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Book Review: The Siege of Mecca

I’ve written a review of The Siege of Mecca: The Forgotten Uprising in Islam’s Holiest Shrine and the Birth of Al Qaeda, a riveting retelling of the events of November, 1979, when a group of around 500 Islamic extremists (including at least two American Black Muslims) seized the Grand Mosque at Mecca. The author concludes that this action, taken along with other events of that momentous month, led to the Islamic extremism we’re experiencing today. He notes how the Saudi Ulema, in return for their continued support of the state, extorted a high price: the rolling back of many of the modest reforms and modernizations the government had achieved.

I think the book misses the target on some analysis, particularly in drawing conclusions from contested ‘facts’, and he simply gets some of the history wrong. But the book is very much on target when it comes to the siege in Mecca and the way it was resolved. It also goes into the role of French commandos, the utter failure of Jimmy Carter’s White House, and the way rumor could spread internationally, even in pre-Internet days. Definitely worth reading.

You can read my full review here.

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About John Burgess
Former US Foreign Service Officer serving predominantly in the Middle East. Probably best defined as an East Coast Conservative. I blog about Saudi Arabia, the importance of US-Saudi relations, and efforts toward reform in that country at Crossroads Arabia.