Freeman and his coauthors seek to explain why Islamist-based terrorist activity has increased globally since the 1980s. They suggest that traditional explanations typically focused on local factors, such as grievances, and might not account for a uniquely Islamist-inspired terrorism. Instead, the authors propose a "supply-side" explanation, in particular, the supply of the Islamist ideology that underpins it.
The authors point to the momentous events of 1979—the Iranian Revolution, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the seizing of the Great Mosque in Mecca—as a perfect storm in terms of ideological radicalization in the Islamic world and the increase in terrorist activity during the decades that followed. They trace this increase to the response of Saudi Arabia—newly awash in oil money as a result of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries' (OPEC) oil-supply cuts—and specifically, its decision to bankroll the construction of mosques, cultural centers, charities, imams, and publishing houses to promote an extreme and "purist" form of Islam, Wahhabism, in countries all over the world: thus, the "supply."
The study explores how the Saudis and Saudi-backed organizations, including the Muslim World League, World Association of Muslim Youth, al-Haramain Foundation, and the International Islamic Relief Organization, funneled billions into these institutions in Muslim-majority countries (Pakistan, Indonesia) and in Western countries with well-ensconced and growing Muslim minority communities (United Kingdom, United States). Indeed, these four countries constitute the book's case studies with one chapter devoted to each. Notably, the chapter on the United Kingdom establishes that it has become the global epicenter of Islamist publishing.
In the final chapter, the authors identify a set of methods, such as "arrest," "expulsion," and even "deradicalization programs" to combat what they term the "violent outputs" of Islamist ideology. They offer examples for each from countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, the United Kingdom, and the United States, but they do not link these into a cohesive framework. The authors also state that reining in Islamist ideology really boils down to a "decoupling of the centuries-old alliance between the Saudis and the Wahhabis," which remains "unlikely." But the authors hint that the Islamist genie is out of the bottle, and if that is true, then Saudi financing of Islamist ideology, and perhaps the fate of Saudi Arabia, might matter less going forward.
Overall, the authors seek to tackle an important issue, but their book could have benefited from a more systematic analysis of current data regarding trends on the often nebulous link between financing, ideology, and violence.