SOLDIERS OF A DIFFERENT GOD
A CURIOUS ADDITION TO AN ESTABLISHED & ENTERTAINING RANGE OF BOOKS
Author: Christopher Othen Publisher: Amberley Publishing Price: £18.99
The glut of books analysing and expounding on the post-9/11 jihadist phenomenon verges on the limitless. Here is something different. In this work Christopher Othen takes on the task of explaining the other side of the coin, summed up in the pithy subtitle “How the counter-jihadist movement created mayhem, murder and the Trump presidency”, a sentence that cries out: now read on.
Journalist and author Othen brings a unique set of credentials to his subject. In his own words, he has “interviewed retired mercenaries about African wars, discussed lost causes with political extremists and got drunk with an ex-mujahidin who knew Osama bin Laden”. In a chatty and bouncy narrative, the author begins his tale with “a clash of civilisations in New York”, the day of the September 2001 attack on the Twin Towers that kicked off the West’s chaotic war on terror. From that horrific morning to the present day, it is possible to trace a 15-year timeline culminating in the 2016 presidency: “Donald Trump,” the author writes, “would face off against Hillary Clinton with a campaign promise to stop Muslim immigration that had the counter-jihad cheering”.
This was the crescendo of a series of knee-jerk reactions that largely played into jihadist hands. Trump was elected on a platform of populist nationalism. One of his first acts was a travel ban on citizens of six Muslim countries. “The counter-jihad world celebrated,” Othen says. Since 9/11, however, there have been more than 500 killed and injured in terrorist attacks in the US, none of them committed by illegal Muslim immigrants. At the same time, the country has spent some $1 trillion to defend itself against jihadism. In this same period, the death toll in Europe numbered in excess of 660 people.
One has to ask whether our democracies are so fragile that we compel ourselves to spend such astronomical sums on counter-terrorism, and does this not render us victims of bear-baiting? Likewise, is this really the most effective way to combat an enemy that resembles the mythological Greek Hydra, which grew two new heads each time one was chopped off?
The book sheds light on strange events, such as the 2007 Counterjihad Conference in Brussels that brought activists face to face with mentors like Bat Ye’or, the mysterious Jewish-egyptian ideologue who provided ammunition for journalists like Oriana Fallaci and Melanie Phillips, who were warning about the dangers of radical Islam. The gathering was called to create a European network of activists from 14 nations to resist the increasing Islamisation of their countries. The outcome took on an uncomfortable air of the surreal when British conference attendees linked up with football hooligans to form the English Defence League.
Othen maintains that the future of the counter-jihad is uncertain but that it will likely end up a patch on a nationalist quilt, not a whole cloth. The future for the West in its relations with Islam is equally uncertain. The most hopeful sign is that the collapse of the so-called Islamic State has slowed terror attacks and disillusioned many radicalised Muslims around the world. It remains to be seen if what we are witnessing is a lull while these merchants of death regroup and hone their strategy, or if their back is well and truly broken.
BELOW, LEFT TO RIGHT: Ships from five Western nations join forces for the War on Terror, members of the English Defence League, and Trump surfing a wave of nationalism