While neither author does in fact answer all of these [challenging] questions, both books should nonetheless be exceedingly helpful for raising the consciousness of even the most casual readers.
John Allen opens with a visit to the Me’eter military camp and prison in a desert region of Eritrea near the African coast of the Red Sea. He describes the deplorable living conditions for the 2,000-3,000 people who are interned in this camp because they belong to branches of Christianity that Eritrea’s single-party, hypernationalist rulers, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, consider subversive. Their lot consists of desert heat, frigid nights, bodies crammed into unventilated 40′ x 38′ metal shipping containers, mindless tasks like counting grains of sand, death from heatstroke and dehydration, sexual abuse, and brutal beatings. And Allen wants to know “why the abuse at Me’eter doesn’t arouse the same horror and intense public fascination as the celebrated atrocities that unfolded at Abu Ghraib, for instance, or at Guantanamo Bay. Why hasn’t there been the same avalanche of investigations, media exposÃ©s, protest marches, pop culture references, and the other typical indices of scandal? Why isn’t the world abuzz with outrage over the grotesque violations of human rights at Me’eter?”
Rupert Shortt begins the world tour making up his book with a stop in Egypt and an interview with Dr. Ibrahim Habib, who now practices medicine in the British Midlands. Habib left Egypt after a gruesome incident in 1981 that took place in a Cairo suburb, al-Zawia al-Hamra. Local Muslims who wanted to build a mosque on land owned by Coptic Christians attacked violently with (according to Habib) “at least eighty people ”¦ killed in the violence, some people ”¦ burnt alive in their homes, and the police just looked on.” Shortt then documents how the influence of Salafist Wahhabi Islam, which arose after the formation in 1972 of Gama Islamiya, has become more intense over the years, often with fatal results.
Read it all from Books and Culture.