A Portrait of Egypt: A Journey Through the World of Militant Islam

Mary Anne Weaver, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $24 (352p) ISBN 978-0-374-23542-0
Weaver, a New Yorker correspondent, is a gifted writer and observer who has spent a great deal of time and effort trying to understand the complex culture of Egypt and its effects on the entire Islamic world. She conveys the huge gap between Egypt's rich and poor and explains the appeal of political Islam in its many forms (some more radical than others) to the disenfranchised masses. Weaver believes that if Egypt turns ""Islamist"" in the way that Iran did in 1979, the effects will be much more dramatic throughout the Islamic world. She explains how the new generation of violent Islamic militants active throughout the world is largely the creation of U.S. policy: when the CIA covertly supported the mujahideen who drove the Soviets out of Afghanistan, it armed, trained and funded those who would become the most implacable enemies of the U.S. Weaver excels at explaining how, even as Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak cracks down on domestic Islamic opposition, the mullahs are gaining control of Egypt's judiciary and educational system. Her interviews with Mubarak, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman (the spiritual mentor of the World Trade Center bombers and, earlier, of some people involved in the assassination of Anwar Sadat) and Naguib Mahfouz are riveting. Yet, as thorough and eye-opening as Weaver's raw reportage is, the book lacks structure. Organized neither chronologically nor thematically, it is essentially a series of accomplished pieces of journalism that will leave readers with discrete chunks of information and just the hint of a larger pattern that Weaver never quite brings into focus. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 11/02/1998
Release date: 11/01/1998
Genre: Nonfiction
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