Countering Violent Extremism (MENA) Essential Reading List

Books from our reading list that we recommend for understanding violent extremism, jihadism, and the Middle East post Arab Spring

We have put together a list of the top four books from our reading list that we found useful in putting violent extremism in context. Working our way from the origins of the Salafi-Jihadism school of thought, to the impact of the Arab Spring on the Middle East, and ending with the accounts of ISIS defectors. While by no way extensive, we believe that these would be good as supplementary reading material for anyone who is interested in the subject matter.

Shiraz Maher ‘s Salafi-Jihadism: The History of an Idea is an invaluable introduction to salafi-jihadism, and its very nascent post 9/11 origin. The book offers an objective insight into the evolution of the ideas that underpin one of the most significant and destructive political philosophies in existence.

Shadi Hamid’s Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam Is Reshaping the World, is key for understanding how Islam relates to politics and the issues that come to light when trying to combine (or separate) religion and state. With case studies of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Ennahda party in Tunisia, and AKP in Turkey. It also touches upon the terrifying example of the rise of ISIS.

The Arab Spring Five Years On by by Amelia Smith (Author, Editor), Ramzy Baroud (Author) and co-authors is an anthology that brings together authors, journalists, activists and academics. It delves into the analysis of the Middle East in the midst of cataclysmic upheaval.

Finally, Ahmed Ayala and Anne Speckhard’s ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate, gives an unprecedented insight into the inner workings of ISIS. It includes first hand accounts by defectors from diverse backgrounds, fighters and commanders, wives of fighters — living and dead, female enforcers, and Cubs of the Caliphate, including a child who volunteered and almost became suicide bomber at age thirteen.

Please let us know if this list could improve by including your own recommendations in the comments below.

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