Spear to the West

Thought and Recruitment in Violent Jihadism

May 2019 9781787381308 176pp
EU Customers


With the seeming defeat of ISIS, has jihadism disappeared from world politics? In this startling new book, Stephen Chan uncovers the ideological foundations that allow ISIS and other jihadi groups to survive, as they propagate terror by sophisticated means online and continue thrusting their spear at the West.

Far from presenting simple-minded, black-clad fighters, Chan describes an elaborate process of online recruitment, which is, in its own terrible way, meaningful and thoughtful. He examines the foundations of this thought and the step-by-step methods of jihadi indoctrination, exposing the lack of IT knowledge among Western world leaders and urging the ‘moderate’ Islamic community in the West to challenge jihadi ideology with a courageous, non-violent ideology of its own. Without a counterideology, Chan argues, alienated Muslim youth are drawn not only to glamorised dreams of violence, but also to the pull of a totalising system of politics and theology.

Spear to the West picks apart the fallacy of ‘thoughtless’ jihadi carnage, arguing that—dangerous and gruesome as it might be—there is more thought behind this phenomenon of destruction than meets the eye.


‘Chan’s argument … has at least two major implications: only those capable of speaking within the ideological terms of jihadis can counter their appeal, and counterterrorism strategists must consider using the Internet in ways they have not yet tried.’ — Foreign Affairs

‘Chan’s succinct and discerning study of violent jihadism and radicalization will reward specialists and policy-makers, but its apportionment in discrete, digestible essays makes it a good choice for anyone needing a primer on its complex and critically important subject.’ — Michigan War Studies Review

‘With erudition and élan, this insightful book challenges us to rise above facile condemnations and to acknowledge that contemporary jihadists evince a moral reasoning—one that is, at once, motivating, arrogant, and self-limiting.’ — James Piscatori, co-author of Muslim Politics

‘For anyone who is seeking to understand the mind of the jihadis, Chen has provided a wealth of information and insights.’ — The Muslim World Book Review

‘Stephen Chan is one of the great doyens of world politics. This book displays his distinctive global consciousness and unique cultural empathy, even when tackling the most contentious topics.’ — Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, Professor in Global Thought and Comparative Philosophies, SOAS University of London

‘In this brilliant, disturbing work, Chan lays bare the global jihad’s sinister engagement with modernity. Full of insights, it is one of the best treatments of radicalisation I have read.’ — John Calvert, Professor of History, Creighton University

‘Chan shows how the West incubates jihad and must instead respond actively to digital recruitment by ISIS. He also argues powerfully for debate within Islamic scholarship to accommodate Muslim aspirations for justice.’ — Alison Scott-Baumann, Professor of Society and Belief, SOAS University of London


Stephen Chan OBE is Professor of World Politics at SOAS University of London. He has advised governments, opposition leaders and liberation movements in many parts of Africa, and negotiated on the African side of delegations to Beijing. His many books include Spear to the West, also published by Hurst. Image © Adine Sagalyn

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