The Department for International Development’s (DFID) budget was a “giant cashpoint in the sky that arrives without any reference to UK interests” our Prime Minister told Parliament last week. DFID’s announced merger with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) was confirmation that government intends to make humanitarian aid an instrument of geo-political and security goals. “We believe the aid budget’s sole focus should be on helping the world’s poorest people, and that is how Britain will get the respect of other countries and their people”, CAFOD responded.
The gulf between Boris Johnson’s perception of overseas aid, shared with the Conservative Party in thrall to its extremists, and that of the international NGOs, has been growing. Priti Patel, International Development Secretary for eighteen months, 2016-2017, declared DFID’s funding priorities to be not in the national interest. Penny Mordant, who followed her, 2017-2019, told Parliament last week that she wanted to spend the aid budget on two new boats to replace the Royal Yacht. If the present incumbent, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, and her predecessor, Alok Sharma, are anything to go by, a career in corporate finance is just what you need to understand poverty reduction. The swing doors nature of the appointment – five ministers in less than four years - was most noticeable with Rory Stewart who resigned his position after six months following the purge of the Tory BREXIT dissidents. Sad, as like the National Audit Committee, he showed signs of understanding that DFID was outstanding amongst government departments in doing what it was set up to do, combatting global poverty.
Britain, with an aid budget of £15 billion a year, is the only country in the world to achieve the UN target of 0.7% of Gross National Income spent on international development. We should be proud of that even in adversity. Though only 73% of this funding is spent through DFID itself. The remainder, for example support for tackling climate change internationally, goes through other government departments. This hidden plunder of the DFID budget is likely to grow under the new dispensation. Merged into a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, DfID’s mission to end extreme poverty and tackle the global challenges of our time including disease, mass migration, insecurity and conflict, will have to contend with a raft of other priorities.
One of the most pressing FCO priorities in a post-Brexit world remains trade. Theresa May set up the Department of International Trade (DIT) in 2016 to expand Britain’s non-EU trade. Every British Ambassador and High Commissioner around the world is charged with promoting trade. If, as Boris Johnson claims, the DFID merger will enhance policy coherence you might have thought the DIT would be the first to fall under the FCO. You would be wrong. You might also have thought the Prime Minister would have discussed his plan with leading British international NGOs such as OXFAM and Save the Children. Wrong again. He didn’t. Boris Johnson has simply ignored the conclusion of the excellent International Development Select Committee that retaining the independence of DFID is vital.
Johnson claims that moving DFID into the FCO will give the British taxpayer better value for money. Only if you ignore, as he does, the existing experts with years of experience vetting, implementing and monitoring programmes and projects, experts already regularly in touch with Foreign Office staff in country, sometimes with offices in the same secure compound. DFID’s research unit is crucial in assessing the effectiveness of it work. This efficiency argument is a red herring.
DfID has been merged with the FCO by the Conservatives then demerged by the Labour Party in the past. Their departments’ goals are different. No amount of spin can change that.
If policy coherence were Johnson’s main purpose, there are other ways to achieve it. JTAC, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, brings together some sixteen government bodies. It has proved its worth in co-ordination of counter-terrorism strategy. Similar bodies could be created, or developed further, for overlapping international issues and interests such as achieving the international sustainable development goals, climate change, gender equality, pandemics, corruption, human rights and human trafficking.
At heart, though, the government justifications reveal the gulf between thinking in the Cabinet and those on the front line of development and humanitarianism. The argument is a moral one. You don’t have to be Christian to view it as such. In my experience as a former CEO of the Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR), the Scandinavian countries have tried more successfully to sustain a moral purpose in their foreign policy. Nordic policy over apartheid and the liberation of Namibia took a different path to the British. Sweden supported the internal movement of the African National Congress in South Africa. The UK tried to undermine it dividing communist from nationalist members. Tiny Finland is respected globally for its work on conflict resolution. Beyond the religious and ethical dimension of the argument, but as CAFOD’s response suggests, lies the political debate about the nature of ‘soft power’ and our future place in the world at a time of general crisis in Britain’s perception of itself.
