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Jihadi Violence: A study of al- Qaeda's media

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Andreas Armborst
Jihadi Violence
A study of al-0aeda's media
Schriftenreihe des Max-Planck-Instituts
für ausländisches und internationales
Kriminologische Forschungsberichte
Herausgegeben von Hans-Jörg Albrecht
und Günther Kaiser
\ [ax-Planck-lnstitut
nrausländisches und
Many speculations revolve around the political goals of Islarnists and jihadists.
What is it that al-Qaeda think they can achieve through political violence? This
book provides clear answers to this and other important questions. Based on the
systematic analvsis of claims of responsibilities and video messages of al-Qaeda
leaders, it opens intriguing insights into the world view and mindset of the jihadi
movement. Thereby it enables the reader to gain a clearer picture of the politicalreligious prograln of Islamism and to better distinguish between its radical and
moderate political claims. This knowledge is important because political Islam
and jihadi violence not only is an increasinglv important topic in domestic politics,
but also became, through the Arab Spring, a tangible factor in foreign affairs.
In al-Qaeda's ideology theological and political arguments are blended into
coherent media strategy. Politjcal claims and grievances are convincingly backed
up bv quasi-journalistic evidence, whereas theological arguments are complemented
b1'legal references to the Quran ald Sunna. In addition, the jihadi leaders provide
doctrines and strategies describing how the use of force can defend Islam against
its perceived three existential threats - the global conflict, Arab despotism and
seculal governance. Theological and strategic considerations converge in al-Qaeda's
rationale for vio]ence.
ISBN 978-3-861 13-1 19-9 (Mu-Plmck-Institut)
ISBN 978-3-,128-14049-7 (Dmcker & Humblot)
Andreas Armborst
Jihadi Violence
A study of al-Qaeda’s media
Schriftenreihe des Max-Planck-Instituts für
ausländisches und internationales Strafrecht
Kriminologische Forschungsberichte
Herausgegeben von Hans-Jörg Albrecht
und Günther Kaiser
Band K 159
Andreas Armborst
Jihadi Violence
A study of al-Qaeda’s media
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Many speculations revolve around the goals and motivations of jihadi militancy.
Andreas Armborst’s study reveals the political, social, and theological reasons for
violence as they are expressed in the media of al-Qaeda. His empirical analysis of
video statements, communiqués, and claims of responsibility points to important
differences between jihadi militant doctrines as stated in the ideology of al-Qaeda
in the frontier region of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and their implementation on the
ground by jihadist groups in Iraq during the 2006-2008 civil war. The jihadi ideology is evidently relevant for jihadi insurgents to signify their action, but there are
also examples of their disregard for it when political and strategic imperatives
make it difficult for them to adhere to ideological restraints. However, the principal
rationale of jihadi violence is the fact that religious fanaticism often outweighs political opportunism and pragmatism. It appears, that jihadists rather chose to fail
strategically than to change in their ideology. With this book, the author provides
an insightful and comprehensive explanation of the logic of jihadi violence. This
logic is deeply imbedded in a comprehensive worldview that al-Qaeda proliferates
through its media; a worldview that blends religious, political and journalistic aspects into a militant ideology. The reader of this book will learn about the main
differences between political Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood and jihadi fundamentalism of al-Qaeda. What both have in common is that they appeal to the authority of Salafism, though to different degrees and with different accentuation.
This triad – Islamism, Jihadism and Salafism – will morph and alter in reaction to
the current political upheavals in the Middle East. As such, Andreas Armborst’s
book provides an excellent starting point to study the socio-religious developments
in Sunni Arab countries against the backdrop of the “Arab Awakening.”
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Hans-Jörg Albrecht
Director of the Max Planck Institute for
Foreign and International Criminal Law
Freiburg im Breisgau
Science explains what is happening around us the whole time.
So does religion, but science is better
because it comes up with more understandable excuses when it is wrong.
(Terry Pratchett, Wings)
I wrote this book within the International Max Planck Research School on Retaliation, Mediation and Punishment (IMPRS REMEP) at the Max Planck Institute for
Foreign and International Criminal Law in Freiburg i.Br. I simply could not have
written this book with all due rigor and enthusiasm without the excellent conditions
this program provides – namely the research facilities, seminars, workshops, supervision, funding, and a marvelous team of international and interdisciplinary doctoral students. I am particularly grateful for the support I received from my supervisors in Freiburg: Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Hans-Jörg Albrecht, Prof. Dr. Baldo Blinkert,
Priv. Doz. Dr. Rita Haverkamp, and from the coordinator of the research school Dr.
Carolin Hillemanns. Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Ulrich Sieber gave me instructive advice in the early phase of the project.
The study benefits tremendously from the close cooperation with the Max Planck
Institute for Social Anthropology, which is one of the REMEP partner institutions.
On several occasions, such as the annual winter schools, I discussed this study at
different stages with Dr. Bertram Turner, Prof. Dr. Günther Schlee, and Prof. Dr.
Franz and Keebet von Benda-Beckmann. Their expertise in Islamic culture kept my
topic in perspective.
Katrin Zippel, Carolijn Terwindt, Csaba Gyoery, and Chris Murphy gave me
valuable feedback on the manuscript of the book and thereby improved its readability and intelligibility.
I dedicate this work to my parents Dagmar and Jürgen Armborst, who supported
me along the way.
Freiburg i.Br., August 2013
Andreas Armborst
Foreword .............................................................................................................................. V
Contents .............................................................................................................................. IX
List of Figures ..................................................................................................................... XI
List of Tables ...................................................................................................................... XI
List of Abbreviations..........................................................................................................XII
Introduction: Aim and outline of the study ............................................................ 1
A Models, concepts, and theories .................................................................... 7
Modeling terrorism and political violence.......................................................... 7
2.1 Three criminological anomalies of terrorism........................................................ 9
2.2 Challenges for impartial research on crime and terrorism.................................. 12
2.3 Terrorism: Political violence or political label? ................................................. 16
2.3.1 Terrorism as political discretion.............................................................. 17
2.3.2 Terrorism as political violence ................................................................ 18
2.3.3 The continuum of political violence........................................................ 21
2.4 Summary............................................................................................................. 25
Modeling jihadism................................................................................................... 29
3.1 Islamic activism .................................................................................................. 30
3.1.1 Islamism/political Islam .......................................................................... 33
3.1.2 Islamic nationalism.................................................................................. 35
3.1.3 Islamic fundamentalism/Salafism ........................................................... 37
3.2 Jihad in the book: The dogmatic dimension of jihadism .................................... 42
3.2.1 Origins of the jihad-dogma...................................................................... 43
3.2.2 Contentious aspects of jihad.................................................................... 44
3.3 Jihad in action: The military history of jihad...................................................... 47
3.4 Summary............................................................................................................. 51
B Empirical part .................................................................................................... 53
Methodology .............................................................................................................. 53
4.1 Research in the social sciences ........................................................................... 53
4.2 Research methods for analyzing jihadi media .................................................... 55
4.2.1 Discourse analysis ................................................................................... 57
4.2.2 Frame analysis......................................................................................... 59
4.2.3 Content analysis ...................................................................................... 62
4.3 Research design and method of the study........................................................... 64
4.3.1 Sampling and data acquisition................................................................. 65
4.3.2 Coding procedure .................................................................................... 68
4.3.3 Data analysis............................................................................................ 69
4.3.4 Automated concept mapping using Leximancer ..................................... 71
The ideology of jihadism ....................................................................................... 75
Mapping AQ’s ideology: Frames, narratives, themes, and issues
in jihadi media ........................................................................................................ 79
6.1 The socio-political analysis of jihadism ............................................................. 82
6.1.1 Apostasy .................................................................................................. 84
Grievances ............................................................................. 85
Religious supremacy.............................................................. 88
Types of apostasy................................................................... 93
Conclusions and thematic links ............................................. 99
6.1.2 Global conflict....................................................................................... 103
Grievances ........................................................................... 104
Points of conflict .................................................................. 106
War of ideas ......................................................................... 108
Conclusions and thematic links ........................................... 112
6.1.3 Rejection of secular governance............................................................ 113
Theological rejection of democracy..................................... 114
Political-strategic rejections of democracy .......................... 116
General grievances about secular governance ..................... 118
Conclusions and thematic links ........................................... 122
6.2 The goals of AQ ............................................................................................... 123
6.2.1 Truce conditions .................................................................................... 123
6.2.2 Programmatic goals............................................................................... 125
6.2.3 Conclusions and thematic links ............................................................. 126
6.3 The means: Doctrines and strategies of jihad ................................................... 129
6.3.1 Instrumentality of force ......................................................................... 130
Strategic instrumentality ...................................................... 130
Religious instrumentality ..................................................... 134
Conclusions and thematic links ........................................... 137
6.3.2 Justifications for violence...................................................................... 142
Political justifications........................................................... 142
Theological justifications..................................................... 145
Conclusions and thematic links ........................................... 152
6.3.3 Appeals and advice................................................................................ 153
Jihadism in Iraq ..................................................................................................... 159
7.1 The conflict in Iraq ........................................................................................... 159
7.1.1 External factors of the conflict .............................................................. 162
Iran ....................................................................................... 162
Jihadi ideology ..................................................................... 164
7.2 Jihadi ideology in action: Claims of responsibility of AQI and AAS .............. 171
7.2.1 Assassinations ....................................................................................... 175
7.2.2 Abductions and hostage taking.............................................................. 176
7.2.3 Battles and military campaigns ............................................................. 178
7.2.4 Commando operations and hit and run tactics ...................................... 180
7.3 Ideological alignment of AQ central and AAS/AQI......................................... 182
7.3.1 Religious aspects of jihadi violence ...................................................... 184
7.3.2 Strategic aspects of jihadi violence ....................................................... 186
List of Figures and Tables
7.3.3 Ideological transfer and lessons learned................................................ 191
7.4 Conclusion ........................................................................................................ 193
Summary, conclusions, and outlook .................................................................. 195
Bibliography...................................................................................................................... 203
Annex ................................................................................................................................ 217
Automated concept mapping using Leximancer....................................................... 217
Sample transcript: AAZ July 27, 2006....................................................................... 225
Text segments from AQ statements .......................................................................... 227
Text segments from the claims of responsibility of AAS and AQI .......................... 259
Humor, sarcasm, and irony in jihadi media .............................................................. 265
List of Figures
Figure 1:
Figure 2:
Figure 3:
Figure 4:
Figure 5:
Figure 6:
Figure 7:
Figure 8:
Thirteen definitional features of Jihadism ..................................................... 50
Sampling stages and sources for AQ statements ............................................ 68
Proportion of thematic categories in relation to total word count .................. 77
Frames, narratives, themes and issues in AQ’s ideology ............................... 81
The Iraqi insurgency 2003-2009................................................................... 164
A claim of responsibility from AAS............................................................. 173
Computer and user generated seed word list ................................................ 221
Leximancer concept map for 31 AQ statements........................................... 224
List of Tables
Table 1:
Table 2:
Table 3:
Table 4:
Table 5:
Table 6:
Similarities in the criminological study of terrorism vs.
common crime ................................................................................................ 13
Continuum of political violence ..................................................................... 23
Five forms of Sunni Islamic activism............................................................. 32
Text intersection of two themes in the apostasy narrative.............................. 92
Theme relations matrix................................................................................. 100
Grievances as political justifications for violence ........................................ 144
List of Abbreviations
List of Abbreviations
Ansar al-Sunna (same as Ansar al-Islam)
Ayman al-Zawahiri
(Frontier region of) Afghanistan Pakistan
also known as
Al-Qaeda in Iraq
Adam Yahiye Gadahn
Abu Yayha al-Libi
British Broadcasting Corporation
Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
exempli gratia (for example)
et seq.
et sequentes (and the following ones)
International Crisis Group
id es (that is)
Improvised Explosive Device
Islamic State of Iraq
Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iraq
Mujahedeen Shura Council
Public Broadcasting Service
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
Usama Bin Laden
Introduction: Aim and outline of the study
Jihadi militancy is puzzling for many reasons. It sometimes brings about strategic
advances, while on other occasions it appears to be overly ideology-driven and illconsidered. The purposes of jihadi violence are indeed versatile and reach from
ideologically abstract to tactically precise. One of the often-stated questions about
jihadism and al-Qaeda (AQ)1 is whether its leaders are religious fanatics devoid of
all common sense or whether they are politically rational and power-hungry actors
who make strategic use of religion. This study of the jihadi ideology affirms both
assumptions. While AQ’s doctrinal extremism can be obstructive to strategic and
political achievements of the jihadi movement, its coherency has a certain appeal
for the jihadists, mobilizes uncompromising support, and creates adherents to the
“jihadi methodology.”
The scientific community, think tanks, and journalists have investigated topics
on terrorism and jihadism in great detail, producing everything from questionable
and irrelevant results to insightful, deep, and meaningful analyses.2 The vast majority of ideological and strategic writings by AQ affiliated authors have been comprehensively analyzed and closely monitored throughout its ongoing development.3
This might create the impression that the topic is already over-researched and that
this study will only add to this excess. Bearing such skepticism in mind, this study
seeks to gain four additional academic benefits for the study of political violence à
la jihadism. First, it provides a model of terrorism that bypasses some of the crucial
problems academics have faced when defining this contested term; second, it compiles some of the most important academic writings about the jihadi movement into
There are different transcription systems and rules for writing Arabic words in Latin
letters. This book does not strictly adhere to one of them. Whenever it cites transcribed words from other texts it adopts the transcription or transliteration style from
the original sources. Therefore one and the same word can appear in different spellings, e.g., al-Qaeda, al-Qaida, or al-Qa’ida. Likewise it does not consistently follow
the rule to assimilate the letter “l” from the article “al-“ when followed by a sun letter
(e.g., az-Zawahiri instead of al-Zawahiri).
For an overview of relevant studies in the field see Ranstorp 2007; Reid & Chen 2007
use bibliometric measures to identify the most influential scientists conducting terrorism research.
For instance, see the periodical “Current Trends in Islamist Ideology;” studies of the
Combating Terrorism Center at West Point (CTC) (e.g., McCants 2006), or the insightful private blog “Jihadica” of Thomas Hegghammer and his colleagues. For a
good introductory text on AQ’s ideology see Gunaratna 2005.
1. Introduction. Aim and outline of the study
a profile of jihadism that standardizes terminology and gives a brief and comprehensive overview of disparate information; third, it explains a methodological approach to systematically map the content of a given ideology; and fourth, it compares two different genres of jihadi media: the ideological statements of AQ central
and claims of responsibility for terrorist and military attacks by jihadist groups in
Iraq. The two models, the analytical model of terrorism and political violence, and
the phenomenological model of Salafi jihadism, shall help to put the empirical
findings of content analysis into the right context.
The results provide a comprehensive picture of the different jihadi narratives,
themes, opinions, political positions, strategies, and goals discussed in a sample of
31 statements from three important AQ leaders, Usama bin Laden (UBL), Ayman
al-Zawahiri (AAZ), and Abu Yahya al-Libi (AYL). They provide empirical support
for some of the existing findings from previous research on jihadism, extend this
knowledge to new aspects, and integrate them into a comprehensive description of
the jihadi ideology. Relational content analysis proved to be a particularly valuable
methodological tool for revealing how different narratives and themes in the ideology are interrelated. For instance, the analyzed statements clearly reflect the two
known dimensions of AQ’s conflict. Against both the near enemy and the far enemy, AQ wages a military as well as a propagandistic war. The movement pursues a
distinct set of goals within each of these four battlefronts, which all converge at the
strategic constant of jihadi fundamentalism: the establishment of caliphates based
on the Sharia rule of law.
The leading research question for this analysis is how jihadi media describes the
use of force to be necessary, legitimate, and instrumental for the jihadi movement,
both in theory (in the ideology) and in action (as stated in the claims of responsibility of Iraqi insurgents). For this purpose, it is examined what spokesmen of AQ
communicate about this issue in the movement’s propaganda. AQ central is just
one player of the jihadi movement, but the ideas and worldviews of its leaders are
influential and inspire a broad constituency, not least because of the organization’s
successful efforts to produce sophisticated media, such as professionally produced
videos, magazines, and other formats. This study scrutinizes the political statements of AQ central, because their leaders clearly express why “force must be an
element in change”4 and why “there is no solution without jihad.”5 AQ expectations about what can realistically be achieved through the use of force against an
overpowering enemy reveal that jihadi violence is not only used as a strategicmilitary means but is also considered to be religious performance aimed to prove
unbiased interpretation of Islamic law. By waging jihad, even against all strategic
odds, jihadi fundamentalists want to demonstrate their independence from national____________
AAZ, July 4, 2007, 296.
AAZ, December 20, 2006, 116.
1. Introduction: Aim and outline of the study
ist political interests and from secular politics in general, a trait that is important for
claiming leadership of disparate Islamist groups and organizations.
On the individual level it can be expected that there are many different factors
explaining a person’s engagement in political violence, such as a striving for social
solidarity,6 retaliation for experienced loss or political repression, and economic
incentives. The question whether or not the ideology is a driving factor for individuals to engage in political violence is not to be answered here. Rather this study is
located on the meso-level between socio-psychological explanations for decision
making and action on the one hand and structural explanations for observations on
the macro-level on the other hand. Acknowledging that various factors must be
expected to be causes of political violence, it is assumed in this study that one prerequisite for ideologically concerted violence is a common understanding among
the actors of how the engagement in violence is instrumental, purposeful, and justified. It would certainly be wrong to assume that violent activism always needs a
strong, deep, rational, or inherently relevant purpose to be committed. In a situation
of conflict and anomie, the moral and rational threshold for the use of force is low.
In this regard, jihadi violence in theory is different from jihadi violence in action.
While the ideological statements of AQ leaders in the frontier region of Afghanistan and Pakistan (AfPak) construct a complex narrative about the rationale for
violence, jihadi groups in Iraq engage in violent activism casually and often without giving a broader explanation of how this is strategically or theologically beneficial for the movement.
This study investigates the officially stated reasons, motives, and purposes for jihadi violence as a means to reach a set of socio-political goals. This approach corresponds to Max Weber’s understanding of the discipline of sociology as “the science whose object is to interpret the meaning of social action and thereby give a
causal explanation of the way in which the action proceeds and the effects which it
produces. By ‘action’ in this definition is meant the human behavior when and to
the extent that the agent or agents see it as subjectively meaningful.”7 Following
Weber’s tradition of sociology, this study investigates the meaning the jihadi
movement attaches to its violent action. In other words, it seeks to identify causes
for jihadi violence from the jihadists’ point of view. Subjective meaning should be
taken into account because objective, directly observable factors (such as poverty
rates, corruption, repression, occupation, social alienation, moral disparities) do not
lead deterministically to political violence but are cognitively processed by social
actors who may or may not find violent resistance an opportune reaction to prevail____________
Abrahms 2008, 96.
Runciman 1991, 7. In German: “eine Wissenschaft, welche soziales Handeln deutend
verstehen und dadurch in seinem Ablauf und seinen Wirkungen ursächlich erklären
will” (Weber 1972, 1).
1. Introduction. Aim and outline of the study
ing social conditions. Understanding8 the “world according to the actor” is a necessary analytical step to explain and identify factors that influence his/her behavior. If
we understand the subjective causes (motivations) actors attach to their action, we
have identified an intervening (mediating) variable between an empirically observable causal factor (corruption, repression, poverty, occupation, moral disparities)
and an empirically observable action (terrorism, political violence). The purpose of
this study is to interpret the officially declared meaning of social action (here: jihadi violence) by analyzing statements from the jihadi movements that grant insights into this question. As said, it cannot be assumed without further investigation
that the meaning of jihadi violence, as it is officially communicated by the leadership, is the same meaning that motivates the single individual. But it seems plausible to assume that an actor adopts the ideology to a certain degree, that is radicalizes, before practicing violence in its name.
Before starting a systematic empirical analysis of a social phenomenon, one has
to precisely define and conceptualize the subject under study. Two central terms for
this study are “political (including terrorist) violence” and “jihadi violence.”
Chapter 2 discusses political (and terrorist) violence. According to the understanding of political violence as a means to change or preserve socio-political conditions, jihadi violence is one tangible occurrence within the extended family of
political violence, as it actively opposes secularization of Islam. Political violence
can be modeled as a continuum with different degrees of target and purpose substitutability. At the one end of the continuum is terrorist violence, characterized by
the fact that its actor is indifferent to various targets since he9 is indifferent to various political consequences of the attack. This is what distinguishes terrorism (even
though only slightly from related analytical categories of political violence, such as
guerrilla warfare or targeted military engagement by regular armies. The model of
political violence introduced in chapter 2 seeks to resolve one of the factors which
obstruct academic agreement concerning a definition of terrorism, namely the fact
that most disputed definitions implicitly or explicitly refer to the concept of innocence, which is too ambiguous a definitional parameter and therefore easily triggers
Chapter 3 discusses the concept of jihadism. For the purpose of this study, jihadi
violence is defined as physical harm committed by actors executing the doctrine of
jihad (jihad according to the heterodox interpretation of jihadism). In other words,
jihadi violence is violence motivated and inspired by the ideology of jihadism. This
definition is subjective because it is characterized by motivation rather than clearcut behavioral criteria (violence is considered jihadi when the actor claims it to be
Weber uses the term “verstehen”, which is sometimes used in English, too.
In this book no gender neutral language is used. Whenever applicable, the respective
word refers to both genders.
1. Introduction: Aim and outline of the study
so). However, this subjectivity is intrinsic to jihadi violence as there is no univocal
Islamic position on central religious-judicial questions concerning jihad.10 But this
definition still does not reveal when an observable act of political violence is jihadi,
because we first need to clarify what makes someone an adherent to jihadism, as
opposed, e.g., to an adherent of an Islamist national liberation movement. Therefore it is necessary to further specify the characteristics of jihadism, or the jihadi
movement, which is not a simple matter because it is tricky to discern jihadism
from related and similar types of Islamic activism and Islamic judicial interpretations of jihad. Most generally, jihadism can be described as one contemporary form
of (Sunni) Islamic fundamentalism that opposes secular influences in Islam by way
of violent activism (namely jihad).11 Chapter 3 thoroughly and systematically conceptualizes jihadism together with its distinctive judicial interpretation of jihad.
Against the backdrop of these two crucial concepts, the empirical section of this
study (chapters 4–6) describes the method and results of a content analysis. The
findings systematically map the various narratives, themes, and topics stated in a
sample of ideological media. They provide intriguing insights into the worldview
of UBL and other jihadi leaders, their communicative strategies, grievances, and
socio-religious expectations. In the last part of this study, claims of responsibility
for terrorist attacks of jihadi groups in Iraq are analyzed to describe their strategies,
modus operandi, and stated reasons and compare them with the ideological writings of AQ central.
Despite all its particularities, the global conflict between jihadi fundamentalism
and secular governance includes aspects which are universal to other conflicts. For
example, references to retaliation and punishment are not only used by jihadi ideologues to legitimize their violent activism as reciprocal action but also to rationalize
apparently irrational military action. On the theological level, AQ refers to the religious concept of jihad to render strategically flawed militancy meaningful. It is
sociologically surprising that AQ succeeds in maintaining a robust military conflict
The juridical pluralism is not restricted to the legal concept of jihad but is omnipresent in Islamic jurisprudence. It is due to what Abdul Jackson calls “the problem of
free speech” in Islamic law (Jackson 2002, 3). By this, he means that every jurist can
have his own position on any legal topic.
One leading ideologist from the jihadi movement defines the jihadi current as follows: “It comprises organizations, groups, assemblies, scholars, intellectuals, symbolic figures, and the individuals who have adopted the ideology of armed jihad against
the existing regimes in the Arab-Islamic world on the basis that these apostate regimes are ruling not by what Allah said […], by legislating without Allah, and by giving their loyalty and assistance to the various infidel enemies of the Islamic Nation.
The jihadi current has also adopted the program of armed jihad against the colonialist
forces which attack Muslim land on the basis that those regimes are allies fighting Islam and Muslims” (Abu Mussab al-Suri 2004, translated and quoted by Lia 2009c,
1. Introduction. Aim and outline of the study
which is not only questionable from a strategic point of view (other Islamist
movements such as Hamas have achieved much more politically) but also contradicts mainstream Islamic jurisprudence. Indeed, for AQ, deviation from or abolition of jihadi militancy, whether for reasons of political opportunism or theological
reform, is evidently a consequence of the distortion of Islam due to general processes of secularization and democratization in the Islamic world. While many
welcome these developments, AQ counters them.
A Models, concepts, and theories
Modeling terrorism and political violence12
Because there are considerably different views about what terrorism is, it is necessary to specify the usage of the term within this study. Issues that have to be clarified when addressing terrorist and jihadi violence include questions such as: Can
terrorism be studied like other crime phenomena? What are the conceptual and
methodological challenges when framing terrorism as crime or military conflict?
What are the epistemological consequences of studying a highly politicized object?
What makes terrorist violence phenomenologicaly different from other forms of
political violence such as guerrilla warfare and insurgency? To answer these questions this chapter reviews what social scientists have contributed to the conception
of terrorism.
While most people are likely to agree that there is a global phenomenon termed
“Terrorism,” a legal or scientific definition thereof is not so commonly shared.
Physical violence (and the threat thereof) in combination with some political, religious, or other ideological goals is a necessary but not sufficient characteristic of
terrorist acts and strategies. Taking into account sociological and criminological
conceptions of terrorism and the academic debate surrounding them, this chapter
introduces a model of terrorism that depicts the essential features of this form of
political violence and thereby bypasses some of the existing conceptual difficulties
and misconceptions. We learn from the various definitions on terrorism that its
singularity has something to do with the victim, the purpose, and the consequences
of violence. Specifically, the fact that terrorists are indifferent to various targets as
they are indifferent to the various political consequences of their attack is what
distinguishes terrorism slightly from related phenomena of political violence such
as guerrilla warfare and insurgency. This chapter specifies the nuances of political
violence in order to locate terrorist violence on this continuum. The subsequent
empirical analysis in chapters 6 and 7 is to locate jihadi violence – as it is described
in AQ’s own narrative about the use of force – on this continuum.
Substantive parts of this chapter are included in Armborst 2010.
2. Modeling terrorism and political violence
Researching a social phenomenon that is considered a menace to society creates
a political climate within the research context. In such a politicized setting, political
requirements can interfere with scientific objectives. The discipline of criminology13 traditionally has to find the right balance between the two. This experience
might be particular helpful for studying terrorism – the embodiment of the social
threat. Many criminologists have experienced the accusation of being apologetic to
the unjustifiable, when they approach a unanimously condemned crime such as
paedophilia, drug-trafficking or terrorism with a value free approach instead of a
problem solving approach. However, it is exactly the study of deviant behavior and
terrorism which has to disengage from a politicized and therefore deadlocked view
on the topic if it wants to analyze crime within the wider context of society and not
only from a preventive perspective. Consequently, a precise analytical definition of
the term terrorism may have no applicability for the prevention of terrorism.
One reason that accounts for the problem of defining terrorism is the constant attempt to define terrorism as a mutually exclusive category of political violence.
Apparently it is difficult to define the line of distinction because terrorism definitions usually – either implicitly or explicitly – refer to the concepts of innocence
and conflict involvement of the victim, e.g., by using the term civilian. Just as there
are different degrees of innocence (different degrees of involvement into the conflict), violence against more or less innocent and uninvolved people is terrorism to
a different degree. This is not to say that such attacks are tragic to different degrees
– they are tragic in any case – but for the purpose of an analytical definition moral
assessments are obstructive. The innocence and neutrality of the victims usually is
contested because perpetrators, victims, and third parties hold different views of
how deeply they are involved in the conflict and to what degree they are responsible for the problem that motivates the terrorists. One person’s neutral civilian is
another person’s collaborator. Because innocence and responsibility is disputed, the
degree of substitutability of the terrorist target (and purpose) might be the more
objective definitional parameter for terrorist violence. Both parameters, victim and
purpose substitutability, can therefore be used as indicators to assess the degree of
terrorism of any given act of political violence. Deliberate physical violence
against humans is terroristic to the degree to which different victims as well as
different anticipated political consequences of the violent act are substitutes. The
term substitute is borrowed from economics and indicates two or more choices of
goods that all equally satisfy the consumer’s preferences. Accordingly, terrorist
violence is physical harm against humans committed by a perpetrator who is indifferent about who the victim is, and indifferent about what the political consequences of the attack are. Content analysis of jihadi media reveals that AQ has strategic
as well as religious expectations about the use of force and violence. According to
“Criminology” is used here synonymously with the term “sociology of deviance and
social control.”
2.1 Three criminological anomalies of terrorism
these mixed expectations religious performance can compensate for possible strategic flaws and therefore the jihadists are indeed indifferent about various consequences of their attacks as long as they consider the attack to be part of jihad warfare.
Section 2.1 of this chapter shows conceptual differences between terrorism and
more usual forms of delinquency as they are discussed in the criminological literature. These differences are summarized here as three anomalies of terrorism. The
chapter proceeds by pointing to an important similarity of studying crime and terrorism, that is, the question of impartiality in the study of condemned behavior.
Sections 2.2 and 2.3 then go on to depict two very different social facts that both fit
the term terrorism. One is the discretionary/political usage of the term; the other is
a particular type of political violence.
Three criminological anomalies of terrorism
The discipline of criminology investigates social processes of “law (rule) making,
law breaking, and reactions to law breaking.”14 Prior to the events of 9/11, criminologists were somewhat reluctant to study terrorism.15 Instead, this field was covered by political scientists and the terrorism studies community. Terrorism obviously involves acts of law breaking and is prosecuted by law enforcement
institutions. It is thus rather surprising that the subject hardly found its way onto the
criminology research agenda for a long time, while other unusual crime phenomena, for instance macro crime, have been dealt with. This might be due to the fact
that there are some conceptual difficulties that appear when one tries to frame terrorism as crime and delinquency. One problem is to determine what kind of criminal acts should be considered terrorist crimes. Should only the violent acts or also
the numerous “terrorist oriented crimes”16 that are intended to prepare the attack,
like money laundering, document fraud, or weapon procurement be considered?
What about preparatory acts that are not criminal, like travelling or flight training?
But even if the researcher limits the subject-matter to the very act of performing
violence, conceptual difficulties still remain. Indeed, we have to admit from a criminological point of view that terrorism is an unusual form of delinquency. The crucial conceptual differences between ordinary crime and terrorism that are discussed
in the literature can be understood and summarized by thinking of three anomalies
of terrorism.
Sutherland 1934, 3.
There are exceptions to this trend, for instance see Hess 1983; Sack, Steinert & Berlit
Hamm 2007, 10.
2. Modeling terrorism and political violence
Terrorist violence is moralistic violence:
Unlike the offender of stereotypical crimes such as theft, vandalism, drug offences,
or tax fraud, the terrorist offenders are convinced that they are restoring justice,
rather than breaking the law. Terrorism, for the terrorists, is not perceived as a
crime but as the reaction to a crime.17 However, this seems to be the case for some
other crimes, too. For Donald Black, many incidents of violent crime are unilateral
forms of self help, either to retaliate, settle a dispute, or compensate for the loss of
a previous crime when penal measures are absent or considered insufficient. Such
crimes therefore are conceptualized as “social control”18 and consequently can be
explained through theories of social control rather than theories of delinquency.
Yet, there are two attributes that distinguish vigilantism as social control from terrorism as social control. Vigilantism and penal measures defend the otherwise
same norm, whereby criminal sanctions imposed by state authorities replace individual righteousness as a reaction to norm violations. For the purposes of terrorism
there often is no legal option because the terrorist’s claims are usually at odds with
conventional values. Criminal punishment is the (lawful) reaction to an unlawful
act; vigilantism is the unlawful reaction to an unlawful act; and terrorism is the
unlawful reaction to an act (or societal condition) whose lawfulness is contested
and therefore cannot be addressed by law, because law requires a high degree of
social agreement on the worthiness of an interested to be legally protected. Donald
Black’s theoretical explanation of terrorism is about this very point: Certain societal constellations make it likely that collectives resort to terrorism to enforce their
values. Black calls this constellation the “geometry of terrorism” where adversaries
are “physically close but socially distant. […] The geometry of terrorism […] is not
conducive to social control through law. […] Thus, as a polarized structure of extremely distant adversaries attracts the quasi warfare of terrorism, so it attracts quasi-warfare against terrorism.”19
It is important to understand that the political claims asserted through terrorism
are not illegitimate per se. They are illegitimate from the point of view of the terrorist’s adversary of course; otherwise terrorism would not be necessary to assert
these goals. But terrorism is not characterized by the legitimacy or the illegitimacy
of the political claim but by the modus operandi of the activists.
Terrorist violence is vicarious:
The second difference between terrorism and vigilantism concerns the “anomalous” reciprocity of punishment. Unlike criminal punishment and vigilante justice,
terrorist violence does not punish the individual who is responsible for the per____________
As argued, for instance by Black 2004a.
Black 1983, 34.
Black 2004a, 14; see also Black 2004b.
2.1 Three criminological anomalies of terrorism
ceived wrong. In fact it would be difficult to determine a responsible individual in
the case of “offences” like, capitalism, secularization, or worldwide heresy. Rather,
terrorism “applies a standard of collective liability.”20 The actual addressee of terrorist violence is the state power, the society or more vaguely, the collective of “infidels,” “Zionists,” or “crusaders” in the case of jihadi terrorism. And just like terrorism is addressed against collectives, it is also committed by collectives, whereby
the individual bomb carrier is an agent of an ideology or constituency. Most occurrences of interpersonal violence can be categorized as either being moralistic or
coercive which means that the victim has either somehow provoked the aggression
or is simply an opportune target that can be coerced to satisfy some non-moralistic
desire of the offender (e.g., monetary or sexual). For terrorist violence this dichotomy does not apply: “As a form of violence, terrorism combines elements of predatory and moralistic violence. […] Terrorism uses the means of predatory violence
to accomplish the goal of moralistic violence.”21 The third anomaly of terrorism is
a consequence of its righteous nature and the political claims it shall promote.
Terrorist violence is not controlled by conventional criminal justice measures
Terrorist violence is difficult to control even by the ultima ratio of state-power,
being military violence, criminal investigation, and criminal punishment. This is
because terrorism intentionally challenges the state’s monopoly of force. Terrorism
seems to be the ultima ratio of resistance to state power. Heinrich Popitz’s22 paradox of power applies to the case of terrorism as the ultima ratio for the exercise of
power – killing – is a resource that everyone can use. Specifically the power to kill
is at the same time the prerequisite and the limitation of humans exercising power
over humans.
Because terrorism is neither a genuine crime nor a form of genuine military aggression, the nation state employs a mix of measures for social control and conflict
regulation in order to contain its occurrence; besides the “war model,” “the criminal justice model,” and the “expanded criminal justice model,”23 the “public health
model”24 and reconciliation and restorative justice25 have been introduced as a
means to counter terrorism. Because this mix of measures seems to be of insufficient effect, some states even reach out for utilitarian instruments of power like
extraordinary renditions, targeted killings, or torture of terrorist suspects, thereby
violating the very rules that they seek to protect through the war on terror. Subtler
Black 2004a, 10 and 11.
Rosenfeld 2004, 19 and 22.
Popitz 1992, 60.
Pedahzur & Ranstorp 2001, 1.
Braithwaite 2005, 106.
Sederberg 1995.
2. Modeling terrorism and political violence
changes in some domestic criminal justice systems have been described as demonstrating a “preventive turn”26 in penal policy. It seems that for offences related to
terrorism the state favors the imperative to prevent such crimes over constitutional
or human rights of potential offenders.27
Some authors argue that these anomalies make research on terrorism incompatible with criminological paradigms and therefore terrorism should not be studied as
an occurrence of delinquency.28 While it seems reasonable that criminological theory alone cannot sufficiently explain terrorist violence, it is not convincing to exclude it from criminological research for this reason alone. Theoretical and conceptual difficulties only indicate the necessity for criminology to cope with reality.
After all, it is the reality which sharpens theory and not vice versa: “If terrorism
does not fit some theory, why blame terrorism, why not blame the theory.”29 Likewise, Sebastian Scheerer argues that the discipline must and can adapt to the everchanging “Sinnprovinz”30 of delinquency.
Challenges for impartial research on crime and terrorism
Besides conceptual anomalies the study of terrorism and the study of crime also
have some common ground. Dugan and LaFree have identified ten similarities that
are summarised in Table 1.31
From an epistemological point of view one important similarity is missing in this
enumeration. For the study of terrorism as for the study of crime, the researcher can
choose whether he takes a preventive or an impartial approach to the object of
study. This is a classical dilemma in criminological research because the general
expectation of politicians, funding agencies, and the general public is that criminological research should contribute to the solution of the crime problem. Although
these expectations are admissible, the discipline is not predominantly responsible
for the eradication of crime, but for providing a general picture about the causes
and consequences of delinquency, and how human collectives deal with norm violations. According to these two sometimes competing expectations, criminological
research can be divided into applied “administrative criminology”32 and fundamental research. For research in terrorism the same division has been acknowledged.33
For instance, see Garland 2001.
Walzer 2007.
Niggli 2002, 25; for a dissenting opinion, see Albrecht 2002, 5.
Rosenfeld 2002, 3.
Analogues translation: “realm”, Scheerer 2002b, 37.
LaFree & Dugan 2004, 54-57.
See Young 1986 and Young 1988.
For instance Silke 2004, 15 and Chomsky 1987.
2.2 Challenges for impartial research on crime and terrorism
Table 1: Similarities in the criminological study of terrorism vs. common crime
as discussed in Lafree & Dugan (2004)
Comparing the study of terrorism with the study of crime: similarities
Terrorism, like common crimes:
ƒ are interdisciplinary studied
ƒ are both social constructs
ƒ are selectively prosecuted and thereby show the discrepancy
between law in the books and law in action
ƒ are disproportionately committed by young males
ƒ undermine social trust, when they appear on a sustained level
For the study of terrorism, like for the study of common crime, similar
kinds of analysis are relevant:
ƒ Patterns, distributions, and trends
ƒ Geographic mapping
ƒ Time series analysis
ƒ Causal analysis
ƒ Life course analysis
Data collection
For common crime, a wealth of different empirical data exists (official
records, victimization and self report surveys). For terrorism there are
mainly “terrorism event” statistics (e.g., PGIS, ITERATE, RANDMIPT,) and secondary data.
The question about scientific impartiality deserves attention, because this decision
has epistemological consequences. A highly politicized research topic such as terrorism tends to be approached with a large degree of political intent. Many researchers study the subject because the legislature or the executive is in need of a
sound basis for counterterrorism measures. This is reasonable and certainly prevention studies usually are objective with regard to their respective research. But if the
research community predominantly engages in the analysis of terrorism with the
motive to prevent it, then we will end up with a “skewed research agenda.”35 This
is the case with “the discipline of terrorology,”36 the “terrorism industry,”37 and the
“propagandistic approach” to the study of terrorism,38 a research field comparable
This appears to be an empirical rather than a conceptual similarity (Lafree & Dugan
2004, 56).
Neumann & Smith 2008, 3.
George 1991.
Herman & O’Sullivan 1989.
Chomsky 2002, 119.
2. Modeling terrorism and political violence
to administrative criminology in which the research interest is stated by policy
makers who seek technical solutions for the prevention of crime and terrorism.39
In a seminal article entitled “Whose side are we on?” the criminologist Howard
Becker claims that the study of deviance always includes a hierarchy of morals, and
that “[m]any more studies are biased in the direction of the interests of responsible
officials than the other way around.”40 If one applies this statement to the context
of terrorism research, one could only disagree insofar as the fact that probably all
studies on terrorism show this bias.41 According to Becker, one reason why this
bias systemically occurs in the social sciences is that the moral hierarchy correlates
with a “hierarchy of credibility.” The researcher is more likely accused of being
prejudiced the more he articulates the position of the “underdog” in a moral hierarchy (which might be under-researched and therefore is of particular scientific interest), while studies articulating the opinion of the establishment remain unquestioned. Arguing from the point of view of the establishment is more credible than
arguing from the point of view of the underdog. Experimental evidence from research in social psychology shows that the process of explaining possible reasons
for harm doing can indeed “produce a relatively condoning attitude toward perpetrators as a result of explaining their action.”42 Further, the authors found that the
explaining-condoning effect is perceived to be stronger by third parties than it actually is.43 Irrespective of the actual attitude of the scientist researching evil, third
Epistemological shortcomings in administrative criminology are described by Young,
1988, p. 176 as follows: “It is the inability of administrative criminology to deal with
the moral and political basis of crime which is its most fundamental flaw.” Another
problem with state sponsored research is the possibility that those results might be
withheld or smoothed over in the final report if it exposes administrative flaws that
the commissioning agency is responsible for. Many who have written a public report
for a political institution can testify to such political pressure.
Becker 1967, 242.
Becker gives the example of an under-researched field in criminology: “Most research
on youth, after all, is clearly designed to find out why youths are so troublesome for
adults, rather than asking the equally interesting sociologically question: Why do
adults make so much trouble for youth?” (1967, 242). Applied to the research on terrorism one may wonder about the absence of studies that investigate the “root causes
of counter-terrorism.” After all, both concepts – terrorism and counter-terrorism – belong to the same analytical category. Of course, the absence of such research is due to
the fact that counter-terrorism usually is not perceived as a problem but as the solution to a problem. Sociologically, however, terrorism is nothing else but the alleged
solution to a perceived problem.
Miller, Gordon & Buddie 1999, 254.
Miller, Gordon & Buddie 1999, 254, 261.
2.2 Challenges for impartial research on crime and terrorism.
parties who read (or listen to) the scientist’s explanation assume this condoning
The hierarchy of credibility is presumably stronger or weaker depending on the
type of crime under consideration and the degree of its controversy. For terrorism,
this hierarchy is imperative: “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”
President George W. Bush clarified in an address to a joint session of Congress and
the American people in 2001.45 Apparently, for the research of terrorism the hierarchy of credibility is of high relevance. “In too many minds the only acceptable response to terrorism is revulsion and condemnation. Those who appear to respond
differently – such as arguing for a balanced understanding […] – can all too easily
be labelled as sympathisers, apologists and appeasers.”46 The criminologist Niggli
surrendered to this circumstance and advocates the exclusion of terrorist violence
from the criminological research agenda because the researcher either has to be
loyal to the state, or would have to take an approach critical towards power: “If one
feels one cannot do so, then there is only the conclusion that the phenomenon of
terrorism is not, and cannot be, a ‘proper’ topic in the field of criminology.”47
This raises the question whether terrorism can be studied from the terrorists’
point of view at all without the researcher being considered a sympathiser and the
results being ignored. The question “whose side are we on?” can be a dilemma for
the criminologist studying terrorism, especially when conducting field research.48
The dilemma occurs whether the position of the terrorists is considered and articulated (rather than advocated) or not. Terrorism studies and criminology lack works
that articulate the views of the moral underdog (which might indeed be due to the
hierarchy of credibility and the subsequent accusation of bias against those who
articulate unconventional views). “So far we have looked at the world from the
point of view of the civilian victims of terrorism, the security forces fighting terrorism, the millions of ordinary people who directly or indirectly witness terrorism,
the politicians who legislate in order to try to control terrorism – from just about
every angle, except the point of view of the terrorists.”49 But even Moghaddam’s
book “From the terrorists’ point of view” seemingly cannot escape the preventive
Miller, Gordon & Buddie 1999, 254, 266.
George W. Bush, Address to a joint session of congress and the American people, Sept.
20, 2001: http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/09/200109
20-8.html (this and all following URLs were accessed most recently on May 29,
Silke 2004, 21.
Niggli 2002, 26.
For instance, see Zulaika 1995.
Moghaddam 2006, iv.
2. Modeling terrorism and political violence
imperative. “Seeing the world from the terrorist point of view does not mean condoning terrorism; rather, it means better understanding terrorism so as to end it.”50
Certainly counterterrorism efforts should be evidence based in order to facilitate
their success, but political considerations can provide a weak basis for empirical
research. For fundamental research there is always a chance to find out applicable
results that alleviate problems or bring about progress but there is no guarantee.
Both approaches can provide objective, though different results about the object
under study as the following example of a physician and his patient shows:
The physician, after all, is not necessarily less objective because he has made a partisan commitment to his patient and against the germ. The physician’s objectivity is
in some measure vouchsafed because he has committed himself to a specific value:
health. It is this commitment that constrains him to see and say things about the patient’s condition that neither may want to know.51
What are these things which the researcher does not see and say when employing a
preventive approach to the study of terrorism?52 One thing seems to be a sound
analytical definition of terrorism which will be discussed next. To sum up the plot
so far: Research of contentious objects allows the researcher to take a position
somewhere on the moral axis of condoning-condemning, as well as somewhere on
the intentional axis of preventing-observing. There seems to be a drive for researchers to take a condemnatory-preventive approach.
Terrorism: Political violence or political label?
In order to bypass some of the epistemological difficulties associated with the preventive approach to the study of terrorism, one has to give the term a strictly analytical meaning. There seem to be two different ways to do so. The word does not
only refer to an empirical phenomenon that can be directly observed (political violence). The term also can be reasonably considered exclusively as a discretionary
label with political utility. Political actors use the term terrorism not for descriptive-analytical purposes but for political, e.g., resorting to certain legal actions in
Moghaddam 2006, iv.
Gouldner 1968, 113.
Gunning discusses the following shortcomings “[r]anging from lack of conceptual
clarity and theoretical sterility to political bias and a continuing dearth of primary research data” (Gunning 2007, 363). “However, while ‘traditional terrorism research’
has produced some solid exploratory and descriptive knowledge, and, within the limits of an un-problematized status quo, explanatory knowledge, the shortcomings of
this research – from over-reliance on secondary data rather than fieldwork, to uncritical adoption of state accounts, and lack of imagination regarding alternative solutions
– are unlikely to be adequately addressed from within a purely ‘problem-solving’ paradigm” (Gunning 2007, 376).
2.3 Terrorism: Political violence or political label?
order to remedy terrorism. Accordingly, terrorism has two distinct realties. First, it
is a label that can be used as considered politically opportune and second, it is a
certain modus operandi of political violence. This study primarily is about the behavioral quality of terrorism as a modus operandi of political violence. Nevertheless, it seems important to understand that the term terrorism refers to two, very
different social facts.
Terrorism as political discretion
One way to look at terrorism is to understand it explicitly as a polemic construct as
in the following definition: Terrorism is a label attached to subversive political action that shall mark the enemy’s damnability (and thereby justify extraordinary
measures to fight him).53 In this case, the empirical correlate of the term is a discursive construct, which reflects power interests. Because the monopoly of force is
contested and challenged by terrorist activists, the political establishment uses its
definitional power to label these claims and the violent methods to achieve them as
illegitimate and evil. Lauderdale and Oliverio persuasively claim, “there is no consistent unity in the way terrorism has been defined or constructed throughout the
ages.”54 It appears that throughout all kinds of political conflicts, revolutionary
activism has been declared terrorist in a seemingly arbitrary manner.
By understanding terrorism explicitly as a polemic construct, the researcher can
identify and examine patterns in the seemingly random attribution of the term terrorism to all different kinds of revolutionary and subversive activism. For this approach it has to be accepted that the political practise of labelling actors as terrorists
cannot be evaluated as true or false but rather must be considered a performative
utterance.55 The researcher who chooses the labelling approach56 to the study of
terrorism asks questions like: What kinds of social phenomena have been labelled
terrorist, by whom and why, and with what consequences? Abstractly speaking, the
researcher looks for the empirical correlate of a semantic construct (terrorism). This
is somewhat unusual for social scientists (while not so for linguists or philosophers) because usually they observe a real world phenomenon and then, ex post, try
to define and typologize it through scientific language. In this case it is the usage of
Likewise Scheerer mentions the discretionary character of the term terrorism: “Terrorism, after all, is also a label with which many things can be marked.” (2002, 18,
translated by author).
Lauderdale & Oliverio 2005, 166.
Austin 1962.
The labeling approach in criminology derives from the observation that norm violations elicit highly selective reactions (both formal and informal). “The deviant is one
to whom that label has been successfully applied: deviant behavior is behavior that
people so label” (Becker 1963, 9).
2. Modeling terrorism and political violence
the term that decides which action is de facto terrorism and which is not. Apparently this is a field of research hardly found within prevention studies.
Terrorism as political violence
According to the second understanding of terrorism, the empirical correlate of the
term terrorism is a certain modus operandi of political violence and social activism
or a strategy.57 The majority of the literature on the topic deals with this aspect of
terrorism and the key question: Which kind of political violence is terrorist and
which is not?
Literature points to the importance not to confuse terrorism with the nature of the
political claim a terrorist group might express. Terrorism is a method, a modus operandi and not an ideology or world view.58 Terrorism pursues no goal; jihadists,
nationalists, separatists, millenary sects, or right wing activists employ terrorism as
a means to enforce their very different goals and worldviews. Louise Richardson
clarifies this widespread misconception by stating: “This same confusion between
ends and means is what has given the rather silly adage that ‘one man’s freedom
fighter is another man’s terrorists’ such a long life. The adage just reinforces the
point that we don’t like to label people whose goals we share as terrorists.”59 A
freedom fighter to everyone can still be a terrorist for the very same man. Terrorism is not primarily characterized by the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the political
goals, but by the modus operandi to reach whatever goal. This analytical assertion
is not to deny that terrorist means are often employed by those who express claims
conventionally perceived as illegitimate, but to point to the differences between
political claims and political means.
The understanding of terrorism as a method makes the search for generalizing
root causes questionable. Richardson explains the banality of terrorism: “If there is
one single explanation it is that terrorism is a tactic and people use it because they
think that, at some level, it works.”60 Likewise the goal-oriented quality of terrorism is acknowledged by Rosenfeld: “To borrow an old gag from Thomas Szasz,
from a scientific standpoint, the differences between terrorism and common violence is the difference between holy water and water.”61 Terrorism seems to be too
diverse a phenomenon to enable the identification of single factors that may have a
high explanatory power such as poverty, failed states, or social tensions. But as
shown before, terrorism has its distinctive features and it seems meaningful to look
for the root causes at the level of specific conflicts in which terrorism occurs. At
this level it can be studied why certain groups think a terrorist tactic might be legit____________
See Neumann & Smith 2008; previously Fromkin 1975, and Tilly 2005, 22.
For instance see Scheerer 2002b, 39.
Richardson 2006, 26.
Richardson 2006, 59.
Rosenfeld 2002, 4.
2.3 Terrorism: Political violence or political label?
imate, necessary, and successful for reaching their goal. On this basis general causes for terrorism can be looked for, but it may be that so called terrorists have very
little in common to explain their behavior.
What kind of human violence constitutes terrorist violence? Two well-known
studies have systematized parts of the vast body of literature containing definitions
on terrorism, and thereby identified single “definitional elements”: Schmid and
Jongman have conducted a survey among experts in the terrorism studies community asking for their definition of terrorism.62 Across 109 definitions the authors
identified 22 definitional elements such as “threat,” “psychological impact,” “publicity,” “randomness,” “civilian victims,” and so on. In a follow-up study, Weinberg and colleagues compared these 22 definitional elements in a meta-analysis of
55 articles in academic journals containing definitions of terrorism to find a consensual definition. The authors conclude that the consensual definition63 (containing those elements that at least 20 percent of the authors use) is “highly general.”64
Likewise Silke notes that “[t]he various definitions reach from the absurdly overspecialized to the unacceptably over-general.”65 Since the consensual definition
seems to be of little analytical use, it is reasonable to identify those definitional
parameters that are crucial for gaining conceptual clarification. Particularly helpful
in this regard are Richardson’s “seven crucial characteristics of the term terrorism”66 which state that terrorism is (1) politically inspired (2) violence67 committed
by (3) sub-state actors that seek to (4) communicate a message by selecting (5)
symbolic and (6) civilian targets that are in principle (7) interchangeable. This definition acknowledges important characteristics of terrorism but is still problematic
for two related reasons. First, it treats terrorism as a mutually exclusive category
within the spectrum of political violence, while this exclusiveness can be questioned and second, it uses an ambiguous definitional parameter: civilians.
Implicit to the definiens “civilians” are associations like “uninvolved,” “innocent,” or “neutral.” Each of these suggest civilian targets to be illegitimate targets.
Accordingly, the definition remains controversial because one man’s neutral civilian is another man’s coloborator. From an ethical point of view this distinction is
not always as easy as one might suppose, especially in high conflict environments.
Quasi-military actors such as private contractors who are involved in combat can____________
Schmid & Jongman 1988.
The consensus definition is: “Terrorism is a politically motivated tactic involving the
threat or use of force or violence in which the pursuit of publicity plays a significant
role” (Weinberg, Pedahzur & Hirsch-Hoefler 2004, 786).
Weinberg, Pedahzur & Hirsch-Hoefler 2004, 787.
Silke 2004, 3.
Richardson 2006, 20.
Notwithstanding the very different notions of violence in the social sciences violence,
here, basically refers to interpersonal physical harm deliberately inflicted.
2. Modeling terrorism and political violence
not easily be regarded as civilians although technically they might be. Non-combatant civilians who support or represent the enemy may be considered a legitimate
target, not only for the perpetrators. Thus, a simple answer to the root-cause question “Why do people deliberately and violently attack innocent civilians?” might be
that the perpetrators do not consider their victims to be innocent civilians.
Moreover, the distinction of a target as either civilian or military does not sufficiently discriminate terrorism from guerrilla tactics.68 If we simply consider “civilians” in the sense of international humanitarian law as anyone who is not wearing a
military uniform we cannot distinguish terrorism from insurgency or guerrilla tactics. In most asymmetric conflicts, non-military targets (such as police forces,
judges, logisticians, diplomats, and other “collaborators”) are attacked. 69 “Deliberately and violently targeting civilians for political purposes”70 is not necessarily
terrorism in a strict analytical sense. Guerrilla and terrorist tactics are similar in
many ways and can only be distinguished gradually. In the reality of a conflict,
they both appear side by side and their analytical distinction has no practical value.
