Williams (The Last Warlord), an expert on the Islamic history of the Caucasus and Central Asia, critically examines the status that Chechens have earned as jihadi terrorists, and dismantles it as a modern fiction. He details centuries of Russian oppression suffered by Chechens, making a strong case that Chechen secessionists aimed “to achieve the sort of independence from Russia that full Soviet Socialist Republics such as Lithuania and Ukraine had achieved.” The Sufi Islam of the region has historically been tolerant and moderate; Arab volunteers drawn to the current conflicts brought with them a fundamentalist creed as alien to Chechens as Russian Orthodoxy. Nonetheless, stories of bloodthirsty Chechen battalions fighting with bin Laden in Afghanistan were gleefully propagated by Putin and credulously repeated in the Western media after 9/11. Williams interviewed hundreds of al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan and found none who knew of any Chechens—the sole Chechen he encountered was fighting on the Americans’ side. The Boston attack by the Chechen-Dagestani Tsarnaev brothers caused an abrupt transition in the narrative, but the brothers spent barely six months in Chechnya as children and were apparently self-radicalized on the Internet. Writing for casual readers, Williams clearly reveals that Chechnya’s reputation for harboring terrorists is largely unwarranted. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/17/2015 Release date: 10/01/2015 Genre: Nonfiction
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