist forces was obvious in the fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan or in the backing of Zia-ul-Haq’s brand of fundamentalism in Pakistan.

The book is based on a dialogue between Chomsky and Gilbert Achcar, Professor of International Relations at the University of Paris, who is a world-renowned authority on Iraq and, more so, on the relevance of the double-speak of the Arabic press. Their analysis is underpinned by a deep concern for justice and peace, which has been so visible in Chomsky’s political writings over the years and in Achcar’s contributions to the Le Monde Diplomatique.

What emerges is a richer understanding of West Asian politics from their shared commitments as well as their varied expertise and perspectives in a book that is deeply incisive.


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