Do we really wish to present ourselves in macho fashion as ‘punching above our weight’? Not if it requires tens of billions spent on nuclear missile-bearing submarines and aircraft carriers. ‘Global Britain’ needs to find a new and fitting strategic role. We need the moral vision underpinning our international development programme as a prominent part of it. We need to heed the best of our INGOs. It is in the national interest for Britain post-Brexit, post-pandemic, to draw both from our Christian tradition and its understanding of who is ‘Global Britain’s’ neighbour, and from our own history of supporting and contributing to international institutions. And we will not always have a Prime Minister who seems to think jokes are a substitute for principled action.
See The Tablet online 23/06/2020
Outside City Hall in Buffalo, USA, on 4th June at a Black Lives Matter demonstration a police officer deliberately shoved an approaching solitary, tall, 75 year-old man. Martin Gugino fell backwards to the ground, where he lay bleeding from his right ear. The cohort of police surged on leaving him prostrate. He had a fractured skull and was later put in intensive care before spending time in rehabilitation in the Erie County Medical Center. A video of the incident went worldwide.
Deploying a typically crazed Right-Wing conspiracy, the One America News network (OANN) put out a fake-news story that Martin Gugino was from Antifa, an umbrella body of anti-fascist organisations which deems violence in self-defence permissible. President Trump, a ground-feeder off such media, repeated it, tweeting that the man “could be [a standard Trump ploy ] an Antifa provocateur” scanning police communications in order to block them.
In the real world, Martin Gugino was active in a number of different campaigns for human rights, social justice, non-violence and peace. Most likely he was approaching the police to talk to them. Martin Gugino was a member of the Catholic Worker movement, a radical international organisation many younger Catholics may not have heard of. President Trump certainly hadn’t.
Dorothy Day, the woman who invented ‘taking the knee’ - but as a protester’s substitute for standing during the Star-Spangled Banner, founded the Catholic Worker newspaper in New York in 1933. Her inspiration was the larger than life French ‘classic autodidact’, Peter Maurin, a man obsessed with the need for a ‘green revolution’, with the poor’s suffering during the Great Depression, who opposed capitalism and who challenged the complacency of middle-class Catholics. Dorothy Day had escaped via university from a conventional family lacking any religious interests into the bohemian world of Greenwich Village, lower Manhattan, where journalists, writers, artists and radical thinkers, some of them communists, drank and talked the nights away. Today we might say she had a ‘chaotic lifestyle’ including feckless male admirers, heavy drinking, an abortion, an atheist husband who left her, and a long-suffering daughter Tamar born in 1927. She later denied having an affair with Eugene O’Neill but they were close.
Dorothy Day was an avid reader. Upton Sinclair, Jack London, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky, full of moral and political purpose, were her sacred texts. But so was Thomas á Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ. Throughout these free-wheeling years there was something about Catholic liturgy that spoke to her. John Loughery and Blythe Randolph in their excellent biography, Dorothy Day: Dissenting Voice of the American Century, believe Dorothy Day wanted above all to protect Tamar from repeating her own painful quest for identity and purpose. A kindly nun instructed her in what was required of a parent so her daughter could be baptised. Then she followed Tamar into the Church in December 1927.
During 1934, Dorothy’s part mentor, part friend, Peter Maurin, began taking in rough sleepers. That winter the idea of a ‘house of hospitality’ took shape, a dilapidated four story building in Greenwich Village, close by the Hudson river. Caring for the weakest and poorest members of society became for Day and Maurin a ‘sacrament of duty’. It did not matter how drink or drug addicted and impossibly aggressive the guests might be, however racist, lice-ridden and unwashed. There was nothing romantic about their involuntary poverty. Nor about the voluntary poverty that drew idealistic young Catholics to share the lives of the guests, accepting the bedbugs, the chaos and the noise. For Dorothy Day a needy person was the image of Christ and could never be the ‘undeserving poor’. It was a theological position. She shared it in indefatigable travels and talks.
At the house of hospitality in the evenings there were lectures and debate rather threateningly known as ‘clarification of thought’. The discussions connected with the radical content of the Catholic Worker newspaper and attracted a wide range of people, not only radical journalists who over the years wrote for the paper. From the beginning racial justice, workers’ rights, opposition to war and nuclear weapons, and the Gospel values, were strong, repeated themes alongside the realities of poverty in the USA. Whilst committed to the worker struggle, Dorothy Day was wary of the leaders of the US unions. Demonstrations and civil disobedience, which qualified Catholic Workers for arrest and prison sentences, rarely prolonged, were rites of passage for Catholic Worker volunteers. The paper’s readership peaked at about 120,000 before the USA entered the Second World War but subscriptions halved when the paper continued to support conscientious objection.
