Everyday Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam among Palestinians in Lebanon

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9780674030664: Everyday Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam among Palestinians in Lebanon

As southern Lebanon becomes the latest battleground for Islamist warriors, Everyday Jihad plunges us into the sprawling, heavily populated Palestinian refugee camp at Ain al-Helweh, which in the early 1990s became a site for militant Sunni Islamists. A place of refuge for Arabs hunted down in their countries of origin and a recruitment ground for young disenfranchised Palestinians, the camp--where sheikhs began actively recruiting for jihad--situated itself in the global geography of radical Islam.

With pioneering fieldwork, Bernard Rougier documents how Sunni fundamentalists, combining a literal interpretation of sacred texts with a militant interpretation of jihad, took root in this Palestinian milieu. By staying very close to the religious actors, their discourse, perceptions, and means of persuasion, Rougier helps us to understand how radical religious allegiances overcome traditional nationalist sentiment and how jihadist networks grab hold in communities marked by unemployment, poverty, and despair.

With the emergence of Hezbollah, the Shiite political party and guerrilla army, at the forefront of Lebanese and regional politics, relations with the Palestinians will be decisive. The Palestinian camps of Lebanon, whose disarmament is called for by the international community, constitute a contentious arena for a multitude of players: Syria and Iran, Hezbollah and the Palestinian Authority, and Bin Laden and the late Zarqawi. Witnessing everyday jihad in their midst offers readers a rare glimpse into a microcosm of the religious, sectarian, and secular struggles for the political identity of the Middle East today.

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About the Author:

Bernard Rougier is Researcher, Middle East Studies, Sciences-Po, Paris.

Review:

A breakthrough book ― compelling and disturbing. Rougier persuasively traces the struggle for the hearts and minds of Palestinians in Lebanon's refugee camps, and, though not all will agree with its policy recommendations, this is a must read for anyone concerned with the Middle East today. (Dale F. Eickelman, Dartmouth College)

Rougier offers an exceptionally innovative study of salafist groups in the refugee camps of Lebanon. It is superbly documented through in-depth and highly reliable field research. He crafts an illuminating analytic distinction between Sunni doctrinal intolerance and a strategy of pan-Islamic cooperation with Hezbollah. (Elizabeth Picard, editor of La politique dans le monde arabe)

Rich and sensitive, Everyday Jihad reveals much about changing patterns of religious and political allegiance within the Palestinian national movement itself and about the character of the Islamist appeal throughout the Middle East. A marvelously instructive case study―responsible, thoughtful, and intelligent. It should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand what is happening not only in Lebanon but across the Muslim world. (Lisa Anderson, Columbia University)

[A] thorough and disturbing account of the spread of Salafist jihadism among Lebanon's persecuted Palestinians. (Max Rodenbeck New York Review of Books 2007-05-31)

Everyday Jihad looks at a fascinating, under-investigated microcosm of the Islamist landscape...Highly recommended...Everyday Jihad is admirable for the density of its sociological detail and, not least, for the thoroughness of Mr. Rougier's method...Everyday Jihad...implies something banal, routine. Mr. Rougier's merit is to have shown the contrary and to have braved forbidding subcultures to do so. (Michael Young Wall Street Journal 2007-06-26)

This is a most timely, fine, perceptive and brilliantly researched book but above all an ominous introduction to yet another sub-world of violence, illusion and intransigence that has been brewing among the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, almost unnoticed by the outside world, these past two decades or more. (Fred Halliday Times Higher Education Supplement 2007-07-13)

The portrait that Rougier paints is dark and threatening and his work is another in a recent series of alarm bells ringing about the Middle East. We now stand six years into the Neoconservative Middle East project and the world it is creating is a pit of writhing snakes. Rougier offers one of the best and most realistic accounts yet. (Scott Horton Harper's 2007-04-22)

[Rougier] shows how a growing number of disaffected Palestinian refugees now view themselves as part of the global geography of radical Islam, pointing out that this is a position that has led them to identify with the rhetoric of al Qaeda. (Joshua Sinai Washington Times 2007-07-24)

Palestinian refugees comprise about 12 percent of Lebanon's population. Considered foreigners by law (only a handful have obtained Lebanese citizenship since 1948), they are subject to a number of onerous restrictions, and somewhat more than 60 percent live in 12 United Nations Relief and Works Agency camps that have become semisovereign small towns. Everyday Jihad builds on an in-depth case study of everyday politics in one such camp, Ain al-Helweh, to explain the larger role of the Palestinians in Lebanon. It is a complex and depressing story. The organizing theme, as the subtitle suggests, is that the Palestine Liberation Organization, once the preeminent force among Palestinians in Lebanon, is losing out to jihadists as nationalist ideology gives way to Islamism. (L. Carl Brown Foreign Affairs 2007-09-01)

A probing and timely account of a disturbing phenomenon. (Sheldon Kirshner Canadian Jewish News 2007-07-19)

Everyday Jihad glimmers with a vividness born of long periods of meticulous and discerning fieldwork. Rougier provides an intimate religious geography of the camps, including topics and explications of sermons, close observation of Ph.D. dissertations and their defenses, and extended interviews with those involved in the propagation of radical Islamist ideology inside the camps. Occasionally putting himself at considerable personal risk, Rougier gained an understanding of the context and inner workings of Islamic radicalism that few Westerners ever have. (Steven Brooke American Interest 2008-05-01)

A chilling story...Rougier compellingly exposes the ways in which Palestinians were diverted from their territorial struggle and recruited to global jihad. This is a disturbing insight into the constantly evolving religious violence in the Middle East. (Lydia Wilson Times Literary Supplement 2009-07-17)

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