The Taliban, for instance, when planning a military operation, presumably do not
discuss a lot about the question whether the operation should be an insurgent or
terrorist attack. Nor are their victims concerned with this academic question.
Additional criteria are required to decide whether an attack on civilians is considered a guerrilla or terrorist attack. For most occurrences of political violence like
insurgency/guerrilla, the target has some attributes that interfere with the realization of interests and intentions of the group, and is killed exactly for this reason.
The goals of a guerrilla attack cannot be reached by killing anyone else. An illustrative example is that of political assassination. The assassin and the constituency
on whose behalf he acts anticipate an immediate political impact from the ad hoc
This distinction is not to contradict Smith 2003, 19-37. In this article he insists that
insurgency, guerrilla, terrorism, and low intensity warfare are not separate forms of
warfare, but are different manifestations of violent political conflicts within the spectrum of Clausewitz’s conception of war. Bearing in mind the generality of Clausewitz’s definition of war (“war is a continuation of politics by other means”), one cannot but agree with Smith. But one cannot but agree that there are very different
manifestations of political violence for which different meaningful categories can be
built (Clausewitz 1832, 24, translated by author).
Guerrilla fighters target affiliates of the adversary power (may they combatants or
not) for tactical reasons, while terrorists seek psychological effects: “Notwithstanding, most rebel movements tend to extend the term combatant beyond its meaning in
international law to all representatives of the power apparatus (politicians, policemen,
or judges). For terrorists, the assassination of civilians is daily business, because it is
only thereby that the desired psychological effects are reached” (Schneckener 2002,
13 [translated by author]); http://www.swp-berlin.org/common/get_document.php?as
Richardson 2006, 20.
2.3 Terrorism: Political violence or political label?
killing. For terrorism there is no immediate utility that results from the target’s
death and the anticipated effect of the attack is usually much vaguer.
It appears that terrorists rarely have a very coherent idea of what kind of reaction
they will get. […] Terrorists appear more interested in the scale of the reaction than
[in] the details. They can countenance opposite reactions, from capitulation to widespread repression, and be almost equally pleased.71
This observation of Richardson seems to be especially valuable for achieving a
descriptive model of political violence and terrorism. Because almost any consequence of the terrorist attack is welcomed it does not matter who is killed as long
as the attack is massive and symbolic. Just as the purposes of terrorism are substitutable so are the victims. According to the rationale of terrorist groups every
change form the political status quo is necessarily an improvement. The terrorist
experiment seems to be about the grim curiosity “let’s see what happens if …”72
The continuum of political violence73
What we learn from the various definitions on terrorism is that the singularity of
terrorism has something to do with the victim, the purpose, and the consequences
of violence. Specifically the fact that terrorists are as indifferent to the various targets as they are to the various political consequences of their attack is what distinguishes terrorism (even though only slightly) from related phenomena of political
violence. Therefore it seems reasonable to regard the substitutability between different victims and different potential consequences as a decisive element of terrorist violence:
Deliberate physical violence against humans is terroristic to the degree to which
different victims as well as different anticipated political consequences of the violent act are substitutes.
Richardson 2006, 128 and 131.
Certainly terrorism also serves some concrete purposes such as “revenge and renown”
(as discussed by Richardson 2006, 95). But if we look for some unique characteristics
of terrorism in order to distinguish it from related instances of political violence the
substitute-criteria is notable.
Continuums of political violence are not new to the study of terrorism. However, the
existing contributions do not allow one to consider the possible consequences of political violence as substitutes to each other and as such lack the criteria of indifference
that is introduced in this article. Sánchez-Cuenca, for instance, refers to a continuum
of political violence previously introduced by Schelling. According to SánchezCuenca, terrorist violence pursues one of two purposes: either to coerce the state to an
intended reaction or to demonstrate the state’s weakness. The model explained in this
article describes terrorist violence as indifferent to these and other consequences
(Sánchez-Cuenca 2004; Schelling 1966). Clutterbuck (1990) proposes a “spectrum of
political violence.”
2. Modeling terrorism and political violence
The term substitute is borrowed from economics and indicates two or more
choices of goods that all equally satisfy the consumer’s preferences. This analogy
appears to be cynical but unfortunately this is the logic of terrorism. The terrorists
are indifferent to various targets as they are indifferent to the various political consequences of their attack. One can introduce to the violence criteria further add-ons
like “… the serious attempt thereof,” “… the threat thereof,” or “… committed by
sub-state actors” if considered helpful, but the decisive parameter is the degree to
which potential victims among each other and potential consequences among each
other are interchangeable as to satisfy the attackers’ preferences.
The concept of substitutability helps to discern different degrees of political violence; at the one end of the continuum we find terrorism (for which the victim is
perfectly substitutable) and at the other ad hoc military violence (for which the target is perfectly limited) (see Table 2). If it does not matter for the perpetrators what
age, sex, religion, nationality, worldview, or political function their victim has, and
if it neither matters what the potential political consequences of the attacks are as
long as they are significant, than this indeed is the ideal type of a terrorist attack. In
less obvious cases it still may be justified to classify an incident as terrorist; as said
the different types of political violence are not mutually exclusive to each other. At
the other end of the continuum we find ad hoc military operations for which the
target is perfectly limited such as for targeted killing of a key organizational leader
or assassinations of key political or military figures.
The four graphs at the bottom of Table 274 show the gradual transition from ad
hoc military violence to optimal terrorist violence. The lines indicate the degree of
preference for various targets. For (1) ad hoc military operations preferences are
restricted to a clearly defined target (e.g., key personnel). For (2) military related
violence there is a wider cluster of preferable targets but there still is a clear cut
distinction between preferable and unfavorable targets as can be seen by the steep
increase and decrease of the curve. For (3) proximate terrorist violence, such as
insurgency and guerrilla warfare, the range of preferable targets growths and the
target/non-target dichotomy begins to blur (smooth curve). As this trend continues
we approach (4) optimal terrorist violence for which various targets are nearly perfectly substitutable.
The graph at the bottom of Table 2 is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended
to suggest that arithmetic operations are possible. The x-axis shows the spectrum of
various potential targets (t1, t2 … tx as groups with some common characteristics regarding function or social attributes, e.g., combatants, logisticians, diplomats, ethnic,
religious, or national affiliation and so on). These classes are neither mutually exclusive nor can they be ranked other than in terms of preference for their selection as targets. The y-axis shows the corresponding levels of preference the attacker has for different potential targets.
2.3 Terrorism: Political violence or political label?
2. Modeling terrorism and political violence
It has been noted that unclear, undefined, or heterogeneous enemy hierarchies
are “most often a sign of increasing radicalization and political isolation.”75 While
some isolated, radical groups abstain from political violence, it seems that moral
and operational isolation is a necessary condition for groups to consider a wide
spectrum of potential military and non-military targets as equally preferable. And,
as argued here, the more activists lose sight of what they actually want to achieve
(that is the more they are indifferent about the political consequences of an attack)
the closer they come to, what has been defined here, as terrorism.
Although it is not possible to metrically quantify the degree of victim and purpose substitutability, it should at least be possible to rank both parameters on an
ordinal level (that is, in terms of “more” or “less”). When assessing two or more
incidents of political violence it should be possible to locate them at certain sectors
on the scale in Table 2. The more context information is available, e.g., about the
identity of the victims, modus operandi of the attack, claims of responsibility, etc.,
the better an attack can be classified. Notwithstanding, such classification is subjective to the degree to which one has to speculate about the anticipated consequences
of the plotters.
Making the degree of victim and purpose substitutability the two defining parameters for terrorism allows for considering military targets as targets of terrorism.
If the target is nearly perfectly substitutable, that is, the purpose of the attack could
be reached expectedly through killing anyone else, then even a military target can
be a terrorist target. Admittedly, military targets are seldom perfectly substitutable;
at the very least they are attacked because there are commanded by a nation that is
involved in some conflict, but from a strategic point of view it makes a difference
whether a bridgehead or military personnel in a non-conflict environment is attacked. According to the definition stated above, the 2008 Mumbai attacks are
more terroristic than the foiled attacks of the German Sauerland-cell against the US
base in Ramstein.76 And the latter, in turn, can be considered more terroristic than
Thomas Hegghammer suggests a hypothesis that is in line with the argumentation
made here: some years after the Afghan-Soviet War the jihadi movement divided into
those groups who wanted to fight the “far enemy” (Western states supportive of despotic Muslim regimes) and those who wanted to fight the “near enemy” (despotic
Muslim regimes). Hegghammer observes the recent trend of “ideological hybridization of jihadi groups” which he interprets as a sign of weakness: “When enemy hierarchies become unclear, unidentified, or heterogeneous, then this is most often a sign
of increasing radicalization and political isolation” (Hegghammer 2009, 26).
Daniel Schneider, one of the suspects of the terrorist cell, explained the purposes of
placing a car bomb in front of the command building during a court session as follows: “Thereby they wanted to raise awareness for the active US military presence in
Germany […]. ‘The victims would not have played a decisive role for me’, Schneider
said, but he was aware that such an attack would bring about victims;” “Prozess
gegen die ‘Sauerland-Gruppe’: Anschlag auf Ramstein sollte Zeichen setzen” (edito-
2.4 Summary
an attack against military logistics in Afghanistan. To bring another example, two
hostage situations are more or less terroristic to the degree to which there are concrete (and realistic) demands, and to the degree to which the hostage is appropriate
to actually blackmail somebody who is indeed able to fulfil these demands. Demanding the withdrawal of US troops from the entire Middle East with a tourist
held hostage appears to be more terroristic than demanding the release of low-level
political prisoners by threatening to kill a high ranking diplomat held hostage. As
stated before, less terroristic does not mean less tragic.
Like single incidents of political violence, militant groups can be located on the
continuum, according to their standard tactics and methods of engagement. Using
the proposed model for such an assessment, the Red Army Fraction (engaged most
often in assassinations and kidnappings) would be rated as being less terroristic
than AQ in Iraq is (whose activists have much broader target preferences).
In principle, the model would allow for overly repressive and criminal violence
by the state to be considered as terrorism. However, cases of state terrorism where
the victims are perfectly interchangeable and the anticipated consequences are
highly vague may simply not occur. Repressive terror by the state usually appears
to be much more purposeful than revolutionary terrorism. Moreover, regimepreserving violence is necessarily limited to potential subversives (who usually
share a common citizenship). Likewise, when a state is at war with another state it
directs its military violence against a limited set of targets. In any case, state violence is directed against a more or less well defined group and therefore cannot be
considered terrorist within the scope of this model. Again, labelling inhuman state
conduct as non-terroristic is not to deny the tragedy that various despotic regimes
have caused throughout history and which exceeds all harm terrorist non-state actors are responsible for. Sociologically it is just something different.
Besides the victim of the attack it might be important to consider the environment and context in which the attack takes place. While for terrorism the victim
and the consequences are interchangeable, the place, the setting and the time is not.
The “success” of terrorism, if it comes to provoking a reaction, is a function of the
number of victims, the place and the modality of their death. Large numbers guarantee attention and reaction, but so do famous locations and unusually (brutal) modus operandi.
Terrorism shows three anomalies when compared with more common forms of
crime and delinquency. First, terrorist violence is a righteous but unlawful reaction,
rial), Westdeutsche Zeitung newsline, 15 September 2009, translated by author: http://
2. Modeling terrorism and political violence
facilitated through the “moral outrage”77 of individuals, to a perceived injustice (at
least this is claimed by the activists). Second, unlike usual forms of retaliatory violence and vigilantism, however, terrorist violence targets vicarious individuals as
substitutes for those who are directly responsible for the perceived wrong. Likewise, the perpetrator of a terrorist act might not have personally experienced any
injustice but acts on behalf of some constituency whose norms and morals have
been violated. Accordingly, terrorist violence can occur in the paradoxical situation
that someone, whose norms and morals have not been directly violated, kills an
individual who has not violated anyone’s norms and morals. Such a victimoffender constellation indeed is difficult to find for other crime phenomena. And
third, because terrorism is neither genuine crime nor genuine military aggression it
appears as though the containment of terrorism does not follow the principles, paradigms, and doctrines of conventional crime-control and military intervention but
rather is addressed through a mix of both, as well as through means of negotiation
and conciliation.
Just as the terrorist violence defies control through classical intervention practises, terrorist violence defies description and explanation through classical theories
of delinquency. It seems to be indispensable to incorporate theories into terrorism
studies that explain how human collectives assert their values and respond to what
they perceive as injustice. Still, the study of crime and the study of terrorism share
some conceptual and methodological similarities such as the researcher’s dilemma
to choose between a preventive and a critical/impartial approach to the object of
study. Because the researcher usually is part of the establishment that is threatened
by terrorism and crime there is the general expectation of politicians, funding agencies, and the general public that he contribute to the remedy of the problem. Although evidence based counterterrorism is an important element of contemporary
security policy (foreign and domestic), research should not be limited to preventive
studies. Research free of political necessities is likely to produce results that enhance our understanding of why groups consider terrorist means as legitimate, necessary, and functional. There is a chance, but no guarantee, that such fundamental
research will provide important insights to prevent terrorism. It seems important to
be aware about these epistemological and academic concerns surrounding the criminological research of this particular topic. Therefore the issue is touched upon
Basically the study of terrorism can be about two different objectives. First, it
can be about the question “What different kinds of social phenomena have been
labelled terrorist, by whom and why, and with what consequences?” and, second, it
can inquire about the motivation, causes, and consequences of terrorism as a modus
operandi of political violence. This study takes the latter approach. Two crucial
features characterize this particular kind of violence: Terrorists are indifferent to
Sageman 2008, 72.
2.4 Summary
various targets and they are indifferent to the various political consequences of
their attack. Terrorist activism, more than being precisely calculated action, is characterized by the drive “to do something” and it has to be drastic. Various political,
social, and strategic consequences are equally preferred by the terrorists; this might
be one reason why terrorism sometimes is considered being “not based on the logic
of consequence and is thus irrational according to the [strategic] model.”78
Literature suggests that one ought to understand global jihadi violence not only
as functionalist (that is, violence with straightforward political aims) but also as a
cultural expression.79 David Ronfeldt speaks about the “sacred, purifying nature of
violence” and he suggests thinking of AQ as “a global tribe waging segmental warfare”80; Wadley examines “treachery and deceit: Parallels in tribal and terrorist
warfare”.81 Indeed, jihadi violence seems to serve more than mere political and
military-strategic purposes. Considering the observations from academic literature,
the empirical part of this study also investigates evidence for a non-strategic dimension of jihadi violence. To do so, the model of political violence, as described
in this chapter, is contrasted with the results of the empirical analysis of the jihadi
ideology, to check whether the movement’s rationale for violence fits the description through the notion of military-strategic violence and/or terrorist violence. Having said that, terrorist violence is characterized by the multitude of expectations
about what can be achieved through the use of force, the empirical results of this
study give an answer to the question what these various expectations actually are.
Indeed, it seems to be necessary to identify the political preferences as officially
claimed by the terrorists alongside unstated preferences on the social and psychological levels that all account for the diversification of “enemy hierarchies.”82 This
study seeks to map the officially stated reasons of the jihadi movement for engaging in political violence. For this purpose it is not only important to see the empirical results against the analytical backdrop of the model of political violence as presented in this chapter, it is also necessary to have a thorough understanding about
the characteristics of the jihadi movement. Without some knowledge about the
characteristics of jihadism it is difficult to grasp the meaning of the ideological
statements. This is the concern of the following chapter. The analytical model of
political violence and the phenomenological model of Salafi jihadism shall help to
put the empirical findings of content analysis into the right context.
Abrahms 2009, 82.
Cozzens 2007, 129.
Ronfeldt 2007, 41.
Wadley 2003.
Hegghammer 2009, 26.
Modeling jihadism
Jihadi fundamentalism (same as jihadism)84 is characterized by three elements: It is
Islamic activism (activist dimension) but it is different from other forms of Islamic
activism, it has developed a doctrine of jihad that is different from reformative judicial interpretations of jihad and Islamic international law (theological dimension),
and it continues the long history of jihad-warfare, however in an unprecedented
manner (military-historic dimension). While religious fundamentalism85 and Islamic activism in general are not necessarily related to violent or even terrorist activism this is the case with jihadism. This chapter provides 13 essential features characteristic of jihadism. These features help to identify the sometimes subtle varieties
between different forms of Islamic activism, legal discourses about jihad, and historic occurrences of jihad warfare, thereby providing a conceptual and descriptive
clarification of the notion of jihadism. The profile of jihadism as introduced here is
the result of an extensive literature review on the topic, mostly from Islamic and
oriental studies, but also from sociology. The essence of some of the academically
most influential writings on the topic are pulled together to provide the author and
the reader with a thorough understanding of the phenomena.
Contemporary terrorism is often equated with Islamic terrorism. The image of an
“Islamic danger” emerged, because jihadi violence is no longer confined to countries in the greater Middle East; it now also poses a threat to the domestic security
of Western states. Like all stereotypes, the image of “Islamic terrorism” helps to
heuristically cope with a complex subject. Such mental shortcuts, while not meaningless, come at the expense of details, subtle relations, and broader backgrounds.
The simplification of Islamic terrorism even refers to two complexities that are
difficult to grasp: terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism.
This chapter seeks to provide a solid description of jihadi fundamentalism by
thoroughly defining the term jihadism. Jihadism refers to a certain form of Islamic
social movement – deterritorialized and loosely connected through an ideology –
that opposes secular influences in Islam and asserts fundamentalists beliefs by way
of militancy (namely jihad). While the movement’s fundamentalist outlook largely
Substantive parts of this chapter are included in Armborst 2009.
Jihadism could likewise be termed jihadi fundamentalism. Both terms are used
throughout this text interchangeably. The term jihadism is used within the academic
and intelligence community as well as by the press. The term fundamentalism is also
a very appropriate description in the sociological meaning of the term.
Eisenstadt (1998) describes the historical and sociological preconditions of fundamentalism.
3. Modeling jihadism
derives from Salafism – a pious and purist Islamic denomination – its militant activism roots in the intellectual legacy of certain influential political activists, ideologists, and religious scholars such as Sayyid Qutb, Mohammed Faraj, Abdallah
Azzam, and more recently Muhammad al-Maqdisi, Yusuf al-Uyayri, and many others.86
According to the breakdown of jihadism into the three dimensions of activism,
discourse, and military, section 3.1 of this chapter describes and compares jihadism
with other forms of Islamic activism to highlight differences and similarities. Section 3.2 singles out the jihadist’s theological interpretation of jihad and compares it
to the doctrine of jihad as it is stipulated in Islamic international law [siyar]. Next
to the comparison of these competing interpretations about the relevancy of armed
jihad in today’s world, part 2.3 shows how contemporary global jihad is different
from historical occurrences of jihad. The essential aspects of the three dimensions
are summarized in a profile of jihadism (see Figure 1 at the end of the chapter).
Islamic activism
The International Crisis Group (ICG) reasonably defines Islamic activism as: “The
active assertion and promotion of beliefs, prescriptions, laws, or policies that are
held to be Islamic in character.”87 Literature distinguishes three kinds of Islamic
activism (Islamism88, Islamic nationalism, and Islamic fundamentalism) whereby
fundamentalism is subdivided into apolitical, dissident, and jihadi. The purpose of
this section is to map the different manifestations of Islamic activism and highlight
jihadi fundamentalism (jihadism) as one of its manifestations. Table 3 is a digest of
chapter 3.1. It illustrates the different types of Islamic activism as they are described by six academic experts.
Jihadism has to be carefully distinguished from other forms of Islamic activism.
It has its own set of doctrines and concepts of how to react to the perceived malaise
of the Muslim world. Different authors use different expressions when they refer to
the same kinds of Islamic activism. In his two famous books “Globalised Islam”
and “The failure of political Islam,” Oliver Roy distinguishes three kinds of Islamic
activism: Islamism (also called political Islam), Islamic nationalism, and neofundamentalism (subdivided into mainstream and jihadi).89 Roy’s analysis is the most
McCants (2006) provides a comprehensive overview of influential jihadi ideologues.
International Crisis Group (ICG) 2005, 1.
Apparently, there is some confusion about the term Islamism. Many authors use “Islamism” synonymously with “Islamic activism.” Throughout this paper the term “Islamism” is used synonymously with “political Islam,” which is a subset of the broader, capacious term of “Islamic activism.”
Such categorizations are more heuristic in nature than they are empirically validated,
e.g., concerning internal homogeneity and external heterogeneity (Roy 2004, 21). It
3.1 Islamic activism
comprehensive one and his typology encompasses the whole spectrum of Islamic
activism,90 while other authors focus on specific manifestations. Accordingly, the
topline of Table 3 is based on Roy’s typology. It is the encompassing framework
under which the terminology of six other authors is subsumed. A clarification and
explanation of these terms highlights jihadism (right column) as a distinct entity in
the universe of Islamic activism.
The International Crisis Group distinguishes five types of Sunni Islamic activism: political Islamism, missionary Islamic activism, and jihadi activism. The latter
can be internal, global, or irredentist.91 In the context of Salafism (which Roy also
labels “neofundamentalism”), social scientist Quintan Wiktorowicz has identified
purists, politicos, and jihadis (rejectionists, reformists, and jihadi according to
Hegghammer & Lacroix in the context of Saudi Arabia). The Middle East expert
Fawaz Gerges uses the terms religious nationalists and transnational jihadis when
talking about Islamism and jihadi Salafism. Gilles Kepel, focusing on the Wahabi
context in Saudi Arabia, speaks about Salafi pietists and jihadists.
Despite considerable confusion in the usage of the words Islamism and Islamic
fundamentalism concerning the question whether these words connote the same or
different social phenomena,92 this study makes an analytical distinction between
the two: Islamism utilizes political mechanisms that allow for the exercise of power
such as political dialogue, lobbying, or the foundations of parties. Political participation is considered legitimate as long as it is beneficial for the Islamist’s agenda
(that can indeed contain fundamentalist issues). Fundamentalists, in contrast, might
follow a very similar agenda but abstain from and condemn political participation
as long as a country’s constitution is not entirely based on Sharia law and includes
no man-made innovations to divine law whatsoever.
should be noted that these are diachronic categories which represent different stages
of the transformation-process from Islamism (political Islam) to post-Islamism (Islamic nationalism and Neofundamentalism/Salafism). Despite the importance of Roy’s
thesis the transformation-process is not the subject of this paper.
Roy elaborates these categories in his books “Globalised Islam” (2004) and “The
failure of political Islam” (1994). In these publications the terms are explained on the
following pages: Islamism: (2004) pages 1-4, 21, 40, 58-92, 99, 245-254; (1994) pages 35-60, 75; Nationalism: (2004) pages 62-67, 315; Neofundamentalism (mainstream): (2004) pages 232-257; (1994) pages 60-75; Neofundamentalism (jihadi):
(2004) pages 41 f., 234, 244, 250, 254-257.
ICG 2005.
Kramer 2003.
Table 3:
Five forms of Sunni Islamic activism93 in the terminology used by 6 different authors
Islamic Nationalism
Salafi Fundamentalism
political Islam
internal jihadi
Gerges (2005)
religious nationalism
(internal jihad)
Hegghammer &
Lacroix (2007)
Keppel (2004)
Islamic nationalism
- political Islamism/
political Islamic
- irredentist jihad
missionary Islamic activism
- capture the nationstate
- doctrinaire jihad
- takfir-jihad
- the near enemy
- revolutionary
- political sovereignty
of god
- “The Quran is our
- Muslim Brotherhood
(Quitbist branch)
statist nationalism
(irredentist jihad)
dissident ulamas
global jihadi
transnational jihadism
(global jihad)
Salafi pietists
reformists Islamism
- laical, secular
- religion follows state
- political sovereignty of
the people
- non-revolutionary
- desacralization of politics
- politicized
- oppositional
- reform of the state
and the religious
- influenced by Islamism
- political sovereignty of god
- abolition of the nationstate
- doctrinaire jihad
- the near & far enemy
- influenced by Islamism/Qutbism
- political sovereignty of
- PLO (Palestine)
- Muslim Brotherhood
(al-Hudaybi branch)
- Pan-Arabism (Nasserism)
- al-Jama’a al-Salafiyya alMuchtasiba (JSM)
- Al-sahwa al-Islamiyya (Saudi Arabia)
- Al-Qaeda and affiliates
rejection of the nation state
reform of the soul
political sovereignty of god
Salafi jihadists
Islamic activism is defined as “the active assertion and promotion of beliefs, prescriptions, laws, or policies that are held to be Islamic in
character” (ICG 2005, 1).
The authors do not explicitly speak about this form of Islamic activism.
3. Modeling jihadism
(1994; 2004)
3.1 Islamic activism
Islamism/political Islam
In his book “The failure of political Islam,” Roy (1994) argues that the era of Islamism has ended after its revolutions were unsuccessful (except for the Shiite context
in Iran). Today’s situation (post-Islamism) shows that the former activists either
started to be secular nationalists or they took a fundamentalist outlook that refrained from any political participation. “The Islamist myth was that of the unification of the religious and the political; post-Islamism means that both spheres are
autonomous.”95 In this regard the categories Islamism-jihadism constitute diachronic categories, but nevertheless, their comparison reveals some characteristic elements of jihadism.
When comparing Islamism (1st column in Table 3) and jihadism (5th column) several similarities appear, such as their disappointment about “apostate” Muslim regimes, resentment towards Western influences, and their doctrinaire-revolutionary
conception of jihad. While the analysis of the societal presence might be similar
among different Islamist and fundamentalist currents, they differ in their programs.
There is a mutual agreement that Islam faces threatening difficulties and that most
of them are related to new challenges of the modernity which come together with
corrupt Muslim regimes and foreign influences. They also hold somewhat similar
conceptions about the aspired ideal status (in fact this is what makes them “Islamic” activists), namely the societal organization according to the rule of Islamic law.
The whole spectrum of Islamic activism unfolds on the question of how to meet
those contemporary challenges. One of the differences between politically orientated Islamists and apolitical fundamentalists is, for instance, the fundamentalist’s
belief “that an Islamic state should result from the re-Islamisation of the ummah
and not be a tool for this re-Islamisation.”96
Despite their affinity, it is justifiable to draw a distinction between both forms of
activism because jihadi fundamentalists reject the idea to utilize laical political
structures and state institutions as a tool to Islamize society (unlike political Islamists) and they have expanded their domestic struggle (internal jihad against the near
enemy) to a transnational level (jihad against the far enemy) as a result of strategic
Many of the Islamic countries in the Middle East fit the description of authoritarian or single party systems. But it is not the lack of democratic principles that Islamists criticize. Rather their movements criticize these regimes to be un-Islamic
since they fail to comprehensively implement Sharia law in the domestic legislation. Islamists witness the growth of cultural and social pluralism and consequently
Roy 2004, 3.
Roy 2004, 247 (author’s emphasis).
3. Modeling jihadism
consider that Muslim society has gone astray. They use the word jahiliyya97 to describe the contemporary Muslim society, a truly negative connoted term that refers
to the pre-Islamic era in which war, hatred, and chaos ruled. The corrupt and often
repressive state power is considered to be the cause for this profane and secular
situation. Consequently, Islamist movements strive to obtain political power and
use it for the benefit of Islam. Many oppositionists take a subversive approach and
try to overthrow some regimes in the Middle East. Their activities include political
mobilization, educational activities, public protest, and also political violence.
The difference between these two approaches capture of the state vs. abolition of
the state is the first of the thirteen distinctive traits of jihadism summarized in Figure 1 at the end of this chapter. Islamists try to capture the nation-state and all its
institutions through which political power can be exercised: police, military,
schools and universities, legislative and judiciary bodies and so on. Islam shall be
promoted and asserted top down via the nation state. The Muslim Brotherhood’s98
slogan “The Quran is our constitution” is illustrative for the symbiosis of religion,
politics, and state.99 On the contrary, Salafists try to abandon all man-made political institutions, the nation state, and “the Western Westphalian order in world politics” altogether.100 A leading Salafi hadith scholar – Shaykh Nasir al-Din al-Albani
– repeatedly stated: “[T]he good policy is to abandon politics.”101 For the Salafi
movement, the administrative entity is not the state (especially contemporary nation states with its foreign made borders) but, more vaguely, the Muslim collective
(the ummah).
The second point of distinction between global jihadists and Islamists is their
scope of jihad, the jihad against the near enemy vs. jihad against the far enemy.102
The Muslim Brother ideologue Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966) re-used the term jahiliyya
(ignorance) to describe of the societal situation of Egypt in the 1950s.
The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) – founded 1928 in Egypt by Hassan al-Banna – is the
prototype Islamist movement. Note that today the MB is not considered a revolutionary movement anymore since it subscribed to some democratic principles and abstains from the use of violence. However, there might be a fine line between political
activism and subversion.
Therefore, Juergensmeyer as well as Gerges appropriately call Islamism religious
nationalism (Juergensmeyer 1994; 1996; Gerges 2005, 43). Religious nationalism is
not to be confused with secular Islamic nationalism in which politics and religion is
separated (compare second and third column in table 1).
Tibi 2008, 112.
Lacroix 2008, 6.
The dichotomy of “near and far enemies” is a common term within terrorism studies.
According to Middle East expert Fawaz Gerges, it was coined by the Islamist thinker
Mohammed Abd al-salam Faraj, author of the famous jihadi pamphlet “The absent
duty,” and senior member of the Egyptian group Islamic Jihad (Tanzim al-jihad) until
his execution by Egyptian authorities in 1982; see Gerges 2005, 44.
3.1 Islamic activism
It is quite natural that the revolutionary aspirations of the Islamists have often resulted in violent conflicts with the state power. Activists are eager to design this
conflict as a jihad, following the very appealing thoughts Sayyid Qutb introduced to
the Egyptian context (in the 1950s) when arguing that Muslim rulers can be the
legitimate target of jihad if it is proven that these rulers are in fact apostates and
renegades who have betrayed Islam.103 Various Islamist movements have utilized
Qutb’s doctrine to legitimize their jihad against the near enemy (internal jihad
against the state power). One arena of such conflict is Egypt (Sadat’s assassination
in 1981 and a jihadi terrorist campaign of Jama’a al-Islamiyya in the 1990s).
In contrast, global jihadists have made a strategic shift. Many members of the
global jihadi movement are former domestic Islamists who experienced merciless
repression during their revolution at home. Their experience and their strategic reasoning is that the jihad against the near enemy cannot be won as long as the Arab
regimes are supported by the US. Consequently they target the far enemy (the US
and its allies) to address the alleged root causes for the Muslim malaise and jahiliyya. In the groundbreaking manifest “Knight’s under the prophet’s banner,” published in 2001, Ayman al-Zawahiri (AAZ) details the strategic shift from the near to
the far enemy. It must be said though the majority of local jihadi groups, either
affiliated with AQ or not, may support the jihad against the US and Israel ideologically, their operational concern and effort remains by large in the respective regional conflicts they are engaged in (which may include US occupation). Very few
established jihadi groups are involved in the planning of attacks in Western countries.
Islamic nationalism
Another type of Islamic activism is Islamic nationalism104 (2nd column in Table 3).
Unlike political Islamism, Islamic nationalism shows few or no revolutionary momentum. Their movements and parties act entirely secularly but with an Islamic
agenda. Nationalist activists try to assert Islamic beliefs, prescriptions, and laws
Qutb uses the takfir doctrine, which is the Islamic practice of denouncing people as
infidels and which also includes the excommunication of Muslims. Since this practice
is about the question “who is a Muslim, and who is not,” it is very contentious in Islam. In Islamic history, takfir has been applied in several contexts not only to stigmatize too profane rulers but also to “denounce entire populations as apostates” (Phares
2007). Qutb borrowed main ideas from the prominent scholar Ibn Taymiyya (12631328), who first codified takfir in order to denounce unpopular Muslim rulers of his
time (namely the Mongolians who converted to Islam after their intrusion into Muslim territory).
What the ICG describes as political Islamic activism and political Islamism is what
Roy names nationalism (Roy 2004, 62). Confusingly, Roy uses the term Islamism/political Islam when referring to what the ICG labels internal jihadi activism.
3. Modeling jihadism
through political participation.105 Their primate is their state not their religion. Examples are the AKP in Turkey, PLO in Palestine, and also Pan-Arabism (Nasserism, Baath party in Syria and Iraq). The differences to jihadi movements are apparent: Salafi jihadists reject the nation state while Islamic nationalists embody the
nation state. Nationalists believe in the political sovereignty of people (not necessarily through democracy), Islamists and especially Salafists believe in the sovereignty of god (political sovereignty of people vs. political sovereignty of god).
Tellingly, when Hamas (the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood), participated and succeeded in the 2006 election, the AQ official AZZ condemned their
participation in the election exactly because the jihadi movement feared Hamas’
transformation from an Islamic-revolutionary to a nationalist movement:
How come they did not demand an Islamic constitution for Palestine before entering
any elections? Are they not an Islamic movement? [...] Accepting the legitimacy of
Mahmoud Abbas [...] is an abyss that will ultimately lead to eliminating the jihad
and recognizing Israel.106
At a later point Abu Yahya al-Libi (AYL) joined the dispute:
Those listening to your [Hamas] statements can no longer differentiate between you
and secular groups. ... They [Hamas] betrayed the dreams of their young fighters.107
Surprisingly, despite the fundamental differences between nationalists and jihadi
Salafists, both occasionally engage side-by-side in the same conflict (irredentist
jihad vs. “nomadic jihad”).
Irredentist jihad is a means to defend the national sovereignty of Islamic nations
in case of foreign occupation (such as in the case of Hamas and Islamic jihad in
Palestine). Irredentist jihadists have national interests – often even not considering
themselves as jihadists – and have to be distinguished from global Salafi jihadists,
who are often involved in the same armed conflicts but with entirely different motivations.108 Global jihadists see irredentist conflicts as a chance to widen their
sway among other non-Salafi Muslims and to engage in jihad for the defense of
Muslims which they consider a religious obligation. In the literature the Salafi involvement in irredentist conflicts is called “nomadic jihad”109 because some muja____________
ICG 2005, 1.
Statement of AAZ published December 20, 2006. For the entire dispute, see the article
“The war of words between Hamas and al-Qaeda”, Lipton 2007, 1-3: http://
Statement of AYL, published April 29, 2007.
Mitchell (2008) and Cetin (2008) wrote two insightful articles about the involvement
of foreign Salafi fighters in the Bosnian War.
Roy 1999, 7; Wiktorowicz 2001, 24.
3.1 Islamic activism
hedeen travel from conflict to conflict, leaving behind home and family, to engage
in jihad.
Such involvement is not always appreciated by the domestic military forces and
the Muslim local population because the Salafi jihadists are notorious for their austere and anti-nationalist ideas; convictions that alienate “usual” Muslims. An example of the strange alliance between nationalists and jihadi fundamentalists is the
Bosnian War in which a contingent of foreign Salafi mujahedeen supported the
regular Bosnian army. A Bosnian soldier said about his foreign Salafi brothers-inarm: “They are superb fighters. But you can’t argue with them.”110
Another case for comparing irredentist and nomadic jihad is the Chechen conflict
in which the nomadic mujahedeen managed to influence the nature of the conflict.
What started as a secular-irredentist conflict, driven by the demand of a Muslim
province for political autonomy from Russia, became a religiously inspired conflict
after Salafi jihadists under the leadership of Shamil Basayev and Ibn al-Khattab
entered the scene and provoked the Second Chechen War by declaring a caliphate
in Dagestan.
Islamic fundamentalism/Salafism
Beside political Islam (or Islamism) and Islamic nationalism, the third form of Islamic activism is Islamic fundamentalism (3rd – 5th column in Table 3). As for the
other two types there are differences and similarities in comparison with jihadism.
The common ground of all Sunni fundamentalist movements is their affiliation
with the austere and traditional Islamic denomination of Salafism. Its role model of
society is the early Islamic period, that is the rule of Mohammad and the two following generations of caliphs also called the Rashidun Caliphs or rightly guided
caliphs. This kind of Islamic activism can be considered fundamentalist because
like all kinds of religious fundamentalism it is characterized by three features. It
strictly opposes the concessions to modernism and secularism made by their moderate and reformative brothers-in-faith; it perceives societal pluralism as an existential threat to the religion and its congregation; and it follows a scriptural interpretation of the holy texts to counterweight profane influences. Jihadism clearly has a
Salafi dimension. But the opposite is not true. Salafism cannot be reduced to jihadi
activism or, and this would be even more flawed, to terrorism. Only a small minority within the Salafi community has a jihadi outlook, while the majority abstains
from political activism.
There seems to be some confusion of the terms Salafism, Wahabism, and the
classical Salafiyya. While the classical Salafiyya was an Islamic reform movement
(embodied by Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani and Muhammad ‘Abduh at the end of the
Bosnian soldier cited in: Mitchell 2008, 813.
3. Modeling jihadism
19th century),111 contemporary Salafism and Wahabism are almost indistinguishable from each other. The term Wahabism has a pejorative connotation and is used
by Muslims that are critical towards Salafism rather than by the Salafi movement
itself, and it is usually used within the Saudi Arabian context. The term neoSalafism is used by Hegghammer and Lacroix112 to name the apolitical and rejectionists branch of Saudi fundamentalists (to be distinguished from the establishment Wahabis on the one hand and the political Salafists, namely the “sahwa islamiyya” on the other hand). Wiktorowicz distinguishes three major factions of
Salafism: purists, politicos, and jihadis.113 Salafi communities can be found in
many Islamic and non-Islamic countries and although they may adapt to regional
and cultural particularities, they keep their distinctive traits.114
One of the characteristics of the Salafi movement is its refusal of secular governance and nationalistic thinking. Salafists perceive modern state systems as heretic
innovations [bid’ah] to the classical interpretation of Islamic law concerning governance and vehemently polemicize against them. A detained member of the Saudi
jihadi movement puts it this way:
I read history and did not find something called jinsiyya [nationality]. Each Muslim
must operate in Dar al-Islam [Islamic territory] wherever he wants and without borders restraining him or passports confining him and without a taghut watan [despot
nation] to worship.115
The activism of non-jihadi Islamic fundamentalists is consequently apolitical and
focused on the adherence to licit individual conduct: “Reform of the soul should
precede reform of the state. […] For neofundamentalists the aim of action is salvation, not revolution.”116 In fact, political activism is proscribed. Societal change can
only permissibly be achieved through propagation [da’wa], purification [tazkiyya],
and religious education or cultivation [tarbiya].117 Unlike the jihadis, most Salafists
prefer, under contemporary political conditions, to be rejectionist and missionary
rather than dissident and jihadi.
In the view of the mainstream Salafis, internal jihad against an unjust Muslim
ruler is an illegitimate innovation adopted from the Western model of political participation and political revolution. Those who engage in such activism are thought
to be driven by power interest and political thinking, which are both specters for
For this reason Roy chooses to name contemporary Salafism “neofundamentalism” to
avoid confusion with the classical Salafiyya.
Hegghammer & Lacroix 2007, 105.
Wiktorowicz 2006.
For a field work study of the Salafi community in Morocco, see Turner 2007.
al-Shuwayl quoted in al-Rasheed 2008, 8.
Roy 2004, 248.
Wiktorowicz 2006, 217.
3.1 Islamic activism
Salafists. Because purists refuse both, an (injust) government paying Islamic lip
service, as well as political opposition against such government, Hegghammer calls
this Salafi current (in the Saudi Arabian context) rejectionist Islamism. The rejectionists are “intellectually and organizationally separate from the other and more
visible forms of Saudi Islamist opposition such as the so-called ‘awakening’ (alSahwa) movement or the Bin Laden-style jihadists.”118 For the rejectionists/purists
contemporary engagement in jihad is only permissible for defensive purposes (e.g.,
in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Bosnia) while an offensive jihad against non-Muslim countries requires the purification of the ummah as well as its reorganization to a caliphate (both criteria are not met nowadays).
In the specific case of Saudi Arabia, the state clergy is largely comprised of highly educated establishment (mainstream) Salafis. Most of them hold views that are
similar to those of the rejectionists (purists). However, due to their symbiotic relation to the monarchy they do not openly question its legitimacy, despite some very
controversial decisions by the rulers. The ulamas are a very influential force in the
Saudi kingdom, but when it comes to the religious approval of political decisions
they often go along with the earthly will of the rulers in order not to jeopardize
their own power and influence. Because of these strategic concessions other Salafis
pejoratively call them “palace-ulamas” [ulama al Balat], “the scholars of power”
[al-ulama al-sulta], or “palace lackeys.”119
Political and jihadi Salafism
Beside the purist/mainstream faction there is a political as well as a jihadi faction of
Salafi fundamentalism120 (represented in the 4th and 5th column of Table 3). The
political and the jihadi Salafis agree with the knowledgeable purist scholars in
many dogmatic regards. However, they do not rely exclusively on non-violent
da’wa (propagation) as the only option to defend Islam against profane influences
and to oppose political repression. Politicos and jihadis mainly differ in their readiness to express their opposition by violent means. The politicos, also called “dissident ulamas,”121 are to a certain degree politicized, mainly through the intellectual
and personal influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, who entered the Saudi stage in
Hegghammer & Lacroix 2007, 104. Likewise Wiktorowicz: “Purists ardently reject
the oppositional (and often violent) method of the politicos and jihadis as religious
innovations without precedent in the prophetic model and consensus of the companions” (Wiktorowicz 2006, 219).
Kepel 2004, 310; Wiktorowicz 2006, 227.
Roy 2004, 41, 234, 244 and 250; ICG 2005, 11 and 16; Wiktorowicz 2006, 225. Gilles
Kepel offers yet another term for the same distinction: Salafi pietists and Salafi jihadis
(Kepel 2004, 308).
ICG 2005, 12.
3. Modeling jihadism
the 1960s.122 They criticize the political blindness of the purists, and especially of
the Saudi ulamas and claim to have a better understanding of current affairs, notably, that many Islamic countries appear to be too dependent on the West.
The jihadis exhibit the political disobedience of the politicos in combination with
the radical takfir-thinking of the Qutbists. They have adopted the idea that – under
contemporary political conditions – jihad has to be an individual obligation [fard
‘ayn] because the ruler who solely can declare jihad traditionally (offensive jihad as
a collective obligation [fard kifaya]) conspires with the actual enemy of Islam and
therefore will not declare jihad against his ally and himself. “This is probably the
best criterion with which to draw a line between conservative neofundamentalists
and radical ones: the latter are rightly called ‘jihadists’ by the Pakistani press.”123
In this respect, the Qutbist Islamists (1st column in Table 3) and the jihadi Salafis
(5 column) seem to be one and the same: They share the idea that the corrupt
Muslim regimes are the main obstacle for realizing their Islamic agenda, and they
hold the same conception of takfir-jihad as a mean of opposition. Nonetheless, two
distinctive features separate them. Islamists strive for political power and try to
capture the political and administrative infrastructure in order to Islamize the country. For this purpose they might combine militant activism and legal political participation (such as Hamas does). In contrast, jihadi fundamentalists do not strive for
institutionalized political power and condemn participation in secular politics, even
if it is intended to be for the good of Islam. If the leader of an Islamic state is legitimate then political activism against him is proscribed, if the leader is not legitimate and an apostate then, according to the jihadists, he is to be fought rather than
voted out of office. Jihadi fundamentalists know no third option, they condemn
political bargaining, and they want to abolish the state and replace it with an Islamic theocracy. The second difference between the Islamists and the jihadists is the
scope of their militant struggle: Islamists are primarily concerned with the domestic
In the 1960s, when numerous followers of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood fled
oppression in their country, they also imported a sense of political awareness to the
inherently theological doctrine of Saudi clerics. Subsequently “they even managed to
do the near-impossible – to radicalize the already radical Wahabism” (Fradkin 2008,
10 and 11). During the 1980s, Sahwa followers were critical, yet not rebellious towards the Saudi monarchy. Saudi rulers accepted the movement with the ulterior motive to form a counterweight for the oppositional religious messages of the rejectionists, which were popular among the masses at that time. However, this precarious
alliance only lasted until 1990 when establishment ulamas sanctioned the decision to
host American forces on Saudi soil. This event was, and still is, a sacrilege for many
Salafists. Two prominent leaders of the sahwa, Safar al-Hawali and Salman alAwdah, were imprisoned between 1994 and 1999 because they exhausted their credit
of criticism. In 1996, many sahwa followers joint UBL’s and AAZ’s call for global jihad in the “Declaration of war against the Americans occupying the land of the two
holy places.”
Roy 2004, 42.
3.1 Islamic activism
political struggle in their respective countries (the near enemy). Quite contrary, the
jihadi movement is not a national liberation movement but has a geopolitical strategy that seeks to disrupt the alliance between the near and the far enemy.
The universe of Islamic activism is made up of different movements with their
corresponding ideologies and worldviews. One of which is jihadism. The above
described categorizations are constructed by experts with a profound knowledge
about Islamic societies and their social movements, but who did not always validated their thoughts empirically.124 Although systematic differences in discourse
and social behavior between the specific types of Islamic activism obviously exist,
they also overlap. Roy describes this lack of mutual exclusiveness as “[t]he blurring
of the divide between Muslim Brothers, neofundamentalists and conservatives.”125
The movement might be even more splintered than this categorization suggests.
For outsiders it is often unclear who belongs to which school, who opposes and
who supports which specific aspect of the Salafi creed.126 By way of overview and
summary, the right segment of Figure 1 shows six (of thirteen) criteria of jihadism
that distinguish it from other forms of Islamic activism.
Christina Hellmich expresses harsh critique in this regard: “[P]articularly those explanations that seem to have become the official wisdom regarding the fundamental
logic of Al Qaeda, Wahabism and the Salafi-Jihadist discourse, are concepts that are
poorly understood and subject to much controversy. In the anxious quest to explain
Al Qaeda, the terrorism studies community seems to have deviated from the guidelines of academic conduct” (Hellmich 2008, 111). She recommends the analysis of
primary data from the AQ’s inner tiers to reach conceptual clarification of notions of
global Salafi jihad. Some authors have done so: For his book Global Jihadism Jarret
Brachmann (2009) extensively reviews ideological and strategic writings of the global Salafi movement. Likewise, the Militant Ideology Atlas by William McCants et al.
(2006) provides a systematic citation-network analysis of the writings of the jihadi
movement. Gerges (2005 and 2006) did extensive field work; Arentoft (2005) thoroughly analyzed jihadi internet forums. Finally, the annotated collection of AQ writings of Ibrahim (2007) demonstrates that there are in fact studies available who consider primary data of the jihadi movement.
Roy 2004, 253.
This fragmentation might be due to the intellectual competition between central Salafi
personalities. “A popular article among hardline Salafists, written by the Canadian
thinker Dr. Tariq Abdelhaleem, outlines eight branches of the Salafi movement: Establishment Salafists; Madkhali (or Jami) Salafists; Albani Salafists; Scientific
Salafists; Salafists Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood); Sururis, Qutubis, global jihadists”
(Brachman 2009, 26 referring to Abdelhaleem 2004). One joking contributor in the
internet forum islamicawakening.com further supposes: “Teenage mutant ninja turtle
salafi, closet salafi, right wing salafi, left wing salafi, activist salafi, pro-active salafi,
human rights salafi,” thereby sarcastically indicating that not every single opinion
must be given its own term; see: http://forums.islamicawakening.com/f17/the-coun
3. Modeling jihadism
3.2 Jihad in the book: The dogmatic dimension of jihadism
The previous part of this chapter describes different types of Islamic activism to
give an impression of its complexity and heterogeneity concerning actors, doctrines, strategies and worldviews. Another criterion of jihadism is its doctrinaire
and heterodox conception of jihad. It is central in the ideology of Jihadism and constitutes the primary means for the activists.127 This form of jihad, as it was recently
invented by Salafi intellectuals and ideologues, is religiously heterodox and has no
precedence in the military history of jihad. This section shall give a short overview
of jihad “in the book” and its historical manifestations “in action” (part 3.3) in order to show further distinctive features of contemporary global jihad.
At its core, jihad is a judicial concept that concerns ‘jus in bello’ (conduct within
war) and ‘jus ad bellum’ (provisions for the use of armed force).128 It is stipulated
in the textual sources of the Quran (more presicely in the Medinan suras) and in
different hadith collections (written tradition of the words and the deeds of the
prophet). Through theological interpretation of the scriptures (technically speaking
this is called exegesis) jurists establish the legislation of lesser jihad as the Islamic
instrument “of governance for war and peace.”129 Initially, jihad was not meant to
be a military doctrine, but historically developed as just: “Due to reasons we cannot
grasp today, the meaning of jihad was linked to a deeply dynamic system of doctrines and practices of warfare. This development probably took place in the period
between the revelation and compilation of the Quran,”130 between 610 and 644.
Some theologians distinguish between the greater jihad – a spiritual struggle to
overcome wrongful human drives and earthly temptations, practiced in Sufism for
example – and the lesser jihad, which is the only legitimate form of warfare in Islamic law. The hadith which favors the greater jihad over the lesser jihad is considered apocryphal (non-authentic) and weak by many Sunni scholars and of course
by the jihadi movement. This section exclusively deals with the conception of jihad
as the rules and regulations of warfare and military conduct.
Jihad is an integral part of Islamic international law [as-siyar], which is a branch
of general Islamic jurisprudence and “a fully functional body of the sharia.”131
The Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (General Intelligence Service
2004), describes four different modus operandi of Islamic activism: overt- and covert
dawa; overt- and covert jihad. The authors assess the impact of these strategies on the
vertical democratic order (between government and citizens) and the horizontal democratic order (between citizens).
In the Arabic language use, “jihad” also connotes “effort” or “struggle” in general
without implying a specific religious concept, or even military force.
Phares 2005, 22.
Lohlker 2007, 5 (translated by author).
Ali & Rehman 2005, 323.
3.2 Jihad in the book: The dogmatic dimension of jihadism
Siyar regulates the conduct of the Islamic state (the caliphate) when interacting
with other “de facto or de jure states,”132 or with the collective of infidels (kafir) in
general. Islamic international law, together with its concept of jihad, has been subject to constant judicial development and adjustment to the socio-political context:
“There is very little that is rigid and immutable in Islamic law”.133
At present, there is no univocal Islamic position on central questions concerning
jihad.134 Different scholars and exegetes interpret its different regulations as they
may regard as opportune or believe to be prudent. In particular, the intellectual elite
of the jihadi movement has put painstaking efforts into the construction of jihadrelated fatwas that serve their cause. This has challenged more peace loving Muslims to relativize the practice of militant jihad in modernity. As we will see next,
the un-contextualized and literal understanding of jihad indeed can lead to a confrontational and militant position towards non-Islamic states.
Origins of the jihad-dogma
The militant accentuation of jihad in the Medinan suras of the Quran is due to the
historical circumstances from which these passages originate.135 After Mohammed’s emigration from Mecca to Medina in 622 (the hijra), the prophet established
the first Islamic nation-like community (al dawla al Islamiyya), which was surrounded and threatened by hostile Bedouin tribes and pagan Mecca. The process of
da’wa (propagation, proselytization) was opposed by the non-Islamic environment
which demanded the temporary use of force in order to pacify and eventually Islamize the conflict-torn region: “It was at this time, that the doctrine of jihad in the
Hamidullah 1961, 3.
Badr 1982, 56, cited in Ali & Rehman 2005, 327.
This juridical pluralism is not restricted to the legal concept of jihad but is omnipresent in Islamic jurisprudence. It is due to what Abdul Jackson calls “the problem of
free speech” in Islamic law (Jackson 2002, 3). By this he means that every jurist can
have his own position on any legal topic, and as long as he uses the recognized
sources and abides by recognized methods of interpretation (as stipulated by usul-al
fiqh, the sources of knowledge and understanding of the law), his position is as equally valid as any other’s. Accordingly, Jackson distinguishes between “an Islamic position” and “the Islamic position” (Jackson 2002, 7). Only the latter is considered to be
infallible. This infallibility (otherwise only granted to the prophet Muhammad) can be
reached when the “interpretive community as a whole” has reached a “unanimous
consensus” (Jackson 2007, 7). Remarkable is that some jihadi ideologues claim infallibility of their views. This infallibility allegedly is given through transcendent experience during the practice of jihad; see Alshech 2008, 446.
Muslim reformers and of course historians make the argument to historicize the
Quran text: “It matters little whether we accept the Quran as divine revelation or not.
For whether it came from God or Muhammad or anywhere else, it certainly reflected
the social, historical and political realities of seventh century Arabia” (Jackson 2002,
1; see also: Donner 1991).
3. Modeling jihadism
sense of armed conflict gained currency.”136 Even more detailed is the bellicose
description of jihad in numerous hadiths. There is general agreement among scholars that these hadiths are authentic (unlike the hadith promoting greater jihad).
However, the synonym of armed struggle in the Quran is not jihad but qital: “According to the Quran the military part of jihad is called qital/combat.”137 Qital is to
be distinguished from the term harb (war) which denotes illegitimate aggression.
Thus, it can be maintained that jihad cannot be reduced to qital, but qital is an integral part of jihad as it is described in the Medinan suras and some hadith collections. As previously noted, it is difficult to relativize its martial character because
the writings about the lesser jihad in Quran and Sunna are coined by the militaryexpansion situation of the ummah at the time of its origin. Reformists seek to demilitarize jihad related regulations through historic-contextualized readings of the
sources while conservatives rarely try to relativize the doctrine at all.
What is the characteristic legal discourse of the jihadi movement that delimitates
it from the interpretations of the Islamic mainstream? In essence, there are three
contentious aspects about regulations of contemporary jihad.