During the 1950s McCarthyism increased the vulnerability of the movement. No support from the US bishops could be expected, least of all from the sixth Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Francis Spellman. The Vietnam War and the civil rights movement were another story. The growing peace movement with its draft card burnings brought in the two Berrigan brothers, Jesuit and Josephite priests, who both served long prison sentences. I remember in the 1960s listening to Daniel Berrigan SJ, charismatic and compelling in his clerical black drainpipe jeans. When Dorothy Day was asked if Berrigan was a Catholic Worker, she replied:” No, Dan isn’t a Catholic Worker. He came to us and stole our young men away into the peace movement”. But the young men and women kept coming. And the houses of hospitality proliferated around America and the world, 175 communities in the USA and 29 more internationally, including one in north London. The Catholic Worker, described in 1971 in the New York Review of Books, as ‘the Methuselah of little mags’, still survives.
So, in a way, President Trump was right. There was a conspiracy. He recently held the source of that conspiracy aloft for a photo-op outside St. John’s church right opposite the White House. As Pope Francis said in front of a joint session of Congress in September 2015, referring to Dorothy Day whom he selected with Thomas Merton, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King as illustrating the best of US values and culture: “Her social activism, her passion for justice and the cause of the oppressed were inspired by the Gospel, her faith and the example of the saints”.
See TheArticle 17/06/2020 "Trump was right - there was a conspiracy. But not the one he thought"
An on-line history of Progressio, formerly the Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR), was published a week or so ago. Do have a look: https://www.progressio.org.uk/what/legacy-publication-organisations-life-and-work Open hyperlink and click on A Record of Change in a Changing World.
When Progressio closed two years ago I wrote a valedictory piece - see below. I hope it may encourage you to dip into the online CIIR history put together by Jon Barnes, a former regional manager for Latin America and the Caribbean. It tries to capture a dimension of Catholicism during and after the Cold War.
A Radical Loss
Writing the obituary for an organisation, rather than a person, is a daunting task. That might be because the seventy-six years that span the life of The Sword of the Spirit, from which the Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR) budded off in the mid-1960s, finally to be renamed Progressio, merit a proper contextual history. Or it might be because I worked there for twenty of those years, fifteen of them as general secretary six on the southern Africa desk; that puts a strain on my objectivity. For both reasons important people, programmes, events may get left out, and other characteristics, perhaps less acknowledged, emphasised.
Last things first: Progressio's demise, sixteen years after I left, is sadly mundane. No great dramas. It ran out of money. Some £2 million of its £5 million plus budget came from a partnership with the UK Ministry of International Development (DfID), and this ended.
It was ever so. I remember trying to widen the donor base, knocking on bishops' and convent doors, seeking those elusive German Benedictine Abbots with gold bars under their chasubles, trying to convince American Catholic millionaires that they didn't really want to endow a chair in Mediaeval Studies, or a chapel, but contribute to Africans having a decent life. But most of the Sisters had their elderly to care for - some helped - only one or two bishops got out their cheque books as I came in the door - bless them – and I never found those rich Abbots hiding in the Teutonic mists and forests. My “elevator-pitch” with American Catholic millionaires didn't get me past the first floor. Changing the name to Progressio to widen donor appeal in 2006 didn't work. I suspect those imagined secular supporters thought Progressio was an Italian football team.
But enough of the petty humiliations of fund-raising in competition with the well-oiled machines of CAFOD and VSO which, in some ways, occupied the same charitable terrain. CIIR was “at the edge” and radical. Under the leadership of the late Mildred Nevile, it built up a substantial reputation for advocacy in southern Africa and Latin America, and for outstanding grass-roots development work in a range of different countries. It was some measure of the times that the most outstanding Catholic woman of her generation, Mildred, never, until her death, received the recognition from the Church that she merited. The State, at least, gave her an MBE which she promptly lost in her car, holding up celebrations as staff scrabbled in the front seat to find it.
