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strategy? And are the root causes of the insurgency being addressed?
The two chapters following the introduction examine the historical development of
Islam in Nigeria (chapter 2), and the origin and
evolution of radical groups in Nigeria (chapter
3). In chapter 2, Virginia Comolli situates BH
within a historical theological context. This
provides welcome background information for
readers, and although she does not problematise the invasions by France and later the
British Empire, which put an end to the
Kingdom of Bornu, she chronicles Dan Fodio’s
Jihad, which is often cited as an inspiration for
BH. In chapter 3, Comolli details the theological/ideological precursors of BH, namely, Izala
and Maitatsine. This provides the historical
context of religious movements in Nigeria,
especially with BH sharing its Wahhabi roots
with Izala and recruitment base (almajirai)
with Maitatsine.
The fourth chapter asks the following question: Who are BH? This particular question has
been extensively written about but the author
shows critical judgement to properly discern
the answer among the conflicting narratives,
albeit at a cost of advancing no definitive history of BH, which may leave some readers in
doubt. This may also be considered as a
strength, however, as there is no indubitable
evolutionary narrative of BH.
In chapter 5, the author examines BH’s
quest for internationalisation by citing their
publicised allegiance, apparent tactical appropriation and alleged exchange of expertise with
other groups as pointers. However, some caution must be exercised, since the one-off attack
on the UN building in Abuja and speculative
connections between BH (and Ansaru) and
groups in the Sahel and beyond cannot emphatically imply ‘internationalisation’ without
problematising Westphalian statehood in
A particular strength of this book lies in the
sixth chapter, where Comolli provides a meticulous account of the Nigerian response to BH.
A detailed account of the effectiveness of these
measures, which can only be achieved through
a detailed critique of counterterrorism practices, might have helped. However, this appears
to be outside the remit of her book. The chapter
Political Studies Review 15(2)
is somewhat less thorough in regard to the
responses of neighbouring countries such as
Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
Akinyemi Oyawale
(University of East Anglia)
© The Author(s) 2017
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/1478929916687773
Hamas, Jihad and Popular Legitimacy:
Reinterpreting Resistance in Palestine by
Tristan Dunning. Abingdon: Routledge, 2016.
236pp., £90.00 (h/b), ISBN 9781138937291
Hamas, Jihad and Popular Legitimacy presents detailed research on the multiple activities and roles of the Palestinian armed
movement Hamas in the context of contemporary Palestinian society. The book analyses the
development of the movement since its foundation in the 1980s until the present time. It
uses an original prospective which contextualises Hamas’ existence and resilience in the
framework of the Palestinian society under
Israeli occupation. From the first chapters on,
the book intends to oppose the picture of
Hamas provided in the Western mainstream
media and terrorism studies which describe
Hamas as an irrational terrorist entity completely devoted to an eschatological violent
version of Islam similar to that of Al-Qa’eda
and Islamic State.
Tristan Dunning takes into consideration
Hamas’ numerous activities within Palestinian
society, from armed resistance to charity and
social development. To provide a satisfying
account of Hamas as a social and political
actor, he focuses on the polysemic meaning of
‘resistance’ and ‘Jihad’ within the rhetoric of
Hamas. Hamas uses these concepts and the
political violence that they imply in a flexible
way, as tactical tools for strategic goals. In particular, political violence is used as a propagandistic means aimed to obtain political power in
an environment lacking other means for
empowerment. In fact, Hamas has demonstrated its readiness to switch to other kinds of
non-violent tactics when the political environ-
Book Reviews
ment provides the chance to utilise them, as
that which occurred during the 2006 legislative
elections. In this book, academics, analysts and
journalists specialising in terrorism and Middle
East studies can find a more balanced, unbiased and therefore realistic picture of Hamas,
in which the movement emerges as a rational
and incentive-sensitive political actor.
The book is an insightful analysis of Hamas’
interactions with Palestinian society. However,
it lacks an equally detailed analysis of the
dynamics present within Hamas itself as a
complex organisation. The relationship
between the different currents in which the
movement is divided are only lightly sketched
and a more detailed analysis would have provided a better understanding of the behaviour
of Hamas as a political actor in several key
situations. Furthermore, while the author carries out an accurate and acute critique of large
sections of the Western contemporary media
and academic narrative, he tends to describe
this as the only narrative present within the
Western public and academic debate, neglecting the important role played by many critical
voices which are also part of the same debate
– and include among them numerous scholars
quoted in the volume and the author himself.
Eugenio Dacrema
(University of Trento)
© The Author(s) 2017
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/1478929917692351
The Legacy of Iraq: From the 2003 War
to the ‘Islamic State’ by Benjamin Isakhan
(ed.). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015.
278pp., £75.00 (h/b), ISBN 9780748696161
Since 9/11, US foreign policy has been strategically aimed at the Middle East. Central to
this was the invasion of Iraq when the United
States launched a ‘pre-emptive strike’ without
the UN’s approval on the pretext of Iraq being
an al-Qa’eda ally and in possession of weapons
of mass destruction (WMDs). The war turned
ugly with casualties on both sides and despite
the pronouncement of ‘mission accomplished’
by George W Bush (p. 2). The extensive Ba’ath
state machinery was destroyed. Iraq, with its
vast oil reserves, was brought to its knees. This
is the story documented in this book about
Iraq’s legacies of blood and chaos.
The book is divided into four parts. Part I
deals with ‘The Aftermath of War’ and shows
that the first concern of the Americans, as
Benjamin Isakhan rightly states, was to ‘deBa’athify Iraq’ (p. 21). It is no coincidence that
Iraq descended into disorder when the entities
built up by Saddam Hussein were dissolved.
This created an army of ‘disgruntled’ elements
(p. 25) and is without a doubt the most ‘troublesome’ legacy hovering over Iraq to this day
(p. 33). So why was Iraq invaded? The answer
is that Iraq’s oil constituted a ‘threat’ to various
interests, including those of the West (p. 37).
Ironically, the ‘liberators’ then had to carry the
moral baggage of episodes like Abu Ghraib’s
‘use of torture’ and the invaders’ impunity,
which increased hatred of the Coalition forces
(pp. 51–63).
The second part turns to the ‘increasingly
dictatorial’ personalities within Iraq, dominated by the Shi’as, and the prospect of healing
the nation shattered, coupled with the plight of
the country’s minorities (p. 80). Part III
addresses the sorry state of Iraqi society since
the invasion. The world has seen the images on
television of women ‘dragged from their
houses without time to dress appropriately’ and
men humiliated in front of their wives and
daughters. This was what sparked outrage, as
Perri Campbell and other contributors rightly
state (p. 143). Part IV presents the international
perspective of the unfortunate legacies. I agree
with Howard Adelman’s assessment that the
war brought about a sectarian ‘polarisation’,
which flourished like wild fire (p. 181).
The Legacy of Iraq speaks to us directly to
rise up against senseless wars waged by warmongers. In my opinion, most of the mistakes
cited in the book were deliberate, because the
war was opposed even by many US citizens.
It is wishful thinking to hastily bring a ‘neoconservative ideology’ to fit into post-Saddam
Iraq (p. 225). It appears that the West has not
learned any lesson from its misadventures.
Hence, I agree with the book’s conclusion that
the greatest legacy of the war in Iraq is the rise
of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
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