Contentious aspects of jihad
Inherent in Islam (as in other religions) is a necessity for proselytization. This necessity is due to the universal claim of Islam: “Muslims are obligated to spread the
Islamic revelation worldwide”138 and jihad is the means. “Islam calls his project of
Islamization of the world jihad.”139 When this religious universalism is combined
with governance (especially foreign policy), in consequence the Muslim ummah
has to subdue the whole mankind under Islamic rule. As long as there is a country
which is not governed by Islamic law, this obligation does not cease. This universal
claim is so categorical and non-disputable because Islam explains that only its holistic rule can allow for a peaceful human society. According to the conception of
Islam as a peacemaking religion, non-Islamic territory is named dar al’harb (house
Ali & Rehman 2005, 332. Likewise Tibi 1999, 84: “The call for the use of force occurs in the Quran step by step in Medina and thickens to a jihad-doctrine.” This and
all following quotations of Tibi (1999) are translated from German by the author.
Tibi 1999, 74.
Tibi 1999, 80.
Tibi 1999, 51. Fazlur Rahman (1980, 63) gives a similar explanation: “There is no
doubt that the Quran wanted Muslims to establish a political order on earth for the
sake of creating an egalitarian and just moral-social order. Jihad is the instrument for
doing so” (Rahman 1980, 63, cited in Streusand 1997, 6). Also on the same issue:
Khadduri (1966, xi): “Islam was neither the first nor the last of the nations that sought
to establish a world public order based on divine legislation and to enforce it by the
3.2 Jihad in the book: The dogmatic dimension of jihadism
of war) or possibly dar al-sulh (house of treaty) if there is a peace agreement,140
while territory under Muslim rule is called dar al-Islam (house of peace).
Offensive jihad: Use of armed force (qital) and perpetual warfare?
The dispute between reformers and conservatives is not about the concept of jihad
per se, but about the legitimacy and even the obligation to use force for Islamic
expansion (futuhat) in the contemporary political context. Reformists admit that
jihad for the purpose of Islamic expansion into dar al’harb can141 include the use of
force (qital) as ultima ratio, when peaceful attempts of proselytization and subjugation are forcefully prevented by the unbelievers. However, they argue, that contemporary political realities do not meet the prerequisites under which qital is to be
applied as an instrument of jihad.142 Contrary, more textual interpretations of the
sources in Quran and hadith make it difficult to detach qital from jihad no matter
what current affairs look like. Other reformists, rather than separating qital from
jihad, make the point that jihad does not necessarily mean perpetual warfare against
all non-Muslims.143
Although clerics from the jihadi movement may support the exegetical thesis of
jihad as perpetual warfare, offensive jihad is not of immediate concern to the ji____________
The distinction into dar al-harb and dar al-Islam is not genuine to the Quran but was
introduced at a later point through the practice of “ijtihad” (the independent interpretation of the textual sources).
However, it is not necessarily limited to the smaller jihad: “Although the instrument
by which the Islamic state was meant to sustain itself and expand territorially was
through waging jihad, this did not always mean going to war” (Ali & Rehman 2005,
333); see also, Bar 2006, 28.
The Azhar University in Cairo takes the following position: “Is it necessary to carry
out da’wa/the call to Islam with the weapon? [...] The sword used to be a means for
the spread of Islam, today, however, this is only important when it is to avert evil
from Muslims. […] Today there are newspapers and other communication media,
with which one can intrude in the houses of the others in order to spread Islam. However, there is a small group of Muslims who want to spread Islam via weapons without realizing that the foes of Islam are fighting us with much more dangerous means
today” (al-Azhar 1984). The document from which this quote is taken from is called
“Bayan li al-nas min al-Azhar al-sharif” (Declaration to mankind from the grand alAzhar), cited in Tibi 1999, 72.
For instance, see Shakir 2003. In an article posted on the website Islamic-answers.com one author describes the position of the conservatives as follows: “In the
past some classical Muslim Jurists held the opinion that Islam enjoins Muslims to
maintain a state of permanent belligerence with all non-believers. According to this
opinion Muslims are under a legal obligation to reduce all non-Muslim communities
to Islamic rule. Proponents of this view did not make any distinction between neutral
or peaceful non-Muslim states and those who are violent and aggressive towards the
Islamic State” (Kareem 2008, 1). About the “perennial state of war,” see also Jackson
2002, 18.
3. Modeling jihadism
hadi movement. This is because offensive jihad is an instrument of foreign policy
and military expansion but the movement lacks the geopolitical capacity for concerted military campaigns. Therefore, contemporary jihad is rather fought as defensive jihad with certain doctrinal innovations. Nevertheless, the global jihadi movement seeks to establish a geopolitical basis for offensive jihad like it did in
Afghanistan under the Taliban, in the Republic of Dagestan and currently in the
Federal Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan.
Defensive jihad: An individual obligation (fard ayn)
For the jihadi movement the classical distinction into dar al-Islam and dar al-harb
does not meet contemporary geopolitical realities anymore. In their view, a country
in which people live under the pristine nomocracy of sharia law does not exist. The
entire world seems to be dar al’harb and the movement perceives itself as the vanguard of Islam just as the Prophet Muhammad and his companions were the Muslim vanguard in Medina. Today, jihadists in Pakistan, Iraq, and Chechnya think of
themselves as the same vanguard in a world populated with enemies.
Territories that used to fulfill the sharia-criteria for dar al-Islam are either occupied by the “enemies of Islam” (for the jihadists it matters little whether the occupiers are people of the book, polytheists, or atheists), or they are governed by corrupt Muslim leaders. In the case of military occupation of former or actual Islamic
territory, jihad is fought as defensive jihad (Cashmere, Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia,
Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Andalusia) and therefore is an individual obligation (fard
ayn) that does not necessitate the command of a caliph. Every territory that has
ever been under Islamic rule is suitable to launch defensive jihad. Local Muslims
have to fulfill this obligation and if they are not able or powerful enough to do so,
the obligation passes to Muslims elsewhere.144
Both reformists and conservatives agree that jihad for the defense of dar al’Islam
sanctions the use of armed force. Thus, the omnipresent theories about the global
conspiracy against Islam in jihadist circles are ideologically important.145 Additionally, the classification of contemporary global jihad as defensive jihad also
provides the possibility for jihadi agitators to bypass the Islamic prohibition of the
indiscriminate killings of civilians (women and children) since such regulations
only exist for offensive jihad.
Abdullah Azzam names the provisions for jus ad bellum; see Wiktorowicz 2001, 23.
That is one reason why Wiktorowicz (2001) cautions to consider the wider impact the
war on terror could have on the non-jihadi Salafi movement. The invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq certainly undermine the moderate’s argument that Islam is not under attack and defensive jihad thus is not appropriate.
3.3 Jihad in action: The military history of jihad
Takfir vs. fitna
The defensive paradigm is also present in the takfir-jihad against allegedly apostate
Muslim governments. War among Muslims (fitna) cannot be justified theologically
but is a regrettable situation. In order to avoid the accusation of spreading fitna, the
internal jihadists excommunicate their Muslim adversaries to make them a legitimate target. “Arab regimes are thus considered the functional equivalent of foreign
occupation.”146 The controversial debate about the practice of takfir within the
Salafi community cannot avoid the point that jihadi groups use takfir in a utilitarian
manner without considering its dogmatic restrictions.
This is not the place to review the far reaching theological discussion of jihad in
detail. Whilst it surely would be interesting to describe the dogmatic position of the
four schools of Sunni jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’I, and Hanbali) on different aspects of jihad and Siyar, for the understanding of jihadism it is not important to grasp this discourse comprehensively.147
Jihad in action: The military history of jihad
Contemporary jihadism has no precedence, neither in the dogmatic design of jihad,
nor in its historic occurrence. The application of jihad to social realities, as performed by past Muslim rulers, has always deviated somewhat from its theological
conception. Therefore, it is worth comparing the “religious-doctrinal meaning”
with the actual “historical meaning.”148 Historically, jihad means warfare, theologically jihad can mean warfare. “[T]he history of Islam is characterized by recurring
violence claimed to be justified by jihad, even when it was not.”149 Therefore, the
historical novelty of jihadism is not the fact that there is a discrepancy between
jihad in the book and jihad in action but rather the combination of three additional
facts (see left segment in Figure 1), namely, that non-state actors wage jihad
against Islamic and foreign nations simultaneously, and to this end also attack civilian targets as part of this strategy.
Wiktorowicz 2001, 26.
For a seminal introduction to the subject see Cook 2005.
Tibi 1999, 57. Abdul Jackson (2002, 18) makes a similar distinction by speaking of
the “Quranic and the classical articulation of jihad.” Likewise Cherif Bassiouni (2008,
80): “Jihad, like many other aspects of Islam, has its theoretical and practical aspects
– both being frequently quite distinct from each other.”
Bassiouni 2008, 79. Similarly Oliver Roy states: “Notwithstanding the debate on what
the word really means, it is clear that jihad, as an armed struggle, has always been instrumentalized for political and strategic purposes, by state actors or would-be state
actors” (Roy 2004, 56).
3. Modeling jihadism
As described above, the origins of the codification of the lesser jihad fall in the
period of its first application, when Mohammad expanded the Islamic ummah into
the Arabian Peninsula.150 After the prophet’s death in 632 in Medina, his institutional succession was established: the caliphate, which was the political embodiment
of Islam. Only the official caliph could declare jihad for territorial expansion of the
ummah, in fact, he was under the religious-legal obligation to do so whenever conditions were favorable. Consequently, the early caliphs, the so-called Rashidun
caliphs (632-661), translated these religious requirements into military conquest.
The first dynasty after the Rashidun era – the Umayyads (661-750) – further developed jihad into a “doctrine of conquest” and made it an essential pillar of their governance.151 Through the rigorous usage of jihad as a state tool, they also achieved
many mundane objectives: The region became politically more stable because the
Umayyads subdued and united the rivaling Bedouin clans; they securred new resources and trade relations and thereby satisfied the growing socioeconomic needs,
and the spiritual element of their military campaigns facilitated recruiting. The geopolitical expansion of Islam through the caliphate-jihad is also called fatah or futuhat (opening). The Umayyads (and later the Ottomans) are described as “jihadstates”152 because these states were structurally based on fatah. The Umayyad’s
fatah let them conquer territories in North Africa, Andalusia, and Asia.
In addition to fatah, there were at least two other modes of military conflict in
the course of Islam: fitna and ridda. Fitna is the term for war and unrest among
Muslims while ridda means “a revolt against Islam, a retreat from the religion back
to apostasy,”153 that is a war between Muslims and Muslim apostates. Both types of
conflict are not fought as a jihad, which poses a judicial problem since jihad is the
only legitimate form of warfare in Islam. Therefore, ridda is considered as a war
“of reinstating Islam among tribes that decided to quit it” (hurub al ridda)154 based
on the sharia provision that conversion from Islam is punishable by death. In the
case of fitna, the use of force against other Muslims was legally sanctioned by the
application of the takfir doctrine (the excommunication of Muslims). So, the difference between fitna and ridda is that in the first case the enemy is excommunicated
in order to fight him, while in the latter case the enemy actively converts from Islam and therefore is fought.
The occurrence of the actual written version of the Quran, like it is known today,
dates to 644 when the third caliph Uthman Ibn Affan compiled and homogenized the
existing written sources.
Phares 2005, 26.
Blankinship 1994.
Bukay 2008, 142.
Phares 2005, 28.
3.3 Jihad in action: The military history of jihad
During periods of fitna the questions about the right faith and therefore the question about the legitimate rule of the ummah were central. “Fitna became a permanent condition after 750, when the political unity of the Muslim community (ummah) came to an end.”155 The fragmentation of the ummah undermined the
dichotomy of dar al’harb and dar al’Islam. So for the most part of Islamic history
the premise under which jihad was waged in order to establish worldwide peace
has not been met. Because the first (influential) codification of Islamic international
law (Siyar) is attributed to the work of Muhammad Ibn al-Hassan al-Shybani (8th
century),156 Streusand concludes: “In effect, the law of jihad was formulated after
the condition it fit had passed.”157 However, despite intellectual controversy, the
Ummayyad Caliphate was military successful and judicial considerations could not
stop their campaigns.
The importance of jihad as military invasion diminished during the Abbasid dynasty (750-1258) but recurred under the Ottoman Empire which acquired the status
of the caliphate under Selim I in 1517 and adopted the doctrine of jihad in their
foreign policy. Tibi describes this adaption as the transformation from profane gaza
(conquest) to religiously inspired jihad. Thereby, the ongoing raids of the Turkish
descendent Ottomans led them to establish an even more sustained Islamic rule.158
According to Walid Phares, this transformation had a lot in common with the Arab
invention of fatah some 900 years earlier and therefore he calls the Ottoman conquest the second fatah: “[T]he similarities between the Arab and Ottoman jihadis
are striking. Both groups started originally as nomadic tribes from remote and marginal regions. Both converted to Islam before they undertook their expansion and
hence acted under the leadership of spiritual and military leaders simultaneously.”159 The success story of jihad conquest came gradually to an end after 1683
(with the failed siege of Vienna). Four reasons may account for the disruption of
the Ottoman jihad: The inner-Islamic violent rivalry with Iran, missing innovations
in war technology, the strengthening of the Habsburg Empire and military revolution in Western Europe.160
Streusand 1997, 3.
For instance, see Khadduri 1966, also Cook 2005, 21.
Streusand 1997, 11.
Tibi 1999, 134.
Phares 2005, 57. Tibi comes to the very same conclusion: “Islam has civilized the
Arab Bedouins and later the Turkish nomads and Gazu changed into jihad. Like the
early Arabs, the Turkish conquerors, after the takeover of Islamic legitimation,
changed their conquest in futuhat/opening – opening for Islam. This was, indeed, religiously-culturally legitimated, but took place no less for the purpose of economical
reproduction and in the interest of political rule” (Tibi 1999, 148).
Tibi 1999, 234.
3. Modeling jihadism
Figure 1: Thirteen definitional features of Jihadism. The inner segment shows thirteen characteristic traits of jihadism
Although not used as a tool for large scale military conquest, jihad remained in the
course of Islamic conflicts, such as in anti-colonial jihads, which also were waged
after the fall of the last Islamic caliphate.161 The last official jihad was declared in
1914 by caliph Mehmed V. At the same time it was the first jihad that was fought
with an infidel ally, the Germans, who trained, counseled, and equipped the Ottoman military in the preceding years.162 This last caliphate-jihad in history had little
in common with its early conception.163 The subsequent end of the caliphate in
1924 is perceived by today’s jihadists as a bitter setback in the conflict between
“Islam and unbelief.” Although the caliphate as an entity in international relations
disappeared, it is exactly this geopolitical situation that contemporary global jihadis
seek to re-establish. “In the years after the collapse of the caliphate, three currents
emerged from the ashes of the world official body of jihad: one that rejected it and
adhered to international law; another one that ignored the debate while adhering
practically to the new international community; and third, the jihadists, which resuscitated it, reshaped its doctrines, and wages wars and conflicts in its name.”164
Sedgwick 2007, 10.
Schwanitz 2007 and Schwanitz 2008.
Similar strategic considerations let the post-caliphate Islamic movement forge an
alliance with the Nazi regime (Phares 2005, 76).
Phares 2005, 45.
3.4 Summary
Contemporary jihadism is one manifestation of the ever-changing nature of jihad
conflicts. Hassan al-Banna “was one of the first Muslims since the abolition of the
caliphate, who again used the term jihad and called for its resumption.” 165 What
makes contemporary jihad exceptional is the combination of three characteristics: It
is directed against Islamic and foreign nations alike by everyone who claims to be a
jihadist and it uses terrorist strategies.
The point could be made that the Ismaili-Hashshashin, or Assassins, in the
twelfth century were the first non-state actors engaging in jihad against other Muslims (while rarely against non-Muslims). Roy describes their action as “an exception in Muslim history, an isolated and weird episode born out of a marginal heresy.”166 Uncertain is, however, whether today’s jihadism will become anything else
but a “marginal heresy” in Islamic history.
This chapter discussed 13 traits of the jihadi movement and distinguished them visà-vis related phenomena (dissident vs. rejectionist; nomadic jihad vs. irredentist
jihad; political sovereignty of god vs. political sovereignty of people; etc.). Figure 1
summarizes these features and groupes them according to three dimensions “Islamic activism”, “theological doctrine”, and “historical occurrences”. According to this
model jihadism is one form of Islamic activism (right segment) with a distinct dogma of jihad (middle segment) and its groups and movement wage a historically
novel form of jihadi warfare (left segment). This enumeration is not exhaustive but
it provides an overview of crucial features of jihadism. They can be summarized as
Although deeply committed to the Salafi creed, Salafi jihadists gave up the rejectionist stance of their spiritual leaders and consider jihad, rather than propagation
(da’wa), purification (tazkiyya), and religious education or cultivation (tarbiya), as
a legitimate, even imperative, means of protest against profane tendencies. Unlike
Islamic nationalists, who follow a secular/laical pro-nationalist agenda (which of
course can contain Islamic issues), Salafi jihadists condemn all man-made laws and
instead believe in the political sovereignty of god. Nevertheless, they migrate to
conflicts in which Islamic countries are involved to wage jihad (e.g., Bosnia,
Chechnya, or Cashmere). Traditional Islamism seeks to assert religious goals by
capturing and utilizing the existing political infrastructure of a state. It is quite natural that such aspirations often result in violent conflicts with the state power (jihad
against the near enemy). In contrast, Salafi jihadists fight the near enemy with the
intention to abandon the existing political infrastructure and not with the goal of
reforming existing institutions. In addition, they reason that apostate Muslim re____________
Tibi 1999, 243.
Roy 2004, 42.
3. Modeling jihadism
gimes are difficult to defeat so long as they are supported by Western nations (the
far enemy), which therefore have to be attacked, too.
The Islamic international law (Siyar), to which the religious concept of jihad belongs, has been developed and modified by clerics and jurists in a sophisticated
manner over the centuries to adjust it to the social-political realities of their time. It
is part of this adjustment that today’s reformists seek for a non-hostile interpretation of jihad, such as the separation of jihad and qital or the relativization of jihad
as perpetual warfare. Jihadists, too, have adapted the jihad-doctrine to current affairs from their point of view. In their perception, Islam is under attack which
makes armed jihad (qital) an individual obligation (fard ayn). Jihadism declares
Arab rulers as apostates by using a legal doctrine for excommunication (takfir).
The inventive discourse of the jihadi intellectuals has been translated into action.
Jihadi warfare traditionally has been a doctrine for foreign policy employed by Islamic rulers for military conquest (fatah). In contrast, contemporary jihad is an
asymmetrical conflict in which terrorist and guerilla tactics are employed against
Islamic states.
The model of political violence and the model of jihadism provide the conceptual basis for the empirical part of this study which now follows. Both will help to
contextualize the narratives, themes, and issues in the jihadi ideology, and to analyze its rationale for militancy.
B Empirical part
The central concern of this study is to systematically describe the expectations and
the rationale of the jihadi movement for engaging in violent activism as explicated
in its ideology and political statements. To analyze the jihadi media this study utilizes a mix of four related methodologies: discourse, frame, and content analysis, as
well as grounded theory. All these methods provide useful guidance for the systematic analysis of the empirical data. This chapter starts with the broadest framework, which offers the least concrete technical guidance (discourse analysis), continues with the more specific practices of frame and content analysis, and closes
with a discussion of the technically most detailed issues of sampling and coding.
These instruments have been selected because they organize and systemize an otherwise confusing mélange within the statements of single, political and theological
issues, assertions, claims, and ideas which – taken together – constitute the
worldview of AQ. We can learn a lot about this worldview by simply reading the
statements; other content is less accessible and latent and can more easily be pinpointed and made explicit through the utilization of qualitative and quantitative
analytical instruments designed for this purpose.
The main elements adopted from these approaches are five analytical concepts
which, taken together, can be used to structure the content of jihad media into a
hierarchical order from concrete to abstract. The units of analysis are issues,
themes, narratives, framing tasks, and ideology as discourse. The reader who is
more interested in the results of this study than in the ways and means in which
they were reached may skip chapter 4. However, other readers may find the methodology helpful because it serves to formalize a field of research which sometimes
lacks formalization. The mixed methodology developed here can easily be adopted
in other studies on the media and ideology of social movements.
Research in the social sciences
The social sciences bridge the divide between the nomothetic natural sciences –
which formulate or test the general laws governing social or natural processes –
4. Methodology
and the idiographic humanities – which provide in-depth analysis of a singular social occurrence.167 Due to this hybrid character there is a plurality of research
methods and theoretical approaches in the social sciences: While some theories and
their corresponding methods explain social reality with natural science-like, structural laws, other approaches question a deterministic (law-like) explanation for
social processes and look upon the social fabric as a conglomeration of exceptions
rather than generalizable rules and patterns. In a more immediate way than the
physicist, the biologist, or the chemist, the social scientist changes the very nature
of what he seeks to describe and explain as he examines society or individuals. Due
to this immediacy, the anti-positivist position holds that the social scientist, instead
of claiming to have an undisputed and objective view on society, can utilize his
subjective and integrated role to examine social action in depth.
So one question a researcher has to be aware of when studying jihadism (or any
other social phenomenon) is whether the topic should be confronted with a more
nomothetic or with a more idiographic approach. On the one hand, the jihadi
movement has its very particular and singular characteristics that are worth scrutinizing with a more idiographic approach that provides a holistic and detailed picture of certain aspects (e.g., justification for violence, martyrdom cult). However,
depth of description usually comes at the cost of generalizability and a level of abstraction sufficient for comparison with other social phenomena. Thus, either one
can study jihadi violence side by side with other occurrences of human violence
and look for universal causes and correlates for conflicts and interpersonal violence, or one can examine jihadi groups side by side with other terrorist groups and
look for general patterns and root causes of terrorism.168 Although this study is
limited to a rather particular type of violence, its results and the further questions
they pose may add to general theory building on conflict and violence.
Part A of this study is about definition and concepts as it discusses the questions
“what exactly is jihadism?”, and “what exactly is political violence and terrorism?”. Part B (the empirical part) shifts from the thorough definition of the jihadi
movement to an explanation of its violent action. Initially, these explanations are
confined to the case of jihadi violence. The question of whether there are generalizable structural factors that explain jihadi violence side by side with other cases of
political violence, terrorism, and inter-human violence in general is not empirically
tested here due to the explorative outlook of the study. What the results of this
study show, besides an in-depth analysis of the jihadi rationale for violence, are
initial indicators for and against the assertion that jihadi violence is a novel and
singular phenomenon that defies description and explanation through existing theory. The analysis of AQ’s own narrative about the use of force shows that jihadi
The terms nomothetic and idiographic research were coined by Windelband 1904.
Among many others, see Bjørgo 2005.
4.2 Research methods for analyzing jihadi media
violence can be located on the continuum of political violence described in chapter
2 (modeling terrorism and political violence).
It should be noted that this study investigates explanations for jihadi violence as
stated in the political communication of the jihadi movement, that is, through analysis of the expectations and (claimed) motives of actors for engaging in violent
activism. As already discussed above in chapter 1, this approach corresponds to
what Max Weber says about the scientific scope of sociology, namely to “interpret
the meaning of social action and thereby give a causal explanation,”169 social action understood here as the subjective view of the agent. This study seeks to identify causes for jihadi violence from the jihadists’ point of view, that is, what they
expect to achieve from the use of force.
To accept that different people perceive the same event in different ways and
therefore act on different subjective premises does not mean to accept the constructivist assertion that there is no external objective reality but rather as many realities
as there are interpretations about them, all of them being equally “true.” But when
trying to explain human behavior one has to take into account the different ways in
which people construct meaning and how this influences decision making and subsequent action.
The next sections describe which research methods are best suited for inquiry into the political convictions of AQ leaders and their constituency, the convictions on
which jihadi violence rests.
Research methods for analyzing jihadi media
What is the appropriate method for researching the meaning the jihadi movement
attaches to social reality and its violent activism? This study applies a mixed methodology in order to strike a balance between a naive belief in research methods and
the results they provide and the “anything goes” paradigm of Feyerabend’s methodological anarchism. Slavish obedience to “law-and-order rationalism” would
make this study end up with close to meaningless results. The methodological robustness (concerning the validity of the research results) that comes with the more
standardized methods would come at the cost of otherwise valuable insight into the
social perception of jihadi movements. The other methodological extreme, disregard for the discipline’s methodological canon, is less restrictive and may therefore
be suitable for revealing novel aspects of the object under study. However, in this
case one runs the risk of ending up with purely journalistic results – results which
might be accurate but about which only the author knows how he arrived at. Fortunately, the social sciences have developed a large set of research methods that can
be mixed in order to adjust the method to the object of study rather than being re____________
Weber 1991, 7; original German source: Weber 1972, 1.
4. Methodology
stricted to do it the other way around. For the researcher it is imperative to properly
describe which method is applied, because the study has to be reproducible so as to
permit other researchers to support or falsify empirical observations from previous
studies. “A research design is an integrated whole involving both fruitful conjunctions and necessary compromises.”170 Weighing practical feasibilities and methodological standards, the following three sections present research methods suitable
for studying the jihadi movement with regard to the main research questions. Chapter 4.3 will then go on to describe how data sampling and analysis are conducted in
the final research design.171
The initial idea of this research project was to analyze propaganda material produced by the jihadi movement itself, for instance video and audio broadcasts, also
taking into account the feasibilities and restrictions of studying the movement. Previous research has studied verbal material of AQ, yielding valuable insights into
the mindset of its leaders.172 However, scholars have criticized that systematic
analysis of primary data by means of standardized methodology is still rare. 173
There are a number of advantages to analyzing self-generated primary text data,
such as unobtrusiveness and non-responsiveness to the researcher and his/her instruments (there are numerous well-known biases in survey designs, for instance)
or easy reproduction of sampling and analysis for subsequent research on the subject. A major disadvantage of such material is that the researcher has no control
Bachmann & Schutt 2003, 310.
Given the explorative and descriptive nature of this study, several research approaches can be ruled out from the start. Most causation-testing designs such as the experimental design or a theory-driven survey design are epistemologically inappropriate
for answering the research question. Other methods are epistemologically appropriate
but impracticable. Interviewing members of the jihadi movement, for instance, would
afford valuable insight into their political perception, decision making, and motivations for participating in jihad. Such interviews, albeit not completely impossible to
conduct, do, however, pose many challenges in practice (access to informants, language barrier, security risks in the field, permission to interview detained members of
jihadi groups) and therefore have not been carried out within this research. For a
study including interviews with former Islamist fighters, see Hegghammer 2010. Participant observation within a jihadi group over a sustained period of time (e.g., in a
training camp) is without doubt one of the most interesting ways to research the jihadi
movement. Unfortunately, it is also the most impractical way and would entail the
risk of violating the scientific postulate of repeatability of an empirical observation.
For a study analyzing the differences in linguistic styles between UBL and AZZ see
Pennebaker & Chung 2009. Smith (2004) matches writings from terrorist and nonterrorist groups in order to identify predictors for a group’s terrorist activism.
“[P]articularly those explanations that seem to have become the official wisdom regarding the fundamental logic of Al Qaeda, Wahabism and the Salafi-Jihadist discourse, are concepts that are poorly understood and subject to much controversy. In
the anxious quest to explain Al Qaeda, the terrorism studies community seems to
have deviated from the guidelines of academic conduct” (Hellmich 2008, 111).
4.2 Research methods for analyzing jihadi media
over the setting in which the data is produced. This poses a problem particularly for
the statements from the jihadi movement, because the authenticity of a document
cannot be guaranteed in every case with complete certainty. To minimize the
chance that fake data is included into this study, only those documents were sampled for which there is consensus among experts about their authenticity.
Three different approaches to the analysis of textual data seem to be relevant and
beneficial for analyzing jihadi media with regard to the main research question of
this study: discourse analysis, frame analysis, and qualitative content analysis
based on grounded theory.174 Methodologically, this study stands at the crossroads
between these approaches without following any of them in a strict sense. Most
noteworthy is that this study makes use of the terminology and concepts of these
approaches in order to clarify what the analytical units of this study are: namely
discourse, frame, narrative, category/code (theme). Due to the less than coherent
way these four methods have been applied in social research, it seems that there is
no strict methodological canon telling the researcher how they should be used. Although all these approaches have their archetypical studies, the (reasonable) convention seems to be to mix these methods so as to adjust them to the object under
Discourse analysis
Discourse is defined in sociological literature “as any practice by which individuals
imbue reality with meaning.”175 Discourse analysis appears to be an opportune
method to investigate the meaning the jihadi movement attaches to the sociopolitical reality against which it revolts. According to Ruiz Ruiz,176 sociological
discourse analysis refers not to a single method of data collection or data analysis,
but is the general framework of an entire research approach that utilizes different
methods of data collection and analysis at different levels of the research process.
A comprehensive sociological discourse analysis involves three distinct levels of
analysis. At the first level (textual analysis), formal and informational aspects of
verbal communication are analyzed. Various methods are at the disposal of the
researcher at this level, such as quantitative and qualitative content analysis,
grounded theory, or semiotic analysis.177
Grounded theory, discourse analysis, and frame analysis offer more organizational
space as they encompass disparate auxiliary methods for data collection and data
analysis, whereas various types of content analysis refer to such auxiliary techniques
and procedures for data analysis.
Ruiz Ruiz 2009, 2.
Ruiz Ruiz 2009.
Ruiz Ruiz 2009, 6.
4. Methodology
At the second level (contextual analysis), the researcher accommodates some aspects of the context in which the discourse is produced, thereby going “beyond a
mere description of discourse to provide initial explanations at a micro-sociological
level.”178 At this stage frame analysis can be a useful auxiliary method because it
incorporates the motivation and intentions of the communicator and thus considers
factors that shape the discourse (e.g., who communicates to whom for what purpose?). Analyzing self-generated discourse has the advantage that the data is the
product of naturally occurring social action and interaction while interview data
stems from an artificial interaction between the researcher and the respondent and
is known to have certain effects and biases.
The third step (sociological analysis), involves making broader sociological inferences. Ruiz Ruiz distinguishes between three types of sociological interpretations
of discourse, one of which is relevant for this study: Discursive communication can
represent all kinds of social processes, for instance political conflict, where the discourse can be used as an empirical basis for making inferences about a certain ideology. It goes without saying that the content of such discourse cannot be taken as
objective and impartial information about the contested issue but must explicitly be
considered as a partial and biased view on social reality. “What is of interest to the
analyst in this type of interpretation is the subject’s particular viewpoint,”179 which
may include accurate as well as biased beliefs and conclusions.
Obviously, sociological discourse analysis is a relevant approach for organizing
research on jihadi media. At the most abstract level, AQ’s ideology can be considered as being part of a discourse between jihadism and the Islamic world on the one
hand, and jihadism and the West on the other. It would certainly be misleading to
frame jihadi ideology as a substantial part of the discourse between Islam and the
West when one considers its sectarian and partly heterodox nature. Jihadi ideology
rather constitutes a position on its own within the triad of jihadism, Islam, and
Western secularism.180 A domain that is accessible through this approach is the so____________
Ruiz Ruiz 2009, 12.
Ruiz Ruiz 2009, 16. The other two types of inferences an analyst can make from studying particular discourses are informational and contextual knowledge. If the discourse under research is one of experts within a certain social domain with highly
specialized knowledge and competencies about facts that cannot be empirically observed otherwise, then distilling the informational content of the discourse is the object of the study. Of course, even expert knowledge is objective only to a certain degree, but often it is the most accurate information one can get. The other sociological
conclusion from analyzing discourse “considers discourse as a social product” (Ruiz
Ruiz 2009, 17) that can be analyzed to draw interpretative inferences about the broader social context, for instance how societal values change.
A comprehensive discourse analysis of the socio-political issues criticized by AQ
should include at least three positions: the position of the jihadi movement itself, the
position representing the Muslim establishment (against which AQ revolts), and the
4.2 Research methods for analyzing jihadi media
called “counter narrative” set up by Western institutions in order to identify the
weak spots within AQ’s ideology. AQ’s position within this narrative-counter narrative competition is reviewed in the subsequent chapter ( about the “war of
Despite its use of discourse analysis, this study investigates questions different
from classical discourse studies, which often explain reasons for and consequences
of the discourse on a macro level, for instance, why it occurred at a certain time,
how long it lasted, how different themes developed over time, or how the discourse
altered the social context from which it emerged. Although these are all relevant
questions, they are also too broad for the focus taken here: What does the discourse
tells us about the worldview of the jihadi movement, and specifically, what does it
tell us about the motivations and expectations of jihadi violence?
Frame analysis
Useful concepts and terminology from frame analysis are also incorporated into the
research design of the study. Frame analysis is a research approach frequently used
for the study of political communication on social movements, political parties, or
other groups with a socio-political agenda. Wiktorowicz has applied this approach
to develop a taxonomy of “al-Qaeda’s intramovement framing struggle with nonviolent Islamic fundamentalists over the permissibility of violence.”181 Discourse
analysis and frame analysis are both ways to organize the analysis of empirical
data. However, whereas discourse analysis takes a broader look at the communication, frame analysis is more specific.182 A discourse is a broad analytical category
referring to a designated cluster of interactive communication, whereas a frame is
an analytical unit within an act of communication, such as a political speech, which
in turn can be part of a political discourse, for instance about the war in Iraq. Frame
analysis can provide useful ideas on how to think about and structure the content of
the jihadi ideology.
As in many recent studies, framing is understood in this study as a deliberate
process of attitude and opinion formation on a contested issue through public
communication. The process of framing means that a communicator presents a fact
with the intention to suggest a certain impression of or through this fact to the audi__________
position of the West. It would be interesting to compare the positions of these actors
on certain political issues (e.g., the Iraq War), but such questions have to be addressed
in a study of its own.
Wiktorowicz 2004, 159. His taxonomy distinguishes four different framing strategies
used by AQ to boost its own authority and discredit that of its rivals.
Both approaches can be combined. See, for instance, the study by Scheufele 1999. For
studies in which framing analysis is utilized for the empirical analysis of discourses
see, for instance, Pan & Kosicki 1993; and van Dijk 1985.
4. Methodology
ence. “To frame is to select some aspects of a perceived reality and make them
more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote a particular
problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation.”183 Framing techniques simply exploit the fact that people’s interpretations, attitudes, decisions, and choices can be influenced by the way information is selected and presented to them. The communicator who uses framing
techniques intends to influence the cognitive process of stereotyping and the formation of heuristics. Problems can be presented in such a way that certain means of
solving them are suggested. Such messages can “frame” single situations and
events, but they can also frame complex socio-political circumstances, for instance
as a conflict.184
Frames have a verbal representation that can be pinpointed within the broader
body of an act of political communication. Key passages in messages that advocate
certain interpretations while discouraging others are the functional mechanisms of
framing. “Frames are powerful discursive cues that can impact cognition.”185 The
systematic analysis and identification of the pictures, stereotypes, and clichés conveyed through such messages is called frame analysis.186
The research of frames within political communication is particularly prominent
in social movement theory, where it is believed to be a crucial factor for mobilizing
Entman 1993, 52.
For a seminal experimental study about framing and decision making, see Tversky &
Kahneman 1981.
D’Angelo 2002, 873.
D’Angelo distinguishes three different “paradigmatic outlooks” within framing research, “cognitive, constructionist, and critical” (D’Angelo 2002, 870). Frame analysis has undergone considerable modifications since its introduction to the scientific
community by Erving Goffman in 1974. Goffman understands frames as “cognitive
structures” that organize sensations – “principles of organization that govern events”
(Goffman 1974, 10). Social complexity must be reduced to several basic mental categories to prevent informational overkill. In the traditional sense the concept of framing and frames is not restricted to deliberate processes of attitude formation (or even
manipulation) but is a naturally occurring and subconscious cognitive process that
may or may not be deliberately influenced by others. Traditional frame analysis seeks
to identify and describe those social complexity-reducing categories that are relevant
within a given society or group. Because frames are a subconscious means of structuring social reality, a certain methodology is necessary to identify them and make
them explicit. However, contemporary “[f]rame analysis is no longer Goffman’s
frame analysis, but is frequently only loosely connected to the original formulation”
(König: http://www.ccsr.ac.uk/methods/publications/frameanalysis/).
König assumes that the concept of frames is used so frequently in the social sciences
because it has become an “ambiguous metaphor” for a lot of different approaches
(König 2004, 82).
4.2 Research methods for analyzing jihadi media
people for a political cause. Besides deliberate attitude formation, framing has the
potential to mobilize people for active support if it contains three elements:187
1. diagnostic framing (identification of a problem and attribution of blame),
2. prognostic framing (suggestion of solutions, strategies, and tactics for a
3. motivational framing (providing a rationale for [violent] action).
Essentially, frames identified in frame analysis are nothing other than deductive
codes and categories (albeit with a defined theoretical underpinning) identified in
qualitative content analysis.188
Yet there are important differences between frame analyses as applied by social
movement theory and the way they are applied in this study. Snow and Benford’s
application of frame analysis to the study of social movements accurately acknowledges that social movements are “actively engaged in the production of meaning,”189 that is, they observe and interpret social reality and communicate their version of it. That is why this form of analysis is so attractive for studying AQ’s
rationale for violent activism. Social movement theory “use[s] the verb framing to
conceptualize this signifying work precisely because this is one of the things social
movements do. They frame, or assign meaning to and interpret, relevant events and
conditions in ways that are intended to mobilize potential adherents and constituents, to garner bystander support, and to demobilize antagonists.”190 The theory
provides a set of factors (some of them inherent to the ideology, others contextual)191 to explain how well an act of political communication is suited for actually
mobilizing resources for the movement. The theoretical strength of social movement theory is that it abstracts from the concrete political message of any given
movement to general patterns supposedly underlying the political messages of all
social movements. While it is certainly a strong analytical gain to reduce the substantial content of any ideology to a set of “core framing tasks,” it is also a step too
far for the explorative outlook of this study, whose actual goal is to understand
Snow & Benford 1988, 200. Snow & Benford adopt these three components from
Wilson 1973, 96.
The terms “codes” and “categories” are used interchangeably in this book. They refer
to the label under which similar content is subsumed.
Snow & Benford 1988, 198.
Snow & Benford 1988.
Ideology-external factors influencing the resource mobilization of a movement are
“[i]nfrastructural constrains of belief systems” (Snow & Benford 1988, 205) such as
relevance of the expressed grievance in the broader public, “phemenological constrains” (Snow & Benford 1988, 207) such as objectivity of the expressed grievance,
and “cycles of protest” (Snow & Benford 1988, 211).
4. Methodology
what the substantial content of the ideology is and how AQ perceives violence to
be functional, legitimate, and necessary to address the social problems and grievances it perceives. It would also be too axiomatic (not to say empirically incorrect)
to presume that the jihadi movement frames social reality only with regard to the
resource mobilization aspect.192
At any rate, the empirical findings of this study show, as a byproduct so to say,
that the jihadi ideology fits description through social movement theory, namely
that it incorporates the basic analytical categories (the core framing tasks) diagnosis, prognosis, and rationale for action as well as a frame providing empirical and
theological credibility of the claims and accusations of AQ. As a matter of research
the jihadi movement is commensurable with the generalizations and predictions of
social movement theory that explains a groups’s potential to mobilize resources.
Whether these predictions are actually valid, for example, whether the coherence,
plausibility, impressiveness, robustness, or narrative fidelity of the ideology actually increase resource mobilization, is another empirical question.193
In summary, the use of frame analysis, especially in combination with social
movement theory, is a relevant and useful way to think about analytical units within the jihadi media (namely frames). However, at the same time the concept of
frames, especially its theoretical link to resource mobilization, is too narrow and
theory-driven to serve as the sole methodological grounding of a study taking an
explorative outlook on jihadi media. Concerning the hierarchy of the basic analytical units of this study, the core framing tasks diagnosis, prognosis, and rationale for
action are subdivisions of AQ’s ideology, which is itself part of an even broader
discourse. The next section discusses textual categories within the jihadi media
which are hierarchically lower and therefore less abstract than framing tasks, namely themes and issues.
Content analysis
Content analysis is useful for structuring the content of texts ranked beneath the
level of framing tasks. The technical literature provides concrete instructions on
how to proceed with the empirical data. These instructions provide what is still
missing for a comprehensive research design analyzing the jihadi media content.
Content analysis is the method of choice for analyzing self-generated textual data
or other media. However, there are considerable methodological variations within
this research approach, extending from purely quantitative theme-frequency analy____________
For a study on AQ’s recruitment practices and mobilization of its rank and file, see
Arenthoft 2005.
For a dedicated social movement theory approach to Islamic activism in general, see
Wiktorowicz 2004b; in particular to Islamic terrorist movements, see Snow & Byrd
4.2 Research methods for analyzing jihadi media
sis of text samples to hermeneutical, linguistic, and semiotic analysis. The method
is not restricted to a certain media genre (e.g., newspapers, lyrics, webpage content,
logbooks, etc.), but is open in principle to any form of media-based communication. Fundamental to most kinds of content analysis is the coding of the verbal
(usually textual) data.
Qualitative content analysis is closely related to the grounded theory approach to
data analysis.194 The principle terminology of grounded theory concerning units of
analysis is not adopted here,195 but rather its main idea: to derive empirical phenomenological statements from textual data. To this end, this study uses explorative coding (also called inductive coding) as a means to classify and structure the
text material.
There are two crucial tasks involved in qualitative content analysis: first, to define categories which are representative for a cluster of similar and recurring issues
in the texts, and second, to classify similar text sequences with these categories.
The result of this procedure is a typology that represents, in a simplified manner,
the complex thematic structure of the text compilation.
One of the main epistemological concerns of qualitative content analysis is interpretative bias, because the definition of the text classifiers (the categories) is contingent to some degree, depending not only on the research interest, but also on the
analyst’s understanding of the content. While for some content there is “common
meaning ground where understanding is simple and direct,”196 other content can be
subtle, connoted, and ambiguous. To make things worse, perception and understanding varies with age, education, cultural background, and historical context
(same words meaning different things at different times). The constructivist view
therefore suggests that there is no single objective meaning but as many meanings
as there are recipients of the communication. Interpretations might be shared
among certain groups of individuals, but in essence they are diverse. To accommodate this concern Brosius explains that “the reception of texts therefore cannot be
objective, but only intersubjectively comprehensible,”197 meaning that others can
comprehend the way someone else comes to his understanding of a text even if
Grounded theory was introduced by Glaser & Strauss in their empirical study
Awareness of Dying in 1965. The researchers outlined their newly developed method
in the book “The discovery of grounded theory” two years later (Glaser & Strauss
Grounded theory uses the terms codes, concepts, categories, and theory to denote
different levels of abstraction between substantial content within the text data and
generalizing statements about this content, whereas this study classifies the media
content into issues, themes, narratives, and ideology.
Berelson 1952, quoted in Brosius et al. 2008, 141.
Brosius et al. 2008, 146.
4. Methodology
they perceive the text differently. To facilitate intersubjectivity in this study, parts
of the original text from which corresponding categories were inferred are annexed.
Research design and method of the study
The previous sections described the three methodological approaches blended into
the research design of this study. At the broadest level the jihadi ideology is considered to be part of a broader discourse in society. As with most ideologies of social movements, the jihadi ideology is comprised of three principle frames (social
diagnosis, prognosis, and rationale for action). These frames operate with narratives about complex social matters (e.g., apostasy), which in turn are comprised of
a set of less abstract but interrelated themes and issues, which can best be identified
by content analysis. The analytical units discourse, frame, narrative, themes, and
issues seem appropriate to identify the general thematic structure of the jihadi ideology as expressed in the sample of statements and to determine how the rationale
for violence is embedded within this ideology.
By analyzing public and semi-public statements of the jihadi movement one can,
without much interpretation and theorizing, observe the socio-political worldview
of AQ and its affiliates. The premises on which this study considers its empirical
observation to be accurate do not seem too far-fetched and are twofold. First, the
material is authentic and is a candid expression of the ideas, opinions, and convictions of the authors. This premise would be violated if the media were just used by
AQ as an instrument to form an impression about the author’s socio-political ideas,
opinions, and convictions that is completely different from his actual position. Certainly, it would be naïve to believe that jihadi media is not used for manipulating
the audience and conveying a certain picture about the movement, e.g., regarding
AQ’s religious purity. But the conspiratorial intentions of the jihadi movement
would be overestimated if one were to assume that all video, audio, and text material of the jihadi movement is produced to deceive some audience about the true
political nature of the movement.
The second premise is that the language spoken in the statements (that is, their
translations into English) is comprehensible to the researcher in its intended meaning. Of course, it can be suspected that the messages are culturally, religiously, and
symbolically connoted in a way that obstructs the (Western) researcher from getting at their actual and intended meaning. While this concern is justified for the
analysis of jihadi legal opinions (fatwas) and jihadi poetry, most of the sampled
communiqués are stated in everyday language. Moreover, the public video statements of AQ apparently do not contain “hidden messages,” as some renowned experts in the analysis of jihadi propaganda have noted: “Throughout the Islamic
world you have people who are willing to say exactly what they believe, even if
they are in the most extremist vein. You do not have to translate, decode, or decrypt
these things – they are perfectly willing to share their strategies with the rest of the
4.3 Research design and method of the study
world.”198 Social desirability bias does not seem to be a big issue when one analyzes the propaganda of a movement which is widely condemned anyway.
In fact, the jihadi media is a bonanza for social scientists, as Brachman and
McCants assert when they point to the reliability of jihadi open source material:
“Jihadi leaders are surprisingly frank […] Their candor is, in large part, a consequence of struggles for leadership within the movement; thus, a leader of one group
will publish his strategic vision in order to gain more recruits and achieve a reputation as a serious scholar worthy of respect. It is also a consequence of the United
States’ success in destroying jihadi training camps and denying safe havens – jihadi
leaders have had to put their writings online so as to provide continuing guidance
to a very decentralized following.”199
Sampling and data acquisition
The goal of sampling procedures – the selection of documents, respondents, informants, etc. – is to maximize generalizability of the observations made in the
sample to the total population from which the sample is selected. The manifest representation of the jihadi ideology is the sum of media in which this particular
worldview is stated. Every effort to define what media belongs to it is extremely
costly and necessarily vague, because there is a vast amount and variety of such
media, such as books, articles, video statements, interviews, web content, and audio
tapes.200 AQ is one important player within the jihadi movement, and certainly
their media belong to the ideology of jihadism. But there is also a wide circle of
clergy, private bloggers, forum members, or other authors not directly associated
with AQ who also actively contribute more or less important ideas to the jihadi
ideology. But even when one limits the data sampling to AQ’s own media it still is
“rather difficult […] to locate the corpus of texts produced by bin Laden and alZawahiri, be it in Arabic original or in English translation. […] the amount of textual material emanating from jihadist circles making it virtually impossible to produce a complete compilation of al-Qaida inspired literature.”201
Due to these difficulties, more standardized forms of randomized data sampling
are impracticable. In order to avoid getting caught in the dilemma of choosing be____________
Habeck 2004, 5.
Brachman & McCants 2006, 309.
Just to analyze UBL’s private collection of 1,500 audio tapes, which were acquired in
2001 by CNN in Afghanistan, it takes a perennial research project currently being
carried out by Flagg Miller at the University of California, Davis.
Hegghammer 2005, 7. In fact, there is one open source register listing AQ messages
(the AQ messaging timeline, published and kept up to date by the private intelligence
company IntelCenter 2008c), which enables standardized sampling. However, not all
of the media listed there is readily available.
4. Methodology
tween generalizability and feasibility, this study has to take a pragmatic approach
to sampling. A statement has to fulfill three criteria to be considered for sampling:
It must be attributable to AQ-central, a transcript must be readily available in the
English language, and it must have been published between September 11, 2001,
and December 2009.202 This cutoff is necessary because statements from the jihadi
movement before 9/11 are more difficult to obtain. Moreover, this would increase
the volume of potential sources considerably, so it is beyond practicability to include them. Choosing a narrow time frame close to the present also prevents historical bias, which could become an issue when selecting older statments.
Western academia has published different compilations of AQ statements. They
are an appropriate pre-selection for this study because experts compile and sometimes annotade these compediums. Drawing the data from these sources has the
advantage that the statements are considered by a number of experts to be relevant
and authentic. AQ statements from the following ten collections are included in the
ƒ Al-Qaida statements 2003-2004 – A compilation of translated texts by
Usama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri203
ƒ Words of Osama bin Laden, Vol. 1204
ƒ Words of Ayman al-Zawahiri, Vol. 1205
ƒ Words of Abu Yahya al-Libi, Vol. 1206
ƒ The al-Qaeda reader207
ƒ Al-Qaeda 2006 yearbook. The 2006 messages from al-Qaeda leadership208
ƒ Al-Qaeda 2007 yearbook. A comprehensive translation of the messages of
al-Qaeda leaders released in 2007209
ƒ What does al-Qaeda want? Unedited communiqués210
The same time frame for analysis of jihadi statements is chosen by Lia (2009a), who
poses the question “Does al-Qaida articulate a consistent strategy?”.
Edited and annotated by Hegghammer (2005). This compendium was published by
the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI).
Compiled by IntelCenter 2008a.
Compiled by IntelCenter 2008b.
Compiled by IntelCenter 2009.
Edited and annotated by Ibrahim 2007.
Compiled by Mansfield 2007.
Compiled by Mansfield 2009.
Compiled by Marlin 2004.
4.3 Research design and method of the study
ƒ Jihad. Bin Laden in his own words. Declarations, interviews and speeches211
ƒ Documentation on al-Qa’ida – Interviews, statements, and other primary
sources, 1990–2002212
Taken together, these compilations contain 103 transcripts of different statements.213 The inclusion of the FFI (2003) compilation proved to be a useful addition since it includes some statements unknown to the other editions. For data analysis the transcripts were either taken directly from the compilations or from the
online archive of the SITE Intelligence Group.214 The pre-selection of 103 statements was further narrowed down through the elimination of texts which are too
peripheral for this study. The remaining 86 statements were included in the
MAXQDA dataset.215 A relevance score from 1 to 5 was assigned to each pamphlet (based on their title, a quick look through the texts, or their summary [if
available]), and finally the 31 statements with the highest score were selected for
content analysis. Figure 2 illustrates the sampling procedure.
Compiled by Berner 2007.
Edited and annotated by Hegghammer (2003), published by FFI. Only English transcripts dated after September 11, 2001, are considered.
Excluding the FFI compilation with statements from 1990-2002. If redundant transcripts are not ruled out they add up to 197.
A broad range of institutions and companies offer their services to customers seeking
information on terrorist groups and individuals. The SITE Intelligence Group, IntelCenter, and the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) are among the institutions that collect, translate, and provide authentic online media from the jihadi
movement. The staff of these institutions is comprised of former intelligence workers,
translators, and terrorism experts. Bruce Hoffman and Rohan Gunaratna, for instance,
are senior advisors to the SITE Intelligence Group. The customers of the information
include journalists, researchers, insurance companies, and even authorities. From the
archives they can review video and audio messages from AQ’s intellectual leadership
as well as less public material from the jihadi dark web, such as training and technical
manuals for weaponry, operative videos, periodicals, and logs from jihadi forums.
Besides the primary data, the terror trackers also provide analysis papers, dossiers,
processed statistical data, and highly customized profiling on specific terrorist groups
or individuals.
MAXQDA is computer software for content analysis and the analysis of qualitative
data in general.
4. Methodology
Figure 2: Sampling stages and sources for AQ statements
Coding procedure
The heuristic used for coding/classifying the content of the 31 statements is to use
as few categories as possible but as many as necessary to meaningfully cluster the
information in the statements. The terms “codes” and “categories” are used interchangeably in this book. They refer to the label under which similar content is subsumed. How abstract these categories are is the researcher’s decision. For instance,
all content could be classified under one category: “ideology.” The variance within
such a category would, however, be too large and would consequently oversummarize the content. The other extreme is to build a dedicated category for every
single issue and aspect, which would not summarize the content sufficiently. The
middle ground between these extremes is to build hierarchical categories that are
internally homogenous in terms of content, and externally heterogeneous so that
two different categories are indeed about two different issues. The hierarchical
structure of the categories (issues, themes, narratives, and frames) allows moving
between different levels of abstractness.
Each category is labeled by the analyst with a descriptively appropriate term representing the category’s content. For this purpose, in vivo coding can be used if
appropriate, meaning that an expression from the original text is used as a proper
label for the category. The use of categories allows each statement to be dismantled
and its various text segments attributed to a certain category. These text segments
(also called codings in the terminology of content analysis) vary in length from
parts of a sentence to several connected paragraphs. A segment (or parts of it) can
4.3 Research design and method of the study
be attributed to different categories simultaneously if it deals with several aspects at
the same time.
Some issues occur frequently in every transcript while others are addressed only
in a few statements. To identify such patterns it is necessary to read and code a text
several times at different stages of analysis. As the analyst assigns recurring information and issues to appropriate categories he constantly collapses, deletes, or
changes categories and reassigns corresponding content. As the number of different
categories increases they are grouped into clusters of issues which correspond to a
broader theme. For instance, the issues “sellout of crude oil,” “corruption in the
Gulf states,” and “repression by Arab rulers” are grouped into the theme “grievances.” Themes are more abstract entities and integrate a number of similar specific
aspects of the text. When different themes share a common latent concept they are
grouped into a narrative. For instance, “grievances” is a subtheme of the narrative
on “apostasy/the near enemy.” Clusters of certain narratives correspond to the
“core framing tasks” diagnosis, prognosis, and rationale for violence. For instance,
“apostasy” is considered by AQ to be a symptom of the Islamic malaise and therefore part of AQ’s socio-political diagnosis. Accordingly, the hierarchical structure
of the categories is as follows: issues, themes, narrative, framing tasks, ideology.
Figure 4 in chapter 6 illustrates the structure of issues, themes, narratives, and
framing tasks within AQ’s ideology. The content of categories (i.e., their codings)
can overlap since the meaning of the jihadi statements is usually not communicated
in discrete blocks of content (like in a newscast). Only categories from different
hierarchies within the same branch are mutually exclusive to each other. For instance, content coded as the theme “grievance” is never additionally coded as
“apostasy” but is treated as a subtheme of the apostasy narrative.
