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To the Editor:
I write in response to the review of my book by Zoltan Pall of the National University of Singapore in The Middle East Journal, Volume 69, Number 3 (Summer 2015), pp. 481–82. When previous books of mine have been reviewed by The Middle East Journal, the authors took the time to read the material and pen an educated review. This is not the case with Pall, who fails, apparently on purpose, to even bother read the manuscript and yet makes brazen imprudent claims.
The following are his points and my responses:
1. He claims that I deal with Salafism as a social movement; however I don’t explain how Salafism fit in the larger family of social movements.
Had he read or paid attention to the sentences in the same paragraph, he would have found out that I specifically stated that “the methodological approach to the study will be qualitative, based on detecting and examining patterns and shifts in Salafi ideology and praxis.” Further down, I also explained the limits and restrictions of applying the theories of social movement.
2. He claims that I have a shallow understanding of Islam and Salafism and this has caused factual errors. He writes “One example among several is in his description of the Islamic Unification Movement (IUM, or Harakat al-Tawhid al-Islami in Arabic), which ruled Tripoli from 1983–1985 as a ‘movement with a Salafi tint.’” He writes, “Rabil does not seem to recognize that tawhid (the unity of God) is a fundamental Islamic concept; therefore its presence in IUM’s name is no indication per se of Salafi influence.”
No doubt, tawhid is a fundamental Islamic concept. But Salafi application of tawhid stands in sharp contrast to other schools of Islam. Significantly, had he read the previous or following sentences, he would have discovered why I called IUM a hybrid Islamist movement that included Salafi impulses. Significantly, this has been made clear by Muhammad Abi Samra, author of Tarablus [Tripoli], who identified “IUM as Salafi movement, led by a Salafi shaykh who sought to walk in the footsteps of the pious ancestors.”1
3. He claims that “Rabil also provides lengthy but superficial descriptions of the ideology of the quietist Shaykh Sa‘d al-Din al-Kibbi, and the haraki Zakariya al-Masri. While he gives some information about the former, he fails to provide any background on Masri.”
I am at a loss how could someone consider himself an academic and fail to follow through on the ideologies of the various schools of Salafism, which comprise an essential part of the book. Significantly, his assertion that I did not provide a background on Masri is by it-self [End Page 177] an ample proof that he did not read the manuscript. Masri’s background information is listed on p. 132fn68.
4). Then he claims that the last three chapters are extremely unbalanced. Defending this claim is beneath me. I suggest that if he does not have the time to have an honest and sober read of the manuscript, then I recommend he reads the reviews of the book by experts in the field.
The book was laudably reviewed by the Australian journal Quadrant, Boston College’s The Levantine Review, The Cambridge Journal of International Affairs, and last but not least by Al-Quds al-‘Arabi.
ROBERT G. RABIL, PH.D.
Zoltan Pall replies:
Professor Robert G. Rabil, in his...