Aymann Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's leader and chief ideologue, once turned to the author of this newly reissued book and declared, "Young Muslims like you are the hope for the future return of Khilafa [the Caliphate or Islamic global dominance]." Thus, this exploration of Islamic radicalism by Hamid, a former member of the Egyptian jihad group al-Jama'a al-Islamiya and now a Muslim reformer, is a welcome and honest take on the Islamist menace afflicting the world today.
Cutting through the prevailing denial and obfuscation about the nature of Islam and its teachings, the author asserts that "claiming Islam is peaceful without changing the violent teachings constitutes unrealistic lip service that aims at deceiving others." Along these lines, Hamid targets the deceptive and misleading presentations about Islam frequently employed by Islamists to portray their faith as a religion of peace. His chapter, "Myths and Misconceptions about Islamism," is an exercise in genuine myth-busting as he explains lucidly why poverty, discrimination, and authoritarian rule are not, as popularly thought, the root causes of Islamic terrorism.
He demonstrates that the ideological impetus for that terrorism comes from sources that most Western analysts take pains to write off as having nothing whatsoever to do with it: the Qur'an and Sunna (body of recommended practice). Hamid goes beyond merely pointing this out but instead offers sober and carefully calibrated recommendations for how the faith can begin to undergo a genuine reformation that would provide a lasting foundation for pluralistic and peaceful societies in the Islamic world.
Hamid is likewise clear-sighted and unsparing when recounting the failure of Muslim societies and the West. While the idea that the West is responsible for the rise of jihad terror and Islamism worldwide is commonplace on the political Left, Hamid turns that notion on its head. He agrees that the West is to a great degree responsible for the ascendancy of jihadist groups but argues that political concessions—not the alleged ruthlessness of the U.S. response to terror—combined with weak military actions have emboldened the radicals.
The approach Hamid takes to Islam in Inside Jihad may provide some hope to those in the West who wish to withstand Zawahiri and his allies by incorporating peaceful Muslims into the fabric of a genuinely pluralistic West. Whether he succeeds in attracting sufficient numbers of Muslims to make a difference remains to be seen.