What made CIIR different was what made Mildred different. CIIR was deeply imbued with the tradition and spirit of Catholicism, but not inward-looking or “churchy”; it looked outward never fretting for long about episcopal support or what bishops were worried about. Yet a high regard for the work of the organisation was often forthcoming. I used to have a private joke with Cardinal Hume, our patron, whom I visited regularly. I'd greet him and then ask: “has anyone been complaining about us”. He'd pause to think then say “I don't think so”. I'd reply “then we aren't doing our job properly, are we?” Then we'd laugh. Though odd Catholic and non-Catholic members of the Tory back benches were occasionally apoplectic at what we did. That was comforting.
Looking outward meant that CIIR was able to see the UK in the context of a global Church and different cultures and ways of thought as diverse as those of Yemen, Zimbabwe, El Salvador, South Korea, Philippines, and Somaliland, to give a sense of the contrasts. Instead of “little England” there was “big global South”, not the cosmopolitanism of the international bankers but of the barrios and favelas of Latin America and Philippines and the black townships of apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia. Being part of a global Church was not an academic idea but a lived reality. The CIIR's sending of volunteers to share their skills to strengthen civil society around the world, chosen entirely on professional rather than confessional grounds, meant that for many years CIIR had outstanding representatives in eleven different countries feeding their ideas and experience back into the life of the organisation.
This global feedback coupled with close bonds of friendship forged with workers for justice and development in local Churches, from archbishops to lay workers, could not but shape the implicit theology of the organisation. CIIR became a thoughtful promoter of liberation theology, and its contextual variant in South Africa. Sister Pamela Hussey SHCJ, now 96, with whom I was privileged to share my years in CIIR, said in her book Freedom from Fear that Christian commitment was “redefined, tested, and purified in the crucible of repression”. She was awarded an MBE for her work for human rights in Latin America - which shows how little influence the CIA had with the UK honours committee. We hosted –clandestinely - theologians from around the world who wanted to reflect on the nature of this repression, out of which came the 1989 Damascus Document. My sadness in retrospect is that this reflection did not embrace the comparable martyrdoms of the communist world and eastern bloc. The Cold War divided the Church no less than the world; our focus was the military dictatorships and oligarchies. The Sword of the Spirit, had originally had set the trend doing education work to combat the intellectual flirtation of some Catholics with fascism in the 1940s.
For CIIR, being intellectually colonised by the developing world was no bad thing. It meant that keeping theology, politics and development in separate silos was impossible. This was reflected in everything CIIR attempted. It also kept the organisation “on the edge”. Internally it had to negotiate the differences between a volunteer programme that saw itself as “secular” and an advocacy programme that saw itself, more accurately, as religious. But the secular programme could be seen as an expression of “the option for the poor” and the religious programme worked with liberation movements and, for a while, the South African Communist Party. The latter was as secular as it gets even if it often wanted Archbishop Hurley to preside over funerals of leading members of the African National Congress (ANC). He used to complain to me that on these occasions the red flag somehow always appeared behind him as photographs were being taken.
Whether working with the Rhodesian Justice and Peace Commission or getting the general secretary of the Southern African Council of Churches, Frank Chikane, back across the South African border – he had been forced to “skip” for several months to UK - or smuggling in a de-bugging device for the United Democratic Front, CIIR activity was necessarily borderline. Our partners' lives were at stake. The South African security police poisoned Frank Chikane but he survived. CIIR was borderline only in relation to the less life-threatening world of the UK politics. The organisation also had colleagues there: the late Liberal Peer, Pratap Chitnis, Labour M.P. John Battle, and Lord Chris Patten then a Conservative M.P. was a constructively critical supporter. We even sent Jeremy Corbyn to East Timor to monitor the elections.
CIIR was a feminist organisation. This Catholic feminism was what motivated books such as Life out of Death: the Feminine Spirit in El Salvador by Sister Pamela Hussey and Marigold Best, a Quaker, published in 1997. One of the experiences of accompanying friends through struggles for freedom in the closing years of the Cold War was to see how little the liberation struggles of the time resulted in the situation of women changing however much they had engaged in the struggles. But above all, feminism informed much of the skill-share work. Some of the most outstanding country representatives were women. The projects that volunteers worked in came under, in one way or another, the heading of “women's empowerment”. This covered a range of programmes from masculinity training in Latin America to advocacy training in Zimbabwe. Likewise some of the unseen and unsung heroes in the Church's opposition to apartheid, and against the illegal occupation of Namibia, were women in the Grail.
