John Keay

The Shoots Of Fanaticism

God’s Terrorists: The Wahhabi Cult and the Roots of Modern Jihad

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Little, Brown 297pp £20 order from our bookshop
 

A word seldom heard these days, though well worth an airing, is 'crescentade'. Analogous to 'crusade' and perhaps derived from the more appetising croissantade, (croissant being the French for 'crescent'), a crescentade strictly speaking signifies an Islamic holy war. But nineteenth-century commentators applied the word indiscriminately to any outburst of Muslim aggression whose theological motivation eluded them. The term was often somewhat dismissive; and it might now be usefully revived by anyone reluctant to dignify with the Quranic sanction of jihad the casual dismemberment, say, of mothers and infants, often themselves Muslim. 

In Asia and North Africa crescentades constituted an occupational hazard of colonial rule. They flared up unexpectedly, they were led by 'fanatics' who enjoyed only limited support from their co-religionists, and they were usually quelled by force.

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