Throughout the whole coding process (which was carried out within a five
month period), different categories were created, reconsidered, merged, and partly
discarded. Categories that were created after the first statements had been read but
that turned out to be of limited descriptive value for other statements were discarded, while other categories appeared only after the bulk of statements had already
been coded for the first time. To produce a coherent text classification system for
the statements it is necessary to conduct a second and third round of coding and
data cleansing.
Data analysis
The categories derived from explorative coding are the primary units for subsequent description and analysis. The text corresponding to each category can be isolated from the documents in which it occurs. In content analysis this procedure is
called text retrieval. The retrieved segments are reviewed and summarized in order
to gain a brief but comprehensive view of each theme’s essence and thereby of the
overall ideology.
4. Methodology
Word counts for each category are carried out to calculate the relative text proportion (quotient, percentage) of each category. Figure 3 in chapter 5 lists all narratives and themes ranked according to their volume of content. The standard procedure in qualitative data analysis is to consider the frequencies of codings, i.e., the
number of segments assigned to a code, irrespective of the actual word count.216
Since the codings vary considerably in their length (which can be anything from a
part of a sentence to several paragraphs), the coding frequency is only a rough indicator for a category’s proportion within the text collection. Even worse, the standard procedure creates a systematic bias when some categories tend to contain longer text segments than others, which is the case in this study. Therefore, an alternative metric for calculating the relative proportion of categories is used; one that
considers the frequencies of words within a category, irrespective of the number of
coded text segments. The main objective of this procedure is to identify how much
space is granted in the statements to the various topics, themes, narratives, and
framing tasks.217
In addition to the qualitative description and calculation of category proportion,
relational analysis is carried out to determine how each category is qualitatively
and quantitatively related to the other categories. There are two metrics that indicate the strength of the thematic connection between two or more categories: text
intersections and text proximity.218 The MAXQDA code-retrieval function “inter____________
For instance: Kuckartz 2010, 116.
The number of retrieved words using the MAXQDA retrieval function OR cannot be
used directly for calculating the true percentage of a code in relation to the entire text
set. The following procedure is necessary to obtain the proportion of words from
those categories which have overlapping subcategories. A simple count of word frequency would lead to over-coverage because overlapping text is retrieved redundantly. To delete redundancies, text retrieval using the function OR has to include all subcategories of the category whose proportion is to be calculated. Text that is coded
multiple times is also retrieved repeatedly at this stage. In order to deduce the redundant text retrievals, one must use the command: “code the results with new code.”
The new code is free of redundant segments and its word frequencies can be used to
calculate the net percentage of this category in relation to the sum of words in the text
data. I would like to thank Stefan Rädiker for sharing this hint on the MAXQDA support forum.
Code intersection and proximity are not naturally occurring facts, but observations of
the coder’s decision. Because one of the coding heuristics in this research project is to
use a minimal number of codes to meaningfully represent as many single issues in the
text as possible, clusters of themes and issues necessarily overlap. It can be assumed
that intersections of codings increase as the number of categories decreases, that is, as
they become more abstract. Code intersections appear when the coder assigns two or
more different codes to the same text segments. There are two reasons for doing this:
Either the essence of the segment is deemed to be equally fitting for two categories
simultaneously, or there are actually two different (but related) aspects whose similarity makes it difficult for the coder to tell where one ends and the other begins. At any
4.3 Research design and method of the study
section” retrieves only those text passages that are classified by two (or more) specified codes simultaneously, while the retrieval function “near” filters out text from
at least two specified codes if they appear within a default text range from each
other.219 These two text-retrieval functions are used to calculate a score for the
thematic relatedness of two or more categories.
The proportion of intersecting text between two codes can be taken as an indicator for their similarity, while proximity identifies which set of topics frequently and
systematically appear in sequence. Voluminous categories share more portions of
text with other categories than smaller codes do (absolute count). Therefore, the
calculated score provides a relative comparison of categories as the row percentage
(percentage of text from category A intersecting with text from categories B, C,
etc.). Values can vary between 0 and 100. Whereas 100 percent intersection indicates that all text belonging to code A is also coded with code B, zero percent intersection between two codes indicates perfect mutual exclusiveness.220 Since intersection is a score for the thematic relatedness of two (or more) categories, the
analyst should be alert when two (or more categories) intersect to a great extent
because this indicates that discriminant validitiy may not be given. Very high intersection scores indicate that two categories in fact represent (measure) the same latent concept and that their separation thus cannot be empirically justified.
A value of 100 percent text proximity for two or more categories indicates that
all content of category A appears next to a paragraph classified by category B. Zero
percent text proximity indicates that the two categories never appear in sequence.
Automated concept mapping using Leximancer
As a method to complement human interpretative content analysis, the study applies automated quantitative content analysis and automated concept mapping to
the compilation of AQ statement texts in order to contrast the results of the two
rate, according to the coding heuristic an intersection of two or more codes indicates
that they are thematically connected. A perfect match of two or more codings is treated as an intersection, too.
The distance parameter of the function is set to one paragraph. Parameters for the
retrieval function “near” are set as follows: Code A = X; Code B = Y, Max. distance
= 1 paragraph, results = Code A. Note that this retrieval also includes all intersections
of both codes since their distance from each other is one paragraph or less.
Example: Category A contains 100 words; Category B contains 1,000 words; the two
categories share 10 words. The calculated intersection score is 10 percent based on
category A and 1 percent based on category B. The score for thematic relatedness between two (or more) categories must always indicate to which category the values of
the score relate. Alternatively, one can calculate the sum of words from both categories A and B, and put their sum in relation to the word frequency of intersecting text.
The first option is deemed more helpful in this study.
4. Methodology
approaches, as proposed by König: “It is then within the discretion of the analyst to
decide if the obtained maps confirm, extend, or contradict the frame model [here
classification system] obtained through interpretative analysis.”221 The computer
application Leximancer is a statistical linguistic tool for mapping semantic networks in text data.222 Leximancer has been used to investigate a wide range of textual data (interviews, newspaper, literature, web content) in different domains, such
as linguistics, health care, and the social sciences.223 The software carries out the
two essential steps of content analysis as described above: The development of a
classification system comprised of categories (called concept extraction in the Leximancer terminology) and the subsequent classification (coding) of the text data. As
with the functions of MAXQDA, the concepts/categories can be analyzed in terms
of co-occurrence, frequency, interrelation, and relevance. Basically, this is the same
form of content exploration conducted in interpretative coding with MAXQDA,
only in an automated fashion. This study applies automated concept mapping to see
whether this method confirms, extends, or challenges the findings from human coding and whether the software can reveal conceptual patterns of the jihadi statements
not detected in interpretative, qualitative coding. Because the description of this
procedure is very technical, and because some of the results of automated concept
mapping did not bring about the expected additional insight into jihadi ideology, it
is annexed and only the crucial findings are summarized hereafter.
The most noteworthy finding from automated concept mapping is that the program does not reproduce the routing categories (diagnosis, prognosis, rationale,
empirical credibility) but instead suggests, at the broadest level, a division of the
content into a theological and a secular-political branch. This dichotomy is, according to automated concept mapping, fundamental for the ideology of AQ, whereas
the interpretative distinction between the four framing tasks is not reproduced by
the software, which means that there is no semantic-statistical ground for this distinction. The human-made taxonomy applies the secular-religious dichotomy, too,
but only as a subdivision of different narratives at the level of themes (for instance
political-strategic refusal vs. theological refusal of secular governance; strategic vs.
religious instrumentality of violence; theological vs. political justification of violence). Most directly this divide applies to the frame “reference system,” which is
subdivided into a secular and a theological branch (jihadi journalism vs. theological
references). As the theological-secular dichotomy is latent in many categories de-
König 2006, 66.
Smith 2003.
For instance, see Grech et al. 2002; Rooney, 2005. McKenna and Waddell used Leximancer for semantic mapping of newspaper coverage following the 2005 London
bombings (McKenna & Waddell 2007, 377).
4.3 Research design and method of the study
rived through interpretation, it seems justified that Leximancer applies this division
at a much higher level.224
Automated concept mapping does not reproduce the core framing tasks used as a
routing category in the interpretative taxonomy, presumably because they are theory driven and refer to the communicative function and intention of the statements
rather than to the immediate meaning of the content. The functions of the core
framing tasks as suggested by social movement theory (providing a persuasive ideology to mobilize resources) are not explicitly stated by the authors, and therefore
the program cannot identify them by just analyzing linguistic patterns within the
The other automatically computed concepts partly support and partly contradict
interpretative category building. These findings are discussed in the annex. The
semantic patterns calculated with the Leximancer algorithm are statistical facts. A
text passage is only coded with a certain concept when it contains sufficient evidence that this concept is present (determined by a thesaurus search and the threshold level). Two crucial steps in the statistical procedure are the generation of a seed
word list and the thesaurus definition of a concept. The researcher’s intervention at
these levels drastically increased the match between the automated concept map
and the human-made taxonomy, but left many incongruent concepts as well. The
relative relevance of concepts developed from the user-generated seed word list is
systematically lower than the relevance score of concepts calculated without human
Two different conclusions can be drawn from this observation. First, statistically
similar patterns in the content may not always convey the same meaning. Second,
the human coding decisions are too interpretative, meaning that the coder discerns
two different topics within a set of semantically coherent text passages where no
such differences in meaning exist.
The next part of this study (part C) presents the results of the content analysis.
The findings provide a thorough description of the ideology of jihadism and give
insight into the complex worldviews of AQ leaders and their conviction why the
use of force is necessary, legitimate, and instrumental to remedy their grievances
and to reach their goals. One after the other all narratives, themes, and issues are
summarized. Relational content analysis allows for insights into “hidden” content
of these messages, namely the outspoken motivations and purposes of the jihadi
A holistic view of the ideology reveals that almost every issue is considered from two
perspectives: strategic-political and theological. This is not too surprising since austere piety in combination with violent political activism is one of the hallmarks of jihadism. However, this divide is not stated explicitly in the statements but is a latent
The ideology of jihadism
What are the different issues, themes, and narratives touched upon in the political
communication of AQ and how are they related to each other?225 The explorative
coding of the statements yielded 92 different categories. There are different options
for summarizing and mapping these categories, depending on what is of interest to
the analyst. One option, for instance, is to describe their communicative function.
At the broadest level three such functions can be distinguished: Parts of the jihadi
messages may either be theoretical, performative, or auxiliary in their communicative function. They are theoretical when they delineate the socio-political theory of
the jihadi movement, which includes critique, grievances, and assumed causes for
the political status quo. The theory also contains assumptions about what is necessary to transform the secularized society into one that fits the jihadi fundamentalists’ model. Other parts of the messages are performative, meaning that the message is intended to create a social (e.g., legal) fact such as arguing for the
excommunication of an Islamic head of state or a whole government or demonstrating that the legal criteria for a defensive jihad in a certain conflict are fulfilled.
Auxiliary text segments are passages that provide empirical or legal facts used as
evidence in support of the assumptions and political claims as well as evidential
support for the effectiveness of the proclaimed solution.
Because many of the political goals of the jihadi movement contradict mainstream political sentiments, the authors are impelled to back up their unconventional views with convincing examples and arguments, a requirement that is called
“empirical credibility”226 in social movement theory and is represented in the
branch “reference system” in the figure illustrating AQ’s ideology (see Figure 4).
This branch represents content which is not invented by the authors (in contrast to
the rest of the ideology) but which backs up the theoretical ideas, claims, and accusations of the other branches. This auxiliary content is subdivided into two categories. These are “jihadi journalism,” i.e., references to actual social or political
events in a literally journalistic manner (sometimes with quotes from Western news
media or academic work), and “theological references,” i.e., quotations from the
Issue, theme, narrative, and frame are the basic analytical categories used to classify
the content of jihadi media; see chapter 4.3.2.
Snow & Benford 1988, 208.
5. The ideology of jihadism
Quran and Hadith as well as from credible and rather undisputed sources such as
widely acknowledged exegetes and religious scholars.227
Besides the frame “reference system,” the three core framing tasks of social
movement theory (diagnosis, prognosis, rationale) are used as the routing categories under which all other narratives, themes, and issues are classified. They are
particularly useful categories because ideologies generally contain information
about a movement’s interpretation of social reality, their political goals and solutions to the social problems they see, and the ways and means to achieve social
change. Therefore, the content of the statements should provide a straightforward
answer to the main research question of this study: How is the use of political violence described as necessary, legitimate, and functional for achieving the goals of
the jihadi movement?
The frame “jihadi doctrines & strategies” and its subcategories “instrumentality
of force” and “justification for violence” are about this specific aspect. The content
of these categories provides very illustrative results about the jihadi rationale for
violence. The results of explorative content analysis show that the description of
the use of force as a necessary, functional, and legitimate means of social change is
embedded within a broader worldview describing the symptoms of the Salafi fundamentalist malaise (the “worldwide heresy”), identifying its causes, and promising
a vision that shall be realized through the jihadi struggle. Taken together, the four
frames make up the jihadi ideology. Figure 4 illustrates its thematic structure and
will help to navigate the reader through chapter 6, which scrutinizes and maps the
content of the three principle components of jihadi ideology: (a) socio-political
diagnosis, (b) doctrines and strategies, and (c) objectives. The fourth branch “reference system” does not constitute a distinctive topic on its own but contains evidential support for all the other categories.
The 31 statements have a total word count of 178,000 (this book without bibliography and annex has 84,000).228 The longest analyzed transcript, with about
17,000 words, is AAZ’s fourth as-sahab video interview, entitled “A review of
events.” That corresponds to a video run time of 1:38 hours. The word frequency of
the transcripts is about 5,700 words on average (mean), 15 statements being longer
and 15 shorter than 4,000 words (median). More than three-quarters (80 percent) of
the overall text is classified by at least one code from the coding scheme. Segments
without any coding include the formal greeting at the beginning of speeches and
Rhetorical figures could have been coded as an example of auxiliary text as well,
since they can contribute to how well an ideology performs. However, since this
study is not a linguistic or communicative analysis, rhetoric was not considered, with
the exception of the category “humor/sarcasm/irony” (see annex, 5.).
In the subsequent chapters all word counts are rounded. If >10,000 all word counts
are rounded to the nearest thousand if < 10,000 they are rounded to the nearest hundred.
5. The ideology of jihadism
single issue content which does not fit any of the categories and is too diverse for
building categories of its own. Enclosed in the annex is a complete and uncoded
transcript of one of the statements that gives the reader an idea of its form, composition, and content.
Figure 3: Proportion of thematic categories in relation to total word count229
AQ devotes a varying amount of space to the different issues, themes, and narratives in the statements. Figure 3 lists all themes and narratives, ranked by their relative text proportion. As a text segment sometimes cannot be categorized as mutually exclusive to other categories and therefore is coded two or three times, the sum
Reads as: The narrative of “apostasy” makes up 22 percent (40,000 words) of all content in the sample. Its subcategory “religious supremacy” makes up 6.7 percent
(12,000 words) of all content in the sample. Note that subcategories of a narrative do
not necessarily add up to the total word count of the narrative, but can exceed or fall
short of that number; see section 4.3.2 for coding procedure.
5. The ideology of jihadism
of the coded segments exceeds the sum of all words of the 31 documents by
210,000 to 178,000. That means that the word frequency of the retrieved segments
of all codes makes up roughly 120 percent or 1.2 times the original text compilation.
The next three chapters describe the narratives, themes, and issues of each frame
by paraphrasing the content of each category and using text retrievals from the
original sources as examples. Longer verbatim quotes are referenced to the annex.
In addition to providing a summary of each category’s content, this study probes
the narrative link between two or more categories by carrying out two basic analytical functions of content analysis: code intersections and code sequence.230
The frame “reference system” (69,000 words) consists of auxiliary content used
by the authors to support the various claims and assumptions expressed in their
ideology. References are therefore not reviewed in a separate chapter as with the
other themes, but in a synopsis. The references are subdivided into evidential support (subcategory “jihadi journalism”) and legal support (subcategory “theological
Chapter 6 proceeds by describing AQ socio-political criticism, the goals it pursues, and an explanation for its violent activism. Following the summary of each
theme, the results of relational content analysis are discussed, i.e., how each theme
relates to other themes and narratives.
For a methodological explanation of both measures, see chapter 4.3.3.
Theological references (quotations from the Quran, the Hadith, and acknowledged
exegeses) make up twelve percent (22,000 words) of the text compilation, while more
secular evidential references make up one-quarter (47,000 words; 26 percent) of the
text of all statements. Many of the issues in the jihadi ideology are discussed with regard to both theological and political aspects, such as its refusal of secular governance
for theological reasons and straightforward strategic-political reasons.
Mapping AQ’s ideology: Frames, narratives, themes, and
issues in jihadi media
Although it was not the initial intention of this research project to empirically test
for the applicability of social movement theory to the jihadi movement, it turned
out that AQ’s political communication resembles the basic communication strategies employed by other activists with a political agenda. Wilson’s (1973) “decomposition of ideology into three component elements,”232 which Snow and Benford
adopt in their theory, is particularly useful for structuring the jihadi ideology as
expressed in the statements. According to social movement theory, a group of activists with a worldview that deviates from the socio-political mainstream has to
carry out three core framing tasks in order to gain organizational vitality by way of
appeals and participant mobilization:233
1. diagnostic framing (identification of a problem and attribution of blame)
2. prognostic framing (suggestion of solutions, strategies, and tactics to a problem)
3. motivational framing (providing a rationale for [violent] action).
In AQ’s propaganda we find all three elements. The jihadi discourse provides an
elaborated diagnosis of the societal status quo; it promises a prosperous alternative
to the current socio-political organization of Islamic countries, namely the implementation of Sharia law according to the interpretation of Salafism; and AQ prescribes jihad as the means to transform the ummah from their current malaise to the
aspired theocracy. Additionally, the ideology provides empirical and legal evidence
for their claims (this is the fourth frame). It must be noted that the four frames are
adopted here only for descriptive purposes, not for theoretical ones. In social movement theory, frames within the political communication are independent variables
for explaining the level of resource mobilization a social movement can reach.
However, this study does not address the empirical question of what causal impact
coherence, plausibility, or persuasiveness of the frames actually has on resource
mobilization, public opinion, and AQ’s recruitment.234 It just adopts these terms as
Snow & Benford 1988, 199.
Snow & Benford 1988, 200.
For a social movement theory approach to the study of Islamic activism in general
(Sunni and Shiite, violent and non-violent), see Wiktorowicz 2004.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
appropriate categories for structuring the content of the statements.235 Accordingly,
on the most abstract level the ideology of AQ may be subdivided into four branches or routing categories, as can be seen in Figure 4.
39 percent of the entire text sample belongs to the frame “socio-political analysis” (diagnostic frame),236 while only four percent of the content specifies purposes
and objectives for solving the diagnosed social problems (prognostic frame). Apparently, the goal of the jihadi movement (which essentially is the comprehensive
implementation of Sharia law in Islamic countries) is a premise rather than something that is in need of an explanation. Finally, jihadi doctrines (the motivational
frame) make up almost one-fifth (19 percent) of the transcripts from the sample.
The content of this frame together with its subcategories justifies the use of force as
a means to realize the movement’s political agenda. This is the essential category
for the question about AQ’s rationale for violence. According to social movement
theory, the frame “doctrines and strategies” is supposed to be the narrative link
between AQ’s perception of socio-political problems and the goals it wants to realize, explaining how the use of force is beneficial in this transformative process.
Content analysis of AQ’s public statements reveals a complex belief system about
the use of force in both political-strategic and theological concerns. However, despite all this painstaking reasoning, “Bin Laden’s or al-Zawahiri’s public statements on tactical military matters do not add up to something that might resemble a
comprehensive war-fighting doctrine.”237
The essential trait of AQ’s militancy is its dual purpose as political violence and
religious performance. Jeffry Cozzens describes this divide as the “dualistic warfare
of AQ,” with an instrumental and a non-instrumental component.238 The instrumental component represents jihad as a military means while the non-instrumental
purpose of jihad has theological objectives. AQ immunizes its seemingly irrational
and indiscriminate military strategy against the devastating critique of other Islamist movements by stressing the religious value of jihad, which can compensate for
The terminology of social movement theory was adopted after initial coding of the
material and not as a preconceived concept. This is important to note because
Grounded Theory suggests to explore the data without having preconceived theories
and concepts in mind and to remain open for new observations.
That is 70,000 of 178,000 words.
Lia 2009a, 17.
Cozzens 2007, 128.
Figure 4: Frames, narratives, themes and issues in AQ’s ideology
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
possible strategic shortcomings. In the words of AYL, jihad is not just “a mere dry
means”239 to achieve political goals. The jihadists appear to be indifferent about
their targets and indifferent about the political consequences of their attacks. As
chapter 2.3.3 has shown, this is also the essential trait of terrorism in comparison to
related forms of political violence. The jihadi media shows that no matter what the
consequences of jihadi violence are, AQ’s ideologues welcome it as a success for
the mujahedeen. As jihadi violence defies strategic assessment, the movement remains flexible in its militant operations. Thus, military losses can still pass as an
ideological, spiritual, or moral success of jihadism. That is not to say that there are
no expectations of violent activism. They are just very broad, and religious and
political expectations about the use of force mutually reinforce each other. Without
straightforward strategic expectations about what can be reached politically
through violent activism, the jihadi movement would not engage in it, and without
the religious expectations the jihadi movement would probably consider its violent
activism strategically futile for enforcing its political goals.
In order to provide a better understanding of this twisted mindset, AQ’s
worldview will be delineated below. Not only do the 31 statements give a very illustrative impression of political events in the Middle East from the view of the
jihadists, they also show that almost every aspect of current affairs is considered
from two perspectives: a secular political perspective and a theological one. Of
course, for the Salafi jihadists, these are two sides of the same coin.
The socio-political analysis of jihadism
Our general overview of AQ ideology starts with a review of the three narratives
within the diagnostic frame. The jihadists perceive three interrelated threats to Islam: the problem of apostasy from Islam, the military and political conflict between
Islam and the West (which is in fact only a conflict just between fundamentalist
Islam and the West), and the enlargement of democracy and secular governance.
As has been repeatedly shown in the literature, the jihadists understand the conflict with the near enemy (apostate Arab governments) and the conflict with the far
enemy (various Western countries, first and foremost the USA and Israel) as interrelated conflicts. Jihadists think the Islamic world is ruled by illegitimate political
leaders who cannot be toppled as long as the US supports and protects them against
the Islamist revolution.240 Therefore, jihadism proposes a comprehensive political
AYL, September 9, 2007, 65. Note: This and all following footnotes referring to the
analyzed jihadi media provide the release date of a statement as it is given by the provider of the data (IntelCenter, SITE). The number after the year does not indicate the
page (as in all other footnotes citing “regular” literature) but the paragraph, because
text processed in MAXQDA is split up into paragraphs rather than pages.
For instance, see Gerges 2005; Roy 1994.
6.1 The socio-political analysis of jihadism
program (the global jihad) to be carried out by various Islamist factions regardless
of their national affiliation, as each of these groups is fighting the same battle
against “worldwide heresy.” While large parts of the statements are specific to one
of the three narratives, some passages summarize AQ’s socio-political critique in
general, such as a passage from the second as-sahab interview with AYL from September 2007.241
A similar view is expressed in another video message (the advice of one concerned by AAZ, July 2007) that includes footage from a speech of the Kuwaiti dissident Dr. Abdullah al-Nafisi as he speaks in support of AQ’s political position at a
Today, the world lives in the shadow of a global system, a global system whose center and heart is the United States and the European Union. This is the center of the
global system. As for the rest of the states of the world, they are the outlying states,
and include the states of Asia, Africa, Latin America and other states of the world.
The central states control the outlying states using four methods. The first method:
monopolization of military technologies. The second method: monopolization of the
crudes – oil and wheat. The third method: international legality – the United Nations. And the fourth method: globalization of culture and media.
Using these four muscles, the central states control the outlying states. The central
states wage all their wars here in the outlying states, and thus all the damage resulting from these wars happens here, to us. You will note that there was a war in Vietnam, a war in Somalia, a war in Palestine, a war in Iraq, an upcoming war in Sudan and so on.
Such comments represent the interrelatedness of the three major topics of the jihadist’s Weltanschauung: The military and political hegemony of the Western
world (first and foremost the US), which is facilitated by the tractability of dependent Islamic countries and the secularization of Islamic politics according to the
democratic model.
The passage quoted above is taken from an as-sahab video production. As-sahab,
the media production house of AQ and its affiliated groups, produces interviews
with jihadi leaders, documentaries, and news shows with AAZ as an anchorman,
thereby giving AQ’s socio-political diagnosis the semblance of objective journalism, not only in terms of content but also in terms of the style of the video broadcasts. AQ’s propaganda contains true facts, exaggerated facts, and non-verifiable
facts, but usually does not present flat-out lies. And in fact, AQ’s political convictions do not consist only of ideological nonsense. Here and there they appear to be
quite accurate and realistic. The Western observer might subscribe to a good share
of AQ’s observations of current affairs, partly agreeing and partly disagreeing to
consider these observations as unjust political problems. Major disagreement may
See annex 3., No. 1.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
not arise until the point when the ideologues suggest their militant solution to these
social problems (namely jihad) and the political goals they try to realize (namely
establishing a Salafi theocracy).
Academic literature distinguishes between the near and the far enemy of the jihadi
movement, “the so-called near enemy – far enemy divide.”242 Notwithstanding the
global dimension of jihadism, large parts of the jihadi conflict remain within the
cultural-political sphere of Islam. Although UBL calls to strike Western interests all
over the world,243 countries in the Middle East suffer most from jihadi violence.
The jihadi mission is to liberate Islamic countries from their authoritarian regimes.
The general position of the jihadi movement regarding their categories of friends
and foes was expressed by UBL in a 2001 interview with Ummat, a Karachi-based
We are not against any Islamic country. We do not consider a war against an Islamic
country as jihad. We are in favour of armed jihad only against those infidel governments, which are killing innocent Muslim men, women and children just because
they are Muslims. Supporting the U.S. act is the need of some Muslim countries and
the compulsion of others. However, they should think as to what will remain of their
religious and moral position if they support the attack of the Christians and the Jews
on a Muslim country like Afghanistan. The orders of Islamic Shari‘a for such individuals, organizations and countries are clear and all the scholars of the Muslim
brotherhood are unanimous on them. We will do the same, which is being ordered
by the Amir al-Mu’minin Muhammad ‘Umar and the Islamic scholars. The hearts of
the people of Muslim countries are beating with the call of jihad. We are grateful to
The ideologues seek to legitimize the armed struggle against the near enemy
through numerous accusations against governments, institutions, and organizations
in the Middle East who ally with the US in the (alleged) global conflict between
Islam and the West. These accusations include, among others, the political repression of Islamist movements, abandonment of Sharia law, and the sellout of resources. The most serious accusation, however, is their political and military collaboration with the US, or even the absence of a clear position against them.
Beyond general remarks about apostasy, the narrative is divided into the three
substantial themes “grievances,” “religious supremacy,” and “groups of apostates.”
The first expresses concrete grievances and raises allegations against the despotic
governments (torture, corruption, repression, etc.); the second attempts to achieve
Hegghammer 2009, 26.
UBL, December 27, 2004, 51.
UBL, September 28, 2001, 9.
6.1 The socio-political analysis of jihadism
religious supremacy in the competition for theological authority and denies the
political institutions in the Middle East the authority and the willingness to rule on
behalf of Islam; the third theme describes three forms of apostasy from Islam (beggary, defeatism, and religious trading). “Grievances,” “religious supremacy,” and
“groups of apostates” are specific aspects of the general narrative on “apostasy.”
An example for the unsubstantial and general content of this narrative is UBL’s
simple slogan:
There is a great difference between the attitude of a Muslim leader and a hypocritical leader who cooperated with America in the global war against Islam. The former
sacrificed his kingdom for his religion, while the latter sacrificed his religion for his
Such general agitation is classified by the superordinate category “apostasy and
collaboration” and make up four percent of the entire text sample. It is most strongly associated (in terms of text intersections and textual proximity) with content
from the category “jihadi journalism” within the “reference system,” seemingly
because this provides some concrete examples of the otherwise less elaborated agitation against the near enemy.246 While all three subthemes deal with the “problem” of apostasy, they differ in their focus and communicative function.
For each of the three major political problems described in the statements (apostasy, global conflict, secularism) the jihadists diagnose a distinct set of grievances.
With rare exceptions, these three sets of grievances are mutually exclusive but intersect with codings from the reference system to substantiate the accusation.247
Grievances within the apostasy narrative are about issues like human rights viola-
UBL, December 29, 2007, 40.
43 percent (3,101 words) of the content classified under the category “apostasy”
(without its subcategories) is also classified as jihadi journalism. Values for content
intersection can vary between 0 and 100, 100 percent intersection indicating that all
text belonging to code A is also coded with code B (not vice versa). Zero percent intersection between two codes indicates perfect mutual exclusiveness. A value of 100
as the result for the near retrieval indicates that all text of code A is located within one
paragraph of code B, while 0 percent is the result when neither of the codes appear in
this sequence.
One transcript contains a sweeping statement in which AAZ names basically all of
AQ’s grievances in a single paragraph and explains how they are interrelated: despotic Arab regimes, US hegemony, and the “rigged game” of electoral systems. To read
the passage, see annex 3., No. 20.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
tions (political repression, torture, imprisonment of oppositional leaders),248 corruption, bad governance, the social disparities in the Gulf states, the allowance of
usury and other Sharia-prohibited action,249 military cooperation with the US, the
military impotence of the Gulf states, and the incapability or unwillingness to address Islamic matters in domestic and foreign policy. An illustrative case is provided in AAZ’s video broadcast “The advice of one concerned” from July 4, 2007, in
which he bemoans the level of corruption in Saudi Arabia and its military weakness. The as-sahab production uses somewhat sophisticated video technology, such
as blue screen, subtitles, flashing of statistical charts, etc., and refers extensively to
other media such as BBC documentaries and interviews with journalists and politicians. For about ten minutes AAZ explains the case of the al-Yamaha arms contract
in order to demonstrate the extent of corruption in the Saudi royal family. The information AAZ provides is presented with the aid of other media, including footage
from the al-Jazeera documentary “Trail of the dove” showing an interview with
David Leigh (journalist for The Guardian) about the al-Yamamah arms contract
between the British and Saudi governments, followed by excerpts from a PBS
frontline documentary showing an interview with Prince Bandar in which he admits to and trivializes corruption, and a voice recording of Dr. Sa’ad al-Faqih, a
Saudi dissident listed under Security Council Resolution 1267 as an AQ-affiliated
individual (see annex 3., No. 25 for the transcript of this video sequence).
Usually grievances are presented in a less sophisticated fashion, but their meaning remains the same. The enumeration of various grievances and the accusation of
guilt against Middle Eastern regimes make up three percent of the entire text sample and appear in 14 of the 31 statements. Compared with other themes this is a
mediocre proportion (seventh largest theme, see Figure 4) and shows that the expression of grievances plays a somewhat important role in the jihadi media.
When the ideologues express grievances they usually back up their accusations
with an example from the real world. More than half of the content in which AQ
“And your agents in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Pakistan and
Afghanistan, have captured thousands of the youths and soldiers of Islam whom you
made to taste at your hands and the hands of your agents various types of punishment
and torture” (AAZ, September 29, 2006, 43).
UBL states about this matter: “However, the regime issued decrees and legislations,
which make it [i.e., usury] lawful, and support it, and set penalties for whoever wants
to oppose it or avoids paying what they deceitfully call ‘profit.’ It is well known,
however, that to take usury is a grave sin and it is one of the acts that removes one
from Islam” (UBL, December 16, 2004, 31); also: “Is any Muslim ignorant of the fact
that assisting infidels against Muslims is prohibited, or that legalizing the taking of interest is prohibited? This is obviously well known in religion, just as one knows that
drinking wine and promiscuity are prohibited […] You permit that which God prohibits and you prohibit that which God allows, and you issue certificates of absolution to
whomever you want” (UBL, December 16, 2004, 41).
6.1 The socio-political analysis of jihadism
expresses its complaints is also classified as fact content from the category “jihadi
journalism.”250 Besides this, no other narrative, theme, or issue co-occurs systematically with “grievances” in the statements.
The expression of grievances in AQ’s political communication can be considered
rather moderate since it mirrors the sentiments of many Muslims concerning the
situation in many Middle Eastern countries (authoritarian and single-party systems,
repression of political opposition, poverty, corruption). However, it can only be
speculated here whether AQ’s outrage about bad governance in the Gulf states and
elsewhere in the Middle East is sincere or whether it adopts the critique from the
public discourse in order to make the jihadi ideology more appealing to the masses.
All the same, AQ does not call for public protest and reform in Islamic countries.
There seem to be a theological and a political-strategic reason for this: Islamic law
prohibits violent political protest against an unjust, but principally legitimate Islamic ruler. Jihad is not a means for domestic political change but the option of war
against a foreign occupier. In order to legitimate jihad it is not sufficient to prove
that a Muslim ruler is unjust, sinful, and repressive; it has to be proven that he is an
apostate and an enemy of Islam. Once this is proven the option of political reform
is not given anymore and the illegitimate ruler has to be replaced by a legitimate
one. From a political-strategic point of view the jihadists do not have an interest in
political reform because they hope to profit from the people’s political dissatisfaction. As soon as the regimes in the Middle East allow for reform due to political
protest AQ loses its arguments to claim leadership in the Islamic world. In this regard the 2011 Arab spring has the potential to challenge and to marginalize the
jihadi movement.
More polarizing and extreme than the enumeration of (justified) political grievances are the other two themes of the apostasy narrative. Essentially, they claim
that the repressive and “criminal” conduct of these regimes is not just about mere
personal ambitions and power but is a deliberate strategy against Islam and constitutes apostasy. Governmental malpractice doubtlessly constitutes a sin for AQ, but
a mere sin does constitute disbelief and apostasy according to Islamic law, and AQ
apparently accepts this rule.251 A considerably larger portion of the text compilation is dedicated to these two themes than to the mantra-like repetition of mainstream social protest. This indicates that AQ does not seek political reform but
seeks to delegitimize the Arab leaders.
58 percent (or 3,146 of 5,441 words).
The Islamic faction of the Khawarij very readily denounced Muslims as apostates
based on their sinful action, which it believed was sufficient evidence to prove their
disbelief. Even AQ considers this practice as too imprudent and distances itself from
the Khawarijs: “They have accused the mujahidin of following the Kharijite sect, but
they know that we have absolutely nothing to do with that school [of thought]” (UBL,
December 16, 2004, 39).
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
While three percent of the content from all 31 statements deals with mainstream
political grievances, 15 percent frames the conduct of Islamic governments as a
deliberate political and doctrinal conspiracy against Islam and can therefore be
considered more radical and polarizing content.252 Indeed, demonstrating and providing evidence for the anticipated conspiracy seems to be the concern par excellence within the apostasy theme. There are two discursive strategies for doing so.
One is trying to achieve religious supremacy over the contested legal question
“What makes an Islamic political leader an apostate?”. The other describes a simple framework of the social phenomena “apostasy” in order to educate the recipients of the jihadi message so that they recognize apostasy when they encounter it.
In other words, the theme “religious supremacy” describes the theological dimension of apostasy and the theme “groups of apostates” describes its political dimension.
Religious supremacy
Content classified under the theme “religious supremacy” is all about the intellectual competition to represent Islam’s rightful doctrine and speak on behalf of the
ummah. Content in this theme is not descriptive but performative, meaning that the
author’s central concern is to establish a hierarchy of credibility.253 Text is classified as “religious supremacy” when the author promotes his own position and discredits those of others on contested legal issues in Islam, thereby challenging the
opponents’ religious prudence and claiming his own dogmatic supremacy.
Quintan Wiktorowicz plausibly describes “al-Qaeda’s struggle for sacred authority” and identifies the movement’s basic framing strategies to “assert its authority to
speak on behalf of an issue or constituency by emphasizing the perceived knowledge, character, and logic of its popular intellectuals while attacking those of rivals.”254 The category “religious supremacy” belongs to AQ’s framing strategy and
is an integral part of its ideology. Not surprisingly, this is an important issue to the
jihadi movement because Islamic jurisprudence is a powerful source for legitimizing decisions and actions and prohibiting others. Whoever is able to gain a respected and authoritative position to interpret law has influence and power over others.
The four authors of the statements are by no means authorities on Islamic law,
but they try hard to gain a reputation at least in the fields of Islamic international
The apostasy narrative contains ~ 39,000 words (~ 22 percent of the entire text sample), of which 26,000 belong to one of the more radical categories “religious supremacy” and “groups of apostates.” The enumeration of popular grievances adds up to
5,400 words, and about 7,000 words belong to the routing category containing unspecific content about apostasy.
Becker 1967, 241.
Wiktorowicz 2004, 159.
6.1 The socio-political analysis of jihadism
law, Islamic governmental affairs, and armed conflict. Since the jihadists are in the
minority with their radical interpretation of these issues and deviate from other contemporary interpretations of the Quran and the Sunna, the authors try to discredit
the more canonical scholars who disagree with AQ on two pivotal doctrinal issues
of jihadism: jihad and takfir.
A look into content of this theme shows that the authors try to gain religious supremacy by transfiguring certain moderate interpretations as politically motivated
misconceptions, thereby demonstrating their own doctrinal, interpretative, and religious supremacy with regard to the issues of apostasy and jihad. These text segments represent the intellectual conflict with the near enemy and define the doctrinal arrangement for political violence against him. Disagreement with AQ’s fundamentalist interpretation of Islam is considered a “methodological error.” If such
an error is a deliberate and politically motivated misinterpretation, he who expresses it is half way to becoming an apostate himself. The keywords of this category
are “moderation” and “extremism.” It is interesting to see how the authors reinterpret both terms in a way that lets moderation appear as appeasement towards the
West while extremism appears as devoutness, such as in this statement from UBL:
And so at last the [apostate] intellectuals proclaim that they will join the American
campaign to battle Islamic ‘terrorism’ – that is, jihad. Such is what we finally get out
of these balanced moderates: that they perceive ‘extremism’ to be a serious problem
in the world needing to be remedied and treated. And they have decided that among
the different kinds of extremism is Islamic extremism. […] Clearly they have agreed
with the West regarding this perception of extremism. […] Moreover, they have also
decided on the necessity of finding ways to ‘solve’ it. The ways of remedying extremism are to cancel the doctrine of Loyalty and Enmity along with the rites of jihad, O you intellectuals! […] And while the mujahidin are painted in colors of
shame and torture in defense of the religion and the weak, these [intellectuals] conclude, that they [mujahidin] are radicals and that they will come up with a plan to
treat radicalism. May Allah forgive them!
Cooperation with the West against what they call Islamic extremism [or ‘fundamentalism’ or ‘radicalism’], whether it’s performed by one word, or a declaration, or any
other manner, either directly or indirectly, is apostasy from the religion of Allah
Most High.255
In their attempt to promote their own opinions and discredit those of others, the
authors operate with dichotomies like right/wrong, true/false, and good/evil and
UBL, unknown date, 2002, 117 et seq. A similar account is present in AYL’s video
statement “Moderation of Islam and moderation of defeat” (see annex 3., No. 30).
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
provide the audience criteria to distinguish between them.256 The authors assert
that contemporary Islamic jurisprudence regarding foreign and domestic affairs of
Islamic countries is a transgression and that these false laws must be disobeyed.
The jihadists discredit competing scholars by attributing their opinions and interpretations to dependency on political powers, which in turn legislate in an unIslamic (according to fundamentalist principles) or even traitorous manner. Explaining the structure of this dependency is a theme of its own in the jihadi literature (namely the theme “types of apostasy”), but the two assertions are linked to
each other: The better an argument can be unmasked as being dependent on other
than factual (in this case Islamic legal) grounds, the more questionable it becomes
and the more credible becomes a competing argument that appears to be impartial.
Accordingly, the jihadi movement repeatedly states that it is loyal to no government or state authority but to the pristine and literal interpretation of the Quran and
the Sunna, which allows no room to accommodate political necessities and pragmatism if this is irreconcilable with the law. The following excerpt, taken from the
2004 UBL audiotape “Letter to the sons of the two rivers,” is a prototypical attempt
to undermine the authority of influential ulamas who discourage Muslims from
going to jihad in Iraq and Palestine:
And ignore the ideas and whims of men, no matter how great and knowledgeable
they are, if their words conflict with the words of God or His prophet, even if they
were faithful and truthful. What they say is a blunder that does undermine their
standing, but they should not be followed in their blunders.
Shirking the duty of Jihad is one of the most prominent attributes of hypocrites. God
cursed them and told them the worst that anyone could be told to caution us against
them and against shirking [Jihad]. God threatened them with lack of guidance and
severe punishment. He sealed their hearts [to make them irresponsive to guidance].
He withheld knowledge from them, even if they were educated, because the fruit of
knowledge is fear of God. If you wish, you can read the al-Tawbah [Repentance]
chapter of the Koran.257
All such comments aim to demonstrate the supremacy of the jihadi doctrine. The
authors want to appear as the single remaining impartial authority on Islam. Based
on this claim they arrogate to themselves the decision as to who is a Muslim and
who is an apostate. All this painstaking reasoning serves to provide a legal basis for
the use of political violence against other Muslims. The legal issue is important for
the movement because once the most contested and fundamental legal issue can be
solved in favor of the jihadists (the question of what constitutes apostasy), many
For instance: “This is how to differentiate between the followers of the messengers of
tawhid and the hypocrite imams, who sell the verses of Allah for a paltry sum in service to the apostates and enemies of Islam” (AAZ essay “Jihad and the superiority of
martyrdom”, unknown date, line 66).
UBL, December 27, 2004, 63.
6.1 The socio-political analysis of jihadism
unanimous Islamic provisions concerning conduct during times of war will apply to
the conflict against the near enemy. The following excerpt shows how UBL expands an undisputed prohibition (collaboration with infidels in times of war) into a
contested context:
Religious scholars have unanimously agreed that supporting the infidels against the
Muslims is one of the major causes for departure from the Muslim faith, and is considered one of the 10 major violations of Islam. This is the case whether the infidel
is foreign or Arab, ruled or ruler. Supporting America or Allawi’s renegade government, or Karzai’s government, or Mahmud Abbas’ government, or any other renegade governments in their fight against the Muslims is tantamount to infidelity and a
cause for departure from the [Islamic] nation. Included among those are also the
owners of companies and the workers who transport fuel, ammunition, food supplies, and any other needs. Everyone who aids and supports them in any kind of way
has defected from religion and must be fought. Study, if you will, what God has said
in the holy Koran: “O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your
friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he
amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guided not a
people unjust [5:51–52].”258
With a word frequency of 12,000 “religious supremacy” is the largest theme (see
Figure 3). 6.7 percent of the content of all statements deals with this aspect, and it
appears in 18 of the 31 statements. Like most other categories its content co-occurs
with other narratives, themes, and issues. Table 4 shows the word frequency and
the percentage of code intersections and code proximity between the theme “religious supremacy” and the theme “groups of apostates”. Of the three different
groups, only “defeatism” is thematically linked to “religious supremacy” substantively (with 11,2 percent). Overall, the categories (thematically and compositionally) most strongly associated with “religious supremacy” are “groups of apostates/defeatism,” “war of ideas,” and “theological references.” Before their narrative link is analyzed in more detail, the themes “groups of apostates” and “war of
ideas” are first presented.
The high co-occurrence of content classified as “religious supremacy” and text
containing theological references is not surprising when one considers that these
claims have to be backed up by theological evidence to be persuasive. “Theological
references” are not the author’s own words but auxiliary quotations from the Quran
and the Sunna (they are therefore treated as their own category). More than twothirds (69 percent) of the content in which the author is trying to establish doctrinal,
interpretative, and religious supremacy is backed up by religious references (within
one paragraph from it) while non-religious evidence (jihadi journalism) is rarely
used for this purpose. AYL’s pamphlet “Moderation of Islam … moderation of de____________
UBL, December 27, 2004, 71.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
feat,” from May 2008, is mainly about gaining religious supremacy over imams
with a moderate stance and is a good example of the use of religious citations.259
Table 4: Text intersection of the theme religious supremacy with the theme groups
of apostates260
Types of apostasy
2.38 %
11.17 %
1.43 %
near to (one paragraph)
6.43 %
25.18 %
4.10 %
A sub-issue of the theme “religious supremacy” is the category “appeal to apostates,” which includes messages addressed to Islamic scholars who actively oppose
AQ’s ideas. But instead of challenging their prudence, these appeals either directly
threaten the opponent or call on him to repudiate his antagonistic view.261
There are sporadic interconnections between the theme “religious supremacy”
and the themes “instrumentality of force” (five percent) and “theological justifications of violence” (ten percent). These passages explain that apostate movements
are characterized by a casting of doubts concerning the strategic benefits of jihadi
violence as well as the legal prohibition of jihad in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, etc.
The analysis of the theme “religious supremacy” supports Wiktorowicz’s distinction between four framing strategies used within “Al-Qaeda’s intramovement framing struggle with non-violent Islamic fundamentalists over the permissibility of
violence. […] (1) vilification – demonizing competing popular intellectuals; (2)
exaltation – praising ingroup popular intellectuals; (3) credentialing – emphasizing
the expertise of the ingroup intellectuals; and (4) decredentialing – raising questions about the expertise of rivals.”262 In AQ’s popular statements, competing
scholars are demonized as enemies of Islam, who conspire against the true representatives of the religion, the mujahedeen, who claim to interpret law impartially,
not depending on any governments. Their rival, state-dependent intellectuals, on
the other hand, allegedly consider political necessities in their jurisprudence and
therefore bend the law, especially when it comes to the permissibility to fight
against the US and Israel.
See annex 3., No. 31.
Reads as: 2.38 percent (285 words) of all text classified as “religious supremacy” is
also classified as “beggars.”
See annex 3., No. 32.
Wiktorowicz 2004, 159.
6.1 The socio-political analysis of jihadism
Types of apostasy
In addition to AQ’s basic distinction between the near and the far enemy, the authors of the statements identify further factions who oppose their goals. AQ considers the near enemy not as a monolithic entity but rather as a conglomerate of individual Islamic groups, parties, and movements. The ideology identifies three types
of enemies the jihadi movement faces within the sphere of Islam. The main distinction it draws between these “apostate” groups is the way in which they collaborate
with the far enemy and frustrate the efforts of the jihadi movement through military, political, and ideological means. This diagnosis is expressed most explicitly
by AAZ’s differentiation between three phenomenologically different types of apostasy. The polemic names AAZ gives to his Islamic enemies are beggars, defeatists,
and religious trading charlatans.263 AAZ explains what these groups have in common:
A-Sahab interviewer: Do these three groups share any common characteristics?
Yes. They have three things in common, abandonment of the rule of Shari’ah, recognition of the legitimacy of the corrupt status quo, and cursing and abusing the Mujahideen.264
The 2006 as-sahab interview is the first of the 31 documents in which AAZ describes these groups explicitly and at length. In the same month as-sahab issued
another video of him which comprised of two parts, one in English and the other in
Arabic. In the Arabic part he iterates his lecture about Arab politics and the three
types of apostasy, although with slightly altered terminology:
The second point to recognize is that many of the leaders who lead the Arab nations
are weak. I would like to categorize them in three categories. [The defeatists] who
are weak in their religion because they accepted the ruling of the people rather than
the Shari’a. They accepted the leadership of the corrupted leaders and they accepted
the rules of the Sykes-Picot agreement instead of Islamic Caliphate and those who
entered Kabul with the American tanks and under their cross and the protection of
its bombers. They took part in the councils and participated in the elections in Afghanistan and Iraq. And [second] the hypocrites [religious-trading charlatans] who
sided with the occupiers conspired with the merchants of religion, who sided with
the occupier before, during, and after the American invasion. They participated in
The adoption of terminology verbatim from the original text as a proper description
for a code is called “in-vivo coding.” The purpose of explorative coding is to condense the data by identifying clusters of content and giving those clusters abstract but
adequate descriptions. Sometimes the words in the original text are an illustrative label for a code. In-vivo coding is also usefull to preserve the authenticity of the original text. The “typology of apostasy” is such an example.
AAZ, September 11, 2006, 143.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
defending the occupier. They fought the Muslims and the Mujahideen as a service
for the occupiers. The third category are (sic) the mercenary scholars [the beggars]
who sold their religion for certain positions. They recognized Israel and made peace
with it. They sold Palestine, and they nominated their leaders into certain positions,
and called those who opposed their corruption unbelievers.265
According to AAZ, beggars are Muslims who compromise on central matters of
Islam in order to promote their personal gain and career. AQ accuses the beggars of
giving preference to their worldly individual ambitions over religious convictions
that might hamper their career if expressed openly in an Islamic but largely secular
society. And precisely because a quietist position does not challenge the secular
status quo but gradually solidifies it, the jihadists reject the opportunistic position
of the beggars.
While a quietist position does not necessarily constitute apostasy but rather a
lack of courage, the matter gets more serious the more a position tends to be supportive of the near enemy rather than being just tolerant of him. The critique of
beggary is mainly aimed at the professional group of clerics and religious scholars
who sanction sacrilegious political decisions by fatwas, sacrilegious at least according to the standards of fundamentalism. Of particular concern to the jihadists are
fatwas prohibiting Muslims to engage in armed resistance against the international
forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and fatwas sanctioning military operations by Muslim countries or armed groups against the mujahedeen of AQ. AAZ polemically
asks the beggars: “And tell us oh Mufti, why was Jihad against the Russians in Afghanistan an individual obligation, whereas today in Iraq, it is one of the greatest of
cardinal sins?”266 Unlike the religious trading charlatans, whose collaboration with
the US is direct and also involves joint military action against the mujahedeen (see
below), the cooperation of the beggars is more ulterior but not less hazardous for
the jihadi movement.
The most prototypical description of beggary is made by AAZ in the second assahab interview from September 2006:
AAZ, September 29, 2006, 59.
AAZ, December 16, 2007, 362. For the whole passage, in which AAZ gives a lengthy
demonstration of the issue of beggary, see annex 3., No. 34. In another statement AAZ
complains about Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad (an Imam in the US Army), who allegedly issued a “scandalous fatwa which permitted the Muslim to join the American
Crusader forces to fight his brothers, the Muslim Mujahideen, whom the scholars of
the Marines called ‘terrorists in Afghanistan’” (see annex 3., No. 35). UBL also picks
up this topic in an earlier statement from December 2004, at which time AAZ had not
yet introduced his terminology (see annex 3., No. 36).
6.1 The socio-political analysis of jihadism
Interviewer: Who in your opinion is the group of beggars?
They are the ones whom the imam Abdullah bin Mubarak, Allah have mercy on
him, exposed when he said: And was the religion corrupted by anyone other than the
Kings and the scholars of evil and its monks? Those who sell their religion for position, salaries, visas and citizenships, like this one who denounces violence [against
the infidels], but permits the Muslim to fight the Muslims in the tanks of the American army like those who take pride in the British citizenship and gathered in front of
Parliament after the blessed London raid to declare their loyalty to Elizabeth, head
of the Church of England, like that one who approved the surrender accord with Israel and recognized Yasir Arafat as a ruler of the Muslims and like he who insults
the Mujahideen day and night, receives the Israeli ambassador and chief rabbi in his
office, permits France to forbid Muslim women from covering their heads in the
schools, and hands Wala Qistinteen over to be tortured in the dungeons of the monasteries.267
AQ’s basic allegation against the second type of apostates, the defeatists, is their
willingness to participate in secular politics and, as a consequence, to compromise
with the West at the cost of Islamic principles considered inalienable by the jihadi
fundamentalists. Noteworthy is that AQ concedes that the defeatists have good intentions, while at the same time pointing out that their parties, groups, and movements take a baneful approach which does more harm than good to Islam. More
kindly, one could describe “defeatist” political movements and parties as Islamic
realists because they are pragmatic about which Islamic principles can be realized
under contemporary conditions and therefore “rescue what can be rescued and,
achieve what can be achieved.”268 Defeatist movements and parties accept moderate positions as the price they have to pay as a prerequisite for becoming a recognized political entity, for instance complying with the demands of the Western political community to recognize Israel, renounce terrorism, and instead support the
“war on terror.” The mindset of the (defeatists) Islamist groups and parties which
AQ criticizes so vehemently is perfectly illustrated by a remark made by Recep
Tayyip Erdoğan: “Democracy is like a train – we shall get out when we arrive at
the station we want.”269 In keeping with this metaphor, the jihadi fundamentalists
may be traveling in the same direction as the Islamist movements, but they dislike
the means of transport.
AAZ, September 11, 2006, 141 et seq.
AAZ, September 11, 2006, 124.
Erdoğan cited this phrase, which is actually taken from a poem by the Turkish intellectual Ziya Gökalp, in a speech he held when he still was Istanbul’s mayor (19941998) and before he became Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey. The Turkish
State Security Courts sentenced Erdoğan to a prison term due to the content of this
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
Another prominent characteristic of defeatist groups is their renunciation of subversive action and recognition of the political establishment (the near enemy) despite their principle opposition to it.270 AQ condemns every nationalistic aspiration
as un-Islamic, no matter how Islamist a party might otherwise be, stressing that the
only admissible political entity in Islam is the ummah. As chapter 6.1.3 shows,
there are two principal reasons for AQ to refuse any form of secular governance,
even if it has an Islamist outlook: a strategic and a theological reason.
