Thursday, June 18, 2009

Inside the Revolution by Joel C. Rosenberg

Inside the Revolution is Joel C. Rosenberg’s second nonfiction book. Rosenberg got his start in literature as a novelist. His series of political thrillers began with The Last Jihad and seemed to foretell real events that happened shortly after they were published.

Rosenberg’s first foray into nonfiction was with Epicenter: How the Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Affect Your Future. This book, written in 2006 and updated in 2008, detailed Rosenberg’s worldview and explained how his novels became so eerily prescient. Among the predictions in Epicenter were his beliefs that Iraq would become a stable country, that Vladimir Putin would hold onto power in Russia, and that Iran would form a military alliance with Russia.

Rosenberg’s new nonfiction book, Inside the Revolution, is divided into three parts. Since the Six Day War in 1967, Muslims have been soul searching regarding their inability to defeat Israel with vastly superior forces. The results have led many to more virulent forms of radical Islam, while others have chosen the path of peace and reform. A surprising number have even converted to Christianity in a largely unreported religious revival sweeping the Middle East.

The first section, the Radicals, is the reason that many people will buy the book. This section includes a history of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic revolution in Iran as well as a look at Osama bin Laden’s personal history. It also contains a close look at the life and beliefs of current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The section contains many quotes from radical leaders that dispel the notion that Iran’s leaders seek nuclear power for peaceful purposes. It also features interviews with prominent figures in US intelligence such as former CIA Director Porter Goss and former Delta Force commander Jerry Boykin. Presumably, radical Islamic leaders declined to be interviewed.

Along the way, Rosenberg points out that much of what US intelligence believed about Muslims has been wrong over the years. These intelligence failures include the failures to predict the Iranian Revolution, the Pakistani nuclear weapon, the September 11 attacks, and the now famous intelligence failures regarding Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.

The section on radicals also includes a discussion of the end-times beliefs of President Ahmadinejad and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. These men subscribe to a Shia belief in the Twelfth Imam. This religious leader disappeared around AD 900. Members of the Twelver sect of Shia Islam believe that this leader, the Mahdi, will return during a time of violence and chaos to usher in a worldwide Islamic caliphate.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a confirmed believer in the Mahdi and has said as much in his addresses to the United Nations. Many western observers believe that the Ayatollah used his influence to help Ahmadinejad rise to the presidency from his position as mayor of Tehran, indicating that the Ayatollah shares his beliefs. Ahmadinejad’s words and actions as president of Iran indicate that, as Iran becomes a nuclear power, he intends to confront Israel and the United States in an effort to summon the Mahdi. Rosenberg documents Ahmadinejad’s speeches to confirm these intentions.

The second section of the book is Reformers. This section is devoted to prominent Muslim leaders who are seeking to reform their national governments into a Muslim version of Jeffersonian democracy. The Reformer section includes several profiles of national leaders such as Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai, Iraq’s Nouri Al-Maliki and Jalal Talibani, Morrocan King Mohammed VI, and the late Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan. Many interviews are included as well.

Rosenberg also discusses the differences in theology of the Reformers from that of the Radicals. Many of the Koranic passages used by the Radicals are interpreted as figurative or out of context by the Reformers.

Rosenberg also points to some areas where the Reformers are making headway against the Radicals. Morocco is probably the best example. King Mohammed VI has taken strong steps to prevent the growth of radical Islam in his country. He does this by making sure that mosques and madrassas are teaching the peaceful version of Islam rather than inciting violence, empowering women, fighting poverty, and reaching out to both east and west. He also reaches out to Christians and members of Morocco’s Jewish community.

Another success is the conversion of several prominent terrorists from jihad to peaceful Islam. Tawfik Hamid, a disciple of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, rejected the violent version of Islam and began preaching the peaceful message of the Koran. Similarly, a former Al Qaeda theologian, Sayyed Imam al-Sharif, wrote a fatwa from an Egyptian jail calling for an end to terrorism and the formation of an Islamic court to try Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The final section of the book is probably the most intriguing. The section detailing the Revivalists tells the largely unknown story of the Christian awakening sweeping the Moslem world. While Christian missionaries to the Muslims had very little success for hundreds of years, over the past thirty to forty years hundreds of thousands of Muslim men and women have become followers of Christ. In a large percentage of these conversions, supernatural dreams and visions of Jesus played a role in the conversion process.

The Revivalists differ from the Radicals and the Reformers in that they are not seeking political power. The Revivalists are not organized into a party or political group at all. Due to the fact that it is illegal and potentially dangerous to renounce Islam, many new believers are isolated and alone. Additionally, the purpose of the Revivalists is not to threaten the ruling regimes, but to spread the gospel of Christ (although many Islamic rulers find this a threatening act in itself).

Rosenberg interviews prominent Middle Eastern evangelists and converts. Many of their stories are nothing short of miraculous. Two of the stories are especially memorable to me. In one, a woman who heard the Bible verse in which Jesus says “I stand at the door and knock” (Revelation 3:20). Not understanding that His words were figurative, she opened the door to her house to find that Jesus was actually there. In another story, an Iraqi Christian businessman was kidnapped by militants. After a ransom was paid, they shot him in the back of the head. He died and actually saw Jesus before coming back to life and finding help.

The scope of the Christian awakening in the Middle East is not fully known. There is no census of believers and, even if there were, many would not participate due to the danger. It is clear from communications with groups that broadcast via satellite and radio that Muslim converts number in the hundreds of thousands or possibly millions. Rosenberg also cites statements by government officials and religious leaders in Muslim countries that shown concern about the growing numbers of Muslims who renouncing Mohammed in favor of Christ.

Inside the Revolution is an insightful book for anyone interested in the politics of the Middle East, which should be all of us at this point. It provides an in-depth and balanced look at the major players in the politics of the Middle East and is a fascinating read. His previous works show that Rosenberg is a credible and knowledgeable analyst of the Middle East.

Rosenberg, Joel C. Inside the Revolution: How the Followers of Jihad, Jefferson, and Jesus Are Battling to Dominate the Middle East and Transform the World, Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, IL, 2009.

Greensboro NC

1 comment: said...

Read the whole fiction series through Copper Scroll. Haven't read the last in the fiction series.

I don't know if I would call Joel balanced exactly (I'm not balanced either), but there is a lot of good material in his books.

Derek Leman