Al-Qaeda’s Forerunner

‘Not many people can tell you much about the November 1979 takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, by Islamist militants. That’s partly because the Saudi authorities, as is their way, kept a tight lid on information during that fateful two-week period when the regime’s survival seemed, for the first time, in danger. Little changed afterward by way of transparency (even if the Saudis released a fascinating Arabic-language video on the event, pouring opprobrium on the militants). That is why Yaroslav Trofimov’s just-published book The Siege of Mecca is so valuable a document, not only in describing the murky events surrounding the takeover almost 28 years ago, but also as a backgrounder on the depth of Salafist tendencies in Saudi Arabia and the later emergence of Al-Qaeda. Trofimov, an Asia-based reported for the Wall Street Journal, has written extensively on Islam and the Middle East. An earlier book, Faith at War: A Journey on the Frontlines of Islam, from Baghdad to Timbuktu, was selected as one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post.’ (Reason article).