AAZ considers the political program of Pan-Arabism and Islamic nationalism as
nothing but a nice try and argues that it will eventually prove to be unsuccessful in
realizing its goals:
And this moves me to address all Arab nationalists, to ask them: where to? You renounced Islam in order to help Arabs, but you lost both Islam and Arabness, so what
remains for you of your nationalist project? When your role model, Abdel Nasser,
took over Egypt [1954], its borders stretched from the Mediterranean coast to the
borders of the Uganda, but by the time he died, Sudan had seceded, the Sinai had
been occupied and he had conceded Palestine by approving resolution 242. Your
pivotal cause was sold out by your nationalist brothers in Oslo and what came after,
and Qaddafi has turned his back on Arabism and the Arabs, so what rubble remains
for you? Isn’t it time for you to ask yourselves: who is today defending your lands in
Iraq? Aren’t they the Muslim Mujahideen? Isn’t it time for you to return to your religion, your Islam and your creed, the creed of honor, freedom and dignity which is
confronting the strongest and fiercest crusade in history?271
AAZ devotes special consideration to the issue of defeatism in his second as-sahab
interview from September 2006 and explains his ideas in some detail when asked
by the interviewer to do so:
Interviewer: OK. Who, as you see it, is this group of defeatists?
After the fall of the Ottoman Caliphate [in the year 1924], a wave of psychological
defeatism and doctrinal breakdown spread and there crept into the people a tendency
– through good intentions – that held that we should benefit from the status quo, to
rescue what can be rescued, and achieve what can be achieved. And this trend, with
the continuation of the blows aimed at the Muslims continued to retreat one step at a
time until, in the end, they pledged allegiance to Hosni Mubarak as president of the
republics and Ali Abdullah Salih [president of Yemen] as commander of the faithful, and Abdullah bin al-Hussain [King of Jordan] as leader of the Muslims, and Ali
al-Sabaah [chief Kuwaiti National Guard] acting chief of the guardian of the Muslim’s affairs […] [They] defined their affiliation by the nationalistic territorial affiliation that prefers the patriotic unbeliever to the foreign Muslim. They have adopted
When Oliver Roy (1994) describes the “failure of political Islam” he refers exactly to
the tendency that Islamist movements have to either trade political subversion for political obedience or choose religious fundamentalism instead.
AAZ, December 16, 2007, 327.
6.1 The socio-political analysis of jihadism
a new creed which is incompatible with the creed of Islam and based on majority
rule, national affiliation, restriction to the borders of Sykes-Picot, and allegiance to
the nationalist state as opposed to the creed of Islam, which is based on the rule of
the Divine Sharia […].272
Besides more theoretical statements such as this, the authors frequently discuss
political figures or events to exemplify their theory of defeatism. The fourth assahab interview with AAZ from December 2007 contains sound bites from an interview with Hassan Nasrallah (leader of Hezbollah), the personification of a defeatist according to AQ. After showing the video clip from the interview with Nasrallah, the as-sahab interviewer and AAZ engage in a choreographed political discussion (see annex) in which they criticize Hezbollah’s dependency on Iran, its
nationalist goals, and its approval of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.273 Another frequently discussed case is Hamas, which participated in and won the 2006
legislative elections in Palestine and is criticized by AQ for this reason.
Religious trading
The third group of apostates AAZ describes is the group of “religion-trading charlatans.” According to him such groups emerge in a situation of US occupation when
certain domestic factions come to the conclusion that peace, security, and the withdrawal of foreign troops can only be reached by supporting the occupiers in fulfilling their objectives. This category best applies to the complex situation in Iraq,
where the US was able to establish a strategic alliance with some armed factions
(for instance with the conglomerate of the Awakening groups) so as to jointly oppose groups affiliated with AQ, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Ansar alSunna.274 In AAZ’s own words, religious-trading groups are:
Movement[s] set up under the supervision and direction of the Americans, the primary military formations supporting the occupier and attacking the Mujahideen and
Muslim masses in Iraq. And this movement and the charlatans who lead it pretend to
forget the slogans of “Death to America,” those slogans which passed away to be
replaced by the slogans “Cooperation with the occupier to preserve security.” […]
That’s why this movement – the movement of the charlatans who sell religion – is
keen to repeat a fiction which says that as long as the resistance remains, the occupation will remain. […] if all free men and Mujahideen of Iraq turn into traitors and
charlatans like you who sell religion for a little worldly gain and turn into agents of
American intelligence and protectors of Crusader and Jewish interests, then the oc-
AAZ, September 2006. The quote is continued in annex 3., No. 37.
See annex 3., No. 38. SRES 1701 from 2006 is a ceasefire agreement between Israel
and Lebanon that stipulates the disarmament of Hezbollah and the recognition of international borders, such as those of Sheeba farms, an area in the Golan Heights
whose sovereignty remains unsettled.
One such example is provided in the 2007 as-sahab video interview “A review of
events,” in which the matter of Iraq is discussed extensively (see annex 3., No. 39).
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
cupation will leave because he will be satisfied that his interests are being fulfilled
against the Muslim Ummah at the hands of traitorous religion sellers like you. History will recall that when the Crusaders invaded Iraq, the free Mujahideen confronted
them, and the charlatans who deal in religion cooperated with them. They deliberately and eagerly cooperated with the occupier while knowing full well his goals and
knowing full well how ugly is the treason which they commit for power, position
and profit.275
And later in the interview AAZ draws some conclusion about the problem of religious trading:
The first conclusion is that what is being done by the traitorous, religion-trading
charlatans in Iraq serves the interests of America, and moreover, directly serves the
interests of the Zionist entity and its protection, support and expansion, by turning
Iraq into a stable American base which preserves the safety of Israel’s eastern front.
There is no greater service which can be provided to Israel than transforming Iraq
into a stable base for America. The second conclusion is that the treachery committed by the religion-trading charlatans in Iraq might be repeated by them in any other
countries which fall on the Crusaders’ and Zionists’ list of aggression. And the third
conclusion is that this religion-selling movement which cooperates with the Ummah’s enemy cannot be entrusted with the leadership of the Ummah, because it sells
the Ummah to the enemies of Islam in the name of Islam.276
Finally, a fourth type of apostasy can be added to AAZ’s distinctions. It is “apostasy
due to coercion” or retractions by former mujahedeen. We find in the statements
references to prominent jihadi-Salafi figures who, at some point of their life, distance themselves from the radical convictions of the movement and propagate
peaceful protest to support their (often still fundamentalist) goals. A well-known
case is that of Sayyid Imam al-Sharif (also known as Dr. Fadl), a long-time companion of AAZ, who renounced AQ from an Egyptian prison cell (“Al-Qaeda has
no ideology apart from bin Laden’s personal whims”).277 Imam sent a fax to the
newspaper a-Sharq al-Awsat in which he gave free rein to his disappointment about
the poor political achievements of AQ. He later wrote a series of essays practicing
critique on AQ’s methodology (however, not on its goals). In reply to Imam’s essay “Exposing the exonerations,”278 AAZ dedicated a whole 268 page book (The
Exoneration) to meticulously counter Imam’s critique. But usually the initial reaction of jihadi ideologues is to attribute such painful avowals to coercion of its de____________
AAZ, September 11, 2006, 75.
AAZ, September 11, 2006, 83 et seq.
Interview with al-Hayat, December 2007: http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/
MEMRI: http://www.memri.org; free access to the article at: http://www.rightside
6.1 The socio-political analysis of jihadism
tained originator,279 which makes it unnecessary to engage in a full-fledged doctrinal dispute. Accordingly, one of the earlier reactions to the al-Awsat article stated:
[…] to the extent that I read a ridiculous bit of humor in al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper, which claimed that it received a communiqué from one of the backtrackers, who
faxed it from prison! I laughed inside and asked myself, ‘Do the prison cells of
Egypt now have fax machines? And I wonder, are these fax machines connected to
the same line as the electric shock machines or do they have a separate line?’280
Considering the devastating effect a former insider can have on the movement by
denouncing his own methods and strategies (or even the cause he fought for altogether), it is not surprising that de-indoctrination is considered a valuable tool in
counter-terrorism. The launch and the publication of such retractions is seen by AQ
as part of a “war of ideas,” a theme of its own in the statements, which will be discussed later.
Conclusions and thematic links
The “typology of apostasy” describes three different categories of the near enemy.
It supposedly has literally an educative purpose for potential supporters and newcomers to the ideology. It furnishes the audience of the jihadi message with an
easy-to-use framework/heuristic to help it understand Middle Eastern political reality according to the viewpoint of AQ. It fulfills the social-psychological function of
framing in all respects, i.e., “to select some aspects of a perceived reality and make
them more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote a particular
problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation.”281 The typology (implicitly) highlights the jihadi movement as the
only group capable of realizing an Islamic agenda, since the common characteristics of the other apostate groups are, according to Zawahiri: “Abandonment of the
rule of Shari’ah, recognition of the legitimacy of the corrupt status quo, and cursing
and abusing the Mujahideen”. Despite these commonalities, the three groups differ
in their motivations for adopting an allegedly apostate position.
The authors devote considerably more space in their statements to the issue of
defeatism than to beggary and religious trading,282 presumably because it is the
most common type of Islamic activism. Almost every Islamic political organization
fits Zawahiri’s description of being defeatist; a label which is quite accurate from
See annex 3., No. 40.
AAZ, July 4, 2007, 249. For more background information, see the article “The rebellion within” by Wright 2008.
Entman 1993, 52.
About 9,000 words, or five percent of the entire text set, are dedicated to the description of defeatism (1.5 percent to beggars, 1.2 percent to religious-trading charlatans).
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
the viewpoint of jihadi fundamentalism. Table 5 shows which other themes and
issues in the ideology most often co-occur with each of the three types.
Table 5: Theme relations matrix: Thematic relation between the apostasy narrative and the global conflict narrative; percentage and word frequency
of overlapping text segments
Global conflict (20,864)
Apostasy (39,429)
Near to
Near to
Near to
Near to
Near to
3.4 %
of ideas
2.7 %
21.2 %
10.6 %
9.9 %
1.3 %
2.3 %
17.7 %
2.3 %
9.2 %
2.3 %
10.5 %
1.0 %
6.8 %
1.0 %
2.8 %
Points of
3.9 %
12.3 %
1.8 %
4.3 %
Reference system
Jihadi journalism
57.8 %
79.7 %
9.9 %
14.1 %
11.5 %
32.5 %
34 %
68.8 %
55,7 %
33,1 %
6.5 %
1.7 %
54.0 %
67 %
30.0 %
84 %
16,9 %
Reading example: 9.9 % (1,187 words) of the text that is classified as the theme “religious
supremacy” is also classified as text about the theme “war of ideas.”
The category which intersects most often with content describing different types of
apostasy is the reference system: The authors do not only describe the different
types of apostasy theoretically, but also name examples of each type. This is most
prevalent for the issue “religious trading charlatans.” More than two-thirds (69 percent) of the texts which touch on this issue name concrete groups and individuals
from Iraq as examples: AAZ characterizes the group of religious trading charlatans
as Islamic factions actively supporting US military engagement against the mujahedeen, an observation that can be made specifically in the Iraqi conflict.
Content describing the other two groups of apostates includes much fewer fact
references (one-third each) and hardly refers to Iraqi examples at all. Text intersections with “jihadi journalism” provide a “who’s who in apostasy”: Examples of
beggars include the now deceased theologian Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who has been a
confidant of the US in Iraq, or Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al
6.1 The socio-political analysis of jihadism
Sheikh, who issued a fatwa declaring it haram for Saudi citizens to travel to Iraq to
engage in jihad against the US occupation. In more general terms, the statements
speak about the “scholars of beggary in Cairo, Riyadh, Amman, and other capitals”
or about the “slaves of al-Saud.”283
Groups and individuals frequently referred to as defeatists include Hamas (for its
participation in the 2006 Palestinian legislative election, which it won), Hassan
Nasrallah, and the Hezbollah (see annex 3., No. 38), or Muhammad Dahlan (from
Fatah). Finally, the statements portray certain groups or individuals as examples of
religious trading charlatans, such as the Iraqi tribal leader Abd al-Sattar Abu Risha,
who presided over a tribal military coalition supported by US troops which resisted
AQ’s sectarian violence in Iraq (the Anbar Awakening Councils). Al-Sattar was
assassinated by AQ in September 2007.284 Also mentioned are the “Revolutionaries of al-Amiriyyah,”285 Muhammad Bashar al-Faydi, and Muthanna Harith alDari, the latter two leading figures of the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq.
It must be noted that not all individuals accused by AQ of being collaborators are
actually allies of the US. The Association of Muslim Scholars, for instance, strongly opposes US influence in Iraq as it opposes the (Shiite dominated) Iraqi government, but it also rejects AQ’s ambitions for political power in Iraq, or more precisely those of the Islamic State of Iraq.
The two narratives on “apostasy” and “secular governance” are linked through
the issue of “defeatism.” Seven percent of text coded as defeatism is also coded
under one of the categories belonging to “secularism.” The link shows that one of
the main accusations against the defeatists is their adherence to nationalistic (i.e.,
secular) principles. Otherwise, the link between the apostasy and the secularism
narrative is very weak. The two narratives share about three percent text, half of
which can be attributed to the code defeatism and the other half of which shows no
consistent pattern.
As previously noted, another correlation of content exists between the issue “defeatism” and the theme “religious supremacy.” A little less than half of the text (45
AAZ, December 20, 2006, 65 and 107.
“[...] treasonous tribal militias whose biggest thief has been eliminated: Abd al-Sattar
Abu Risha, whose extraordinary powers the Americans used to extol, and who they
claimed was the one protecting them and that they would transfer his experiment to
other areas by releasing rivers of bribe-money to flood the pockets of the traitors, in
order to buy an imaginary victory in Iraq and delude the tax-payers at home into
thinking that they actually achieved something” (AAZ, December 16, 2007, 47).
“[...] it became clear that the ‘Revolutionaries of al-’Amiriyyah’ were agents of the
Americans, and a picture appeared of their leader receiving payments from General
Petraeus, and his organization disowned him” (AAZ, December 16, 2007, 104). The
group is a Baghdad based version of the Anbar Awakening Council and turned with
US support against AQI.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
percent) describing the phenomenon of “defeatism” appears near text parts trying
to establish “religious supremacy.”286 Fifteen percent of the text within the category “defeatism” is at the same time classified as “religious supremacy” (intersection).287 The two values indicate a moderate association. Text in the intersection of
the two categories contains substantial reiteration of the apostates’ misconception
in religious matters (as all text of religious supremacy does) and simultaneously
identifies alleged motivations for the deliberate misconceptions (as all text of the
code defeatism does). The following text, taken from UBL’s essay “Moderate Islam
is a prostration to the West,” (UBL, unknown date, 2002, 102, 112) exemplifies this
narrative intersection:
Why do you ignore history and talk to the scourgers [Westerners] by way of this defeatist declaration? If you are incapable of speaking the truth and together with the
mujahidin confronting the tyrannical foe, then be silent and distort not the image of
Islam, sullying its universally binding principles, mutilating its texts, and turning the
struggle from absolutes to trivialities. […]
Now, if you are incapable of jihad and placing people into the religion like the
Companions did, your impotence does not mean that it [jihad] is not a legitimate aspect of the religion. Instead, it [the declaration] is a product of your defeat and your
desire to live with the Christians.
Because the ideal types of apostasy describe the political dimension of apostasy,
fact references (jihadi journalism) are commonly used to exemplify them whereas
religious references are almost entirely absent in this theme.
Another correlation is noteworthy. AQ’s rationale for the use of violence is directly linked to the issue of defeatism. Many Islamist groups (such as Hamas) consider AQ’s jihad as impermissible and unsuccessful in realizing Islamic goals. Jihadi ideologues counter this defeatist position by providing theological and political reasons why jihad should not be abandoned (see chapter 6.3.1 about the instrumentality of force). One unstated reason to continue jihad even against all strategic
odds apparently is to avoid a gradual transformation to a defeatist group. One of the
hallmarks of the jihadi movement which it is keen to maintain, is to carry out the
religious obligation of jihad regardless of international law, national affiliation, or
regional interests, all of which are issues on the agenda of most Islamist groups.
Although the ideologies do not express it in this way directly, this thinking can be
Within the same paragraph or within a directly neighboring paragraph (includes intersections).
Near and intersection percentage indicates the correlation between one category and
others. All single correlations of one code can add up to over 100 percent because
each coding segment of a particular category can be near multiple other categories.
The value for a bivariate correlation between two categories cannot exceed 100 percent. The percentage of text near another code is systematically higher than the percentage of intersecting text of two categories (see Table 5).
6.1 The socio-political analysis of jihadism
observed when one checks the statements for co-occurrences of the two categories.
More than one quarter (28 percent) of the content of the category “defeatist” appears next to a paragraph belonging to the narrative “instrumentality of force.” Although this is a weak association compared to correlations between other categories,
it is illuminating to review these passages, in which the ideologues accuse those
groups who abstain from violence of being defeatist.288 Apparently one implicit
purpose of performing jihad is to maintain ideological segregation from other Islamist groups.
Global conflict
The second narrative within the diagnostic frame of the jihadi ideology is about the
global conflict with the far enemy. This narrative contains particular political
grievances the West is made responsible for, such as the stationing of US troops in
the Arabian Peninsula; it names those aspects of Islam which the jihadists believe
to be the fundamental points of conflict with the West; and it depicts a non-military
dimension of the conflict with the West, namely a war of ideas in which the US
allegedly interferes through its think tanks and study centers with theological matters of Islam.
The narrative about the far enemy is only half as voluminous as that about apostasy and the near enemy (see Figure 3). For the global conflict there is a corresponding rationale for the use of violence that differs in some respects from the
reasons and expectations for fighting the near enemy. While the near enemy is
made responsible for various popular grievances, presumably only as a pretext for
fighting and toppling him, AQ seems to have a sincere interest in alleviating the
grievances the US is made responsible for, no matter how unrealistic these expectations are. However, a secondary purpose of fighting against the far enemy, even if
the strategic objectives are difficult to achieve, could be that AQ hopes to confirm
its claim of being the only remaining Islamic movement capable of defending Islam
against its enemies.
Political violence is apparently so attractive for the jihadi movement because its
consequences are welcomed by the activists, no matter what they are. According to
the classical Islamist slogan “Death to America,” fighting against the US cannot be
wrong. AQ’s violence has the potential to weaken the enemy economically by embroiling him in unpopular and costly military conflicts and by threatening his domestic security; it successfully raised what is at stake for the enemy, and even if
certain jihadi operations have no immediate political impact, the ideologues still
stress their religious value.
See annex 3., No. 50.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
The political grievances of jihadism are also shared by other Islamist movements,
but AQ is the organization which made these grievances commonly known to the
broader public. The movement successfully raised awareness for Islamists’ grievances, because the intuitive question people ask when witnessing massive violence
seems to be about the motivation of the perpetrators. AQ grievances are in fact so
well known and understood that UBL, in a video message addressed to the American people on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of 9/11, does not even make an
effort to reiterate them, referring the audience instead to the book Imperial Hubris
by Michael Scheuer, a former CIA analyst who, in turn, has identified the grievances by reading UBL’s statements.289 Usually, however, AQ spokesmen do not
tire of repeating their various complaints; they are included in 25 of the 31 messages from the sample. During the course of the conflict between the US and jihadi
fundamentalism, the list of grievances expanded as additional intervention practices
in the “war on terror” were implemented, provoking further aversion among the
Islamists. In addition to the classical allegations against the US (the stationing of
troops on the Arabian Peninsula, support for Israel, support and protection of Middle Eastern autocrats against the Islamist opposition, political intervention to ensure
a low crude oil price, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan) and against other occupying
forces (Israel occupying the Palestinian territories and Shebaa farm, India occupying Cashmere, Russia’s military engagement in Chechnya),290 there are more recent issues addressed in the speeches, such as the detention and torture of AQ affiliates.
One as-sahab interview with AYL discusses the theme of detention exclusively
for one hour.291 But usually this issue is touched upon only occasionally in the
statements.292 For the authors it seems to matter little whether detention of its affiliates is in accordance with human rights laws or not. The 31 statements contain
some casual references to Abu Ghrayb, Bagram, Guantanamo, extraordinary renditions, and the maltreatment of prisoners but they do not condemn or criticize these
practices in the language of human rights since the jihadi movement refuses the
secular nature of such laws. Human rights violations in the detention system are
rather taken as evidence for the selective enforcement of the law and for the double
Scheuer 2004, 241.
These classical grievances are not further discussed here.
The interview was broadcast in June 2006, about one year after a mujahedeen commando rescued AYL from a prison in Bagram, where US forces were keeping him.
The video shows AYL talking rather unemotionally about the circumstances and experiences from his time at the notorious facilities at Bagram Airfield. This interview is
not included in the sample, since the topic of detention is not the primary concern of
this study.
The issue “detention” contains 350 words and appears in five statements.
6.1 The socio-political analysis of jihadism
standards of the West: “[Y]ou are now practicing the same communist brainwashing methods you used to attack, so stop your lies about freedom and human
rights.”293 While the jihadists seem to take torture and illegal detention by an enemy who is already considered morally bankrupt for granted, they still vehemently
condemn other actions, such as “the desecration of the Qur’an at Guantanamo
Another grievance increasingly expressed in AQ statements is foreign interference in religious matters. The volume and level of elaboration of this theme indicates its importance for AQ. The jihadi movement seems to include this grievance
in its agenda as a direct reaction to the increasing efforts by the counter-terrorism
community to set up a counter-narrative against jihadist propaganda and to promote
moderate aspects of Islam through Imams and Islamic study centers. This “war of
ideas” is, apart from the military dimension, characteristic of the global jihadi conflict. Therefore, it is represented by a category of its own (“the war of ideas”
Besides the utterance of the classical grievances about the global conflict with
the “US-Zionist crusaders,” there are a large number of disparate complaints about
individual issues, such as the lawfulness of Sharia-prohibited action in Western
countries (such as gambling, alcohol trade, homosexuality, promiscuity and “fornication,” capital market activities such as interest trading), the publication of the
Muhammad cartoons in a Danish newspaper, and the French law forbidding the
wearing of the hijab in French schools. Even the destruction of the ozone layer by
US industry is mentioned once.
The grievances in the statements are consistently expressed in the language of
“jihadi journalism,” free of any theological references, but with references to political events. About one quarter of the text classified as “grievances” intersects with
content of the category “jihadi journalism.” In one speech, for instance, UBL exemplifies the hegemony of the US over domestic affairs in Muslim countries by
explaining to the audience the case of Prince Hassan ibn Talal, who was in 1999
replaced in his function as successor to the throne, allegedly due to political intrigues of the US.295 On another occasion UBL refers to a US strike at Tora Bora in
AAZ, July 4, 2007, 255. AQ expresses some grievances not to bemoan the harm they
cause to the movement, but to point to the double standards of democracy. Such
grievances are discussed later in the chapter on “The denial of democracy.”
For instance, AAZ, September 29, 2006, 7.
For the UBL statement, see annex 3., No. 60. Hassan ibn Talal was heir to the throne
of Jordan until 1999, when Hassan’s brother Hussein (at the time acting king of Jordan) issued a decree making Hassan’s nephew Abdullah successor to the throne. It
was widely expected that Hassan, who has been the crown prince for 34 years, would
become king. At the time of Hassan’s replacement, King Hussein was terminally ill,
underwent medical treatment in the USA, and died a few days after issuing the de-
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
Afghanistan that presumably killed AAZ’s wife and two of his children and accuses
the US of deliberately killing Muslim women and children.296 Otherwise, correlations in content with the category “grievances” show no consistent pattern, except
for the observation that expressed grievances sometimes appear in the style of stating conditions for a truce (sub-narrative of the frame “goals”), in which case they
are also frequently used to politically justify violence.
Points of conflict
Distinct from the expression of political grievances is a theme describing the fundamental points of conflict in norms and values between the West and Islam. Some
jihadi authors candidly anticipate allegations that the West expresses towards Islam, or more precisely towards fundamentalists’ interpretation of Islam. When
reading or listening to these sections it seems that the jihadi ideologues are trying
to understand the Western point of view, just like some Western observers try to
understand the point of view of the fundamentalists. Most illustrative and frank,
though no less radical, are parts of UBL’s pamphlet “Moderate Islam is a prostration to the West.”297
AQ is well aware that many norms and values of liberal democracies are irreconcilable with the Salafi interpretation of Islamic law, and it asserts that the West’s
major concerns about Islam are unalienable aspects of the religion. This is why
UBL and others condemn the moderation of Islam so vehemently; for them it is the
final blow of secularism against Islam as they know it. The following excerpts
from UBL’s treatise illustrate the irresolvable points of conflict he anticipates,
namely the different conception of freedom and justice in the two systems as well
as the Islamic doctrines of loyalty and enmity, militant jihad as a means to proselytize (offensive jihad), the acceptance of dhimmitude (special citizenship for nonMuslims), and the paying of jizya (special tax) by Jews and Christians living under
the rule of Islam:
The Islam preached by the advocates of interreligious dialogue does not contain [the
doctrine of] Loyalty and Enmity; nor does it contain Jihad; nor boundaries established by the Sharia – since it is these very doctrines that worry the West most. And
cree. The timing and the circumstances raised some speculation about his motives for
altering the succession to the throne. UBL uses the situation – for outsiders confusing
– to promote his interpretation of the event and his claim that “it is impossible to appoint the king or his viceroy [of Saudi Arabia] without America’s consent” (UBL,
December 16, 2004, 18).
Some media reported the killing of Zawahiri’s wife during the battle of Tora Bora in
winter 2001 (for instance, CNN.com from August 2, 2008, and GlobalSecurity.org).
For UBL’s conclusions about the incident, see annex 3., No. 61. In this passage he also mentions assaults of US troops on Iraqi civilians in Fallujah.
For a revealing comment on the pamphlet, see Ibrahim 2007, 17-21.
6.1 The socio-political analysis of jihadism
the West already possesses certain knowledge that these fundamentals are the point
of conflict with Muslims and not the other principles. [...]
Why all the lies and false claims that the conflict with the Americans is not over
values of justice and the choice of freedoms? For indeed, the conflict with the Crusading Americans is over values of justice – both in theory and practice; likewise
with freedoms – in theory and practice. [...]
For practically everything valued by the immoral West is condemned under sharia
law. And the few things that we do agree over – such as forthrightness and keeping
promises, etc. – these are peripheral matters, not the heart of the problem between
us. [...] the issues most prominent in the West revolve around secularism, homosexuality, sexuality, and atheism. So what shared aspects are we to advance dialogue
over in order to make for ‘a better place for us all’? [...]
They think that something that denies them [the freedom] to pursue obscenities,
atheism and blasphemy, and idolatry is an ‘oppression.’ They think that an attack
launched against their ground, as in an Offensive Jihad, is an ‘injustice.’ And so
forth. […] Indeed, the wars they visit upon Muslims are waged solely because they
disagree with us over what constitutes justice and oppression.
What the West desires is that we abandon [the doctrine of] Loyalty and Enmity, and
abandon [Offensive] Jihad. This is the very essence of their request and desire of us.
The picture of Islam that Western governments and [their] intellectual circles have is
very exact and minute. [...] And the West’s notions that Islam is a religion of jihad
and enmity toward the religions of the infidels and the infidels themselves is an accurate and true depiction.298
In two statements UBL refers to Huntington’s term “clash of civilizations,”299 a
thesis that UBL adopts for his worldview just with opposite signs. In a less elaborated fashion, the other authors in the sample cite similar cultural reasons for the
“War on Islam,” which is in fact a war on radical-militant Islam as promoted by
AQ. Common to the Manichean worldview of fundamentalist movements is the
rejection of a third, compromising position between “us” and “them,” because such
a position would weaken the contour of the extremist position. The authors quote
sura 2:120 from the Quran several times in the statements in order to stress that the
fundamental points of the conflict are not negotiable: “Backtracking in front of the
West will not make them happy with us, regardless of how much expertise we acquire in maneuvering, equivocating and talking. The Truth (Exalted is He) says,
‘The Jews or the Christians will never be satisfied with you unless you follow their
UBL, unknown date, 2002, various paragraphs. For a longer version of the text retrieval, see annex 3., No. 65.
UBL, May 6, 2004, and UBL, unknown date, 2002, 137. Although he does not mention Huntington directly, he indicates that “this is an infidel notion imported from the
West verbatim.”
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
religion’ (2:120).”300 Yet, in another statement AAZ senses stalwart political rather
than civilizing and religious reasons for the conflict: “If we haven’t realized that
Palestine is the core of the Crusader’s war with Islam, we haven’t realized anything.”301
Content of the theme “points of conflict” correlates with content of the themes
“religious supremacy” and “defeatism.” A review of the intersecting passages
shows that AQ denounces the position of Muslims who are willing to compromise
on the most disputed points of conflict with the West, namely on those provisions
of Islamic law that clash with international legality and human rights standards,
such as militant jihad and the doctrine of loyalty and enmity. The jihadists hold
onto those concepts and promote their own radical and determined position as the
only way to preserve unalienable aspects of Islam against infidel influences, while
the defeatist’s position is branded as appeasement towards the West.302
War of ideas
The content of this theme describes and criticizes, from the fundamentalist’s perspective, Western influences on Islamic matters, such as religious dialogue, the
establishment of secular study centers and universities, and dedicated counternarrative programs and public diplomacy intended to moderate extremists’ views.
The competition of ideologies – democracy, human rights, and capitalism on the
one side and fundamentalist Islam on the other – and the systematic promotion and
education in these belief systems is sometimes called the “war of ideas.” This term
is not only used by politicians and academics but also by the jihadi ideologues.303
Like many of the observations made by the jihadists in their messages, the perception of an ongoing “war of ideas” does not arise from their conspiratorial fantasy but is based on actual developments in counter-terrorism and US foreign policy.
Certainly, the extent of the war of ideas sometimes appears to be exaggerated in the
jihadi discourse.304 Many observers, especially conspiracy-prone bloggers and forum members, see a manipulation of Islamic media by the West intended to distort
Islam where such manipulation doesn’t exist.305 However, one approach within the
AAZ, December 20, 2006, 35.
AAZ, December 16, 2007, 644.
See annex 3., No. 66 for a paragraph linking the three categories.
See, for instance, Phares 2007.
Mark Stout provides some examples of untenable assertions about the war of ideas
within jihadi propaganda, such as to instances in which material from the RAND
Corporation is manipulated by jihadists to prove the extent of the alleged media conspiracy (Stout et al. 2008, 174).
If someone perceives the enlargement of democratic principles, inter-faith dialogue,
and enforcement of human right standards as a conspiracy against Islam, then he is
6.1 The socio-political analysis of jihadism
large repertoire of counter-terrorism measures is to set up a counter-narrative
against jihadi propaganda and to build “moderate Muslim networks.”306 Think
tanks, such as the RAND Corporation, are seen by the jihadists as actors carrying
out the war of ideas:
Then we are told that this is a moderate Islam, a balanced Islam, the Islam of the
twentieth-first century. It is the Islam of openness, brotherhood, and peace. It is the
Islam of moderation and reason, while it is none but the Islam of the RAND Corporation and its like. It is the Islam that the imams of infidelity in their modern Crusader seek to reach, which will not be attainable to them until a camel is placed
through the eye of a needle.307
The objective of such programs is to promote democratic principles in Islam and to
contain fundamentalist beliefs, or, to speak in the language of the jihadists, to
abandon the “very doctrines that worry the West most.”308 These endeavors did not
pass unnoticed by the jihadi movement, and consequently the theme of targeted
moderation made it onto the agenda of their media. In two separate statements from
2002, UBL complains about Western influences in Islamic education and curricula:
“The West has colonized Muslim lands for decades, and that it is responsible for
abolishing legitimate Islamic education in exchange for secular education, whose
influence we still suffer from to this very day in Muslim countries,”309 and calls for
it to be stopped: “Do not interfere in our politics and method of education. Leave
us alone, or else expect us in New York and Washington.”310 In a statement from
December 2004, UBL once again raises this issue and expresses his concern: “This
Crusader intervention in the changing of the curricula is absolutely the most dangerous intervention in our affairs, because it is, in short, a change in the religion.”311
However, it is not until the statements dating from 2007 or later that the authors
react to the increasing efforts of the counter-terrorism community to identify, understand, and counter the religious doctrinal foundations of AQ’s ideology. AQ
responds to the counter-narrative by describing its dimensions and modus operandi.
According to these accounts the “ideological-propagational battle”312 began after
not so wrong in his assessment after all. Many people’s hope in processes associated
with globalization have been disappointed, and some of them perceive corresponding
policies as a pretext for pursuing economic and national interest while others perceive
it as a crusade against Islam.
Rabasa et al. 2007.
AYL, May 22, 2008, 77. For the whole text passage, see annex 3., No. 80.
UBL, unknown date, 2002, 31.
UBL, unknown date, 2002.
UBL, October, unknown date, 2002.
UBL, December 16, 2004, 23; see annex 3., No. 70 for the entire passage.
AAZ, December 16, 2007, 228.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
the US became aware of the crucial role AQ’s ideology plays in the conflict and
subsequently realized that military interventions alone are not sufficient to tackle
the problem of jihadi fundamentalism.313 In his second interview with as-sahab in
September 2007, AYL devotes 24 minutes to this theme (from about minute 31:00
to 55:00). He anticipates that two “pivots” in the war of ideas will lead to an “internal disassembling” of the movement and an external “isolation from the ummah.”
Further, he explains six different methods by which the US tries to reach these
goals and to weaken AQ:
1. announcing retractions of former AQ members (annex 3., No. 73),
2. focusing on and exaggerating mistakes and failures of the jihadi movement
(annex 3., No. 74),
3. production of fatwas criminalizing jihad as terrorism (annex 3., No. 75),
4. “strengthening moderate movements, especially those with a democratic
approach” (the defeatists) (annex 3., No. 76),
5. “incapacitating guiding jihadi symbols” (annex 3., No. 77),
6. “blowing out of proportion minor interpretative disputes [between competing jihadi factions] and considering them to be doctrinal/methodological
disputes” (annex 3., No. 78).
In the war of ideas, both sides carefully observe the maneuvers of their enemies.
Consequently, Western analysts have become experts in jihadi doctrine and, vice
versa, AQ’s leaders have become familiar with concepts of counter-terrorism. Reportedly Muhammad al-Maqdisi (an influential Salafi-jihadi ulama) is “complaining bitterly that secular Western analysts generally understand him better than
many in his own community.”314 Then again, AAZ ostentatiously demonstrates his
knowledge of counter-terrorism reports, such as “Stealing al-Qa’ida’s playbook,”315 a study conducted by the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at West
Point from which he cites passages in his third as-sahab interview from May 2007:
And here I’d like to read two paragraphs of a study prepared last year by two researchers from the Combating Terrorism Center at the American army’s United
States Military Academy:
“The U.S. could discretely fund mainstream Salafi figures like Madkhali who are effective in siphoning off support from jihadis and who do not advocate violence (e.g.,
by paying for publications, lectures, new schools).”
See annex 3., No. 71 and No. 72.
Worth 2009. Jihadi authors refer to writings from the terrorism study community
quite often, as Thomas Hegghammer describes in one of his articles posted at the blog
jihadica: http://www.jihadica.com/jihadists-study-jihadi-studies/. Brachman (2010)
articulates the same observation in an article in Foreign Policy; see also Bakier 2008.
Brachman & McCants 2006.
6.1 The socio-political analysis of jihadism
They go on,
“The U.S. could also fund non-Salafis, but it currently lacks the expertise necessary
to determine who is truly influential. Perhaps a better strategy in the near term
would be to pressure Middle Eastern governments to allow greater political participation and visibility for groups that jihadis are threatened by. This approach should
vary from country to country. For example, in Egypt, it would be the Muslim Brotherhood; in Saudi Arabia, the Shi’a. Again, it is essential that the U.S. hand not be
These are not my words, but are the words of two anti-terrorism researchers with the
American army.316
Although not mentioned explicitly in the statements, another study of the CTC fits
AYL’s description of the sixth method within the war of ideas (exploiting AQ’s
internal disputes in order to demonstrate the movement’s internal corrosion), namely the report “Cracks in the foundation: Leadership schisms in al-Qa’ida from
1989-2006.” The report evaluates and publishes declassified correspondence between disputing jihadi leaders, such as some recommendations AAZ addresses to
Abu Musab a-Zarqawi. Corresponding to the jihadists’ interpretation of an ongoing
war of ideas, the report concludes: “At the very least, their media distribution must
be degraded.”317 Again, another example of what is considered by AQ as slanderous propaganda is the report “Dysfunction and decline: Lessons learned from AQ
in Iraq,” also prepared by the CTC.318
Jihadi ideologues react to the interferences in sensitive religious matters by
equating moderation of Islam with appeasement towards the West and a defeat for
Islam. Two statements appear under the unequivocal titles “Moderate Islam is a
prostration to the West”319 and “Moderation of Islam and moderation of defeat.”320
Other messages treat the subject at considerable length. Altogether, the “war of
ideas” theme appears in 15 of the 31 statements and takes up 6,800 words (which
amounts to almost four percent of the entire text data). Given the substance and
amount of content about the “war of ideas” in the statements, this issue apparently
ranks high on the movement’s agenda. AYL admits the impact of the counternarrative: “Yes, the ideological war might have an effect on some individuals and
perhaps groups, and might cause some confusion and disarray in one place or another.”321
AAZ, May 4, 2007, 148.
CTC 2007, 23.
Fishman 2009.
UBL, unknown date, 2002.
AYL, May 22, 2008.
AYL, September 9, 2007, 38.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
Conclusions and thematic links
Most strongly associated with the theme “war of ideas” is the theme “religious supremacy.” One-quarter of the text classified as “war of ideas” is also classified as
“religious supremacy” (text that seeks to verify the superiority of the jihadi doctrine).322 The intersection of these two themes represents the strongest link between
the narrative on “apostasy” and that on the “global conflict.” It is well known that
one of the Islamists’ and global jihadists’ main grievance is the US protectorate of
authoritarian governments, which inhibits the domestic political change they seek.
According to jihadi theory, the near enemy (apostates) and the far enemy (the
West) are connected through their political and military cooperation and therefore
are essentially “a single entity.”323 But there is also an additional link between
apostasy and the global conflict, namely the deliberate strategies of religious moderation. The jihadi movement considers such interferences to be as threatening as
straightforward political, economic, and military support of the “apostate” governments. The jihadists see two gateways through which the alleged global conflict
(the war against Islam) is brought to the Islamic world. One is political, including
military support, and the other is intellectual and doctrinal. According to AQ, the
war of ideas is one reason why many Islamist movements take a moderate (i.e.,
defeatist) position. AQ makes a virtue out of this new challenge by presenting its
ideology as the only remaining unbiased and “unpolluted” form of Islam, while
holding that the moderate Islamist movements have lost the war of ideas. It seems
that the more obvious the dogmatic dispute is, the more profile AQ’s dogmatic position acquires. Because the intention of the Western counter narrative is so obvious, moderate Islamic organizations can easily be discredited by AQ as being infiltrated by Western ideas.
Intersecting content of the two themes “war of ideas” and “religious supremacy”
contrasts the “hostile interpretations” of the “traitorous” ulamas with the “unbiased” doctrine of AQ in order to demonstrate the jihadis’ doctrinal impartiality. For
instance, AAZ uses this argument in his third video interview with as-sahab from
May 5, 2007, when he is asked by the interviewer to comment on religious scholars
who reject jihadi violence:
But you invite the Ummah to bear arms and support those who bear arms,
while others invite it to something else. What do you say to that?
I say what I said before: the Ummah must reach a level of awareness, sensitivity and
realization of what its duty is and what goes on around it; an awareness, sensitivity
and realization which enables it to discern the treasonous religion-traders in Iraq and
Afghanistan, the scientists of beggary in the Peninsula, Yemen, Amman and Cairo,
Sixty percent of content from the theme “war of ideas” appears next to a paragraph
classified as “religious supremacy.”
AYL, September 9, 2007, 86.
6.1 The socio-political analysis of jihadism
those who issue fatwas according to the school of the head of the Church of England
in London, and the scholars of the Marines spread here and there; and enables it to
search for the pious Mujahid men of knowledge who persevere despite harassment
and declare the truth and invite to it and act according to it in the face of the enemies
of the Ummah, the Crusaders and their tyrannical, criminal helpers.324
Additional textual relations (intersection and sequences) between the category “war
of ideas” and other categories are rare and weak. They include factual references to
real world events which exemplify the theme. Finally, two paragraphs demand the
cessation of religious interferences and make it a “condition for truce” (prognostic
frame) with the US.325
Rejection of secular governance
While the two narratives “apostasy” and “global conflict” represent AQ’s theory
about the near and the far enemy and how they are interrelated, the narrative about
secularism is about a less tangible but nonetheless dangerous enemy of jihadi fundamentalism. The third distinctive topic within AQ’s socio-political diagnosis is a
fundamental critique and denial of secular, nationalistic, and specifically democratic principles.
Basically, there are two lines of argumentation the authors follow to disenchant
the prospects many Islamic activists, groups, and organizations associate with democracy. One argues theologically and enumerates principles and paradigms which
demonstrate how the electoral system violates the legal principles of Islamic governance. The other rejects Islamists’ political participation for strategic reasons,
emphasizing that even a winning Islamist party will only be recognized by the international community if it dismisses the political programs which make it Islamist
in the first place. Further, the ideologues identify the weak points of democracies,
such as incidents in which traditional democratic countries violate their own rule of
law – particularly in the war against Islamic terrorism – or the experiences of transitional Islamic states in which the democratic experiment threatens to fail due to
widespread corruption or the manipulation of elections. The jihadists state that democracy and its reverence for human rights and political freedom is hypocritical
and that it therefore cannot be exploited, let alone postulated, to achieve the goals
of Islamic activists.
AAZ, May 4, 2007, 186.
See annex 3., No. 79. Certainly the “war of ideas” could have been classified as one
of the various grievances since it is one of the actions AQ demands to be ceased. But
other than that the theme is qualitatively and quantitatively different from the ordinary expression of popular classical grievances.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
Political and strategic arguments against Islamists’ participation in democratic
elections are somewhat more elaborated than the rejection of secular governance
for theological-dogmatic reasons. The latter theme is treated rather axiomatically,
and it seems that the authors shy away from opening a deep theological debate in a
genre of jihadi media which addresses the broader public and laymen rather than
the clergy. Separate jihadi writings deal with this specific domain, such as the treatise “Democracy … A Religion” by Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi.326 Such fatwalike writings go into considerable depth, while the video statements of as-sahab
productions contain rather superficial theological arguments rejecting democracy.
The following sections depict the three sub-themes within the narrative on secular governance. The first section reviews the parts of AQ’s media that reject democracy on Islamic legal grounds, while the second section summarizes AQ’s political argumentation against the participation of Islamist movements in modern
democracy. Finally, AQ’s general grievances about secularism are presented. In
terms of text volume, the narrative about the denial of secular governance is the
smallest within the diagnostic frame of AQ’s ideology (it contains about 10,000
words or about six percent of the text from all statements). It would be interesting
to see whether the importance of the anti-secular narrative increases in light of the
ongoing political transformation in the Arab world, which is making the narrative
about the near and the far enemy seem increasingly outdated.
Theological rejection of democracy
While many aspects of jihadi ideology discussed so far are comprehensible, sometimes even reasonable from a political science point of view, AQ’s fundamentalist
and radical mindset becomes obvious when one looks at its position towards secular principles of governance, a position which contradicts occidental thinking about
this matter. Concerning the fundamental question of how the exercise of power can
be legitimated, there is not much to learn from the statements. The answer to the
“biggest question: what is the authority which rules? Is it the majority of votes? Or
Divine Shari’ah?”327 is self-evident and imperious. The denomination of Salafism
in general and the jihadi movement in particular set strict limits to human reasoning
and interpretation as a source of knowledge, and ultimately as a legitimate source
for legislation and governance. The authors can use straightforward examples of
how democracy violates Islamic law because they assume the absoluteness and
divine nature of Islamic law and avoid the heretical question about its historic origins and its legitimacy today as collectively binding law: “For they [Westerners]
Maqdisi is a Salafi theologian who is very prominent in jihadist circles worldwide.
An English translation of the essay is available at Maqdisi’s online archive: http://
www.tawhed.net/c.php?i=3 [URL not accessible].
AAZ, December 20, 2006, 48.
6.1 The socio-political analysis of jihadism
vote over everything – even over legalizing homosexual marriage! [...] Nonetheless, what is false is false – even if a billion individuals agree to it.”328
The jihadists are apparently well aware that their categorical rejection of democracy is somewhat outdated and unpopular, especially among those Muslims who
place their hopes in it. Many popular Islamist movements with an agenda not so
different from AQ take the path of political participation to realize their goals.
AQ’s disagreement with its non-violent Islamist counterparts is more about the
means than the goals. In order to compensate for this rather unpopular and outdated
part of its ideology, AQ compares its isolated position with the politically and militarily outnumbered vanguard of early Islam, which remains a role model for every
Islamist movement. At the same time, the political chances offered by political participation in contemporary Islamic societies are described by the jihadists as temptations: attractive but baneful.329
Needless to say, none of the Islamic states in the Middle East actually fulfills
AQ’s criteria for an Islamic theocracy, as AAZ asserts:
All governments which are recognized by the international community rule by other
than what Allah sent down and comply with the resolutions and charters of the United Nations, [...] and I challenge those who cast doubt on that to bring me one government recognized by the international community which fits the requirements of
Dar-al-Islam [the state of Islam].330
UBL explains these requirements as follows:
If people [in a certain country] abide by all the laws of Islam, but do not prohibit
usury, for example, and sanction dealing with banks that deal in interest, then the
constitution of this country is a constitution of infidelity for such a behavior means
that the people of that country do not believe in the perfection of the Islamic law or
its revealer, God Almighty.331
In the ideology of jihadism, Muslims unwillingly living in secular systems are considered oppressed Muslims, and AQ encourages them to be disobedient. In the audio message “Letter to the sons of the two rivers” from December 2004, for instance, UBL forbids the Iraqi people – allegedly on Islamic legal grounds – to
UBL, unknown date, 2002, 144. It would indeed be interesting to learn about the credos of UBL, AAZ, and other mujahedeen. But instead of scrutinizing the question of
his own faith, AAZ discusses the subtle differences between secularists and atheists
(see annex 3., No. 90).
See annex 3., No. 92–94.
AAZ, December 16, 2007, 322.
UBL, December 27, 2004, 86.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
participate in the upcoming elections and specifies some of the conditions under
which Muslims are allowed to select their emir (even by vote).332
Political-strategic rejections of democracy
It also isn’t right that the Jihad of the Ummah be led by those who will lead it into
the mazes of secularism, backing down on the fundamentals of the faith and running
after the mirage of elections. Entering the elections under the umbrella of secular
constitutions to bring the Islamic movement to power, in addition to its violating the
Sharia, is also a futile method of achieving Islamic change and mobilizing the Ummah for Jihad against its enemy. It failed in Algeria, failed in Yemen, failed in Jordan, failed in Egypt, and it is today failing in Palestine.333
Jihadi ideologues reject political participation in secular governance not only for
theological reasons but also because they have realized that political participation
make Islamist movements more moderate and make them lose sight of their fundamentalist long term goals. The strategic reasoning asserts that political participation, even if successful in gaining political power, would cause the jihadi movement to lose its status as the “genuine pillar of the Jihadist methodology.”334 Again,
this observation is quite true when one bears in mind the irreconcilableness of fundamentalist goals and goals which are attainable in democratic systems; democracy
cannot be abolished by democratic means, at least if its constitution grants sufficient protection. Some parts of the theme depict the transformation Islamist movements undergo once they start to practice politics: They may actually achieve some
political power but only at the cost of giving up one by one the initial ideals of their
movement together with its most disputed positions, positions which were the actual reasons for their political participation in the first place. A claim that seems particularly vulnerable to concession-making, for instance, is the denial of Israel’s
right to exist.
The jihadi ideologues tie political positions to religious principles, thereby making the political solution to a conflict a matter of faith. For AAZ and other authors,
political bargaining is “to exchange our religion and rights for a small gain.”335 The
precedent for such strategic failure (according to AQ’s assessment) is the case of
Hamas, which participated in and won the 2006 Palestinian legislative election,
about which UBL concludes: “[L]earn a lesson from the fate of HAMAS leadership
whereas its leaders renounced on their religion in the same time they couldn’t
achieve any worldly gain when they obeyed Al-Reyad governor and the others by
Annex 3., No. 95.
AAZ, December 20, 2006, 111.
AYL, July 27, 2006, 69; see also annex 3., No. 93.
See annex 3., No. 96 for the whole paragraph from the interview with AAZ. UBL
makes a similar comment in annex 3., No. 97. In annex 3., No. 98 AAZ bluntly expresses AQ’s preference for violence instead of politics.
6.1 The socio-political analysis of jihadism
joining a national unity government and by accepting the unjust international conventions, so would the truthful ones from HAMAS move to set right its path?”336
Besides the systemic reasons why an Islamist agenda cannot be realized through
democratic means, AAZ sees practical procedural problems in domestic and international politics: “[T]hese movements wear out their support bases on the merrygo-round of rigged elections. With shouting and hoarse throats, they combat the
ruling wolves who rig the elections every time, renew the emergency laws every
year, and bequeath power from every predecessor to his successor.”337 A passage
from the video speech “Realities in the conflict between Islam and unbelief” by
AAZ from late 2006 exemplifies the strategic fallacy of democracy and how political reality has softened Hamas’ initial determination:
The third fact is that every way other than Jihad will only lead us to loss and failure,
and those who attempt to liberate the lands of Islam through elections which are held
on the basis of the secular constitutions or the resolutions surrendering Palestine to
the Jews will never liberate one sand-grain of Palestine: instead, their actions will
lead to the smothering of the Jihad and blockading of the Mujahideen. [...]
Disregarding the legal and factual realities of the conflict between unbelief and Islam has led to some of the brothers in Palestine being led from a lull in the fighting
to elections on the basis of a secular constitution, then from elections on the basis of
a secular constitution to respecting the international resolutions, then from respecting international resolutions to approving the “prisoners’ document,”338 then from
approving the “prisoners’ document” to a government of national unity, and then
from a government of national unity to their expulsion from the cabinet … and the
story continues.339
While AQ criticizes the bottom-up adjustment of Islamist movements to their democratic environment, the jihadists also condemn the top-down enlargement of democracy as a general factor denying Islam the opportunity to regain the power and
influence it had in more prosperous times. Again, this is another truism if one accepts AQ’s fundamentalist conception of Islam: Secularism and nationalism is
characterized by the fact that it displaces divine legislation and makes citizenship
cut across religious affiliation. The theme “political-strategic refusal” of secular
governance depicts the historical development from the caliphate, which was based
UBL, December 29, 2007, 21.
AAZ, December 20, 2006, 112.
The prisoners’ document (also National Reconciliation Document) is a political agenda drafted by Israeli-detained associates of different Palestinian groups and parties
(Hamas, Fatah, and others). Several of its points contradict AQ’s convictions, such as:
“To cling to the principles of democracy and to hold regular, general, free, and honest
democratic elections.” The English text of the document is available at: http://www.
AAZ, December 20, 2006, 34 and 44.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
on religious affiliation, to today’s individual nation-states as “factionalizing the
Muslim Ummah,” as can be read in the following fragments from four different
statements: “Nationalist calls split the Islam Ummah into Arabs, Persians, Kurds,
Turks, Afghans and others, then split the Arabs into Egyptians, Moroccans, Syrians, Iraqis, Lebanese, Saudis, Yemenis and others, and thus provided the best possible service to the Crusade invading the Islamic world.”340 “In the name of the
homeland and patriotism the Gulf countries supported America to attack Iraq.”341
“All of these systems were imposed on the Muslim Ummah after the fall of the
Caliphate state, to force it to submit to systems and organizations contrary to the
Shari’ah of Islam and ensure the disintegration and factionalizing of the Muslim
Ummah.”342 According to the conspiratorial outlook of the jihadi movement, this
political-historical background is “part of the system’s tricks to absorb the resentment of the Muslim Ummah.”343
In summary it can be said that jihadi fundamentalists reject secular governance
not only because they reject all man-made laws as un-Islamic but also because democracy cannot be exploited to realize their agenda.
General grievances about secular governance
In addition to the theological and strategic reasoning against secular politics, the
statements denounce democratic governance by enumerating its weak spots. These
grievances reject man-made law because it permits various activities seen by the
fundamentalists as moral nuisances, such as the permission of drugs (alcohol), usury, or gambling. All these “social problems” are sincere concerns of the jihadists,
who perceive them as symptoms of “Jahiliyya,” a term which indicates the absence
of Islamic law in a society. The jihadists point out other problems of democratic
governance not primarily because they worry them in any particular way but apparently to expose the weak spots of democracy and to provide evidence of the system’s hypocrisy. Issues that are served on a plate to the jihadists in this regard are,
e.g., the military employment of private contractors (such as Blackwater/XE), corruption and manipulation of elections in newly established democracies, lobbying
and the regulatory capture of the oil and defense industry (such as Halliburton),
America’s refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol or the Rome Statue (“As for the war
criminals which you censure and form criminal courts for – you shamelessly ask
that your own are granted immunity!!”),344 carrying out targeted killings and extraordinary renditions, Israel’s non-compliance with certain UN resolutions, or the
AAZ, January 24, 2007, 38.
UBL, December 29, 2007, 18.
AAZ, September 11, 2006, 56.
AAZ, December 20, 2006, 112.
UBL, October, unknown date, 2002, 69.
6.1 The socio-political analysis of jihadism
cancellation of the Algerian parliamentary elections in 1991, in which the (fundamentalist) Islamic Salvation Front won eighty percent of the seats.345 It is not that
AQ endorses the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court or promotes the
participation of the Islamic Salvation Front (French abbreviation FIS) in the Algerian elections, but denying a winning fundamentalist party the right to govern confirms AQ’s assertion that the international community only allows free elections in
Islamic countries if no Islamist party wins: “[T]he biggest calamity was in Algeria.