Looking outward, forgetting yourself, thinking beyond yourself, learning from the other, being at ease on the periphery, at border crossings, I would describe as the spirituality of CIIR (though I don't like the word). It could take you further into the thick of things than your emotional resilience was ready for, but I think there was something about this experience that took you in the right direction, moving towards a glimpse into the meaning of discipleship.
There was most poignantly in the last decade, some sharing in the Poor's perennial sense of betrayal. I often think of how the CIIR office was a venue for the leading players in the Zimbabwe Patriotic Front and how betrayed the Zimbabwe people are today by what power did to this political elite. I also remember going off to the EU to negotiate funding to the South African Churches with the great Afrikaaner Dutch Reformed Church opponent of apartheid, Beyers Naude.
There were meetings with Thabo Mbeki, then leader of the ANC in London pubs also creating a sense of hope and common endeavour. There were the friends who were tortured because of their active opposition to the apartheid regime, and how they and the people of South Africa have been betrayed by the political party they sacrificed so much for, and then had to suffer a corrupt thug, Jacob Zuma, as the President of their nation. I am sure colleagues who worked in Latin America and in programmes in Yemen, destroyed by war, or Latin America destroyed by drugs cartels, will have experienced similar thoughts and sadness. These are memories that, with hindsight and without mercy, correct visions of what is possible with our unredeemed humanity, with a politics that is about power and not about compassion and the powerlessness of the Cross; these are memories that humble and should not and cannot be air-brushed out.
In short CIIR was a Cold War baby, living in the interstices of a divided Church and a divided world, getting its hands dirty. The geopolitical change when the Cold War ended in 1991 nearly upended the organisation. It was a struggle to “redefine, test and purify” its mission in the new context. Nobody was any longer interested in funding work in Namibia or South Africa anymore and Latin America slipped off the map at DfID. We focussed for a while on truth and reconciliation commissions. There was continuing work to be done with returning Namibian, Zimbabwean and South African refugees. We began a new programme on the Church's role in countering the drugs trade. My successor retained the grossly underfunded advocacy theme by the overseas programmes training our partners in advocacy, and, of course, the CIIR's gender work continued. Her successor began a new programme with VSO of working exposure trips for young people.
Much of the present work will be handed over to other organisations. Just as CIIR went under, there is a certain irony in having the Latin American Pope we could have done with twenty years ago, clear about the implications of the option to the Poor, and who could answer honestly that, yes, the Curia were complaining about him. I think many radical Catholics feel about Pope Francis a little like Afro-Americans felt about Obama: we made it but not much has changed. The radical vision of Catholicism, rather than its conservative or liberal version, remains a vision - with a few wonderful exceptions.
I would like to think that CIIR will be seen historically in the same category as the Christian Institute in South Africa: radical, at times distinctly “edgey”, ready to take risks for those in the thick of it, stumbling into Grace. But also producing world class analysis of development, political analysis of fast-moving revolutionary change, and good theology. Its Overseas Programme changed innumerable lives. I can hear Mildred Nevile saying without fuss: “It had its day. Something else will take its place”. I really hope so.
See Doctrine & Life Dominican Publications, Dublin, November 2016
“We are all in this together”. Even the global jihadists. Though I doubt they are social distancing and self-isolating. Londoners prone to anxiety on the Tube have different worries these days. Risk levels no longer refer to Daesh or Al-Qaeda activities.
If global jihadists now have extra problems travelling and murdering people, their ideas are far from locked down. Thinking jihadism has been defeated, because Bin-Laden is dead, because the brutal travesty of the territorial Daesh ‘Caliphate’ is no more and many of its leaders dispersed or killed, is a mistake. The spread of the doctrine of global jihad is not out of control, but it would be rash to say it is contained, even if no-one can give a figure for the R rate of transmission.
So where did the idea of global jihad come from? There are few significant references made to it before the 1980s. A sense that all Muslims formed one global community, umma, comparable to a Christian understanding of the Church, was present within Pan-Islamism arising in Saudi Arabia in the 1960s. Muslim internationalists created organisations such as the Muslim World League and the World Association of Muslim Youth. Universities in Mecca, Medina and Jeddah, with their international student bodies and global links fostered by the annual pilgrimage and trade were natural soil for Pan-Islamism. Later, teachers from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, opposed to Nasser’s secular nationalism, imprisoned and then released by President Sadat, along with militants from other Arab secular republics, found a home in the historic Hijaz, the Saudi western coastal province, and employment as lecturers.
