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.

FILED UNDER: Asia, Books, Intelligence, Middle East, National Security, Religion, Terrorism, US Politics, World Politics, , , , , , ,
John Burgess
About John Burgess
John Burgess retired after 25 years as a US Foreign Service Officer, serving predominantly in the Middle East. He contributed 35 pieces to OTB between February 2006 and April 2014. He was the proprietor of the influential Crossroads Arabia until his death in February 2016.