After the Rescue (FIS) got 80 percent of the seats, France the defender of freedom
and the mother of revolutions, with the blessing of America, the land of freedom,
interfered to carry the winners not to the parliament building but to jail.”346
In another statement UBL reflects on the reasons why the US Democratic Party
is not able to stop the war in Iraq despite the “unprecedented” demonstrations
against it. He even utters his appreciation for Noam Chomsky’s “sober words of
advice prior to the war.” UBL concludes that commercial interests of major corporations have captured the power: “[T]he democratic system permits major corporations to back candidates, be they presidential or congressional, there shouldn’t be
any cause for astonishment – and there isn’t any – in the Democrats’ failure to stop
the war.”347
In addition to the issue about the “hypocrisy and contradiction” of democracy,
the authors of the statements reject the legitimacy of the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, and some international treaties. AQ rejects the legitimacy
of the UN mainly because its charter requires every member state to accept the
sovereignty of Israel, but for other reasons as well, such as the UN’s recognition of
“Russia’s occupation of Chechnya and the Muslim Caucasus, China’s occupation
of East Turkistan, Spain’s occupation of Ceuta and Melilla and the occupation of
other Muslim lands by non-Muslim governments which are part of the UN.”348 At
other occasions the selective prosecution practice of the ICC is criticized:
Meanwhile, the sequence of Crusader double-dealing continued, as the courts of the
United Nations acquitted the Serbian government of killing 100,000 Muslims and
Croats in Bosnia, even as the same courts demanded the conviction of 52 indicted in
Darfur. I’m not defending the Sudanese government, for everyone who has committed a crime in Darfur must pay the price.
Rather, I am asking two questions:
For an illustrative section from a speech by UBL about this matter, see annex 3., No.
AAZ, January 6, 2006, 26.
For the entire passages, see annex 3., No. 111.
AAZ, December 20, 2006. For the whole section of the statement in which AAZ explains his reasons for rejecting the UN, see annex 3., No. 115.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
First, who gave these murderers the right to appoint judges to interfere in the affairs
of Muslims? What right does the Security Council have to interfere in the affairs of
Muslims, and set up the courts which acquit this one and condemn that one, when
the hands of its criminal members drip with the blood of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Algeria, Chechnya and East Turkistan? How can America refer the
case of Darfur to an international court which it itself doesn’t recognize and refuses
to be subject to? What sort of tyranny is this world ruled by?
As for the second question: If you’re going to try those whom you call criminals in
Darfur, who will try the murderers in Bosnia, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia,
Chechnya, Kashmir, Indonesia, the Philippines and East Turkistan? Who will try
Bush, Blair, Putin and Sharon? Who will try the villains who wade daily through the
amounts of our blood and sanctities many times that which has been perpetrated in
Darfur? Who will try Mubarak, Al Saud, Bouteflica, Zain al-Abidin, the son of Hussein, and Musharraf?
Oh law of the jungle, oh civilization of wolves, and oh organization of criminal nations: the Muslims have had enough of what they have received and are receiving
from you, and so they have sought help from Allah and resolved to confront you.349
In a rather odd statement from May 2005, UBL offers ten kilograms of gold to
whomever kills (at this time acting) UN Secretary General Kofi Annan or Lakhdar
Brahimi (at this time UN special representative for Iraq) for the UN interference
with the Iraqi conflict. But odd or not, the UN is a dedicated target of AQ, as can
be seen in various attacks against its personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In addition to a principle rejection of the UN, AQ reveals its opposition to several resolutions, charters, or treaties, most of which concern the status of Israel. Explicitly mentioned are the Charter of the Arab League, the Arab Summit Resolution,350 SC 1701,351 the Balfour Declaration (“in which someone who didn’t own
the Holy Land of Palestine gave it to someone who didn’t deserve it”),352 the
Sykes-Picot Agreement,353 the Mecca Accord,354 SC 242,355 the Armistice Agree____________
AAZ, March 11, 2007, 18 et seq.
Presumably referring to the 2002 Beirut summit resolution of the Arab League, in
which the member-states recognized Israel’s right to exist.
Security Council Resolution S/RES/1701 about the 2006 Israel-Lebanon military conflict; see annex 3., No. 116.
AAZ, December 20, 2006, 22. The Balfour declaration of 1917 of the British government suggests establishing a “national home for the Jewish people” (letter from the
foreign office, Nov. 2, 1917).
Agreement between the United Kingdom and France from 1916 on the territorial
allocation of parts of Western Asia, including today’s Israel and Palestine.
Between HAMAS and Fatah establishing the Palestinian national unity government.
See annex 3., No. 117.
6.1 The socio-political analysis of jihadism
ment of 1949,356 and GA RES 194.357 The authors do not blame Israel for violating
internationally binding resolutions, because AQ rejects the UN system altogether
and, presumably for this reason, does not even make rhetoric use of provisions of
the resolutions which it would be expected to welcome (e.g., the request of Israel’s
withdrawal from occupied territory as stated in S/RES/446 from 1979).358 Rather,
the jihadi media portrays deviations from international law as evidence for its
With regard to the international legality of armed jihadi groups, AQ offers a
simple solution to a complicated legal matter:
Fighting against the invaders in Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Kashmir, Chechnya and
everywhere must be based on the Islamic creed, and not any other orientation. Our
[f]ighting must not be out of respect for the United Nations charter or resolutions,
nor for the safety of the lands of its members, among whom is Israel, nor to realize
the armistice pact or ceasefire agreement, nor to [unknown word at 18:00] the
boundaries of Sykes/Picot, nor to recognize international law. Rather, our fighting
must be Jihad in the path of Allah until the religion in it’s [sic] entirely is for Allah.
A Jihad which seeks to liberate Palestine – all of Palestine – and liberate every land
which was one[ce] a land of Islam, from Spain to Iraq.
Just as for the grievances stated within the two narratives on apostasy and on the
global conflict, some of the criticism expressed in the narrative on secularism may
be candid, but for others the enragement seems spurious. For instance, why should
AQ worry about the nuclear attacks against Japan at the end of the World War II
(as UBL does in one of his statements);359 after all, Japan is an infidel state for
which AQ should have little sympathy according to its own doctrine of loyalty and
enmity. The actual purpose of selecting these issues seems to be another: Considering the popular endorsement of the democratic approach by many Islamist movements – who see it as a strategic chance rather than an obstacle or threat – there is
an urgent need for the jihadists to come up with convincing arguments to counter
the appeal for democracy. It can be suspected that jihadi ideologues mix popular
and unpopular claims in their messages in order to camouflage the latter. Agitating
against America and Israel is popular among all Islamist groups, but condemning
the participation in elections is not, especially if it offers a chance for these groups.
AQ exposes the (alleged) democratic double standards of the US to discredit de__________
Security Council Resolution S/RES/242 from 1967 demanding a peaceful settlement
of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Between Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria stipulating a number of ceasefire
General Assembly resolution A/RES/194 from 1948 on the Arab-Israeli conflict in
the wake of the establishment of the new state of Israel.
S/RES/446 is not mentioned in the statement.
See annex 3., No. 111.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
mocracy as such. Moreover, a position (such as promoting the democratic approach
in Islam) can always be rejected more convincingly if the communicator appears to
be informed, smart, and credible rather than ideologically biased about what he
rejects. Accordingly, the ideologues have to demonstrate their understanding of
both Islamic law and secular politics. An additional reason for discussing political
events, specific resolutions, and failures in democratic systems might be to argue in
the language and mindset of the enemy, e.g., by using the “West verbatim.”360 AQ
thereby increases the chance that a Western audience will listen too.
Conclusions and thematic links
Like the other two narratives (apostasy and global conflict), the denial of secularism is thematically embedded in the broader ideology, since the content of one narrative overlaps with that of the others. These textual intersections show how different narratives, themes, and issues are thematically interrelated. Compared with the
link between the apostasy narrative and the global conflict narrative, the links between secularism and apostasy and between secularism and global conflict are
weak.361 This indicates that the jihadi movement assesses the enlargement of democracy as a problem somewhat separated from the immediate political threats
from the near and the far enemy. The few cases where the denial of secular governance is directly linked to other narratives includes allegations that the West is enforcing the democratic model in Islamic states in order to appease and pacify the
local Islamist opposition. The authors take this allegation even one step further,
arguing that the initial plan of the US was to diffuse the influence of Islamist
groups by promoting free elections in Islamic countries, hoping the Muslim population would not vote for fundamentalist parties and thereby defeat Islamism legally. But after the US realized that free elections might bring to power unwelcome
groups – and even legitimize their claim to power – it allegedly began following
the new approach of asserting direct control over elections and constitutional
amendments in the Middle East.362 Although this kind of reasoning is rather seldom expressed in the statements, it is a good illustration of AQ’s thoughts about
processes of secularization and democratization in the Islamic world being a deliberate strategy of the “Crusading West” to eradicate Islam. This observation seems
UBL, unknown date, 2002, 40.
Eight percent of the total text volume classified as apostasy or global conflict is classified as belonging to both categories at the same time, while text common to both
categories – apostasy and secularism – makes up only three percent of the content
classified as either of the two. Likewise, secularism and global conflict share three
percent text area.
The evolution of this argument becomes apparent if we juxtapose two remarks by
AAZ, one from January 2006 and the other from April 2008; see annex 3., No. 120
and 121.
6.2 The goals of AQ
to be quite accurate if one thinks of Islam only as being jihadi fundamentalist Islam, which the US indeed seeks to eradicate, while its policies support reformative
currents of Islam. The rejection of secular governance and the narrative on the
global conflict are also related to each other by way of allegations against the far
enemy that can be used to discredit democracy, such as the US patronage of governments which systematically violate human rights.363
The two narratives on apostasy and secularism are mainly linked to each other
through content describing the issue of “defeatism.”364 These segments reflect the
main allegation against the “defeatist apostates”: their adoption of secular principles in their political programs.365
Jihadi journalism is used to substantiate the rejection of secular governance for
strategic reasons (nearly one-fifth or 18 percent text intersection), while religious
references are exclusively used to reject secularism on the basis of religious doctrine.
The goals of AQ
“Al-Qa’ida has a vision for the future, albeit one that very few people want them to
Compared to AQ’s lengthy socio-political diagnosis (the diagnostic frame), there
are surprisingly few coherent details in the statements about what the movement
actually wants to achieve (the prognostic frame). Instead there are numerous domestic and geopolitical long- and short-term objectives scattered throughout the
statements. Expressed in numbers, four percent of the statements’ content specifies
goals. Although different jihadi groups may share certain aspects of AQ’s ideology,
including its goals, they often have somewhat different aspirations. Therefore, the
goals stated in as-sahab broadcasts must be seen as the goals of AQ central.
Truce conditions
Some of these goals are formulated as the “conditions for truce/peace,” in which
case they also – sometimes very explicitly and directly, sometimes implicitly –
justify violence as a means to push these claims (the ends justify the means). Notwithstanding whether the authors actually expect to be able to achieve their goals
For instance, see annex 3., No. 123.
Almost half of the 1,400 words common to both categories (secularism and apostasy)
belong to the apostasy subcategory defeatism. The other half of the 1,400 words is
from various subcategories.
The paragraph in annex 3., No. 99 provides an example.
Fishman 2009, 21.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
through militancy, they articulate straightforward political claims to provide a generally intelligible explanation for their action.
And from their [the West] ploys in suppressing the facts, is their portrayal of the
Mujahideen as half mad, bloodthirsty maniacs who will continue to fight against you
until the last one of you. And whenever the Mujahideen address you with the language of reason they confuse things for you and divert you from that in order to
keep you in the battlefield to be killed for their protection.
Yes, this is something often repeated in the media, that you haven’t made a serious offer to the West, that you want to fight just for the sake of fighting, that
you want war to the very end.
This is misleading. We have repeatedly declared our political offer to the West, but
the leaders of the West, especially Bush and Blair, are keen to cause confusion about
that. Shaykh Usama bin Laden (may Allah protect him) offered a ceasefire to the
West and a ceasefire to America. And I have told the West that [the] way to peace is
by withdrawing from our countries, stopping the plunder of our resources, and ending support for the corrupt governments in our lands.367
In the video speech “Legitimate demands” by Adam Yahiye Gadahn (AYG; also
known as Azzam al-Amriki), from May 2007, he formulates six conditions the US
has to fulfill in order avert future attacks by AQ against it. He refers to a “poll of
Muslims in four major regional countries conducted by the Center for International
and Security Studies at the University of Maryland” to emphasize that these are
“legitimate demands,” namely: a complete withdrawal of US personnel from what
he considers “Islamic soil,” a stop to “all support and aid, military, political, economic, or otherwise to the 56 plus apostate regimes of the Muslim world” and Israel, a ban on settlement in occupied Palestine, non-interference in Islamic matters of
religion, society, politics, and governance, a stop to the broadcasting of informational media to the Islamic world (stopping the war of ideas), and a release of “all
Muslim captives from your prisons.”368 AYG repeats many points from an earlier
statement of UBL (the one from October 2002), in which he called on the Americans to convert to Islam369 and also demanded an end to support for governments
involved in the conflicts of Kashmir, Chechnya, and the Southern Philippines. As
for the Arab leaders (in this case Saudi Arabia), UBL suggests for them “to return
AAZ, September 11, 2006, 159 et seq.
AYG, May 29, 2007, 15 et seq. In 2010 as-sahab published a similar communiqué of
AYG (legitimate demands II).
In another later video message to the American people from September 2007 entitled
“The solution,” UBL details the failure of the US democratic and capitalist system
and promotes the benefits of Islamic governance, suggesting them to replace the one
with the other. In the manner of a streetwise politician, he promises the abolition of
taxes (to be replaced by 2.5 percent Zakaat) if the nation switches to Islamic governance.
6.2 The goals of AQ
the trust to its owners in a peaceful manner and to let the people of the country
choose a Muslim ruler so that he might rule them according to God’s Book and His
Prophet’s tradition.”370 Finally, one goal whose achievement is perceived to be
blocked by the US and which is called for repeatedly in the statements is security.
AQ sees the US’s pretext for the “war on terror” in Iraq and Afghanistan as a distortion of the facts about the conflict which the authors want to set right:
The formula for your safety is “You shall never dream of security until we truly experience it in Palestine and all lands of Islam,” and not the fallacious formula with
which Bush deceives you when he says, “We strike the terrorists in their countries
so that they don’t strike us in ours.” On the contrary: if we are struck in our countries, we shall never stop striking you in your countries, with Allah’s power and
“The correct equation” of the conflict between AQ and the US with its allies, as
AAZ entitles one video speech, is: “Security is a shared destiny, if we are secure,
you might be secure, and if we are safe, you might be safe.”372
Programmatic goals
Other goals are not articulated as a negotiable matter but either as the intention to
abolish the cause of a grievance (e.g., expelling the occupiers) or as the intention to
replace it by something better (establishment of the caliphate), most generally expressed as the goal “to eradicate polytheism [...] and to establish the flag of tawhid
[monotheism].”373 While the programmatic vision of AQ is to reintegrate and reIslamize all territory that at some point in history was under Islamic rule (dar alIslam)374 and to gradually expand these borders to form a global caliphate, the
statements also discuss more immediate and down-to-earth aspirations, such as the
establishment of provisional emirates in Afghanistan and Iraq.375 Notwithstanding
the location and the size of an area, the mujahedeen’s general “first objective [is]
the establishment of the religion, rule of the Law, and making the Creation worship
their Creator”376 as soon as they gain control of a region and are capable of enforcing the law.
UBL, December 16, 2004, 51.
AAZ, December 20, 2006, 81. Apparently such a “formula” was stated previously by
UBL, as AAZ refers to “the famous oath of Shaykh Usama bin Laden that America
will never dream of security until we experience it in Palestine.”
AAZ, January 24, 2007, 23.
AYL, June 23, 2009, 14; see annex 3., No. 129 for another announcement of the programmatic goals of AQ.
See annex 3., No. 130.
See annex 3., No. 131.
AYL, September 9, 2007, 68.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
Although the liberation of Palestine is on the geopolitical agenda of AQ central,
it seems to be of secondary importance to the movement, while other conflicts are
their primary concern. AQ considers the liberation of Iraq from the US occupation
and the secular government as a strategic prerequisite for the liberation of Palestine. The boastful comment of the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, Abu Mussab
al-Zarqawi, is exemplary: “In Iraq we are very close to al-Aqsa Mosque of the
Messenger of Allah, so we fight in Iraq and our eyes are on Jerusalem.”377
In 2003, UBL listed the countries most suitable for liberation through AQ-affiliated groups: “The most qualified regions for liberation are Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, the land of the two holy mosques [Saudi Arabia], and Yemen.”378
Five years later UBL’s declared priorities changed, since Palestine is mentioned
again as one of the most important arenas for jihad.379
Conclusions and thematic links
How is the prognostic frame related to the diagnostic frame? The frame “goals/objectives” is not at all related to the narrative on “secular governance” and barely
related to the narrative “apostasy,” while it has a moderate association to the category “global conflict.”380 This is an interesting fact, because it tells us something
about the broader strategy of how AQ confronts its two principle enemies. AQ expresses allegations against both, but is only willing to engage in political negotiations with the far enemy. If one looks at the goals advanced in the statements it
becomes apparent that AQ is not primarily interested in alleviating the grievances
in the Arab world (e.g., corruption, bad governance, etc.) but only in putting an end
to the reign of Arab leaders and taking over their power. There is not much these
governments can do to satisfy AQ demands. In contrast, AQ has a political offer
for Western powers, albeit one which Western governments are unlikely to consider.
This finding is consistent with the common assumption that the actual concern of
the jihadists is not the West but the near enemy. 381 Within the Salafi jihadi community there is a vibrant debate about the strategic question whether the Arab re____________
Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, quoted in AAZ, July 27, 2006, 30; for the whole paragraph,
see annex 3., No. 132.
UBL, February 11, 2003, 27.
See annex 3., No. 133.
Of the 7,500 words categorized as describing AQ’s goals and objectives, 400 words
(that is five percent) intersect with text classified as describing apostasy, while 13
percent of the text from the category goals and objectives intersects with text describing the global conflict. The third narrative within AQ’s socio-political diagnosis, secular governance, is not related to the stipulation of goals and objectives. Only 262
words of the two categories intersect.
See annex 3., No. 134.
6.2 The goals of AQ
gimes can be toppled as long as they are protected by the far enemy and whether
this means that the far enemy, rather than the near enemy, should be the primary
target. The strategy of AQ central is to address the global enemy first; therefore
UBL and AAZ call for strikes on Western targets abroad in order to iron out the
obstacles on the way to successfully fighting the near enemy. In short: AQ goals to
remedy the grievances attributed to the economic, political, and social hegemony of
the West appear sincere, while they seem to utilize public grievances against the
apostate governments only as a pretext and argument to deny them Islamic legitimacy to govern and to fight them. The jihadists demand that once a legitimate Islamic authority is reinstalled, all social problems should be addressed by Islamic
law and not by political protest. Contrary to these ambitions, UBL and AAZ made
several truce offers to the US and to Europe,382 but the 31 statements contain no
similar “offer” addressed to the Muslim governments to remedy the problems they
accuse them of. Only once does UBL address the rulers of Riyadh and propose a
peaceful option, while still insisting on their resignation.383 In a statement from
December 2004, UBL indicates that his personal negotiations with Saudi Arabia
showed that diplomatic solutions with that country were exhausted:
Twenty years ago, I gave good advice [for reform] to the government, through senior ulema – but things have not changed. Then, fifteen years ago, I gave my advice
directly to the deputy interior minister, and told him about the grave sins from which
the state should desist and the danger of continuing in them, but to no avail […]
What I told him about their sins – they know that these things are prohibited in
God’s religion, but they do not want anyone to denounce them for a simple reason:
because it is not prohibited by the religion of kingly rule.384
It is not entirely clear to which meeting he is referring, but until 1990 the Saudi
authorities tolerated UBL’s presence in the country, and it is reported that he indeed
met with high-ranking politicians, most notably with Prince Sultan (minister of
defense). This meeting is considered as one of the key events for the emergence of
the AQ organization: UBL reportedly offered the minister a large contingent of
mujahedeen veterans from the Afghan-Soviet war to fight war-ready Saddam Hussein, but the Saudi government decided to ally with the US instead and sanctioned
the stationing of their troops in the land of the two sanctuaries.385 About fifteen
years later, in December 2004, UBL addressed his message to the “Muslims of
Such as UBL’s “Letter to the Americans – Why are we fighting you” from October,
unknown date, 2002; or a UBL audiotape offering armistice with Europe from April
2004 (not included in the sample).
See annex 3., No. 135.
UBL, December 16, 2004, 14.
Several sources report on this meeting, for instance Kepel (2004, 229), or New York
Times reporter Douglas Jehl in an article from December 27, 2001.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
Saudi Arabia […] concerning the disagreement and conflict between the rulers of
Riyadh and the people of this country, and how to resolve it,” 386 and cast doubt on
whether an acceptable solution could be achieved at all as long as the royal family
was in charge.387 He does not address the Saudi rulers in the statement but rather
the general public and influential ulamas, recommending them to stop their religious support for the government and to emigrate.388
On the contrary, messages addressed to the West frequently indicate goals and
claims to governments:
[T]he Mujahideen won’t stop inflicting losses on you until you leave our lands, stop
plundering our treasures, and stop backing the corrupt rulers in our countries. […]
Depart from our lands and stop supporting the corrupt rulers, and don’t prevent the
Muslim Ummah from establishing its legitimate Shura state accountable to it.389
Unlike most other narratives and themes, the announcements of AQ’s goals and
objectives are not systematically related to theological or journalistic references.390
Only occasionally are the goals of the movement linked to goals also formulated in
the Quran or the Sunna, such as the following reference: “Allah (the Glorious and
Great) said, ‘And fight them until there is no Fitnah, and religion is wholly for Allah.’ (8:39): i.e., unless you fight them, there will be Fitnah, and Fitnah is infidelity
and polytheism, as the interpreters have said.”391 Another example of AQ’s use of
external references in support of the jihadi message can be seen in a video statement with AAZ showing footage from a conference at which Abdullah al-Nafisi, a
Kuwaiti university professor, promotes some of AQ’s goals: “[T]he Islamic movement on the Arabian Peninsula is entrusted with confronting this problem: the
problem of stopping this polytheistic march to reside in the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council.”392
The frame “goals/objectives” is most strongly related to themes from the category “jihadi doctrines and strategies.” We will discuss AQ’s recommended strategies
for attaining their goals in detail in the following chapter.
UBL, December 16, 2004, 9 et seq.
See annex 3., No. 136.
See annex 3., No. 137.
AAZ, December 20, 2006, 74.
The measurements for association indicate a very weak relationship. Three percent
(and five percent) of words classified as “goals and objectives” intersect with religious quotations (and journalistic references, respectively).
AYL, September 9, 2007, 57; see annex 3., No. 138 for references to a hadith stating
goals and objectives.
See annex 3., No. 139 for an excerpt from Nafisi’s speech.
6.3 The means: Doctrines and strategies of jihad
The means: Doctrines and strategies of jihad
Following the description of AQ’s opinions on contemporary socio-political affairs
(the diagnostic frame) and its vision for the future (prognostic frame) in chapter 6.1
and 6.2, this section proceeds with the analysis of the strategies AQ prescribes for
social change, namely its militancy – and it can be said beforehand that AQ has
little else to offer in this regard. But even military matters are a poorly developed
topic, as Lia’s analysis of AQ’s leadership statements verifies: “Bin Ladin’s or alZawahiri’s public statements on tactical military matters do not add up to something that might resemble a comprehensive war-fighting doctrine.”393 This does not
mean that the global jihadists do not have such a doctrine; it is just not communicated in this genre of their propaganda. Doctrines and strategies are a topic dealt
with in different formats of jihadi media, for instance in Abu Mussab al-Suri’s
bulky manifesto “Call to global Islamic resistance,” which is an indispensable
source for analyzing the strategy of the global jihadi movement.394 Mujahedeen
field commanders like to read and apply Mao Zedong’s work “On Guerilla Warfare” (as observed by Chipman),395 and, consciously or not, terrorist cells and “lone
wolf terrorists” in non-war environments practice a resistance concept discussed by
the US right-wing extremist Louis Beam.396
Quite different from these straightforward strategic and tactical contributions, the
as-sahab broadcasts of AAZ, UBL, and AYL provide very few practical recommendations in this regard but elaborate instead on the broader picture of global jihad
and its purposes. This information is particularly relevant for the research question
of this study, namely, how the global jihadists describe political violence as necessary, legitimate, and functional for achieving their goals. Their principle distinction
between the near and the far enemy is reflected in this narrative, too. For each enemy, they provide distinct reasons why “force must be an element in change.”397
However, more than in the diagnostic narrative, the two categories become blurred
when AQ explains its reasons for militant activism.
Lia 2009a, 17. Likewise Roy: “Al Qaeda has no strategic vision. […] Most of Al
Qaeda’s targets have no military or strategic value” (Roy 2004, 294).
Translated excerpts from the manifesto are included in al-Suri’s well investigated
biography “Architect of global jihad” written by Brynjar Lia 2009b; see also Baehr
2009 and Al-Shishani (2005a).
Chipman 2003.
Beam 1992, 12. The concept is discussed by Arquilla & Ronfeldt 2001b, 334.
AAZ, July 4, 2007, 296.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
A considerable part (one-fifth) of the content from all 31 statements398 is classified as articulating “jihadi doctrines and strategies.” Figures 3 and 4 (branch jihadi
doctrines) shows that the branch is further divided into the three sub-narratives “instrumentality of force,” “justification for violence,” and “appeals & advice.” This
chapter reviews these narratives one by one and analyzes how they are related to
the other narratives and themes discussed so far.
Instrumentality of force
It is an undisputed fact that militancy is the primary modus operandi of AQ’s activism, as AAZ unequivocally confirms:
[F]orce must be an element in change, and there must be work to achieve its means,
whether this force will be put into practice in the form of a military coup, or in the
form of a mass popular uprising or mass public disobedience to confront the corrupt
and corruptive government, or in the form of guerilla warfare, or in the form of
armed political resistance, or in other forms. Whatever its form, method and means,
force remains a necessary element for bringing about change when confronting the
alliance of evil and repression to which I referred, after all paths to peaceful change
have been blocked.399
The content of the narrative “instrumentality of force” explains from AQ’s point of
view how the engagement in violent activism is beneficial for the jihadi movement
and for Islam in general. AQ’s leaders provide two principle reasons why jihadi
violence is necessary: They argue that the use of force should not be evaluated
solely by strategic or political assessment but that it also has inherent religiousperformative value, similar to fasting or praying.
Strategic instrumentality
In strategic terms, AQ promotes insurgent and terrorist tactics in order to escalate
the conflict, inflict harm, and weaken the enemy, thereby making the global conflict as costly as possible for all enemies involved. With a minimum of input concerning personnel and resources a maximum of devastation and economic loss
should be realized.400 By carrying out numerous minor attacks, it expects to cause
an economic and political burden for the enemies of the mujahedeen. These attacks
are not limited to the immediate military environment in Iraq and Afghanistan, for
instance, but are to be carried out wherever possible, also against soft targets, as
AAZ recommends:
This corresponds to a frequency of 33,000 words (18.5 percent).
AAZ, July 4, 2007, 296. For a similar remark by AAZ, see annex 3., No. 150.
See annex 3., No. 151.
6.3 The means: Doctrines and strategies of jihad
Regarding the targets for which the Mujahideen must aim they comprise every target
whose striking will have the effect of weakening the Zionist/Crusader campaign of
aggression against the lands of Islam. The division of the people into military and
civilian is nowhere to be found in the Shari’ah. Rather the Shari’ah has divided the
people into combatants and non combatants. The combatant, according to the Shari’ah, is anyone who himself fights or helps in the fight with his money or opinions.401
By dissolving the territorial confines, widening the spectrum of potential targets,
and making jihad global, AQ successfully raised the stakes for the US and its allies.
Interference in the matters of the mujahedeen is a costly and dangerous endeavor
for every government, and it touches upon matters of foreign affairs and domestic
security alike, where color-coded terror alerts irritate some citizens and amuse others. The offer to cease hostilities and violence against Western targets is the only
bargaining chip AQ has, and it strives to further increase this leverage. In this regard, AQ uses “violence as bargaining”402 to enforce concessions from governments, except for the fact that there is no bargaining going on.
The AQ organization appreciates the effectiveness of suicide bombing (martyrdom operations) as one element in creating a threatening scenario for political decision makers. The jihadists expect such operations to deter the enemy, being difficult to prevent by security measures, and to minimize the casualty rate among the
mujahedeen in comparison to a regular military confrontation with a well-equipped
enemy army. For this reason, the ideologues promote them openly: “[W]e stress the
importance of the martyrdom operations against the enemy – operations that inflicted harm on the United States and Israel that have been unprecedented in their
history, thanks to Almighty God.”403
Predominantly, the narrative depicts the long-term strategic impact of jihadi activities and paints an overall picture of the global conflict in which AQ successfully
challenges the West.404 The assessment of more immediate strategic or tactical
expectations in the course of particular conflicts is rather sparse in this genre of
jihadi media. For one such impact on the ground, AAZ stresses the deterring effect
of targeting Iraqi police forces in one of his statements. He presents footage of the
execution of several kidnapped individuals (allegedly Iraqi police officers) by mu____________
AAZ, September 11, 2006, 62.
Boyle 2009, 266.
UBL, February 11, 2003, 25. AAZ (2001) provides a more elaborate argument for
utilizing martyrdom operations in his book “Knights under the prophet’s banner.” Lia
(2009a, 28), provides a translation of this section in his analysis of AQ strategy. As
already mentioned, the as-sahab video releases analyzed here are apparently not the
medium jihadists use to discuss strategic matters in detail. For an article about the “Islamic debate over suicide attacks” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict see Malka 2003.
See annex 3., No. 152 for a citation from a Kuwaiti Professor on AQ’s grand strategy.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
jahedeen from the Islamic State of Iraq, followed by an interview in which Iraqi
Brigadier General Ghanem Al-Qurashi complains about the shortage of volunteers
for police service due to terrorism.405 Apparently, AAZ endorses the killing of volunteers for the Iraqi police service in order to intimidate civil society and discourage people from joining the pool of recruits.406 However, the statements rarely cite
such more or less straightforward reasons for militant activism, usually referring
instead to the cumulative impact of jihadi militant activism in the broader global
political context.
In addition to the deterrent effect, the statements explain the punitive and retaliatory function of the jihadists’ violent activism. Keywords for this issue (“avenge,”
“retaliate,” “punish,” “blood for blood”) indicate the reciprocity the jihadists demand for their action. Occasionally the authors link certain jihadi attacks, such as
the 2002 al-Ghriba synagogue attack in Djerba, to previous events, such as an alleged US air strike on a mosque in Khost in November 2001.407 But it seems that a
direct connection between a previous political event and retaliation for it through a
jihadi operation against Western targets is claimed ex post. The jihadists assume a
general state of war with the West and justify their attacks against a broad range of
Western targets as actions in a war against a coalition of various Western governments with the US. Accordingly, the messages often do not specify what exactly a
certain attack is supposed to be retaliation for; rather, the reasoning behind their
punitive reaction is usually presented in a vague manner, such as in the following
excerpts from a UBL audiotape from November 2002, addressed to the allies of the
US government:
The incidents that have taken place since the raids on New York and Washington up
until now – like the killing of Germans in Tunisia and the French in Karachi, the
bombing of the giant French tanker in Yemen, the killing of marines in Faylaka [in
Kuwait] and the British and Australians in the Bali explosions, the recent operation
in Moscow and some sporadic operations here and there – are only reactions and reciprocal actions. [UBL proceeds by mentioning the US interventions in Iraq and Israeli interventions in Palestine]
See annex 3., No. 153 for the transcript of this section. Like in this example it can be
observed frequently in jihadi propaganda that the jihadists do not claim their achievements with their own words, but refer to outsiders or even enemies of the movement
and let them express their message.
With a similar expectation, jihadi insurgent groups target voters on election days to
deter the public from participating in the elections. While this is a common practice,
for instance in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is not proposed in the statements analyzed in
this project.
UBL is presumably referring to a US air strike at the Light of the Quran Mosque in
Khost on November 16, 2001, targeting Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani, former Taliban
minister for tribal affairs; see Herold 2002; see annex 3., No. 155 for the excerpt from
UBL’s audiotape. However, in the Djerba attack the victims were German, French,
and Tunisian.
6.3 The means: Doctrines and strategies of jihad
The issue of “retaliation and punishment,” as AQ leaders depict it in the ideology,
is an example of what is described in chapter 2.1 as the criminological anomalies of
terrorism, namely its unusual victim-offender constellation. Unlike the usual forms
of retaliatory violence and vigilantism, terrorist violence targets vicarious individuals as substitutes for those who are directly responsible for the perceived wrong.
Likewise, the perpetrator of a terrorist act might not have personally experienced
any injustice but acts on behalf of some constituency whose norms and morals have
been violated.
AQ promotes violent activism against the near enemy for yet another strategicpolitical reason: The movement has realized that “[d]emocracy depends on the
willingness of parties to lose peacefully,”408 and therefore AQ can successfully
undermine democratic processes in the Middle East as long as it can motivate people to use violence if it does not get what it wants through peaceful political means.
Therefore, the ideologues are keen to prove that:
[t]here is no solution without Jihad. All other solutions are not only futile, but moreover, will exacerbate the state of collapse and humiliation in which we live. They are
like treating cancer with aspirin. And even worse than that is that these fruitless, impotent solutions give the Crusader-Zionist enemy plenty of time to strengthen its
presence and plenty of time for the collective consciousness of the Ummah to become accustomed to the Crusader-Zionist occupation in our countries and for the
groups of hypocrisy and profiteering to start repeating that there is no point in resisting, that the occupation is a fact of life with which we must deal, and that we can’t
overstep international law, and so on, to the last of the dissonant notes in the recital
of submissiveness and surrender.409
The jihadists arduously try to avoid to “lose peacefully,” because abandoning
armed resistance would either signify acceptance of the status quo they seek to
change or would expose the movement to the repressive measures by which some
of the Gulf states try to keep political opposition small. One prominent opponent of
armed jihad against the despotic governments in the Gulf states is Dr. Saud al-Hashimi, a now-detained civil rights activist and reformer in Saudi Arabia.410 In one
of his video statements, AAZ uses Hashimi’s case to exemplify the pitfalls of
peaceful reform, namely its vulnerability to state repression. The video shows footage of a conference where Hashimi speaks in favor of peaceful protest against unjust Islamic rulers. After the recording AAZ appears again and continues with a
sarcastic remark pointing to Hashimi’s detention by the Saudi authorities which
took place about five months before the as-sahab video was released:
Fishman 2009, 29.
AAZ, December 20, 2006, 116.
Human Rights Watch 2007: http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2007/02/07/saudi-arabiafree-detained-advocates-reform.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
[Footage from speech by Dr. Saud al-Hashimi at conference] I would just like to say
that there is an error in conflict management. The Islamists don’t know conflict
management, except for one type, perhaps. One type, and that’s armed resolution.
[AAZ returns] So what was his fate? Prison.411
In summary, the different strategic reasons AQ gives for engaging in militant action range from the anticipation of an immediate strategic advantage in a certain
conflict, like deterring the public in Iraq from supporting the governmental security
apparatus, to the anticipation of large-scale historic changes in global politics.
However, the theory behind these expectations is not very well elaborated in this
genre of jihadi media, but rather in other publications of jihadi thinkers and strategists. Additionally, AQ makes use of the expressive capacity of violence to retaliate
against the “suffering of Muslims” and to indicate who is to blame for the grievances. AQ’s revenge targets various representatives of their enemy, victims who
are meant to stand as symbols for diffuse “crimes” committed by the collective of
the “crusaders.”412 Finally, the jihadi movement equates the cessation of armed
violence with defeatism and tacit consent for the “corrupt status quo” exhibited by
other Islamist movements, thereby arguing that even if the movement’s objectives
cannot be realized through armed struggle it still is the most preferable option.
Religious instrumentality
Not only does AQ promote jihad as a means to realize its political goals and to
maintain a visible and distinctive presence in the landscape of the Islamist movement, it also argues theologically for its implementation. These two themes, the
politically and the religiously inspired promotion of the armed conflict, are quite
different from each other. AQ’s strategy of confronting the near and the far enemy
on all possible fronts has been criticized by other non-jihadi Islamist movements as
being ill-considered and obstructive for realizing the Islamists’ agenda because it
provokes state repression within the Arab world and fosters the US war on terror.
AQ’s answer to such criticism is to stress the inherent religious value of performing
jihad, which can compensate for possible political and strategic shortcomings. AAZ
reacts determined to criticism questioning the efficiency and achievements of jihad
See annex 3., No. 156 for the transcript of the video section.
In the author’s opinion this is qualitatively different from the cycle of retaliatory violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where highly targeted violence (e.g., assassination of Hamas or Fatah leaders by Israeli forces) has often been retaliated against
by targeting random Israeli civilians through Palestinian suicide-bombings (as the
word cycle suggests, causation can also be the other way around, that is, Israelis retaliating against Palestinian violence). Notwithstanding the indiscriminate targeting of
civilians, reciprocity of violence in this conflict is much more direct than the spurious
link between past political events and many of the retaliatory attacks claimed by AQ’s
leadership and its affiliates, attacks which assume a very general and abstract justification for carrying out the attack.
6.3 The means: Doctrines and strategies of jihad
by denouncing such accounts as expressions of the “culture of defeat and brokenness,” because for him abandoning the armed confrontation with the Arab regimes
or with the West is a sign of defeatism and apostasy:
[Interviewer]: But among the arguments of the leaders of these movements
[non-jihadi Islamists] is that your method of violent armed clash is an unsuccessful method which has led to disastrous results, that yours is a start-fromthe-top method which seeks to change society by changing its leadership, which
is a method that even if it were to succeed, doesn’t guarantee endurance […]
[AAZ]: This is blatant mixing, skipping over facts and running away from the primary point of dispute. Without going into the details, I would like to clarify that our
fundamental point of difference with these movements, captives of the culture of defeat and brokenness, is not in the usefulness or otherwise of the clash; rather, our
fundamental difference with them is in their backsliding from the faith. We don’t
have a major dispute with those who call for avoiding a clash now because it causes
and means aren’t to be found in a particular country or region, and if this difference
does exist, it will be restricted to looking at the feasibilities and most appropriate
methods. He might be right or we might be right. But as for he who forbids the Jihad
against the traitorous apostate rulers, […] our difference with him is not a dispute
about methods, but rather, is a dispute about the creed of Islam from which he is
breaking away.413
Jihadism promotes jihad as a religious duty414 and it has to be carried out under
arduous circumstances, even if its military success appears to be unpromising. Jihad, in theological terminology, defies strategic-military gain and loss assessment
and cannot be framed as a means, as AYL argues: “What is the point of the continuous droning about making Jihad a means and not an end, while using an erroneous
definition of ‘means’ in this context?”415 Abandoning jihad because it is considered
one among many other strategic options to reach a goal is flawed according to AYL:
“Prayer is a means to prevent indecency and evil. [...] But let no one say, ‘I’ve obtained my desired amount of refraining from indecency and evil in another way not
involving prayer,’ and so abandon it because of that.”416 The argument is that understanding jihad solely as a political means is to deny its sacred value:
When the jurists (may Allah have mercy on them) divided acts of worship […] they
never even imagined the definition of “means” which is held up by man contemporaries, who have made this phrase a cushion from which to abandon Jihad, shirk its
burdens and search for alternatives with which they claim they will reach the same
goal the Jihad will reach. […]
AAZ, September 11, 2006, 132 et seq.
See annex 3., No. 160.
AYL, September 9, 2007, 59.
AYL, September 9, 2007.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
And many of the groups which took the path of Jihad first were beset by blemishes
and flaws because of their confused understanding of this fact as Jihad was – or became – in their imagination a mere dry means, like other earthly means by way of
which strivers strive to establish states. So when darkness permeated this concept, it
was easy for them to abandon Jihad and jump to the ballot boxes as another option
equal to the devotion of Jihad, and therefore an alternative to it. Thus, we see in contemporary terminology the popularization of terms like “the option of Jihad,” “the
option of resistance” (by which they also mean Jihad), “the option of arms,” “the option of combat,” “the option of struggle,” and so on to the last of this disgusting
modern series.417
And further in this interview, AYL details his thinking about the inherent religious
value of performing jihad and balances it vis-à-vis strategic considerations. When
asked by the interviewer about AQ’s obvious losses on the military front, he admits
that both values, the strategic and the religious, can diverge, but he also explains
that a loss in military terms can still be a benefit in religious terms and that both
aspects must be considered when evaluating the achievements of jihadi activities.
The divergence between theological issues and military strategy is also addressed
by the jihadi ideologue Abu Mussab as-Suri, who criticizes the “doctrinal extremists” within the jihadi movement for their obsession with doctrinal matters, which
often interferes with pragmatic strategic concerns.418 Trying to strike a balance
between military pragmatism and theological doctrine AYL uses the siege of lal
masjid (Red Mosque in Islamabad) as a striking example for a case in which intangible and symbolic achievements compensate for an obvious and painful military
During the siege of the mosque in Islamabad starting on July 3, 2007, at least 40
jihadists were killed and many were arrested. The siege was held by Pakistani special troops in response to previous subversive activities and open provocations
against the Pakistani authorities by the students of the Salafi mosques and their
imams.419 AYL weighs these losses against the alleged symbolic victory the jihadi
movement gained through this incident, that is, proving the loyalty and the willingness of the mujahedeen to sacrifice and thereby preserving the law and empowering
it in “proportion to the blood its people expend for it.”420
AYL gets something else out of military losses: He says a military blow against
the mujahedeen frustrates the enemy if he realizes that despite his military
achievements the jihadi movement grows stronger. To illustrate his point he refers
to the killings of two mujahedeen leaders, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq and
AYL, September 9, 2007, 59 and 65.
Tønnessen 2009, 14; Lia 2009c, 282.
Gall & Masood 2007.
See annex 3., No. 161 for the entire excerpt.
6.3 The means: Doctrines and strategies of jihad
Dadullah Akhund in Afghanistan, which did not, as AYL argues, bring about the
turning point in these conflicts the coalition forces had expected.421 For AYL, the
insufficient impact of military means on the jihadi movement is one reason for the
strategic turn of the US to engage in the war of ideas because counter-terrorists
realized the potential of the jihadi doctrine.422 However, it is uncertain whether
AYL considers this a success or not, because he also describes the US counternarrative to the jihadi ideology (the war of ideas) as potentially dangerous to the
movement and it seems that frustrating the enemy can have some unintended side
effects for AQ, too.
Conclusions and thematic links
The mix of various strategic and religious expectations described in the statements
is what led AQ to assume that jihadi violence is a necessary and functional part of
its activism. The narrative on the “instrumentality of violence” reveals that AQ
thinks about jihad as both a straightforward military means and a religious performance at the same time. Religious expectations compensate for strategic expectations and vice versa. If a jihadi operation appears to have little strategic value, the
religious value is highlighted. In turn, strategic opportunities may be exploited by
the mujahedeen even when the religious obligation to fight is not so imperative or
even absent. A high degree of opportunism and a multitude of expectations are
characteristic of what was described in chapter 2 as the terrorist dimension of political violence, which states that terrorists are indifferent towards various consequences of political violence. This conception of terrorism refers to Louis Richardson’s observation “that terrorists rarely have a very coherent idea of what kind of
reaction they will get. […] Terrorists appear more interested in the scale of the reaction than [in] the details. They can countenance opposite reactions, from capitulation to widespread repression, and be almost equally pleased.”423 AQ seems to fit
this notion, as AYL’s example of the siege of lal-masjid shows. It appears that, no
matter what the consequences of the confrontation could have been, AQ’s ideologues turn it into a success. The reason why a military loss can still be passed off
as an ideological, spiritual, or moral success is that the ideology avoids specifying
how particular ends can be reached through jihad. Because the jihadi strategy is not
disclosed in the propaganda media (but rather in other media genres) AQ remains
flexible in its strategic assessment and appears, at least in public, to be indifferent
towards the various reactions its activism triggers. Strategists in jihadi cells may
have in fact a more “coherent idea about what reaction they will get,” but to the
public something else is communicated.
See annex 3., No. 162.
See annex 3., No. 71.
Richardson 2006, 128 and 131.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
The divide between strategic vs. religious instrumentality of violence identified
in this study closely resembles Jeffry Cozzens’ observation of AQ’s dualistic warfare having an instrumental (strategic) and non-instrumental (religious-cultural)
dimension.424 The statements clearly display this divide and confirm his claim that
jihadi violence cannot be viewed and studied solely through the lens of Western
strategic studies but must also consider the religious-cultural background from
which it emerges, namely jihadi Salafism. The benefits of taking both rationales
into account become apparent when one links the narrative about the instrumentality of force to AQ’s socio-political diagnosis as the following paragraphs show.
It is this particular conception of jihadi violence – the mix of various strategic
and religious expectations – that AYL calls the “genuine pillar of the jihadist methodology.”425 Violence motivated by the ideology of jihadism is a trademark which
distinguishes AQ from other Islamist movements striving for institutionalized political power such as the Muslim Brotherhood on the one hand, and from inherently
non-political Salafi ulamas competing for religious supremacy with AQ on the other. Through the use of force, AQ wants to achieve strategic, tactical, and operative
goals, but it also seeks to demonstrate religious supremacy over other Muslims.
Accordingly, when contrasting AQ’s rationale for jihadi violence against the analytical backdrop of political violence (as conceptualized in chapter 2) and of Islamist activism (as conceptualized in chapter 3.1), one can conclude that the maintenance of the “genuine pillar of the Jihadist methodology” in Islamist discourse is
what keeps AQ strategically unrestricted and enables it to remain a distinctive entity in the universe of Islamist activism. However, these two purposes for exploiting
jihadi violence are not stated overtly in the ideology, but are rather expressed implicitly. What the ideology does openly state, though, is that the jihadi movement is
distinct from and superior to other movements and also that performing jihad is
what makes AQ superior to these movements. On the other hand, it does not purport to exploit jihad in order to claim superiority and compete for political power,
but because it is a religious obligation. The jihadists stress that they act strictly on
the basis of Islamic law and not political considerations.
These two hidden purposes of jihadi violence become more visible when one analyzes the textual links between the narrative about “instrumentality of force” and
the other narratives and themes within the ideology. It can be expected, because
this is what social movement theory suggests, that the narrative about the instrumentality of force is the thematic link between the diagnostic frame and the prognostic frame of the ideology. The ideology emphasizes pressing social problems
and offers an alternative to this malaise. It also prescribes the means (jihad) for
societal transformation and reform. Considering the depth of the social diagnosis
Cozzens 2007, 128.
AYL, September 9, 2007, 69.
6.3 The means: Doctrines and strategies of jihad
and the enumeration of various social problems – some of which are attributed to
apostasy, others to the global conflict, and others again to the enlargement of democracy – one should expect an elaborated explanation of how violence can possibly remedy these problems. If this expectation is supported by the data, textual intersections between the theme “instrumentality of force” and the other themes
should be substantial and numerous. However, relational content analysis reveals
that these links are poorly developed in the ideology.
Link between the narratives “instrumentality of force” and “apostasy”
Content classified under the category “instrumentality of force” makes up four percent of the entire text sample, which corresponds to a frequency of 7,500 words.
The narrative most strongly linked to it is the category “apostasy.” While it is difficult to evaluate the strength of this association quantitatively,426 a review of the
intersecting passages reveals its content: It is not about explaining how jihad can
remedy particular grievances but is a discourse about the question whether or not
jihad is strategically and religiously permissible. Within this discourse, AQ establishes jihad as a criterion which can be used to divide the universe of Islamist activism into jihadi and non-jihadi movements, that is Islamic and apostate movements
from AQ’s point of view. This thinking is displayed in the intersecting content of
the categories “instrumentality of force” and the issue “defeatism,” according to
which movements that consider jihad solely as a political means and as one option
among others for realizing their Islamic agenda belong to the apostate group of
defeatists (described in chapter Some of the “defeatist movements”
may still consider armed jihad as a legitimate and essentially favorable religious
concept but reject it for pragmatic political and strategic reasons. A showcase for
AQ’s position in this discourse is expressed by AYL, who criticizes that:
[W]e see in contemporary terminology the popularization of terms like “the option
of Jihad,” “the option of resistance” (by which they also mean Jihad), “the option of
arms,” “the option of combat,” “the option of struggle” [...]
Yet, other Islamic currents rule out the legitimacy of the jihadi option in current
affairs altogether and, for their part, denounce AQ activists as sectarian trouble
About fifteen percent (or 1,100 words) of the content from the category “instrumentality” intersects with content from the category “apostasy.” This value is difficult to
interpret because the narrative on “apostasy” contains much more content than that on
“instrumentality” does (about 5.3 times as much). This imbalance must be taken into
consideration when one evaluates the proportion of intersecting text as a measure for
their narrative relatedness, because larger categories have a higher chance than smaller categories to co-occur with another category. It is therefore essential to consider
the meaning of the intersecting content in addition to the quantitative measure for
content correlation.
For an example, see footnote 141; AYL, September 9, 2007, 59 and 65.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
makers. In the corresponding discourse (or rather dis-curse) against such accusations, AQ asserts that jihad is not a matter of strategic choice but of religious doctrine. Therefore, the narrative on “instrumentality of force” also intersects with
content from the apostasy sub-theme “religious supremacy.” Active participation in
jihad is used to demonstrate religious supremacy over opinions questioning AQ’s
One non-relation is notable: The enumeration of grievances in the context of
apostasy is not related to content describing the instrumentality of force. The ideology does not give a prescription of how the use of force may contribute to the solution of the specific grievances and problems which the movement is discontented
with (e.g., corruption, usury, etc.). Rather, jihad is described as the panacea for
eradicating apostasy altogether, not only for treating its symptoms (corruption, usury, etc.). One purpose of jihadi violence only implicitly stated in the ideology is to
signify AQ’s religious authority and thereby support its claim as the only legitimate
political leader of the Islamic world. Jihadi violence appears to be not so much
about exercising power through the use of force as about signifying and claiming
power through the use of force. This agrees with the finding that AQ does not address any conditions for truce to the near enemy but rather denies him Islamic legitimacy altogether.
Link between the narrative “instrumentality of force” and the narrative “global
The second purpose of jihadi violence only implicitly expressed in the public
statements has to do with the operational freedom of jihadi groups. AQ’s indifference towards various potential consequences of its militant activism grants the
movement a high degree of operational freedom to “strike the interests of the Jews
and the crusaders.”429 As long as an operation is carried out under the banner of
jihad it is almost self-evidently considered a success by the ideologues, no matter
what the actual military or political outcomes may be. In order to defend this approach against criticism from strategically more reasonable Islamist movements,
the ideology stresses the inherent religious value of performing jihad, thereby elevating jihadi operations above profane strategic-military gain and loss assessment.
Additionally, the ideologues generally are reluctant to specify assessable strategic
means because it could be used to debunk the “genuine pillar of the jihadist methodology” as ineffective. Accordingly, there are only a few textual intersections
between the narrative “instrumentality of force” and the narrative about the “global
Eight percent (or 600 words) of content classified as “instrumentality of force” is also
classified as content belonging to the category “religious supremacy.” The observation that AQ uses its experience in fighting jihad as an argument to claim theological
infallibility is discussed by Alshech 2008.
AAZ, September 11, 2006, 45.
6.3 The means: Doctrines and strategies of jihad
conflict” that specify why force is necessary to win this conflict. Intersecting content of the two categories is general in this regard, like UBL’s proposal to “use jihad as a means to make them [the Westerners] enter into the faith.”430
Taking into consideration the elaborate arguments in the ideology about how the
near and the far enemy are strategically and politically interrelated, and taking into
account AQ’s ideologically well-founded strategic turn from the near to the far
enemy, it is intriguing to find virtually no explanations on the question of how this
strategic turn can bring about the expected results.431 The statements do not specify
how the use of force can disrupt the US patronage of the near enemy, nor does it
specify how the use of force can remedy other grievances (occupation, US troops
stationed in Gulf states, exploitation of resources, etc.). The only obvious reason
given in the statements for enlarging the conflict with the West beyond military
confines is to raise the stakes for the far enemy. AQ expects highly opportunistic
violence to be the only feasible option that is actually capable of having a noticeable impact on Western interests in the long term. In order to maintain the operational flexibility necessary for steady, opportunistic violence, the ideology does not
seek to “resemble a comprehensive war-fighting doctrine.”432 Instead, it employs a
less purposeful strategy of terrorism, which is characterized by a high degree of
indifference, or opportunism, towards the immediate consequences of political violence.
Link between the narratives “instrumentality of force” and “secularism”
The textual link to the third theme within the socio-political diagnosis, “secular
governance,” is equally weak. The only proposal the ideologues make is that participating in jihad is preferable to participating in elections in order to realize Islamists goals. While the ideology explains at length why the participation in elections
is futile (see chapter political-strategic rejections of democracy), it does not
explain why participating in jihad should be more successful. Considering the
common practice of jihadi groups to target voters in Iraq and Afghanistan on election days, it could have been expected that the ideology would promote the deterrent impact of such attacks on the public and their potential to thwart democratic
elections. However, such suggestions are not made, presumably because they are
deemed too unpopular by the ideologues. Even the communiqués of jihadi groups
in Iraq show that they are reluctant to claim responsibility for attacks against voters
(see chapter 7.2).
UBL, 2002, unknown date, 89.
Only one interview with AAZ gives a vague idea about this issue. AAZ says that the
US forces will leave Iraq only if one of two possible conditions is met: either if the
mujahedeen defeat the US forces militarily, or if the US succeeds politically in establishing another “apostate” government in Iraq; see annex 3., No. 170.