Despite military themes seeping into lectures and sermons by late 1970s, Pan-Islamism was essentially a peaceful quest for transnational Muslim solidarity, for observance of Shari’a Law and for promotion of Muslim scholarship and way of life. Around the world, Saudi oil money poured into the promotion of Islamic networks and societies. And in the other direction came jihadists who had opposed their own governments fleeing to Saudi sanctuary. Their political horizon was national, overthrowing governments deemed un-Islamic and corrupt – provided they weren’t Saudi Arabia. Only the liberation of Palestine had transnational appeal.
Enter a much revered pious, personable, Palestinian Sheikh, Dr. Abdallah Azzam from the ultra-conservative wing of Islamism, nurtured within the Muslim Brotherhood where his support lay. Thomas Hegghammer’s meticulously researched biography The Caravan: Abdallah Azzam and the rise of Global Jihad demonstrates how Azzam’s writings and peripatetic teaching helped turn Pan-Islamism into the threat that is global jihad. The groups of jihadists, inspired by Azzam, who crossed from Pakistan into Afghanistan in the 1980s to fight the Soviet invader are the caravans of the book’s title and the original global jihadists.
The Egyptian ideologue, Sayyid Qutb, chastiser of ‘Western decadence’, imprisoned and executed by Nasser, was the jihadists’ widely proclaimed hero. Azzam himself had fled from Palestine to Jordan, and thence to Saudi Arabia from where he began seeking a training ground for the jihad against Israel. He found it in Afghanistan. There he developed the Services Bureau, a recruitment organisation for Arab foreign-fighters, which was located across the Pakistan border in Peshawar. Its widely distributed house magazine, al-Jihad championed the Afghan resistance and attracted foreign fighters. And though Azzam’s primary goal remained training troops for Palestine (Hamas was founded in 1987), soon caravans of Arab fighters were crossing into Afghanistan for jihad against the atheistic Communist invaders. These were global jihad’s small beginnings.
Hegghammer’s research destroys three myths about the origins of global jihad. The first is that the USA sponsored the Arab precursors to Al-Qaida and Da’esh as useful agents against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan. In reality the CIA focussed on arming and supporting the Afghan (future Taliban) national resistance, working with the ISI, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency. Arab foreign fighters were too few in number and too inexperienced to command much attention. The second myth is that Abdullah Azzam, whom Usama Bin Laden revered, was the originator of Al-Qaeda. The truth is that Bin Laden deserted Azzam’s disorganised Services Bureau and training efforts to form his own base (literally al-Qaeda). He viewed Azzam as a religious teacher rather than jihadi warrior. Thirdly there is no evidence that Azzam would have supported 9/11, sexual slavery or routine killing of women and children, which later became features of global jihad after his death.
In 1984, Azzam pronounced a fatwa which declared that all Muslims around the world had an individual responsibility to support jihad in Afghanistan. It was a turning point. Because of the Sheikh’s legal expertise and the widespread respect for him – he put his preaching into practice - this fatwa intensified the internationalisation of the Afghan War. Azzam, a great believer in miracles and martyrdom, sanctified the foreign fighter. Given the background of Pan-Islamism, it was a relatively small step from propounding this well-defined religious duty to an apocalyptic vision of global war against the foreign policy, culture and politics of the West. Gone was the traditional Caliph’s call to the Muslim community to defend Islam which traditionally legitimated jihad. Soon gone were the constraints of just war theory – a theory shared with the West that regulated the conduct of combatants.
Azzam himself was assassinated. Global jihad lost its moral compass. He and his two sons were killed by a car bomb while approaching the Peshawar Sab’al-Layal mosque at 12.20pm on Friday 24th November 1989. It was a highly professional operation. Hegghammer rehearses the likely perpetrators settling tentatively on the Pakistan ISI whom he suspects wanted to push Arab fighters out the region once the Soviets had been defeated. Abdallah Azzam instantly became the revered martyr of global jihadism, his many books and speeches standard recruitment texts.
The Caravan is a long book, worth the time and effort, which gives a fascinating insight into the Promethean role of religious ideas. As Hegghammer writes in his last line: “There is no saying where the Caravan is heading next, but it is a fair bet that it will keep moving well into the twenty first century”.
Let’s hope he is proved wrong.