Treading on Hallowed Ground: Counterinsurgency Operations in Sacred Spaces

In This Review

Treading on Hallowed Ground: Counterinsurgency Operations in Sacred Spaces
By C. Christine Fair and Sumit Ganguly, eds.
Oxford University Press, 2008
240 pp. $24.95
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This is a fascinating collection of case studies of instances in which regular forces have found themselves trying to cope with armed groups that have occupied holy places, mainly mosques (in Iraq, Islamabad, Kashmir, Mecca, and Thailand) but also one church (in Bethlehem) and a temple (in Amritsar, India). Because these sites are special to the local communities, putting them under siege, let alone forcing entry, is problematic. But so is allowing them to be used as sanctuaries and symbols of hostility to the regime. The case studies confirm that the authorities are obliged to show restraint, but in the end, what makes the real difference are those same basic factors of popular support and tactical acuity on which successful counterinsurgency more generally depends.