Lia 2009a, 17.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
Finally, a review of the textual intersection between content of the two categories
“instrumentality of force” and “goals” confirms Lia’s assertion that AQ lacks a
detailed strategic doctrine. Most of the text stresses the need to escalate the conflict
with the West by retaliating against its aggression toward “the Muslims,” thereby
creating insecurity in Western societies that matches the insecurity in the Islamic
world. From this position AQ hopes to enforce its goals, as AAZ states: “Security is
a shared destiny, if we are secure, you might be secure, and if we are safe, you
might be safe.”433 Otherwise the ideology does not specify why “force must be an
element in change.”434
After the description in this section of why AQ expects militancy to be a necessary part of its activism, the next chapter reviews content of the jihadi ideology
which justifies and legitimizes violence for other than the-ends-justify-the-means
Justifications for violence
Like some of the other narratives, the “justification” narrative is subdivided into a
political and theological theme, or into “rational” and “legal” justifications for violence as AAZ phrases it:
And I tell them – you have provided us with all the legal and rational reasons to
fight you and retaliate from you. You have committed ugly crimes and broken the
treaties which you used to impose on others. And for our part we have repeatedly
warned you, and repeatedly offered a truce with you. And so now we have all legal
and rational justifications to continue to fight you until your power is destroyed or
you give in and surrender.435
In addition to the political-theological divide there is a corresponding narrative for
justifying jihad against the near enemy and jihad against the far enemy, but whereas the global conflict is justified on political and theological grounds, jihad against
the apostate governments is justified theologically only.
Political justifications
AQ legitimizes its militant actions by simplifying the political complexities and
various dimensions of the conflict as a simple aggressor-defender analogy in which
the mujahedeen defend Islam against the Zionist-Crusader aggression. Most of the
political (or rational) arguments either claim “just response” or use the somewhat
tautological the-ends-justify-the-means logic.
AAZ, January 24, 2007, 31.
AAZ, July 4, 2007, 296.
AAZ, September 11, 2006, 157.
6.3 The means: Doctrines and strategies of jihad
The enumeration of political grievances plays an important role for legitimizing
violent activism against the far enemy, while particular political grievances are not
used at all to justify violence against the near enemy. 436 Occasionally, the authors
bolster up the argument that jihadi violence is reciprocal by referring to earlier
warnings to retaliate against the alleged aggression of the West against Islam. For
instance, in a short audio message entitled “To the allies of the United States,”
which was published by al-Jazeera on November 15, 2002, UBL states: “We
warned Australia before not to join in [the war] in Afghanistan, and [against] its
despicable effort to separate East Timor. It ignored the warning until it woke up to
the sounds of explosions in Bali.”437 AQ ideologues also react to accusations that
the jihadi movement targets innocent civilians, as UBL does in another 2002 statement, in which he raises the issue: “You may then dispute that all the above does
not justify aggression against civilians, for crimes they did not commit and offenses
in which they did not partake.”438 He states that targeting of (US) civilians is warrantable for three reasons: because they affirm the US “support for the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians” through their democratic vote while being able to
change such policy; because they fund the military through their taxes; and because
they “employ both their men and their women in the American Forces which attack
us.”439 All in all, the explicit political justification for violence is qualitatively unimaginative, quantitatively sparse, and also not strongly correlated with other
themes in the ideology.440
About 13 percent of content from the theme “political justification” is also classified
as being “grievances” (global conflict), and about one-third (35 percent) of the theme
“political justification” appears close to content classified as “grievances” (within one
paragraph). The two themes “political justification for violence” and “grievances”
from the apostasy narrative do not share any text, and only four percent of the theme
“political justification for violence” appears close to it (within one paragraph). Remarkably, even within a distance of three paragraphs there is only a value of four percent.
UBL, November 12, 2002, 23.
UBL, unknown date, 2002, 34.
UBL, unknown date, 2002; see annex 3., No. 180 for the whole section, in which UBL
justifies acts of aggression against US civilians.
The theme includes about 3,000 words, which is less than two percent of the overall
text of all 31 statements. More than one-third (37 percent) of the content is isolated
from other topics, meaning that no additional categories were used to classify the text.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
Table 6:
Grievances as political justifications for violence441
Political justification for violence
Near to
(global conflict)
0 (0 %)
13.2 % (398)
3.7 % (112)
35.2 % (1,061)
Another noteworthy finding is that political reasons are used exclusively to justify
violence against the West and not at all to legitimize jihad against the near enemy
(see Table 6). However, grievances the apostates are made responsible for have an
indirect function for justifying violence: Their primary ideological purpose is
seemingly to delegitimize the Islamic authority of the apostate rulers altogether and
to fight them on this holistic ground rather than for individual political issues.
There are theological reasons for detouring the argument. The only argument necessary to justify violence against a Muslim leader, and in fact the only valid argument from an Islamic legal point of view, is to prove his apostasy from Islam. Islamic law undisputedly prohibits political violence in order to correct or punish unIslamic conduct of an Islamic ruler who is legitimate in principle, for instance, if he
is corrupt or overly repressive. AQ could not possibly justify jihad – the only legitimate use of military force in Islam – against an Islamic government on the
grounds of a single justified grievance, or even several. “Even the jihadists accept
these principles,”442 and consequently they do not justify jihad against the near
enemy on the grounds of any particular sinful action, like corruption or abuse of
authority, but claim these problems to be just the symptoms of the intolerable crime
of apostasy. According to this reasoning, jihad against an Islamic government becomes an obligation if the ruler’s misconduct amounts to something that provides
sufficient evidence that he has turned away from Islam.443 These principles are
Reads: 13.2 percent (398 words) of all text classified as “political justification for
violence” is also classified as “grievances” (global conflict).
Wiktorowicz 2006, 230.
A legal assessment of this claim is beyond the scope of this work, not to mention
beyond the authority of the author, but the jihadi ideologues are eager to diligently
demonstrate the apostasy of their Islamic enemies in order to avoid accusations that
they were fueling fitna (unanimously disapproved military conflict between Muslims). According to the recognized legal scholar Muhammad Hamidullah, “to wage
war against apostates is justified on the same principle as that on which the punishment of a solitary apostate is based. The basis of Muslim polity being religious and
not ethnological or linguistic, it is not difficult to appreciate the reason for penalizing
the act of apostasy, for it constitutes a politico-religious rebellion. Apostasy in Muslim law means turning from Islam after being a Muslim. Not only does it occur when
a person declares his conversion to some non-Islamic religion, but also when he refuses to believe in any and every basic article of the Islamic faith” (Hamidullah 1961,
6.3 The means: Doctrines and strategies of jihad
reflected in the jihadi public statements, in which political grievances are used only
indirectly to justify jihad against the near enemy, while they are used as straightforward arguments to justify fighting the far enemy.
Theological justifications
The theological justification of jihad against the near and the far enemy is much
more elaborate than its political justification, which simply claims to defend Islam
against the alleged Western aggressors and its apostate proxies.444 The theological
theme on legitimizing violence may be divided into two sub-issues:
1. Enemy categories, discussing legal matters regarding the permissibility of
offensive and defensive jihad, and jihad against apostate governments;
2. Rules of engagement, discussing the questions whether Islamic law permits
the killing of “civilians” (both “infidels” and Muslim) in times of war and
under what conditions Islamic law permits suicide bombings (martyrdom
Enemy categories: Jihad and the relations with infidels
According to Islamic international law (as-siyar),445 jihad is the only legitimate
form of warfare,446 and therefore AQ ideologues desperately attempt to sanction
their violent activism by demonstrating the presence of the legal prerequisites to
wage jihad under the current domestic and geopolitical conditions.447 The jihadi
ideology claims offensive jihad for Islamizing countries where Sharia is not implemented to be an inalienable tenet of Islam. Those who suspend this tenet due to
political considerations are dismissed as moderates by the jihadists.
Offensive Jihad is an established and basic tenet of this religion. It is a religious duty rejected only by the most deluded. So how can they [the moderates] call off this
religious obligation, while imploring the West to understandings and talks “under
the umbrella of justice, morality, and rights”? The essence of all this comes from
right inside the halls of the United Nations, instead of the Divine foundations that
The word frequency of this theme is ~ 10,000.
For instance, Hamidullah 1961.
“The jihad was the Islamic bellum justum” (Khadduri 1966, 16); see also chapter 3.2
of this book about the legal regulations of armed conflict.
According to Muhammad Hamidullah, the enemy combatants in jihad can be “apostates, rebels, highwaymen and pirates, and non-Muslim belligerents,” whereas “apostates, rebels and highwaymen come under international law only when they are of
sufficient power or have acquired territory and rule over it. Otherwise they belong to
the ordinary criminal law of the land” (Hamidullah 1961, 170).
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
are built upon hating the infidels, repudiating them with tongue and teeth till they
embrace Islam or pay the jizya with willing submission and humility.448
However, the promotion of offensive jihad is more of an ideal concept used by AQ
for populist reasons449 and to maintain the distinctive dogmatic trait of the jihadi
movement. Due to the movement’s limited military capacity, it is of little practical
importance. In one as-sahab interview, after AYL has enumerated legitimate target
groups for offensive jihad (“Jihad […] is against the Jews in the exact same way it
is against the Nazarenes, Magians,450 Hindus and apostates […] and as long as the
matter is thus, we will not prefer one infidel to another because of his patriotism or
nationalism or his noble descent or affiliation”) the interviewer asks him whether
AQ intends to open battlefronts against all of them. He replies:
No, that’s not what I mean, nor is it legally or rationally desirable. I haven’t been
talking about the issue of fighting from the perspective of when we should begin,
and with whom we should begin and how we should begin. That is a question subject to legal policy, based on the predominant interest and dependent on ability. And
it is a question of arranging priorities which Islamic Shari’ah has made clear, […]
Jihad, like other acts of worship, is contingent on capacity and capability, as “Allah
burdens not any soul beyond its capacity.” Rather, my talk dealt with the nature of
the relationship on which Islam is founded, between its people belonging to it and
between those other than them […] The Jihadi march is […] free of the [moderate]
methodology of melting and bending, which now has its callers, thinkers and theorists [i.e., the moderates]. Yes, we believe that all of the earth must be under the rule
of Islam, with no exception made for the smallest part of it, because our Messenger
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was sent to all the people without exception. But this in no way means that we will fight all of the peoples of the earth at one
go to subjugate them to Islamic Shari’ah. Islam didn’t order us to do that, but rather,
ordered us to fight the nearest, then the next nearest of those who refuse to submit to
Islamic rule and begin with the closest, then the next closest. And in this way, the
circle widens until all submit to the rule of Allah. And we are now at the first step
and beginning of the road, as we are striving to recover our territories taken over by
the infidels: the Jews and Nazarenes and their apostate helpers, the traitorous rulers.451
UBL, unknown date, 2002, 53.
The statements often quote a hadith from Ibn Omar to provide “proof [of…] jihad’s
excellence and the obligation to carry it out. Waging jihad against the infidels is the
basis of glory and honor, whereas abandoning it results in humiliation and debasement. This is confirmed by the Prophet’s assertion: ‘If you take up a domestic life,
hold on to the tails of cattle, are content with farming, and thus abandon jihad, Allah
will let humiliation lord over you until you return to your religion’” (AAZ, unknown
date, 111).
Presumably Zoroaster.
AYL, September 9, 2007, 83.
6.3 The means: Doctrines and strategies of jihad
According to this interpretation, military violence is a general option against all
infidels but can lawfully be waged only on nations, or on other religious collectives
against which an Islamic ruler officially declares war.452
While jihad is a means to expand the sphere of Islamic governance, it is not a
means for religious compulsion, as UBL admits: “Allah Most High said: ‘There is
no compulsion in religion’ [2:256].” However, he stresses that “there are only three
choices in Islam”: If defeated groups refuse the call to convert to Islam, they are
allowed to keep their religion (as long as they are people of the book, i.e., Jews or
Christians) but must pay the jizya (tax) and accept the Islamic rule and their status
as citizens with limited rights and certain provisions (such non-Muslim citizens are
called dhimmis). If a group collectively refuses both options it is subject to military
coercion. In the same essay, UBL does not try to understate the restrictive conditions of dhimmitude and stresses that “we are to force people by the power of the
sword to [our] particular understandings, customs, and conditions.”453
Despite the lengthy explanations of AQ’s interpretation of Islamic international
law regarding offensive jihad, the doctrine is, besides being military unfeasible, of
little practical relevance for another reason: The jihadi movement lacks a common
Islamic government to opt for such war.454 “When we should begin, and with
whom we should begin,” AYL explains, “is a question subject to legal policy”455
and is traditionally decided by a caliph after consultation with high-ranking ulamas.
Only under these conditions does the participation in armed struggle become a collective obligation (fard kifaya) for the Islamic ummah. Exactly for this reason, the
jihad called for and fought by AQ is a defensive jihad for which other legal provisions apply, most notably that it becomes an individual rather than a collective obligation of Muslims. In two of his video statements, AAZ plays an audio recording
of the very popular Afghan veteran Abdullah Azzam polemicizing about this issue:
The individual duty of the entire Islamic Ummah: an individual duty ever since the
Caliphate fell, an individual duty ever since Palestine fell, and ever since Bukhara
fell, and ever since Azerbaijan went. So it’s not an individual duty to Afghanistan
only: why then are you surprised at hearing this from us? And the wonder of wonders and strangest of the strange are the scholars who are still debating: is Jihad an
individual duty or a collective duty? I don’t know from where these people acquire
their knowledge. I don’t know from where they procure their fatwas. All the Mus-
UBL, unknown date, 2002, 75.
Annex 3., No. 190 shows two passages from UBL’s essays on this legal issue including references to the respective legal sources (UBL, unknown date, 2002, 112).
With the notable exception of Libya’s former president Moammar Gaddafi, who, in a
public speech on the occasion of the Prophet Mohammad’s birthday on February 25,
2010, threatened to declare jihad against Switzerland if the two countries had a common border.
AYL, September 9, 2007, 83.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
lims’ countries have gone and the tyrants are at the necks of the women and Muslims everywhere, but they’re having discussions, eh? They’re discussing whether Jihad is an individual duty or a collective duty. [Cynically saying:] Yes.
Constantinople was the headquarters of the synod of the Eastern Church. As Muhammad al-Fatih was pounding the walls of Constantinople with the catapult, the
men of the Church Synod were meeting and discussing how many devils are able to
stand on the head of a pin. We’re like that: the Jews, the enemies, the Russians and
the Americans are coming at us from every side, right? And some of us are still asking, “Is it an individual duty or a collective duty?” May Allah pluck out your eye if
you haven’t yet seen that Jihad is an individual duty! How? Does this even need to
be debated in the first place? If they had studied one book of Fiqh [Islamic jurisprudence], it is well-known that the attacker is to be repelled, the attacker who seizes
the people and wants to take their wealth or attack their honor or religion or country:
it is well-known that it is an individual obligation to repel him.456
Regulations about defensive jihad stipulate that the enemy invading Islamic territory has to be repelled without any further permission to do so. “There are no rules or
conditions for this; he must be expelled by all possible means. Our learned ulema
and others have all agreed to this.”457 This raises the question how AQ justifies
operations abroad, for instance in Europe or in the US, when the regulations only
apply to the battlefield on Islamic territory. In order to bypass this contradiction the
ideologues relativize their otherwise strictly scriptural interpretation and adjust the
legal regulation to the particularities of the contemporary global jihad:
So the issue isn’t a definite textual issue not open to discretion, study and preference
according to reality, need, ability and interest. Rather, Law has given a free hand in
it and given consideration to interest and assessment. In addition, the question of
spatial nearness and farness in our modern era doesn’t have the same significance it
once had when we look at the facts, because the types of weapons used – aircraft,
missiles and so on – have penetrated borders and broken through barriers and now
cross continents and oceans and target the Muslims as they sit in their houses with
their families.458
Alongside the blurring of spatial boundaries in AQ’s theological justification for
enlarging the conflict globally, the division between the near and the far enemy is
of little relevance when it comes to theological considerations. The defensive paradigm is also present in the narrative justifying jihad against allegedly apostate Muslim governments. “Arab regimes are thus considered the functional equivalent of
foreign occupation.”459 This thinking is clearly illustrated by AYL, who argues that
Abdullah Azzam quoted in AAZ, July 4, 2007, 24 et seq. and AAZ, December 16,
2007, 307 et seq.
AAZ, unknown date, 149.
AYL September 9, 2007, 85.
Wiktorowicz 2001, 26.
6.3 The means: Doctrines and strategies of jihad
there is no legal division to be made between the foreign infidels and Arab apostates which “are a single entity, a single enemy and a single army, and they are a
single hand against us and the battle they are waging against us is a single battle.”460 For UBL, civil disobedience and rebellion against the apostates is an unpleasant duty rather than a self-chosen option, as he indicates:
The doctrine of rebelling against an apostate ruler is not a doctrine that I invented,
but rather, it is a doctrine held by the consensus of all the great religious scholars.
Such is the dictate of religious law in a situation such as ours. Therefore, it is obligatory for all Muslims to take action for reform, taking into consideration the dimension of the conflict and the fact that these regimes are nothing but a part of the system of global heresy.461
UBL’s uneasiness in calling for revolt may be pretended or actual, but the obligation he claims to be fulfilling does exist and is stipulated in an exegesis of Ibn
Kathir which AAZ refers to in one of his theological essays.462 Alongside the apostate rulers, active supporters of these governments become a legitimate target for
jihadi violence, according to UBL:
Those Iraqis who get killed, and who belong to Allawi’s renegade government –
such as members of the Army, the security agencies, and the National Guard – are
like Abu-Jahl, the Qurashi Arab.463 Their killing is sanctioned and they are infidels.
Muslims should not pray for them. They do not give inheritance, and they are not
entitled to any inheritance. Their wives should be divorced from them. They should
not be buried in the Muslims’ cemeteries.464
Rules of engagement: Martyrdom operations and the killing of innocents
“There is no doubt that al-Qa’ida’s core ideas justify extreme violence, but those
concepts are even more brutal when they are understood superficially.”465 AQ’s
ideology in fact stipulates some limitations for military engagement, provisions that
seem to be disregarded by some jihadi groups, particularly in Iraq. For the Western
observer it appears absurd that the ideologues are pondering about cynical details,
AYL, September 9, 2007, 86; see annex 3., No. 192 for the complete passage.
UBL, December 16, 2004, 36.
See annex 3., No. 191.
Abu Jahl was a seventh century Meccan leader and opponent of early Islam. His name
appears sporadically in the jihadi public statements. He is referred to as an exemplification of the prototype of an apostate ruler. For instance: “Muslims should know that
there is no difference between believing that it was right to elect the first Abu-Jahl,
Arm Bin-Hisharn and between electing Abu-Jahl Iyad Alawi, Abu-Jahl Mahmud Abbas, Abu-Jahl Hamid Karazai, Abu-Jahl Husni Mubarak, Abu-Jahl Fand Bin-Abd-alAziz, or other apostate rulers” (UBL, December 27, 2004, 91).
UBL, December 27, 2004, 77.
Fishman 2009, 28.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
such as the exact legal prerequisites for suicide bombings or whether blood money
has to be paid to the relatives of collateral Muslim victims killed by the mujahedeen. The vast majority of the content about theological justification for certain
modes of engagement is from AAZ’s writing “Jihad, martyrdom, and the killing of
innocence.” This essay represents a genre of jihadi literature with much more theological depth than the populist video statements produced by as-sahab.466
On this issue, AQ expresses its views about the concept of innocence, conflict
involvement, and accountability. According to most definitions of terrorism, its
crucial characteristic is the targeting of civilians (implicitly: innocents). AQ considers a very broad spectrum of civil and military categories as accountable and as
legitimate targets. However, the ideologues pronounce that what they consider as
legitimate targets is not as opportunistic and indiscriminate as what the movement
is accused of. To this end, UBL rejects the comparison of the jihadi movement with
the Kharijites, a sectarian Islamic denomination which claimed the right to revolt
against any devious Islamic ruler and which declared entire Islamic populations,
not only their governments, to be apostates:467
They have accused the mujahidin of following the Kharijite sect, but they know that
we have absolutely nothing to do with that school [of thought]. Both our messages
and our actual behavior attest to this […] We do not declare [Muslim] people collectively to be infidels and do not consider the killing of Muslims to be permissible. If
some Muslims are killed during the operations of the mujahidin, we pray for God’s
mercy upon them. This is to be considered accidental manslaughter, and we ask God
to forgive us for it, and we bear responsibility for it […].468
According to AQ’s jurisprudence, death or injury of innocents (namely Muslims,
dhimmis, and the enemy’s women and children) should be avoided but is tolerated
if inevitable or necessary, for instance when they are intermingled with enemy
combatants or used as human shields: “And be very aware of killing innocent people, except for what is permissible by religion, such as the innocent who are used as
shields, without going to excess, and this issue should be left to the judgment of the
Mujahidin scholars.”469 Notable about the writing of AAZ on this issue is that he
reviews different acknowledged legal positions, some opposing, others allowing,
and yet others allowing under certain conditions the killing of innocents in war.
After “having quoted what applies to us from the various schools of jurisprudence
of the ulema, regarding bombarding the infidels if either Muslims, women, chil____________
For the influential writing “The qur’anic concept of war” written by the Pakistani
Brigadier General S.K. Malik (originally published 1979), see Lacey 2008, 88 et seq.
See Kenney 2006.
UBL, December 16, 2004, 39.
UBL, December 27, 2004, 96.
6.3 The means: Doctrines and strategies of jihad
dren, or dhimmis are among them or used as shields,”470 AAZ cites in his conclusion the legal opinions he considers to apply best to the contemporary situation,
such as the legal commentary of al-Qurtubi:
Yet it is permissible to slay the human shield without any disagreement – Allah willing – if the advantage gained is imperative, universal, and certain. ‘Imperative’
means that reaching the infidels cannot be attained without killing the human shield;
‘universal’ means that the advantage gained by killing the human shield benefits
every Muslim – and it is since otherwise the infidels, left untouched, may take over
the entire umma; and ‘certain’ means that the benefit gained by killing the human
shield is definite.471
AAZ considers the total prohibition of killing innocents as only applicable to offensive jihad, whereas in defensive jihad the advantages gained through accepting collateral damage are always “imperative, universal, and certain,” since Islam is existentially threatened. Finally, AAZ adopts a position sanctioning the inevitable and
deliberate killing of innocents under circumstances in which compliance to the,
otherwise imperative, prohibition of such action would obstruct the hierarchically
higher obligation to perform jihad. Muslim victims who die in the course of such
operations are considered martyrs, as AAZ claims by quoting Ibn Taimiyya: “Based
on the consensus of the ulema, those Muslims who are accidentally killed are martyrs; and the obligatory jihad should never be abandoned because it creates martyrs.”472 AAZ concludes the matter by adding seven personal opinions to what he
considers to be a prudent legal review.473
The second rule of engagement discussed within the theological justification
theme concerns the permissibility of martyrdom operations. AAZ acknowledges
that “many disputes have revolved around its legitimacy, both from the people of
Islam themselves and from their foes.”474 The issue revolves around the question
whether or not it is tantamount to suicide – which is considered a sin – to deliberately take one’s own life “in order to glorify the faith” in the course of jihad. AAZ
reviews the Quran, the hadith, historical accounts, and the verdicts of influential
ulema to compile the legal evidence on the matter. According to Raymond Ibrahim’s comment on the essay, AAZ faces various “troublesome technicalities”475
when trying to demonstrate the permissibility of martyrdom operations. For instance, the quoted “boy and king” hadith clearly praises readiness to die for the
religion, however the martyr in the hadith (the boy) gives his consent to be killed
AAZ, unknown date, 136.
Al-Qurtubi quoted in AAZ, unknown date, 119.
Ibn Taymiyya quoted in AAZ, unknown date, 134.
See annex 3., No. 200.
AAZ, unknown date, 32.
Ibrahim 2007, 138.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
(by the tyrant king) but does not shoot the arrow which kills him himself. A more
convincing piece of evidence used by AAZ – a narrative from Ibn Kathir about a
crew that deliberately scuttles its ship in order to prevent the cargo of weapons
from being seized by an overwhelming enemy fleet – is just a historic source with
little legal authority. Additionally, AAZ reviews several anecdotes from the Sunnah
and verdicts from influential ulema about conduct on the battlefield, especially regarding the “legitimacy for a single man to attack a large number (of enemies) even
if it is certain that he will die.” He concludes “that there is no difference between a
man killing himself with his own hands or through the agency of another […if] the
intention is to service Islam [i.e., martyrdom]” and is not to die due to “depression
and despair [i.e., suicide].”476
Besides these principle regulations regarding martyrdom operations (suicide
bombings), AAZ enumerates “other situations where one is permitted to take his
own life,” namely if a person is threatened to be killed if he refuses to surrender or
refuses to renounce Islam; and a person may kill himself if he faces torture and
would otherwise disclose secrets endangering other mujahedeen.477
Conclusions and thematic links
Relational content analysis reveals that the jihad against the far enemy is justified
on political and theological grounds, while jihad against the near enemy is justified
on theological grounds only (see Table 6). Although political grievances about tyrannical Islamic leaders are frequently expressed, they are not cited directly as justification for revolting against them. This finding is not surprising from an Islamic
studies point of view, because it is consensually accepted that sinful action (such as
corruption) is not a sufficient reason to excommunicate a Muslim. It is interesting
to see, though, how strictly this religious norm is adhered to in the jihadi media.
The theological justification for fighting the near and the far enemy is quite similar: It is based on the defensive paradigm and the assertion that both enemies are
allied against the mujahedeen. The near enemy – far enemy divide is present in
many themes and narratives: There are two discrete narratives in the socio-political
diagnosis, there are discrete goals and claims expressed to each addressee, there are
somewhat discrete strategies, and there is a difference in the political justification
for the fight against each of AQ’s principle enemies, but theologically the fight
against both is justified in a similar way.
Concerning the issue “rules of engagement,” it is intriguing (and also disturbing)
for an outsider to Islamic legal studies that AQ’s ideologues put the same argumentative efforts into the legitimization of killing innocents as they do into the legiti____________
AAZ, unknown date, 78 et seq.
Interestingly, AAZ quotes a case from the Algerian war for independence (1954-62)
against French forces as legal evidence; see annex 3., No. 210.
6.3 The means: Doctrines and strategies of jihad
mization of killing oneself. With the same judicial ardor, AAZ soberly compares the
killing of people against their will with the voluntary killing of oneself, concluding
that both modi operandi are legally permissible. The two issues are equally important for maintaining the strategic and tactical flexibility of jihadi groups, and
therefore AQ has to provide a technically more or less valid legal construct. While
the rational arguments in the jihadi media are intended to explain to the alienated
Western audience that jihad is a just response to legitimate political grievances, the
theological justifications for jihad are addressed to the jihadists’ own constituency
and are part of a broader legal discourse which serves to demonstrate AQ’s religious supremacy over those who disagree with AQ’s views. Further content justifying jihad correlates with the theme “points of conflict,” which describes the disparate understandings of the West and Islam about what each side thinks is “just.” In
particular, the ideologues understand offensive jihad as a just and inalienable aspect
of Islam but also anticipate that this understanding is not shared by the West.478
Appeals and advice
Appeals and advice appear frequently in the jihadi media.479 They include mobilizing supporters for the movement, often by emphasizing the religious duty of doing
so, portraying participation as a historic opportunity,480 dispelling concerns for
engaging in jihad (such as neglecting one’s family, or losing wealth),481 naming
Muslim role models in history who sacrificed themselves for jihad,482 and stressing
the urgency of the situation (“Today Baghdad and tomorrow Damascus, Amman,
and Riyadh”).483 The statements call for different kinds of support – military, financial, logistical, and propagandistic. They also include appeals to abstain from
certain actions, e.g., elections.
About as much consideration in the statements is dedicated to the mobilization of
new supporters as to the unification of already operative jihadi groups under the
banner of AQ.484 This appeal is the logical consequence of AQ’s claim to be the
Almost one-fifth of the content from the theme “theological justification” correlates
with content from the narrative on “apostasy” (19 percent) and with content from the
narrative on the “global conflict” (17 percent). Most of the correlating content belongs to the subthemes “religious supremacy” and “points of conflict” respectively.
The narrative contains 15,000 words (which is eight percent of all content) and appears in 25 of the 31 statements.
See annex 3., No. 220.
See annex 3., No. 221.
See annex 3., No. 222.
See annex 3., No. 223.
The theme “appeals for support” contains 7,400 words (four percent of all text); the
theme “appeals for unity” 5,300 (three percent).
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
only remaining impartial and unbiased Islamic movement. Bearing in mind the
split-up of the jihadi movement into various groups, it is not surprising to see AQ’s
leaders trying to channel the disunited movement into a common direction and to
fully unfold its efficiency. However, the statements rarely intervene directly with
the personal matters of groups and their leaders, presumably because UBL or AAZ
do not have the authority and the necessary insight to decide organizational matters
of operationally independent groups, and because they might fear that their orders
and advice will be ignored and thereby further undermine their authority. Therefore, the appeals are usually vague, such as the following call by UBL:
[B]eware of fanatical partiality to men, groups and homelands […] So the brotherhood of faith is what ties the Muslims together, not belonging to the tribe, homeland
or organization. And the interests of the group take priority over the interests of the
individual, and the interests of the Muslim state take priority over the interests of the
group, and the interests of the Ummah take priority over the interests of the state.
These concepts must be practically implemented in our lives.485
Only for the Iraqi context, where sectarian divide was notorious after the breakdown of Saddam’s regime, does AQ’s leadership publicly state recommendations
about how to handle the internal affairs of jihadi groups.486 AQ’s branch in Iraq –
the Islamic State of Iraq – is promoted as an umbrella organization for different
fighting factions.487 In particular, AQ leaders seek the favor of Ansar al-Sunnah, a
local insurgent group established before the war in Iraq broke out. AQ and its regional division in Iraq AQI (formerly Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s group al-Tawhid
wa al-Jihad, since 2006 part of the Islamic State of Iraq) and Ansar al-Sunnah have
close operational and ideological ties, are mutually supportive, and share training
camp facilities. Nevertheless, the group insists on remaining an independent entity
with a regional rather than a geopolitical focus. Moreover, it has a longer tradition
and deeper political involvement in Iraqi Kurdistan than the foreign mujahedeen of
However, organizational matters of jihadi groups in the Caucasus, Somalia, or
Afghanistan are usually not discussed in the public statements but within the internal communication between jihadi leaders.488 In order to demonstrate unity, AQ
only announces successful unifications with other groups, such as in AAZ’s statement from September 2006 after the Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and
UBL, October 22, 2007, 66, 68.
See annex 3., No. 225.
See annex 3., No. 226 and No. 227.
For a collection of declassified correspondence between jihadi leaders, see the Harmony Document Database from the Combating Terrorism Center, accessible at: http:
//ctc.usma.edu/programs-resources/harmony-program. For a report about “Debates
and divisions within al-Qa’ida and its periphery”, see Fishman & Moghadam 2010.
6.3 The means: Doctrines and strategies of jihad
Combat officially joined AQ under the new name al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
Many counter-terrorism experts believe that the disunity of the jihadi movement
and the friction within AQ central and its affiliated groups is the main vulnerability
of the global jihadi movement. In turn, AQ discounts these findings as strategic
maneuvers in the war of ideas, “blowing out of proportion minor interpretative disputes and considering them to be doctrinal/methodological disputes.”489 In any
case, the matter of unity is a frequently occurring theme in the statements and apparently important for the AQ leadership.
Next to appeals for unity, the statements provide a few pieces of advice on military
tactics, such as
setting up roofed and disguised trenches […] The well-camouflaged trenches and
targets will not be reached by either the smart or the stupid missiles. […] We also
recommend luring the enemy forces into a protracted, close, and exhausting fight,
using the camouflaged defensive positions in plains, farms, mountains, and cities.
The enemy fears city and street wars most, a war in which the enemy expects grave
human losses.490
Occasionally, specific targets such as supply routes, oil lines, or owners of companies crucial for supplying the enemy491 are suggested, as well as modi operandi
such as using mines (supposedly IEDs) or martyrdom operations. UBL also urges
secrecy during all stages of an operation, such as “reconnaissance of the target,
training, integrity, and suitability of weapons and ammunition, quality of the explosive device or other such arrangements.”492
Although AQ’s activism is primarily violent, there are appeals and advice discussing non-violent means. In an interview with UBL by the Karachi based newspaper Ummat shortly after 9/11, the interviewer asks: “Why is harm not caused to
the enemies of Islam through other means, apart from the armed struggle? For instance, urging the Muslims to boycott Western products, banks, shipping lines and
TV channels?” In his answer, UBL explains that the Muslim world is dependent on
Western products and technology and that a boycott would do more harm than
good until “Muslim companies [are] self-sufficient in producing goods equal to the
products of Western companies.”493 UBL further states that the “weapon of public
opinion” can only be used when the “tools for building public opinion are obtained.” At the time of the interview he saw these tools as TV stations and the
See annex 3., No. 78.
UBL, February 11, 2003, 19, 23.
UBL, February 11, 2003.
UBL, October 22, 2007, 71.
UBL, September 28, 2001, 13.
6. Mapping AQ’s ideology
press, and he was apparently not yet envisioning the Internet as a medium to disseminate jihadi propaganda. Usually, if non-militant activism is promoted it concerns the support of such action. “[R]aise funds for the Jihad [and] stake out targets
and observe the activities and most prominent aspects of the American-Zionist
presence, and gather data and pass it on to the Mujahideen.”494 Only in one instance does AAZ call for (non-violent) social protest by “methods of popular protest, like demonstrations, sit-ins, strikes, refusing to pay taxes, preventing cooperation with the security forces, refusing to provide the Crusaders with fuel, hitting
traders who supply the Crusader forces, boycotting Crusader and Jewish products,
and other ways of popular protest,”495 however, not without mentioning that
demonstrations are not sufficient to achieve change. But it is noteworthy that AAZ
mentions this at all, because street protests against governments in countries like
Egypt are usually characterized by nationalistic claims and are not strongly religiously inspired.496 Accordingly, if such protests achieve anything, as they did in Tunisia
and Egypt, AQ and other fundamentalists would probably not benefit from it.
Although somewhat voluminous, the content of the narrative “appeals and advice” is not abundant with information, other than the explicit appeal, and there is
not much to be concluded from reviewing it. Striking is how sparsely the narrative
is integrated into the ideology: A full two-thirds of the content does not intersect at
all with other narratives, themes, or issues from the diagnostic, prognostic, and motivational frames. No other category in the ideology is even closely as isolated and
unrelated to other content.497 The link to the reference system is equally weak.
AAZ, December 20, 2006, 122.
AAZ, December 20, 2006, 124.
It is very interesting to follow the jihadi discourse about the transformational processes in Egypt triggered by popular protest in January 2011. After the street protest
brought down Mubarak in February 2011 – something which the fundamentalists did
not achieve through their sustained campaign of terrorism – at least one AQ-associated cleric ungrudgingly applauses the achievements, as Brynjar Lia blogs on jihadica: “Al-Shanqiti’s fatwa is so filled with enthusiasm and excitement over events in
Egypt, that he almost forgets to provide the obligatory religious justifications for his
fatwa. Rarely have I seen a pro-al-Qaida cleric being so excited about secular demonstrators!”; http://www.jihadica.com/jihadis-debate-egypt-1/.
Content that does intersect with content from other categories shows no patterns in
correlation but is sporadically associated with various narratives, themes, and topics.
Even when one measures the correlation between the narrative “appeals and advice”
and the collapsed content of entire frames (diagnosis and goals), which is supposed to
create large correlations due to the sheer volume of content, none of the two correlations is stronger than five percent. Expressed in numbers, only 660 words (or four
percent) of all 15,000 words in the narrative “appeals and advice” actually intersect
with all 69,000 words within the diagnostic frame.
6.3 The means: Doctrines and strategies of jihad
Appeals and advice are somewhat detached from the otherwise cohesive content.498
The analysis of the statements from UBL, AAZ, and AYL ends here. It provides a
snapshot of how the ideology looked like in the time between September 2001 and
2008 – a very eventful period for the jihadi movement. However, jihadism existed
before that time and will continue to exist at least in the near future. New themes
may emerge and old themes may lose relevance. The methodology and the analytical categories (narratives, themes, and issues) that are described and mapped in this
study can be used to systematically monitor ongoing developments of the jihadi
In order to compare the doctrine of AQ central with the military activities of one
of its regional affiliates, the next chapter turns to one of the arenas of jihad: Iraq.
Two themes were identified within the course of this study that are not presented
here. Both are voluminous but their content is not very descriptive and relevant for
understanding AQ’s expectations about the usefulness and the legitimacy of violence.
One is “achievements” – content which praises and heroizes the mujahedeen, describes their success, and lauds their willingness to sacrify. The other is “decline of
the US” – content which intends to demonstrate that the US is morally, financially,
militarily, and politically bankrupt. The category “treachery and deceit” was initially
built so that additional data could be collected on the question whether treacherous
and deceitful tactics can be found in jihadi warfare. Although the issue of treachery
and deceit is explicitly mentioned in the statements, there is no information which
suggests that this is an important principle in their militant activism. Because the content of this category was sparse and conforms to Wadley’s (2003, 339) results – “the
evidence for treachery is ambiguous at best. There are certainly some clear-cut cases,
such as the Al Qaeda assassination of Massoud, but a systematic pattern appears lacking” – it was deleted from the classification system and is not further discussed here.
Jihadism in Iraq
Iraq is a laboratory for jihadi ideology put into action. All ideological implications
of jihadism converged in Iraq after the US invasion in March 2003, namely, the
global conflict between Islam and the West, apostasy and collaboration (personified by the Iraqi interim and transitional governments and the Anbar Awakening
Councils), elections and democratic governance (or the attempt thereof), strategic
and theological considerations about the use of jihadi violence, definitions and redefinitions of enemy categories, and the eventual establishment of an Islamic caliphate called the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI).
The conflict in Iraq
With the ending of the regular war between Saddam’s Baath regime and the US
(April 14, 2003, fall of Baghdad) the conflict in Iraq did not end; rather, it became
increasingly complex. Various parties with various agendas in ever-changing constellations and alliances emerged during the following months and years. Only four
months after the combat operations between the two regular armies had ended,
even an ostensibly widely accepted institution like the UN was so deeply involved
in the unclear political situation that “multiple groups claimed responsibility for the
UN headquarters attack”499 which destroyed the building and killed 22 people besides the driver of the truck bomb. In the early years of the conflict the US based
think tank RAND identified at least 28 different insurgent groups.500 When describing the post-war turmoil in Iraq, academics, the military, and politicians usually use
the term “insurgency.” Insurgency refers to the activities of irregular armed groups
revolting against the government or the occupation force. The Iraqi insurgency
mainly consists of Sunni armed groups who decided to fight the US occupying
forces after they realized that their plans amounted to installing a Shiite dominated
government in Iraq that could marginalize the Sunni community.501 Shiites are the
largest confessional entity in Iraq (roughly two-thirds of the Iraqis are Shiites while
one-third is Sunni), but under Saddam Hussein Sunnis dominated the country politically.
ICG 2006, 7.
Rabasa et al. 2006b, 52.
Al-Jabouri & Jensen 2010, 8.
7. Jihadism in Iraq
During its peak in 2006 and 2007, the Iraqi conflict showed clear elements of a
civil war – clashes between different armed factions and sustained sectarian clashes
with high casualty rates – although the coalition forces were reluctant to use this
term.502 Because of the amorphous character of the Iraqi insurgency, Bruce Hoffman sees it as the “closest manifestation yet of netwar, the concept of warfare involving flatter, more linear networks rather than the pyramidal hierarchies and
command and control systems (no matter how primitive) that have governed traditional insurgent organizations.”503 Of course all these terms are political or academic attributions; when Iraqis were asked personally about their “own opinion about
the state of Iraq at the moment” (in February 2007) about half of them answered
that they see Iraq in or close to a state of civil war, 39 percent said Iraq is still some
way from civil war or will never get as far as that, and thirteen percent did not
know or did not respond to this question.504
During the years after the fall of Baghdad the threshold for the use of force was
low and the actors engaged in violence for various ends – some political-strategic,
some economic-criminal, and some punitive and retaliatory. An assessment of the
situation in Iraq by the International Crisis Group published in June 2007 states:
“Iraq is in the midst of a civil war. But before and beyond that, Iraq has become a
failed state […]. That is, what has made the violence – all the violence: sectarian,
anti-coalition, political, criminal and otherwise – both possible and, for many, necessary.”505 The multitude of competing agendas and the basic orientation of most
armed groups oscillate somewhere between stabilizing the yet transient (and Shia
dominated) system by using repressive force or interfering in the early state building processes by using disruptive force. There is statistical evidence and little doubt
that suicide bombings are among the tactics of choice for groups trying to disrupt
state building and cause or sustain a failed state,506 while there is anecdotal evidence that the state power and militias associated with it are using overly repressive
violence in the form of forced disappearance, torture, or extrajudicial killings carried out by allegedly Shiite death squads who infiltrated the Iraqi security apparatus507 and other abuses of power against the political opposition.508
Fearon 2007, 2.
Hoffman 2006, 115; Arquilla & Ronfeldt (2001a) developed the concept of netwars to
describe the structure of organizations involved in certain conflicts.
Numbers rounded; nationally representative survey (n = 5,019) conducted by Opinion
Research Business (a UK-based company) in February 2007: http://www.opinion.
co.uk/Documents/ChartsMarch07.ppt [URL not accessible].
ICG 2007, ii.
Hafez 2006, 611.
ICG 2006, 22; Boyle 2009, 265.
Gombert et al. 2010, 30.
7.1 The conflict in Iraq
There are various statistics available measuring the course and level of conflictrelated violence in Iraq according to different counting criteria. 509 The time frame
between 2005 and 2007 was the most violent according to the Iraq Body Count
statistics (IBC), with 67,561 civilians killed due to conflict-related violence.510
Most of the claims of responsibilities in the sample of this study are from this period. A systematic study of IBC data by Boyle shows that all the different armed
groups (like ex-Baathists, Sunni nationalists, Islamic jihadi groups, Shia militias,
and many others) are involved in the killing of civilians: “No single actor is behind
all or even most of the attacks against civilians.”511
Internal violence in Iraq after 2003 is not clearly divided between Shiite and
Sunni armed groups. There are anti-governmental Shiite groups like the Mahdi Army fighting against Iraqi Security Forces largely comprised of members from the
Shiite Badr army; likewise, there are significant clashes between armed Sunni
groups (for instance between the Anbar Awakening Council and AQI). The armed
opposition against the coalition forces is not religiously or ethnically homogenous
either: The US has Sunni Arab allies (Anbar Awakening councils) and Sunni Arab
enemies (1920 Revolution Brigade, AQI); it has Kurdish allies (Peshmerga/Patriotic Union Kurdistan) and Kurdish enemies (Ansar al-Sunnah [AAS]); and it has
Shiite allies (Badr Corps) and Shiite enemies (Mahdi Army). And no one knows
what long-term consequence the US strategy of providing financial incentives to
Sunni tribes for fighting AQ will have – the same tribes who could undermine the
Iraqi government’s monopoly over the use of force.512 All these constellations have
emerged and changed throughout the Iraqi conflict and they are likely to continue
to change in the future.
In this insecure social environment, neutral parts of the population are particular
vulnerable. Otherwise politically uninvolved groups of people therefore decide to
collaborate with this or that group, hoping that partisanship will grant them some
degree of protection – “protection” meaning at least not being attacked or harassed
by just this one faction and having the chance to get revenge in the case that one is
targeted by a rival group. Often this affiliation is not a voluntary choice but simply
For instance the Iraq War Logs.
The IBC draws its figures primarily from media reports and therefore presumably
underestimates the real number of violent fatalities of civilians. When one takes into
account the numbers stated within the leaked Iraq War Logs (which also count casualties within the military), the estimated number of deaths is “at least 150,000” as of fall
2010 (Bohannon 2010, 575).
Boyle 2009, 268.
Simon states the US budget for paying Sunni tribal groups as being $150 million in
2008 and criticizes: “Now, U.S. strategy is violating this principle by fostering the retribalization of Iraq all over again. In other countries in the region, such as Yemen,
the result of allowing tribes to contest state authority is clear: a dysfunctional country
prone to bouts of serious internecine violence” (Simon 2008, 67).
7. Jihadism in Iraq
a matter of which group is in control of the neighborhood. Insurgents and paramilitary groups deliberately target civilians not only because they support and collaborate with a rival group in some way, e.g., as translators, informants, or technicians,
but also because they are treated “as pawns in a complex bargaining game.”513 Being capable of creating security and protecting the population of a certain city area
or a rural region against attacks increases the acceptance of that group as a legitimate power, and therefore rival parties are eager to demonstrate another group’s
incapability to protect civilians in their area by striking them. By attacking soft
targets, groups that fail to establish a monopoly over the use of force on their own
can at least prevent other groups from reaching this goal. On other occasions the
motive behind attacks against certain collectives is revenge.
Although the rate of civilian victimization in the Iraqi conflict is extraordinarily
high, most operations (90 percent) are directed against military targets. Between
June 2004 and June 2007 roughly 70 percent of all recorded attacks were directed
against coalition forces, 20 percent against Iraqi Security Forces and 10 percent
against civilians.514 There is a wide range of motivations and strategic expectations
behind these attacks. Insurgents and militias from all parts of the political spectrum
fight, at least at some point of the conflict, against the coalition forces, and they do
so for very different reasons. However, there has been disagreement between the
insurgent groups about the question whether fighting against or collaborating with
the coalition forces will make them withdraw more quickly. Some Sunni insurgent
groups who had initially hoped for a military defeat of the occupiers realized that
AQI’s resistance against the coalition forces could have been the actual reason that
they were staying, and therefore some armed groups left the insurgency and sided
with the coalition forces, while other Sunni groups merged with AQI or AAS.
AQ’s position on this question is clear: Jihad is imperative, while negotiating and
compromising with the crusaders is apostasy. Still other groups, especially those
associated with governmental institutions, have an interest in the coalition forces
staying in Iraq and therefore cooperate with them.
External factors of the conflict
One can better make sense of the confusion called the Iraqi insurgency when one
also takes into account three important external factors of the conflict: Iran’s influence, the jihadi ideology, and how both interact with the US strategies in Iraq.
According to an insightful Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) report from 2008,
Iran succeeded in realizing two goals in Iraq: first, to install an Iran-friendly Iraqi
Boyle 2009, 263.
Boyle (2009, 265) drawing on data from the Multi-National Forces in Iraq (MNF-I).
7.1 The conflict in Iraq
government, and second, to limit US influence and power in Iraq. Iran is eager to
gain sustained influence in Iraq because it does not want its old enemy, Saddam
Hussein, to be replaced by another. To this end, Iran not only has at its disposal
armed militias515 but also exercises a certain influence over key personnel within
some of the governing political parties (Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq together
with its military wing the Badr Organization and the Dawa Party). “Iran sees no
contradiction in working with both the Iraqi government and continuing to sponsor
violent militias capable of inflicting violence inside Iraq’s borders.”516 The nongovernmental militias are Iran’s security in case the Iraqi government acts against
Iranian interests some day or in case of “a Sunni coup in Baghdad.”517
At the same time, the militias supported by Iran (such as Jaish al-Mahdi and the
Special Group) keep attacking US forces. Obviously, Iran also sees no contradiction in advancing the US goal of Iraqi elections and stabilizing the (Shia dominated) country while continuing to train, support, and equip518 militias targeting coalition forces, despite this delaying the US troops’ withdrawal. The reason for this
seemingly contradictory involvement is considered to be due to Iran’s wish to keep
a (weak) US presence within its range in order to deter or retaliate against a US
military strike against its nuclear facilities.519 The CTC report also states that Iran’s
support of anti-coalition militias successfully distracted the international community’s attention from Iran’s successful efforts to build up a dense network in the Iraqi
government. However, in March and May 2008 the Iraqi Security Forces – apparently with Iran’s consent and with support from the coalition forces 520 – began a
large scale crackdown against al-Sadre’s Mahdi Army and the Special Group in
Sadr City and elsewhere in Iraq which resulted in the death, detention, and escape
to Iran of some of their members but which did not checkmate the militias. Despite
a certain Iranian influence over the two competing powers (militias on the one hand
and the al-Maliki government on the other), both still have their own agenda in Iraq
which makes their action less predictable and the Iraqi conflict a little bit more
For a brief overview on Iraqi militias and the Iraqi Security Forces, see Beehner
(2005a and 2005b) in Council on Foreign Relations Backgrounder: http://www.
Felter & Fishman 2008, 85.
Felter & Fishman 2008, 55.
The matter of Iranian armament of Iraqi militias is a disputed issue with high political
relevance and therefore difficult to objectify. A particularly lethal kind of improvised
explosive devices (namely IEDs assembled with Explosively Formed Penetrators) notorious in Iraq is widely believed to be produced in Iran; see Glanz 2007; Felter &
Fishman 2008, 77-81.
Felter & Fishman 2008, 9.
Felter & Fishman 2008, 51.
7. Jihadism in Iraq
Jihadi ideology
Besides the Iranian influence, the introduction of jihadi ideology is another factor
that has had a major impact on the Iraqi conflict. Transnational jihadi groups became visible only after the early phase of the Iraqi insurgency, at a time when “the
armed opposition […] increasingly became strictly Sunni Arab” and “[t]he influence of Salafism reached beyond groups that formerly identified as such.”521 Ideologically, most of the Sunni insurgents blend an Islamic nationalistic with a Salafi
fundamentalist outlook.
Figure 5: The Iraqi insurgency 2003-2009; Simon 2008, 62-65
At the beginning of the Iraqi conflict, AQ’s ideology was an exogenous factor that
heavily influenced the course of the conflict and led to the formation of new jihadi
groups. The jihadi agenda was also adopted by existing armed groups as a readyto-use program to frame their militant activism and gain relevancy. The introduction of jihadism into the developing Iraqi crisis gave rise to peculiar alliances of
groups opposing AQI. In turn, the conflict itself soon became a source of inspiration for the jihadi leaders in the frontier region of Afghanistan and Pakistan
(AfPak), who incorporated the events on the ground in Iraq into their ideologybuilding and thereby further increased its relevancy and appeal for some of the Iraqi armed groups. This can be seen, for example, in AAZ’s description of one of the
three different types of apostasy. He describes the group of “religious trading charlatans” primarily with references to former Sunni insurgents who opportunistically
decided to collaborate with the US occupying forces against AQI in anticipation of
political power and monetary support.
ICG 2006, 11. The ICG supposes that Sunni jurisprudence concerning the rules and
regulations of defensive jihad was used by many armed groups to formalize and legitimize their action even if there is otherwise little political agreement between these
7.1 The conflict in Iraq
While some parts of the jihadi ideology concur with the sentiments and the
thinking of some Iraqi armed groups, other aspects of the ideology are rather alien
to them. Many Sunni armed groups ignore AQ’s call to dismiss patriotic ambitions
in favor of a global Islamic identity. For them the conflict is above all a regional
matter; solidarity with Muslims in Palestine, Chechnya, or Afghanistan is abstract
rhetoric and does not have much practical value. “Iraqi insurgents who wanted to
fight the occupiers under the banner of jihad had not foreseen that their nationalist
jihad was irreconcilable with the objectives of both the doctrinal and the strategic
trends within jihadism.”522
After sketching this rough picture of the political context, we will focus on the
involvement of two groups inspired by AQ ideology in the next section.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)
The two groups with the closest ideological ties to AQ central are AQI and AAS.
AQI in particular takes up the narrative about the global conflict to some degree.
This places the group somewhat at the fringe of the mainstream Sunni insurgency,
which fights primarily for its own nationalistic interests and to gain power in Iraq.
AQI’s deceased leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi illustrated the position of the AQ
group in Iraq with a phrase that gained currency within jihadi circles: “In Iraq we
are very close to al-Aqsa Mosque of the Messenger of Allah, so we fight in Iraq
and our eyes are on Jerusalem.”523
AQI is the commonly used name for several groups that have gone by different
names over the years: Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi formally led the group Tawhid wa’l
Jihad, which officially joined the AQ organization in October 2004524 despite some
ideological differences, which would not be resolved in the following years.525 In
January 2006, AQI merged with five other insurgent groups to form the Mujahedeen Shura Council (MSC).526 This ad hoc insurgent group kept the name for ten
months and renamed itself the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) in October 2006. Although individual members and subgroups changed due to death and fission, it is
safe to say that Tawhid wa’l Jihad, AQI, MSC, and ISI are different names for the
Lahoud 2010, 218.
Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, video speech “A message to the people” from April 2006.
AAZ quotes this phrase in one of his video statements released after Zarqawi’s death
in June 2007 (AAZ, July 26, 2006, 30).
Felter & Fishman 2007, 4. The group’s name was Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad alRafidayn (Organization of jihad’s base in the country of the two rivers) or simply alQaeda in Iraq, AQI. UBL welcomes the union with the Zarqawi groups in a statement
from December 27, 2004 (see annex 3, No. 230).
See Fishman 2006, 20.
Abedin 2006.
7. Jihadism in Iraq
same organizational entity at different time stages527 – at least this is the image
these groups try to convey in order to demonstrate unity and continuity.528
Because the jihadis do not recognize Iraq’s borders and are keen to indicate that
they do not act upon patriotic or nationalist motives, their official name is not AQI
but “al-Qaeda Organization in the Land of the Two Rivers” or “AQ in Mesopotamia.” This organization has a geopolitical outlook that corresponds to the geopolitical agenda of AQ central, and this very point is the bone of contention for internal
disputes as well as for disputes between AQI and nationalistic insurgents groups.
