This last statement makes me think of the history of the United States and wonder whether an apparent deterioration in our national identity is resulting in increasing and more strident religious polarization with our country. Aslan seems to portray Islamism as an attempt to forge a global national identity, extending beyond the geography and concerns of any specific state or territory, with no specific other aims, and defining itself primarily by defining the other. In an historical review, Aslan implicitly compares the Jewish Zealots of 6 C.E. with modern day Muslim terrorists in their aims and tactics, fighting a perceived power by means aimed at triggering violent reactions and thus forcing a responsive uniting of their own religious nation-identity.
A lot of this book is Aslan's opinion dressed up as fact.
Although principally billed as an analysis and commentary on the so-called 'War on Terror' (ie - against Islamic Jihadists), the book is actually a wider discussion on religion, identity and violence. This is not purely a Islam and Christianity treatise, but includes how this dichotomy can result in internal schisms - Zealots vs Jewish collaborators with Rome, or Jihadists against the "Near Enemy" - a fellow Muslim that have been deemed 'kafir' or an infidel. Indeed, his main thesis is that the best way to win the cosmic war is not to fight it at all. He argues that the best way to deter Jihadists is not to engage on a religious level, but rather to make al-Qaeda irrelevant by listening to the concerns of local Muslims, and to encourage the growth of viable democracies in the Middle East.
His writing, like his interviews and talks, reflect his dedication to thinking about these issues in new ways and understanding the complexity of an all too commonly simplified argument: that Islam inherently fuels terrorism.
They choose to single-out religion as the main cause of terrorist acts such as 9/11, instead of looking at the situation from a sociopolitical standpoint. Granted, religion was involved, but it many other elements were at play.
His book tackles two questions: 1) Why the surge in religious identity?
The book title is clear-cut on what it aspires to achieve; providing ideas on how to win a 'cosmic' war and confronting radicalism. By confining his analysis to the global hard-core Jihadists, Aslan has confined the battle with these only and in many cases seemed to discount the increasing radicalization of more and more Muslims. He makes no mention of how on earth we can confront growing radicalism in Muslim-majority countries, except for asking for increased democratization. Well Mr. Aslan, almost one out of every three Muslim taxi drivers I meet in London and Boston have attended madrassas and their radical views are astounding. He makes no mention whatsoever of any reform needed for Islam or the need to create a uniform Islamic 'Marjaeya' whereby no Sheikh in the world is able to make a fatwa on his own; all we need to do according to the writer is to include Islamist parties in the democratic process.