In This Review

Spear to the West: Thought and Recruitment in Violent Jihadism
Spear to the West: Thought and Recruitment in Violent Jihadism
By Stephen Chan
Hurst, 2019, 176 pp

This small tome is packed and requires some rereading to fully grasp the argument. Chan, the founding dean of the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, dismisses the notion that violent jihadism feeds off poverty and marginalization. Rather, jihadism draws from a line of reasoning that is “modernist” and poses a stark alternative to liberal globalization. Chan dips in and out of brief sketches of influential thinkers (including the medieval Sunni theologian Ibn Taymiyyah and the twentieth-century writer and activist Sayyid Qutb); he selects them based on the number of clicks each figure gets in Internet searches. He undermines some of his argument by conceding that contemporary jihadis don’t always read these thinkers. The author outlines the 12 steps that lead to the online recruitment of jihadis, but he offers no evidence that this method is especially prevalent or important. Chan’s argument can be a bit hard to follow, but it has at least two major implications: only those capable of speaking within the ideological terms of jihadis can counter their appeal, and counterterrorism strategists must consider using the Internet in ways they have not yet tried.