1st Edition

The Genealogy of Terror
How to distinguish between Islam, Islamism and Islamist Extremism

ISBN 9781138200463
Published September 4, 2018 by Routledge
258 Pages

USD $160.00

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Book Description

In the first two decades of the twenty-first century, the events of 9/11, 7/7, the War on Terror and the Caliphate and atrocities of the so-called Islamic State have dominated Western consciousness and wreaked havoc in parts of the Muslim-majority world. In their wake, a spate of books has been written explaining the phenomenon of Islamist radicalisation and Jihadism.

Nevertheless, for normal citizens, as well as scholars of religion and legal professionals, the crucial question remains unanswered: how is mainstream Islam different from both Islamism and the Islamist Extremism that is used to justify terrorist violence? In this highly original book, which draws upon the author’s experience as an expert witness in Islamic theology in 27 counter-terrorism trials, the author uses the idea of the Worldview, as well as traditional Islamic theology, to answer this question.

The book explains not only what Mainstream Islam, Ideological Islamism and Islamist Extremism are in their broad philosophical characteristics and theological particulars, but also explains comprehensively how and why they are both superficially related and yet essentially and fundamentally different. In so doing, the book also illuminates the cast of characters and the development of their ideas that constitute Mainstream Islam, Ideological Islamism and the Non-Violent and Violent Islamist Extremists who constitute the Genealogy of Terror.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Why this book is needed

-A global crisis of misunderstanding: why this book is needed; who its author is; what this book will accomplish

-Why? How? What?

-My Story and Credentials

-The Structure and Substance of this Book

Chapter 2: The Roots of Islam, Islamism and Islamist Extremism: the historical fault-lines of Islam

-Introduction: Islam is shaped by the presence and absence of Muhammad

-Political-theological Hiatus and Split: the Sunni-Shia Divide

-Institutional Hiatus and Split: the division of powers between the Muslim Executive and the Religious Judiciary

-Intellectual Hiatus and Split: Rationalist vs. Literalist intellectual tension

Chapter 3: The Worldviews of Islam, Islamism and Islamist Extremism

-Islam, Islamism and Islamist Extremism are all internally-coherent, self-contained Worldviews

-The idea of a Worldview

-Islam, Islamism and Islamist Extremism as Worldviews

-The Worldview of Traditional Islam: unity-in-diversity

-The Worldview of Activist Islam: diversity-in-unity

-The Worldview of Islamism: contingent separation and exaggerated difference

-The Worldview of Non-Violent Islamist Extremism: absolute Manichean separation

-The Worldview of Violent Islamist Extremism: absolute, eternal difference and separation with lethal consequences for the non-Muslim and Wrong-Muslim outgroups

Chapter 4: Basic Beliefs, Practices and Characteristic Themes of Islam, Islamism and Islamist Extremism

-The sources of the Worldview of Islam: the Qur’an and the Sunna

-The themes and ethical praxis of Mainstream Islam

-The themes and ethical praxis of Activist Islam

-The themes and ethical praxis of Ideological Islamism

-The themes and ethical praxis of Non-Violent Islamist Extremism

-The themes and ethical praxis of Violent Islamist Extremism

Chapter 5: The People, Texts and Contexts of Mainstream Islam

-Hermeneutical Health-Warning: people and their ideas are ‘shifters’

-Mainstream Islam: the people and the texts

-The Book of God – Al-Qur'an (The Recitation)

-The Opening Chapter (Al-Fatiha)

-Other Seminal Chapters

-Commentaries on the Qur’an

-The Canonical Books of Hadith

-The Great Works of, Law (Fiqh), Jurisprudence (Usul al-Fiqh)

-The Wahhabi Reformation: The Book of Divine Unity (Kitab al-Tawhid)

-To philosophise or not to philosophise? Al-Ghazali vs. Ibn Rushd

-Mainstream Islam in the modern and contemporary period

Chapter 6: The People, Texts and Contexts of Ideological Islamism

-Maududi, Al-Banna and Khomeini: The Ideological Islamist Shift from Agency to Structure

-The Second Phase Islamism: Sayyid Qutb and the birth of Non-violent Islamist Extremism

-Milestones (1964) – the ‘Ur’ text of Islamist Extremism

-Ayatollah Khomeini: Shia Islamism succeeds where Sunni Islamism fails

Chapter 7: The Genealogy of Terror: the People, Texts and Contexts of Violent Islamist Extremism

-Violent Islamist Extremism’s ‘pioneers’: Abdullah Azzam and Muhammad Abd as-Salam Faraj

-The ideologues of Al-Qaeda: bin Laden, Al-Awlaki, Al-Zawahiri and As-Suri

-The Ideologues of the Islamic State: Abu Musab Az-Zarqawi, An-Naji, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and Abu Muhammad Al-Adnani

Chapter 8: A Second Age of Extremes or a Second Age of Enlightenment?


-The Political Conditions of Extremism

-Why? The Root Causes of Islamist Extremism

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Matthew L. N. Wilkinson is Senior Research Fellow at SOAS, University of London, and Associate Research Fellow of the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics and Public Life at the University of Oxford. He is Principal Investigator of Understanding Conversion to Islam in Prison programme, which researches the causes and consequences of conversion to Islam in prison and how inmates can derive rehabilitative benefit, and avoid any danger, from this religious choice. He has acted as an Expert Witness in Islamic Theology and Law in 27 counter-terrorism trials. His previous book, A Fresh Look at Islam in a Multi-Faith World: A philosophy for success through education (Routledge, 2015), was awarded the Cheryl Frank Memorial Prize (2014) as the most "creative and innovative" work of critical realist philosophy.



The Genealogy of Terror is a book that has been needed by the judiciary for a very long time . . . Sir David Calvert-Smith QC, former Director of Public Prosecutions; former High Court Judge; member of the Parole Board for England & Wales

I recommend this book for anyone who wishes to understand in exciting breadth and forensic detail the landscape of contemporary Islam. Professor Norman Doe, Professor of Law, University of Cardiff

A book of stunning clarity and detail which will be of enormous value to practising criminal lawyers and to the interested ‘lay’ reader . . . a must-read Max Hill QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation; Head of Red Lion Chambers

This is a terrific book which is highly educational for the non-Muslim reader and the last two chapters in particular are a tour de force . . . Bravo! Ms. Jane Haberlin, Consultant Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist, The Balint Consultancy

This book is essential reading. Nowhere else have I seen the same clarity and precision in classifying different Muslim behaviors, ranging from highly desirable to downright dangerous. Its approach should be followed by everyone. Mohammed Amin MBE, Chairman of the Conservative-Muslim Forum and Co-Chair of the Muslim-Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester

This is a fascinating book which is rich in detail, very interesting to read and should be most helpful to its intended readers. James Loudon, Deputy Chairman of the Governors, University of Greenwich; member of the Independent Monitoring Board for HMP Swaleside

The Genealogy of Terror is a useful, clear and authoritative guide . . . I found its typology of Islam, Islamism and Non-violent and Violent Islamist Extremism most persuasive. Professor Alan Norrie, Professor of Law, University of Warwick; Presi dent of the International Association of Critical Realism