Following this doctrine, AQI has attacked targets outside Iraq, and although such
attacks are by far less frequent than the routine bombings within Iraq, operations
abroad are symbolic, demonstrate the operational capabilities of the group, and
usually attract media attention. In April 2004, a severe bombing plot against the
headquarters of the Jordan Intelligence Service in Amman by Tawhid wa’l Jihad
was foiled but could have killed up to 20,000 people because the bombs involved
chemical agents.529 Other instances of AQI exporting jihad abroad to Iraq include a
rocket attack against the two navy vessels USS Kearsarge and USS Ashland in the
port in Aqaba (Jordan), which missed the vessels but killed a Jordanian soldier
ashore.530 In November 2005, AQI carried out triple bombings against three hotels
in Jordan’s capital Amman. According to the group’s claim, these targets were chosen because the hotels were hosting “American and Israeli intelligence and other
Western European governments”531 and as an act of “retaliation for Jordon supporting the United States.”532 In December 2005, the group claimed to have carried out
Tønnessen (2009, 3 and 7), subsumes the same groups under the label of AQI. In their
own words AQ leaders use these names, too: “And it was al-Qaida organization in
Mesopotamia, then the Mujahideen’s Shura Council, then the Pact of the Perfumed
Ones, then the Islamic State of Iraq” (AAZ, December 16, 2007). The pact of the perfumed is presumably the name of the committee which established the ISI.
In their public communication the different groups’ names do not coexist simultaneously and the retiring of a name is always followed directly by the announcement of
the establishment of a new group. However, the ISI claims responsibility for a couple
of incidents which occurred a few days before its establishment was officially announced (October 15, 2006). Apparently, these delayed claims for attacks of the MSC
happened before October 15 but were claimed at a time when the MSC officially did
not exist anymore but had already been replaced by the ISI, which took credit for the
past attacks under its new name.
Fattah & Wong 2005.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9979747/ns/world_news-terrorism/. One attack team
consisted of two suicide bombers, a man, and his wife entering a wedding celebration
at one of the hotels. The woman, who could not detonate her belt, was later arrested
and presented on Jordanian TV describing the incident from her point of view.
7.1 The conflict in Iraq
an operation against Israel and described that they “after a period of planning and
reconnaissance, executed a new attack on Israel. The lions launched ten Krad rockets from the Muslim lands in Lebanon on chosen targets in north Israel.”533 The
group also explained that the “blessed attack came according to the promise of
Sheikh Usama bin Laden.” There is no clear open-source information on whether
or not these attacks actually took place,534 and if so whether they were actually carried out by AQI members. What is certain is that Zarqawi adopted the global paradigm of the jihadi ideology and indicated a willingness to organize the group as a
regional affiliate of AQ and not as just an Iraqi liberation group.535
As noted above, in 2006 AQI and five other groups united under the new name
Mujahedeen Shura Council (MSC) in order to surmount some of the friction between different jihadi insurgents. The establishment communiqué from January 15,
2006, clearly bears the hallmarks of AQ’s apostasy narrative, but it does not call for
the conflict to be carried beyond Iraq. The compromises between the transnational
and the nationalistic jihadists led the group to adopt an approach of thinking globally but acting with a more local focus. Consequently, the Jordanian Abu Mussab alZarqawi was not appointed as the emir of the umbrella-group but rather an Iraqi
named Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi.536 However, the statement explicitly welcomes the widely criticized foreign mujahedeen to join the ranks of the MSC.
Likewise, the military focus of the MSC is dualistic. On the one hand, it focuses
strictly on the battle in Iraq against the “armed forces of the Crusaders and their
allies from the Shi’ites and seculars” and “everyone who jumps to the façade of the
power to stop ruling by Shari’a.”537 On the other hand, the groups bear in mind the
global consequences of their jihad in Iraq. The influence of AQ’s geopolitical paradigm became visible again when the MSC announced the capture of four Russian
Embassy employees and set an ultimatum demanding “1 – The immediate pullback
from Chechnya. 2 – The release of all of our sisters and brothers in the Russian
jails.”538 Despite Russia being a strict opponent of the Iraq War, all four hostages
AQI, December 29, 2005.
There are media reports about three rockets fired from Lebanon to northern Israel at
this time; for instance, see: http://edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/12/29/mid
There are some reasons to believe that the ISI was also somehow involved in the
failed suicide bombing from December 2010 in Stockholm; see al-Shishani (2011, 35); and Hegghammer’s entry on the blog jihadica: http://www.jihadica.com/the-iraqconnection/.
There is a lot of controversy about the identity of al-Baghdadi, but apparently he is
Iraqi, or at least this is what the MSC wants to convey: http://www.start.umd.edu/
MSC, January 15, 2006.
MSC, June 19, 2006.
7. Jihadism in Iraq
were executed, two shot and two decapitated, after the end of the ultimatum.539 The
group published a video with sequences from the executions of three of the men. In
response Russia’s president Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian special service to
find and kill the perpetrators,540 which in turn led the MSC to attack another target
at the Russian Embassy in Iraq a few days later, declaring that “this operation is a
response to ‘the Russian dog’ who ordered the Russian intelligence to go after the
one who killed the Russian diplomats and punish them.”541
After ten months of existence the MSC transformed into the ISI, a caliphate administered by the rules of Islamic law. The establishment of the ISI was a highly
symbolic act because “[t]aking the prophet’s flag was not the only way in which
the jihadists sought to emulate Mohammed. They also adopted his nascent state in
Medina as the blueprint for the Islamic State of Iraq,”542 thereby indicating that it
was to be the new home not only of jihadists in Iraq but of the entire global jihadi
movement. The territory the state claimed to have control over is located in northeastern Iraq, cutting across the provinces Ninawa, Anbar, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din,
Diyala, Baghdad, and Babil. The legal and doctrinal foundation of the caliphate,
including the appointment of its caliph, is stipulated in the book “elam al-anam bi
milad dawlet al-Islam” (“Informing the people about the birth of the state of Islam”).543 The fact that the book was published on Mohammad al-Maqdisi’s homepage “minbar al-tawhid wa’l jihad” indicates that highly prominent Salafi scholars
such as Maqdisi deem the book and the ISI as relevant.544 The ISI is composed of
several ministries (ministry of health; ministry of finance, and others) but it is
doubtful that these ministries are much more than single individuals responsible for
the respective field within the organization. While AQ central has frequently promoted the ISI in its public statements, it criticizes the ISI internally for not being
able to deliver on the promising vision it has drawn. According to a series of letters
A similar case occurred in March 2007 when two German citizens, Hannelore and
Sinan Krause, were kidnapped in Baghdad by a group called the Arrows of Righteousness, which demanded the withdrawal of German troops from Afghanistan.
While Mrs. Krause was released after five months, the fate of her son Sinan remains
uncertain. Whether the demands for a pullout of German troops in Afghanistan were
sincere or whether they were just the initial demand for ransom bargaining is unclear.
Criminal groups often start with political demands while their actual interest is monetary. Because the group had never claimed responsibility for any attacks before, it can
be suspected that it is a criminal, profit-oriented group rather than one belonging to
the global jihadi movement.
Myers 2006.
MSC, July 14, 2006.
Kazimi 2008, 7.
Kazimi 2008, 6.
The historical and theological implications of the foundations of the ISI are discussed
from an Islamic studies point of view in a detailed article by Nibras Kazimi (2008).
7.1 The conflict in Iraq
between AQ central and the ISI found by the Multi-National Force in Iraq, the jihadi leaders in AfPak accuse their Iraqi affiliate of mismanagement, indiscriminate
violence, and misuse of propaganda.545 Within jihadi circles the ISI apparently has
a reputation for faking and recycling operational videos and exaggerating its success in its claims of responsibility.
More importantly, however, the establishment of the Islamic proto-state further
destabilized the region as it evoked conflict with the local Sunni tribes. This conflict intensified as AQI started to coerce other Sunni insurgent groups and tribes to
pledge alliance to the (possibly fictional) emir of ISI Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. The
ISI’s ruthless treatment of Sunni Iraqis also escalated the conflict between the ISI
and the newly founded Anbar Salvation Council, a league of influential Sunni
tribes formed to resist AQI’s tyranny in the region. The tribal leaders’ dislike of the
ISI was strong enough for them to consider siding with their other enemy, the US
forces. This alliance opened the floodgates for an ISI assassination campaign based
on the jihadi doctrine of considering everyone apostate who collaborates with the
enemy against the mujahedeen. The tribes certainly knew the risk of openly denouncing and fighting the ISI with US support, but the Anbar Salvation Council
was strong enough to face the foreign extremists and killed several high-ranking
members of the ISI for its own part. Reportedly, a Sunni leader described the dilemma when complaining that AQI’s directive against the tribes “left resistance
groups with two options: either to fight al-Qaeda and negotiate with the Americans
or fight the Americans and join the Islamic State of Iraq, which divides Iraq. Both
options are bitter.”546 Only AAS was able to square the circle: To date the group is
neither officially with nor against the ISI but continues to be its independent ally.
Ansar al-Sunna (AAS)
Unlike AQI, AAS remains organizationally independent from AQ central but carries out joint operations with AQI sporadically. Although there are reports about
killings of AAS members by AQI in January 2007,547 AQ central generally lauds
AAS’s religious-political positions and its military commitment. As far as can be
confirmed there has not been a sustained clash between AAS and AQI.
AAS is a major Iraqi insurgent group that operates within northern and central
Iraq. Founded in December 2001, the group’s initial name was Ansar al-Islam, but
was changed in 2003 to Ansar al-Sunna and back to Ansar al-Islam in November
Roggio 2008a; http://www.longwarjournal.org.
Simon 2008, 63.
The CTC gives a short analysis of the incident and provides a translation of the letter
of complaint send by AAS to the emir of AQI; http://ctc.usma.edu/publications/
aas_aqi.asp [URL not accessible].
7. Jihadism in Iraq
2007.548 Ansar al-Islam emerged in December 2001 from the complex political
situation in northern Iraq. Since the 1980s, three principal parties had been engaged
in the ongoing conflict between Iraqi Kurds and Saddam Hussein’s regime. These
were two secular Kurdish parties (Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iraq, KDP, and
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, PUK), which were supported by Iran, and the Islamic
movement of Kurdistan, which was supported by both Iran and Saudi Arabia. Although all three factions sought to establish an autonomous Kurdish state, they
competed for political power and ideological dominance. Despite their common
enemy, Saddam Hussein, the rift between secular and Islamist camps became insuperable in 2001. Militant Islamists gathered under the name of Jund al-Islam fi
Kurdistan and declared jihad against the secular parties in Kurdistan. Shortly after
the creation of Jund al-Islam, the group changed its name to Ansar al-Islam, and alDin Faraj Ahmad (also known as Mullah Krekar) replaced the former leader, Abu
Abdullah al-Shafi’i. Mullah Krekar was educated in Pakistan under the prominent
jihadi intellectual Abdullah Azzam, who was also the mentor of UBL. Inspired by
the Salafi jihadi ideology, Krekar returned to Iraq in 1988, where he was engaged
in separatist activities. Since 1991 he has enjoyed asylum status in Norway, where
his extradition to Iraq is currently pending because Krekar might be punished by
the death penalty due to his terrorist activism.
Ansar al-Islam succeeded in installing a Sharia-ruled miniature caliphate in the
region of Hauraman (Halabja) within the Kurdish Autonomous Zone, similar to the
jihadi-separatist aspirations of Shamil Basayev and Ibn al-Khattab in Dagestan during the Chechen conflict. From this operational base, the group addressed two strategic objectives: the military struggle against the adversary Kurdish parties (foremost the PUK) and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. After the fall of the dictator,
Ansar al-Islam was one of the political powers ready to fill the power vacuum.
However, after a military defeat through a joint operation of US and Kurdish PUK
forces at the beginning of the Iraq War (in March 2003), the group was forced to
give up its operational basis and several members fled to Iran. In the following
months the fighters were able to reenter Iraq and gathered in Mosul as a clandestine
insurgent group. As of September 20, 2003, the organization officially announced
its existence as Ansar al-Sunna on a webpage, and former Jund al-Islam leader Abu
In 2007, some activists left Ansar al-Islam due to disputes regarding political and
religious positions. These members are organized as the Sharia Committee of Ansar
al-Sunna (a.k.a. The Legal Association Detachment for Ansar al-Sunna). Together
with other Iraqi nationalist insurgent factions they founded the Reformation and Jihad
Front, whose establishing statement was issued on May 2, 2007. In a statement posted
on jihadi forums (on October 13, 2008), the leadership of Ansar al-Islam explains details of the dispute with the Sharia Committee.
7.2 Jihadi ideology in action: Claims of responsibility of AQI and AAS
Abdullah al-Shafi’i succeeded Mullah Krekar, who was at that point temporally being detained by the Norwegian authorities. After reentering Iraq, the group reorganized and called for a fight against the “American enemy and their supporters.”549
The foreign occupiers replaced the old foe Saddam Hussein.
AQ and its regional division in Iraq (AQI) and Ansar al-Islam are ideologically
related, mutually supportive, carry out joint operations,550 and share training camp
facilities. 551 Nevertheless, Ansar insists on remaining an independent group with a
regional rather than a geopolitical focus. Moreover, it has a longer tradition and
deeper political involvement in Iraqi Kurdistan than Zarqawi’s transnational AQ
branch. The exact relation of the two groups is nebulous, not least because of inaccurate information disseminated by Colin Powell before the Security Council on
February 5, 2003, who wanted to prove a link between AQ and Saddam Hussein
via Ansar al-Islam.
Aside from its military wing, the organization has launched a media branch (alAnsar Media Foundation, established in May 2008) that stages military operations
in short video clips. In addition, Ansar publishes teachings, interviews, training
courses, military manuals, communiqués, and statements, mostly on forums and
file hosting providers through the al-Fajr Media Center, which is also utilized by
jihadist groups from other countries. Among Ansar’s publications is the periodical
“Harvest of the mujahedeen” (its 52nd issue was published May 2009), as well as
the book series “Journey of truth.” In one of its volumes (May 2009), the authors
reflect on the political affairs in Iraq between 2003 and 2008, an eventful period for
Ansar al-Islam.
Jihadi ideology in action: Claims of responsibility of AQI
and AAS
Various Iraqi insurgent groups claim responsibility for their operations in the form
of short press releases, usually posted on Internet forums or the group’s website.
Sometimes the insurgents videotape their activities and put the video online to substantiate their claims. Different groups share centralized services for distributing
their media, such as the al-Fajr Information Center. Unlike the extensive video
messages of jihadi leaders, the claims of responsibility contain short and detailed
information about the target, the modus operandi, and the reason for the attack but
usually do not include substantial ideological statements. The media strategy of the
AAS name revision statement dated November 28, 2007, in which the emir of the
groups (who was at this point still Abu Abdullah al-Shafi’i) recalls past events in the
history of the group.
Two such operations were claimed by ISI, July 3, 2007, and AAS, January 29, 2008.
Rabasa 2006a, 142-43; Steinberg 2005, 230.
7. Jihadism in Iraq
Iraqi jihadists stands in sharp contrast to what Bruce Hoffman concluded in 1997
about terrorists claiming responsibility, namely that “terrorists now deliberately
seek to conceal their responsibility for attacks in hopes of avoiding identification
and subsequent arrest. […] [S]ome of the most deadliest terrorist incidents in recent
years have never been credibly claimed – much less ‘explained’ or ‘justified’ – as
terrorists acts once were.”552
Objecting Hoffman’s claim, David C. Rapoport adds that “some groups claim
more regularly than others”553 and that these differences depend on factors such as
strength, purpose, vulnerability, and organizational assets. Creating publicity is not
the motive behind every attack, and even if it is, Rapoport holds that “publicity is a
drug which can cure or kill, and it is no accident that contemporary rebel terrorists
who, compared to pre-modern ones, find publicity so easy to generate, simultaneously experience much more difficulty in creating lasting organizations”554
In Iraq, attacks widely condemned by the public (such as attacks in crowded
public spaces directed against civilians only) often remain unclaimed while attacks
against hard targets or against targets symbolizing the occupation, such as the
bombing against the UN headquarters in Baghdad, sometimes are claimed by more
than one group.555 On the contrary, the February 2006 bombing of the al-Askari
mosque in Samarra, allegedly plotted by AQI, remained unclaimed and AQI officially denied responsibility for the bombing, which severely damaged large parts of
the important Shiite holy site. Although no one was killed or injured in the attack,
the incident sparked a wave of hitherto unprecedented sectarian violence, killing an
estimated 1,000 people on the same day the bombing happened.556 According to a
study of Abrahms, anonymous attacks are “particular prevalent in Iraq.”557
Moreover, the claims of Iraqi insurgents cannot be taken as reliable information
about the incidents on the ground as information may be accurate, exaggerated, or
completely faked, and it is difficult to verify or falsify it. In sporadic comparisons
of the numbers of casualties claimed by the jihadists with other sources such as the
news media, the leaked Iraqi War Logs, or the IntelCenter’s Terrorism Incident
Reference for Iraq, the general tendency seems to be that the communiqués exaggerate the enemies’ casualties and downplay those of the mujahedeen. “Your heroic
Hoffman 1997, 4. Certainly Hoffman’s results still hold true for certain types of attacks in Iraq; despite the numerous claims of groups most attacks do remain unclaimed.
Rapoport 1997, 14.
Rapoport 1997.
ICG 2006, 1 and 7.
Knickmeyer 2010.
Abrahms 2008, 89.
7.2 Jihadi ideology in action: Claims of responsibility of AQI and AAS
brothers withdrew safely” is an often used phrase at the end of the statements. Occasionally, however, the claims do explicitly admit losses.558
Figure 6: A claim of responsibility from AAS
Such reports are rare and information about the detention of jihadists by coalition
forces or Iraqi Security Forces are completely missing from the claims within the
sample, although the respective entries from the Iraqi War Logs about the same
incidents sometimes do mention detainees. One statement even vehemently denies
that jihadists have been captured as reported by the media and asserts that the al____________
The message describes an operation in which AAS storms a house and kills three
Western individuals “most likely from the American intelligence. While the group
was leaving the house after the operation was over, they were ambushed by the crusaders, who fired at the mujahideen. One was instantly killed and the other was severely hurt, and died today” (AAS, May 9, 2005c).
7. Jihadism in Iraq
leged jihadi detainees are in fact peaceful Iraqi civilians who are presented to the
press as captured mujahedeen as part of the information war.559
A systematic comparison of information included in the insurgents’ messages
with other sources is not the concern of this study, although it would be useful for
other purposes. Looking at what a group takes credit for provides insights about
what the group intends to do and hopes to achieve. Therefore, these messages contain information which helps to contextualize the militant activism of the jihadists
in regard to the question of what jihadists expect from the use of force. 196 claims
of responsibility issued between May 2004 and December 2007 were reviewed for
this purpose, 75 from AAS and 121 from AQI (Tawhid wa’l jihad, MSC, ISI).560
Communiqués announcing the establishment of groups, changes in name, or mergers with other groups were also taken into consideration. Keeping in mind the
limitations about what can be concluded from this sample it still tells us a lot about
“the range of behavioral styles”561 of terrorism and the strategic and religious expectations behind it.
The messages describe a wide range of different operations, most of them routine, others rather exceptional. Operations covered within the messages are not only
high-profile attacks which attract international media attention but also represent a
wide range of militant activity, ranging from single IED or gun attacks to kidnappings, battles for whole urban areas, and sustained military campaigns. Some
claims meticulously describe the course of action of more complex operations; other messages do not bother with details but provide mere statistics summarizing activity from the past days or weeks. In the language of the insurgents these summarizing claims are called “harvests.” Some harvests are literal statements of accounts
providing charts and tables specifying enemy losses, broken down into target category (crusaders, police, Kurdish Peshmerga, spies, etc.), type of vehicles destroyed
(tank, Humvee, plane, etc.), infrastructure destroyed (watchtowers, checkpoints,
quarters, etc.), modus operandi (sniping, suicide attacks, booby-trapped cars, etc.),
and provinces, as can be seen, for instance, in ISI’s “Twenty-fourth report of the
plan of dignity – the biweekly results” from May 2007.562
Generally, the activities the jihadists take responsibility for fall under the category of assassinations, hostage taking/arrests, executions, hit-and-run attacks against
coalition forces and Iraqi Security Forces, or confrontations and clashes with them.
See annex 3., No. 251.
The sample is not representative of the pool of statements from each group, let alone
of all incidents in Iraq. The data was acquired from the archive of the SITE Intelligence Group.
Silke (2004, 10) citing an unpublished doctoral dissertation by Alaster Smith (1998).
See annex 3., No. 256 for the report’s charts.
7.2 Jihadi ideology in action: Claims of responsibility of AQI and AAS
Actors who frustrate the ambitions of the jihadists are potential victims of assassinations. AAS and AQI assassinate individuals who have some strategic or political
relevance for them, and for the same reason jihadi leaders are killed by other armed
groups, the coalition forces, or the Iraqi Security Forces. Sometimes, the groups
succeed in killing prominent individuals, such as Ezzedine Salim, member of the
Shiite Dawa Party and President of the Iraqi Governing Council (the Iraqi provisional government), in May 2004. According to the statement from Tawhid wa’l jihad,
Salim and his bodyguards were assassinated by a Saudi Arabian suicide bomber in
retaliation for “the crimes they are committing against our people in Iraq, killing
women, children and the elderly, violating honors, destroying homes, pulling out
trees, and unjustly imposing a siege.”563 AQI waged a notorious assassination campaign against members of the Anbar Salvation Council and the Sons of Iraq because both cooperate with the US in order to oppose AQ’s tyranny in the Sunni Triangle. The most prominent figure to fall victim to this campaign was Sheikh Abdul
Sattar Abu Risha, an influential tribal leader and founder of the Anbar Salvation
Council, who was shown in a press photo shaking hands with President Bush a
week before his killing.564 Members of the other Awakening movement, the “Sons
of Iraq,” are regularly targeted by AQI as well: Fassal al-Guood and other US allied Sheiks and government officials were killed in the al-Mansour hotel bombing
in Baghdad in June 2007.565 The ISI even announced “the formation of special security committees to trace and assassinate the prominent [leaders of] agent tribes
who tarnished the reputation of their original tribes by helping the soldiers of the
cross and the Safawi government of al-Maliki.”566
Despite occasional clashes between Mahdi Army/Special Groups and the Awakening movement,567 the principle enemy of the Awakening movement is AQI (not
so much AAS, or not at all) and assassinations are a common kind of interaction
between the two groups.
Tawhid wa’l jihad, May 17, 2004. The attack was also claimed by another group. For
BBC news coverage of the incident see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east
ISI, June 26, 2007. Interestingly, ISI’s claim provides a pretext for the killing, namely
that the bombing was a “quick response” in retaliation for an incident in which police
forces allegedly abused the daughter of a father, who then took the case to ISI’s ministry of security. According to the claim, members of ISI pursued and located those
responsible for the abuse and then sent a suicide bomber to the place.
ISI, September 14, 2007.
Roggio 2008b. The awakening movements have another enemy as well: Shiite militias who in turn think of the awakening groups as yet another military factor in Iraq
which is potentially hostile to the government. Due to this fear there have been efforts
to reconcile both groups.
7. Jihadism in Iraq
The tactic of assassination is used by the jihadists against the officials and supporters of other enemy groups as well. One case among many is an assassination
plot by AAS which:
managed to target one of the officials of the Kurdish security forces (al-Asayesh),
who is also one of the prominent members of the apostate Kurdistan Party [Kurdistan Democratic Party, KDP]. Surveillance and monitoring of him was performed
for a long time to gain familiarity of his residence, and at their [sic] appropriate time
at night, an explosive package which was not highly effective was planted under his
car. This was to protect the homes of the Muslims nearby in the neighborhood of alWastuk in Kirkuk.568
Although collateral casualties are more easily accepted in practice than in jihadi
theory, assassinations, unlike the more indiscriminate bombings, do have a particular target, which usually is somehow involved in organizing the fight against the
jihadists. Therefore, these attacks not only communicate a warning to other collaborators but may actually reduce the enemy’s capability to harm AQ.
Abductions and hostage taking
Another routine activity of Iraqi jihadists is abducting people. The messages announcing the capture of an individual usually provide evidence in the form of photo
IDs or pictures of the hostage. After interrogation and the confession of crimes
against the mujahedeen, the hostages are usually executed. In the later statements,
especially those of MSC and ISI, a pseudo Sharia Court is involved in checking the
allegations against the arrested and “executing Allah’s ruling.” Following a successful abduction demands are sometimes expressed, such as in the case of the hostage taking of eighteen employees of the Iraqi Ministry of Interior in the Governorate of Diyala by ISI in March 2007: “The Islamic State of Iraq gives the infidel
Maliki government an ultimatum to respond to the following demands […] to deliver the officers involved in this heinous act against our pious sister [an alleged
rape by Iraqi police forces] [and] to release all Sunni Muslim sisters in the prisons
of the apostate [Ministry of] Interior.”569
While the outrage about the rape incident may be authentic, the demands are definitely a PR strategy of the ISI to demonstrate its efforts to deliver justice to the
Iraqi people. The rape allegations were covered in the Iraqi press and even on alJazeera, where the women gave an interview and claimed to have been raped while
in police custody. The case caused a split within the Iraqi government between Shi-
AAS, August 5, 2007b.
ISI, March 2, 2003a.
7.2 Jihadi ideology in action: Claims of responsibility of AQI and AAS
ite officials who denied the allegations and Sunni officials who said it was actually
true.570 When the ultimatum ended 24 hours later the ISI announced:
The Shari’a Courts of the Islamic State of Iraq ordered the execution of these apostates who sold their religion for very cheap and justified [spilling] the blood of the
Sunnis in Iraq. And we say to the enemies of Allah, the supporters of these governments, don’t you see how your leaders don’t care about your blood? How can you
protect them and spare yourselves for them, while they don’t bother themselves even
to try to negotiate for your release. We will publish the execution film shortly, Allah
In other operations the ISI makes no offer for negotiations but just briefly announces the upcoming execution: “With the Grace of Allah, the director of al-Mansour
municipality was arrested near the police tunnel in the governorate of Baghdad, and
he will be executed according to Allah’s Rules, Allah willing.”572
In accordance with its global outlook, AQI also abducts diplomatic personnel representing “enemy” countries. Besides the case of the Russian diplomats discussed
above, the sample of communiqués includes three such cases in which AQI took as
hostages the Algerian envoy to Iraq Ali Belaroussi,573 five employees of the embassy of the Sudanese government in Baghdad,574 and the Egyptian envoy to Baghdad
Ihab al-Sherif.575 In all cases the message is addressed to the home countries of the
diplomats and demands that they cease diplomatic relations with the “infidel” government in Iraq or withdraw their troops from Iraq, as the case may be. The hostage
situation involving the Sudanese Embassy employees ended with Khartoum’s decision to (temporally) close its embassy in Baghdad. According to news reports all
five hostages were released, while al-Sherif and Belaroussi presumably were killed
by their kidnappers.
AAS abducts and kills civilian foreigners, too, but apparently the group abstains
from kidnapping diplomatic personnel to blackmail the governments of foreign
countries which do not employ troops in Iraq, or at least there is no such case in the
sample. The group does, however, arrest foreigners who are suspected to work for
the Iraqi government or as contractors of the coalition forces. 12 Nepalese laborers
were executed on such allegations while in the custody of AAS in August 2004,
presumably without AAS having stated any demands to the Nepalese government.
ISI, March 3, 2003.
ISI, January 17, 2007.
AQI, July 25, 2005.
AQI, December 29, 2005. The claim of responsibility states that five employees were
captured, while the Sudanese government speaks of six individuals, five embassy employees, and a “friend”: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4570588.stm.
AQI, July 5, 2007.
7. Jihadism in Iraq
Akihiko Saito, a Japanese security contractor of the British company Hart Security,
was captured in May 2005 and died of injuries suffered during the operation. The
claim of the abduction does not include any demands but rather the assertion “Ansar al-Sunnah Army captured a Japanese citizen. Allah willing, he will be slain.”576
More frequent than cases involving foreigners are cases in which Iraqi officials
or members of rival (mostly Shiite) groups are arrested, interrogated, and executed.
One such claim describes the confrontation of AAS with the Mahdi Army and the
Badr Brigade and the subsequent drumhead trial, which resulted in the group executing four fighters “by shooting them in the middle of the street and in front of the
people so they can be a lesson to all the Shi’ite double-crossers.”577
Apparently, the jihadi groups try to take captives whenever possible, because this
grants them more options than just assassinating or killing their enemies in battle:
Captives may provide important information, their “trials” can be used by the
group to demonstrate to its own constituency its capability to exercise law and establish order, or hostages may simply be used to blackmail decision makers. Moreover, hostage situations involving foreigners often provide media coverage; they
reveal the inability of the Iraqi government to effectively protect foreigners and
may deter foreigners from working in Iraq. Although there has been a kidnapping
and ransom market in Iraq, none of the statements demand ransom money.
Battles and military campaigns
The jihadi insurgents also engage in open confrontation with their various enemies,
and some messages describe the course of action of these operations, such as “Abi
Abdulaziz al-Ansari Battle” of the MSC, a one-day offensive against the US Army
and the Iraqi National Guard in Mossul in February 2006.578 The arsenal the mujahedeen brought into combat involved light and medium weapons such as mortars,
RPGs, machine guns, and sniper rifles. Two statements in the sample describe a
joint operation of AAS and the ISI, one against a convoy of US and Peshmerga
forces579 and the other against the US Army, the latter involving “a fierce and continuous confrontation lasting four hours.”580 Other messages describe defensive
battles, in which the mujahedeen came under attack in their strongholds, as happened in the “siege of al-Fadl neighborhood” in Baghdad on April 10, 2007.581
AAS, May 9, 2005.
AAS, November 2, 2006, see annex 3., No. 257.
See annex 3., No. 258.
AAS, January 29, 2008.
ISI, July 3, 2007.
AAS reports that during the joint Iraqi-US crackdown two inhabitants of the area
were executed in front of their relatives by the attackers. According to the statement,
7.2 Jihadi ideology in action: Claims of responsibility of AQI and AAS
From time to time the mujahedeen declare the beginning of military campaigns
which are supposed to give a series of subsequent attacks a common strategic direction, such as the “Military Operation Series of the Clear Conquest,” (started by
the MSC in October 2006). After the MSC’s name change the ISI declared “the
commencement of The Battle of al-Shedda [severity] against the Soldiers of the
Cross and Apostasy” in December 2006.582 The military series lasted about two
weeks and, according to “the harvest of al-Sheddah Invasion,”583 succeeded in killing over 1,000 enemies throughout various cities over which the ISI claims control.
ISI’s next campaign, bearing the name “Plan of Dignity” (announced January
2007), was intended to last until President Bush withdrew troops from Iraq.584 The
plan comprised several missions and operations, such as “the invasion of Sheihk
Al-Zarqawi,” in which seven leaders from the Awakening movement were assassinated within a few days,585 and the Blackwater company headquarters was shelled
with mortars.586 The ISI demonstrated good timing when it announced the end of
the Plan of Dignity after over two years in March 2009, just after President Obama
presented a timetable for a troop pullout from Iraq, thereby turning the event into
an alleged achievement of ISI’s military campaign. In the same statement the ISI
announces its follow-up campaign “Harvest of God” in order to adapt to new challenges in Iraq, namely the Iranian influence and rifts between insurgent groups.587
Whatever the actual strategic coherency and sophistication of these campaigns
may be, one of their purposes is to demonstrate that the group has a certain degree
of organization, working chains of command, and a plan of what to do. Nevertheless, when one looks at the actions the jihadists take responsibility for, their targets
and modus operandi appear to be opportunistic rather than strategically planned.
The messages in the sample do not indicate any notable strategic shift from one
campaign to another.588 This is not surprising when one takes into account that the
after this incident a revolt broke out in the neighborhood and the “Mujahideen in alAnsar and other groups […] after fierce battles – lasting until one hour before sunset
– they were able to shoot down two Apache planes” (AAS, April 12, 2007). The IntelCenter’s Terrorism Incident Reference entry for this day confirms the raid in
Baghdad’s central al-Fadl area and also states that “rebels fired on two US helicopters, a Blackhawk and an Apache, in central Baghdad. They were able to land safely”
(IntelCenter 2008, 168).
ISI, December 24, 2006.
ISI, January 13, 2007.
Kazimi 2007.
ISI, October 12, 2007.
ISI, December 1, 2007.
Siegel 2009, 3.
It must be noted that the sample of 196 communiqués out of several thousand is too
meager to say with certainty whether or not there is a significant shift in target priori-
7. Jihadism in Iraq
jihadists, despite all their efforts for publicity, have to keep certain military matters
secret. If they reveal their military directives openly it appears to serve PR purposes, such as their quota for the “revenge battle for honor,” which states that “this
battle will continue and not stop until the number of the dead from the Safawi forces, police, peacekeeping, al-Dajjal Army, and others reaches two thousand.”589
Commando operations and hit and run tactics
Although at certain times during the Iraqi civil war the jihadi movement was strong
enough to defy coalition forces in street battles and to hold positions in Baghdad’s
areas of Mansour, Doura, and Adhamiyah,590 as well as in Falludsha, Mossul, and
other cities, the mujahedeen prefer hit and run operations so as to avoid encounters
with coalition forces and the Iraqi Security Forces. Such a tactic gives the better
equipped and usually stronger enemy little chance to play off its advantage. Hit and
run attacks are integrated into the battles and military campaigns described above,
but they are also used in numerous stand-alone operations in which a team swiftly
attacks and swiftly withdraws from the scene. Typical tactics of this kind are the
shelling of compounds and buildings, drive-by shootings, bomb attacks, or ambushes on convoys. The targets and purpose of these operations vary; in the annexed example they are directed against volunteer centers of the Iraqi Security
Forces in order to deter potential recruits.591
Besides such rather simple attacks against soft targets, the insurgents also carry
out more complex commando operations which anticipate the sequence of events
during the operation and help them plan appropriate counter-measures, for instance
by mining supply and reinforcement routes with IEDs. A typical case of a prearranged confrontation is described in an AQI statement in which the group attacks a
joint base of US and Iraqi Forces. The first attacker is a suicide bomber who
breaches the security gate, then the attack unit embroils the guard towers in firefights, thereby allowing a driver in a car loaded with explosives to enter the base
and detonate the bomb while another unit “keeps the supply convoy busy, consisting of three Humvees.”592
Another swift commando operation of ISI’s “special brigade,” called “Hassan alZeidi Brigade,” successfully stormed the Badush prison in the city of Mosul after
“the Intelligence Department [of ISI] began studying and planning, and collecting
tization between a set of claims belonging to one campaign and one belonging to another.
ISI, March 2, 2007.
See online article of the Institute for the Study of War at: http://www.understanding
See annex 3., No. 259.
For the entire statement, see annex 3., No. 260.
7.2 Jihadi ideology in action: Claims of responsibility of AQI and AAS
information about ways to enter and exit from the prison, and also the places of
observation towers, and times of shifts in guard duty.”593 According to media
sources and the terrorism incident guide for Iraq, the team freed 140 prisoners,
while ISI claimed there were more than 150.594
The mujahedeen’s repertoire also includes some unconventional operations
which try to offset their disadvantage in terms of firepower by means much more
treacherous than the guerilla tactics described above. AAS claims to have killed
three guards at a checkpoint by offering them “a delicious meal of chicken and they
added poison before it was given to apostate individuals […] Without hesitation,
they accepted it and thanked the brothers and started eating it.”595 In another
treacherous attack, AAS bomb makers placed the actual bomb within a fake IED.
“The reason of doing this is to cause a small explosion and to trick the experts of
dismantling of explosives.”596 After the small explosion went off, officials brought
the alleged dud bomb “to the forensic headquarters in the police station of Tikrit,”
where the real bomb detonated. In August 2006, the “Abi Dajana al-Ansari Brigade” (MSC’s suicide brigade) carried out a type of attack which became increasingly common in the following years, namely a martyrdom operation carried out by
a female suicide bomber.597 There are also reports of AQI using mentally handicapped persons as bombers without their consent, such as in one incident that killed
almost 100 people at a market in Baghdad.598 Even dogs allegedly have been used
by AQI as mobile bomb carriers.
None of these unconventional means are novel: Poisoning is a classic means of
assassination, female suicide bombers have been active as so-called Black Widows
in the Chechen conflict and elsewhere, and anti-tank dogs were trained and used by
the Russian military in World War II. The jihadists in Iraq use a wide repertoire of
means to wreak havoc, and although it seems that they do not know any limits in
terms of whom and how they kill, some messages in the sample disclaim involvement in certain attacks. Again, one has to be cautious of taking such démenti as
true facts, but it is interesting to see that the insurgents take responsibility for all
sorts of despicable acts but reject others. AQI denied its role in the notorious 2006
bombing of the al-Askariyya mosque in Samarra and instead accused the Iraqi and
Iranian governments of being behind the plot,599 and it also denied being responsible for a suicide bombing killing more than 60 Shiite pilgrims near Imam Hussein
ISI, March 6, 2007.
IntelCenter 2008e, 112.
AAS, August 7, 2007.
AAS, November 19, 2007d.
Rubin 2008; Roggio 2008c.
Oppel 2008.
MSC, February 22, 2006.
7. Jihadism in Iraq
Shrine in January 2006, stating: “In spite of where the group stands regarding the
situation of the Shi’a in the Land of Two Rivers, al-Qaeda Organization in the
Land of Two Rivers announces that it is not responsible for what happened with
the explosion in Karbala lately.”600 Besides denying sectarian killings, the jihadists
also deny attacks against the Iraqi public, saying that these were allegations against
the mujahedeen made by the enemies’ media, which “picture the mujahideen as not
caring about killings and that they are not careful enough in choosing the targets
and confrontations. For that, the Mujahideen Shura Council assures you that what
happens, like attacking the general public in a crowded area without any clear reason and causes too many casualties, is not, for sure, the act of mujahideen.”601 At
least in theory, AQI adheres to AAZ’s jurisprudence about the permissibility of killing innocents, which states that excess should be avoided when targeting innocents
used by the enemy as human shields.
Ideological alignment of AQ central and AAS/AQI
AAS and AQI’s actions during the most violent years of the Iraqi civil war show
that there is ideological convergence, divergence, and innovation to the Salafi jihadi doctrine of AQ central. The following paragraphs assess the ideological
alignment of the jihadi ideology created by AQ central and its implementation and
alteration by jihadi groups within the Iraqi insurgency.602 Of particular interest in
this analysis is the narrative about the “instrumentality of force” as described in the
public statements of AQ’s leaders in AfPak and in the claims of responsibilities
issued by AQI and AAS.
Both groups have to “strike a balance between pragmatism and doctrinal extremism,” which “highlights some of the difficulties and challenges for groups motivated by a global agenda, but operating within a local context.”603 However, the ideological transfer between AQ central and its affiliates is not unidirectional but
mutual; the analysis shows that AQI’s experiences also lead jihadi leaders outside
Iraq to incorporate these impressions into their statements.
AQ’s worldview about the three existential threats to Islam (the global conflict,
apostasy, and secular governance) applies perfectly to Iraq, and therefore AAS and
AQI can easily adopt this thinking and take a clear position against the three threats
that materialized in Iraq: foreign occupation, factions collaborating with the coalition forces, and processes of democratization in the country.
AQI, January 9, 2006.
MSC, February 6, 2006.
Reuven Paz (2009) describes the impact the war in Iraq had on the wider jihadi
Tønnessen 2009, 14.
7.3 Ideological alignment of AQ central and AAS/AQI
Not every aspect of the global ideology is of relevance for the Iraqi jihadists.
Apparently, the efforts of AQ central to gain religious supremacy over the mainstream interpretation of Islam is something that AAS and AQI are not preoccupied
with. Themes which more closely coincide with the content of the claims of responsibility are the theological and strategic reasons to deny democracy. It goes
without saying that they boycotted the three major elections in 2005 (January 2005,
parliamentary elections; October 2005, referendum on Iraqi constitution; December
2005, general elections). AQI asserts that “victory does not pass by the ballot boxes
or believing in the religion of ‘democracy,’”604 and when the group took credit for
a suicide bombing against the Parliament Building in Baghdad’s Green Zone it
declared: “It is obviously known that legislation is the unequivocal right of Allah
Almighty, and that whoever challenges this right disbelieves. These disbelieving
parliamentarians challenge the Lord of earth and heaven for his rule, and deserve
nothing but death.”605 From a strategic point of view, the mujahedeen oppose democratic processes in Iraq because they may attract “the Sunni people and some resistance factions to enter into the constitutional vote process with a ‘yes or no,’”606
a development which is not likely to realize any of the goals of AAS and AQI.
Another feature of the global jihadi movement which is also a trait of AQI is the
uncompromising position against any form of collaboration with either the Iraqi
government or the US forces. This trait became a matter of severe conflict between
Sunni armed groups and AQI when some insurgents came to the conclusion that
they could achieve their goals better without AQ and with (temporary) support
from the US and therefore gradually changed their position towards the occupiers
from hostile to cooperative.607 While transnational jihadists were initially given
credit by other insurgents for their sincere and fierce resistance to the US occupation, later on many insurgent groups came to believe that AQI was the actual obstacle for the liberation of Iraq because the US would not withdraw troops from a
country in which AQ was on the rise. As this trend in thinking proliferated within
the Sunni resistance and became known to leaders of AQ in AfPak, AAZ responded:
AQI, December 6, 2005.
ISI, April 13, 2007; see also: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6550923.stm.
AAS, August 13, 2007.
Al-Jabouri and Jensen identify four factors which transformed the Iraqi insurgency.
The first factor is the threat to security from Shiite militias and indiscriminate bombings in public. AQI was made partially responsible for both, because it enforces sectarian tensions and because of its indiscriminate tactics. The second factor according
to the two authors is the more considerate planning of the US in Iraq. Thirdly, the
Anbar Revolutionaries served as trailblazers and models for successful cooperation
with the US against AQI, and fourthly, there are insurmountable differences between
Salafi ideology and the nationalistic ambitions of most Sunni armed groups (AlJabouri & Jensen 2010, 8).
7. Jihadism in Iraq
That’s why this movement – the movement of the charlatans who sell religion – is
keen to repeat a fiction which says that as long as the resistance remains, the occupation will remain. […] if all free men and Mujahideen of Iraq turn into traitors and
charlatans like you who sell religion for a little worldly gain and turn into agents of
American intelligence and protectors of Crusader and Jewish interests, then the occupation will leave because he will be satisfied that his interests are being fulfilled
As AQI started to intimidate Sunni insurgent groups which supposedly talked with
the US in secret or openly (such as the 1920 Revolutionary Brigade and the Islamic
Army in Iraq),609 the reluctance toward AQI grew and finally led the Anbar Salvation Council to organize, together with the US, a solution to the jihadi nuisance.
While AAS took a skeptical stance toward the Awakening movements, its claims
of responsibility included in the sample do not indicate any military activity against
them. Apparently, AAS was considerate enough to foresee the consequences a sustained confrontation with the Awakening movement would have.610
The chapter about the instrumentality of force (chapter 6.3.1) shows that jihadi
activism has a strategic as well as a religious dimension and that the two themes,
the politically and the religiously inspired promotion of the armed conflict, are
quite different from each other. The claims of responsibility show that this divide is
not only of a theoretical nature but is followed strictly in practice by the jihadi insurgents.
Religious aspects of jihadi violence
When other Islamist movements criticize the jihadi movement for its sometimes illconsidered military and terrorist action, the ideologues ardently defend armed jihad
by highlighting its religious value. According to AQ’s thinking, jihad is a straightforward military means and religious performance at the same time. Religious expectations compensate for strategic expectations and vice versa. When militant
action is strategically questionable, desperate, or otherwise inappropriate, it is
nonetheless carried out for assumed theological reasons. This behavior is what
clearly sets AQI apart from other Sunni insurgent groups who call their fight
against the US, the Iraqi government, and even against AQI a jihad too.
The rules of jihadi ideology clearly proscribe participation in elections on the basis of secular law, and they proscribe any form of negotiation or collaboration with
AAZ, September 11, 2006, 75.
Tønnessen 2009, 6.
See annex 3., No. 270. Presumably there have been sporadic hostilities between AAS
and the Awakening Council. One such incident is listed in an unclassified report of
the Australian government on Ansar al-Islam.
7.3 Ideological alignment of AQ central and AAS/AQI
the US. Both are cornerstones of the jihadi ideology represented in the two narratives about apostasy and the denial of secular governance. Both narratives are put
into action by AQI and also partially by AAS. This uncompromising stance isolated AQI in particular, while AAS was somehow able to strike a balance between
ideological stubbornness and political pragmatism. Strategically, it seems to have
been a mistake for AQI to follow AQ’s apostasy paradigm, which unconditionally
declares all collaborators apostates (religious trading charlatans) and hostile, no
matter how close they are culturally, ethnically, or otherwise. AQI consequentially
applied this doctrine by assassinating prominent Sunni tribal leaders of the Anbar
Awakening councils.611 It is hard to imagine that AQI leaders did not foresee the
strategic consequences of creating another front with the influential Sunni Awakening councils, despite their common interest to put an end to the US occupation. But
not fighting the collaborating tribes would have violated one of the main ideological principles of jihadism, namely to dismiss political and strategic calculation in
favor of religious doctrine. The jihadi fundamentalists in Iraq thereby preserved the
“pristine methodology of jihad” which, according to the ideologists, stipulates for
apostates who ally with the alleged crusaders in the alleged war on Islam to be
fought no matter who they are. Zarqawi explained this view in one of his statements as follows: “[A] Muslim American is our dear brother: an infidel Arab is our
hated enemy, even if we both come from the same womb.”612
AQI seems to be a prisoner of its own ideology. The doctrinal extremists within
the jihadi movement apparently prefer losing halal (permissible according to Islamic law) to wining haram (impermissibly). This position resembles the theme about
the religious instrumentality of force by AQ ideologue AYL, who states that jihadi
violence has an inherent religious value and therefore cannot be evaluated in regard
to strategic considerations alone. Religious expectations can compensate for strategic expectations. If a jihadi military campaign appears to have little strategic value,
such as AQI’s decisions to oppose the Sunni Awakening movement with its temporary 100,000 armed fighters, the religious value of performing jihad is highlighted.
It is interesting to see that the jihadists stick to their rigorous dogma although there
are alternative legal interpretations by prestigious authorities in Islamic law. They
would allow for much more considerate strategies, whereas the doctrinal consistency of the jihadi-Salafi movement can impede military achievements in certain situations.
Generally speaking, it appears that the strict rules in all spheres of life promoted
by Salafism and imported to Iraq are not well-suited to win the hearts and minds of
the local Muslim population. Nevertheless, AQI ostentatiously upholds its doctrinal
foundations in order to remain a distinctive entity in the universe of the Iraqi insur____________
Tønnessen 2009, 7.
Cited by al-Shishani 2005b.
7. Jihadism in Iraq
gency. The Salafi jihadists believe that they belong to a chosen and victorious sect
and therefore act according to their predestined role. AAZ appeals to these exceptions when he says:
History will recall that when the Crusaders invaded Iraq, the free Mujahideen confronted them, and the charlatans who deal in religion cooperated with them. They
deliberately and eagerly cooperated with the occupier while knowing full well his
The religious incentive for fighting against the “apostate-crusader alliance,” even
against all strategic odds, is that the mujahedeen thereby demonstrate their belonging to the victorious sect. This expectation seems to be an important factor for the
social cohesion of a group which is, according to most other standards, culturally as
well as socially deviant and religiously heterodox. While the feeling of belonging
to a divinely chosen group might be one immanent reward for actors participating
in jihad, the expectation to enter paradise when dying on this path is the transcendent reward, which might explain why some people enjoy the earthly reward of social cohesion and group belonging despite the immanent risk of being killed.
Strategic aspects of jihadi violence
In addition to the religious aspects of jihadi violence, the jihadi groups in Iraq also
communicate political-strategic expectations about the use of force. Compared to
the geopolitical version of the theme “instrumentality of force” within the ideology
of AQ central, the Iraqi jihadists touch upon more immediate issues about the Iraqi
insurgency and seldom put their militant action into a broader geopolitical context.
Military terminology distinguishes between the strategic, tactical, and operational
levels. Jessee proposes the term “strategy” for AQ’s action with geopolitical consequences, “tactic” for jihadi action with locally limited implications, and “operation” for methods in between.614 AQ certainly operates on all three levels, but this
study does not strictly follow this distinction in order to remain open for findings
which do not fit these categories. Instead, it prefers the broader expression “instrumentality of force,” which can include strategic, operational, tactical, and other
(e.g., religious) expectations about the benefits of engaging in violent activism.
The most straightforward purpose of jihadi activities are kidnappings in connection with concrete political demands, such as the release of prisoners or the drawback of foreign troops from Iraq. While hostage taking is not explicitly promoted in
the 31 statements from AQ central, the demands of Iraqi jihadists are usually in line
with the general goals of the global jihadi movement. Other than that, the three
issues from the theme “instrumentality of force” – retaliation/punishment, deter____________
AAZ, September 11, 2006.
Jessee 2006, 368.
7.3 Ideological alignment of AQ central and AAS/AQI
rence, and weakening of the enemy – are represented to some extent in the insurgent’s messages.
In every fifth claim, the sole or primary stated reason for the attack is retaliation
or punishment. The strategy of retaliation seems to be a common element in the
military repertoire of the jihadi insurgents.615
Basically there are two different kinds of retaliation and punishment presented in
the claims: The first is punishment in the judicial sense, executed after the show
trials of the mujahedeen’s Sharia courts. The second kind is reprisal attacks. In the
show trials the jihadists raise some allegations against their captives, interrogate
them, and then usually execute the accused after the verdict. Not only are enemy
combatants executed if they are unlucky enough to get caught, but also more neutral actors. Within a single day, AAS claimed to have executed two of its prisoners,
one of whom confessed on video to be a member of a death squad from the Iraqi
Ministry of Interior who had arrested and killed mujahedeen, and the other of
whom stated that he was a press photographer from al-Wasat journal (his press
card is presented) and that he had “worked together with the Americans.”616 Notwithstanding whether the one actually was a death squad leader or whether he
falsely confessed this under torture, the two messages clearly illustrate the excessive use of retaliatory violence by jihadists, who consider a press photographer to
be equally punishable to a death squad leader. The jihadists react in the same way
to such diverse “crimes” because they hold all their enemies collectively liable for
their grievances, no matter what the exact responsibility of the individual is. This
thinking apparently is the consequence of the mujahedeen’s inability to exercise
their law in a top-down system. Although they publicly demonstrate their efforts to
punish those who are directly responsible for the grievances, e.g., by offering
“10,000 grams of gold to whoever kills Paul Bremer” (at this time head of the coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq) or “Kofi Annan, the head of his mission to
Iraq, or his representatives, like Lakhdar Brahim,”617 the mujahedeen usually kill
those they can get as substitutes for the perceived crimes of others.
Of course, both are abstract motivations, which in turn can serve different purposes.
When people experience injustice they usually have an urgent feeling to react one
way or the other. In a situation of civil collapse such as in the Iraqi conflict, any kind
of reaction to injustice other than performing violence sooner or later loses its significance because it drowns in the stream of all the other tragic and relevant events. Violence, however, is something the wrongdoer and others cannot so easily ignore and
which might have the potential to correct his action, incapacitate him, or deter others.
This is not to say that this is strategically rational behavior: On the contrary, people
punish others even when the costs and efforts of doing so are disproportionately high
and the effect is low.
AAS, May 8, 2007a+b.
UBL, May 6, 2004.
7. Jihadism in Iraq
The other modus operandi through which punishment and retaliation is carried
out are military operations and bombings. Many claims for attacks do not state any
purpose other than taking revenge for some previous enemy attack, such as the series of “revenge attacks for the Sunni people in Talafar,”618 referring to Operation
Restoring Rights in the city of Talafar, in which the Iraqi Security Forces “for the
first time played a decisive part, a fact highlighted in insurgent communiqués.”619
The attacks in revenge for Talafar were carried out not in Talafar but in Baghdad
and were directed against representatives of the government. Just as in the example
of “judicial punishment,” the jihadists retaliate against those they can reach. Another series of reprisal attacks was launched by AQI in revenge for the killing of
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Punishment and retaliation are recurring motives in the communiqués of the Iraqi
jihadists. From analyzing the communiqués alone, it cannot be concluded whether
retaliation is the actual motivational driver behind these attacks, or whether retaliation just provides a convenient justification and explanation for the violence the
mujahedeen are performing for possibly other, not officially declared reasons. Although it sounds cynical, people whose routine is to kill others and avoid being
killed may forget about their initial motivation, lack the time to reflect on their
deed, and consider the need to explain their action as a burdensome duty. In an
environment of rampant violence, retaliation may be one of the last commonly understood motives. Of course there are different opinions on whether the triggering
event justifies retaliatory violence or not, but retaliation is at least widely anticipated as a consequence of the military efforts against the mujahedeen. To what extent
such anticipation influences the decisions of the US military and the Iraqi Security
Forces is another question. But more than that, the jihadists seem to be interested in
the reciprocity of violence when they announce “that this battle [the Revenge Battle
for Honor] will continue and not stop until the number of the dead from the Safawi
forces, police, peacekeeping, al-Dajjal Army, and others, reaches two thousand
people, one thousand for each sister whose honor was hurt.”620 While such messages apparently appeal to affectivity, or are expressions thereof, other messages show
that the jihadists do also expect the violence they perform to have a deterrent effect.
The assumed (or claimed) deterrent and intimidating effect of jihadi violence can
be seen in a message by the military department of Tawhid wal-jihad, which explains the group’s motivation for a series of attacks as follows:
In addition to the security, military and economic indications, this operation carried
a strong political message to Washington’s allies in its war and aggression on the Islamic Nation. […] They must understand that, should they continue this alliance,
AQI, September 14, 2005a-c.
ICG 2006, 24.
ISI, March 2, 2007.
7.3 Ideological alignment of AQ central and AAS/AQI
they had better be prepared to pay the price with their blood and interests. Those
who have not understood the message to abandon their support of the occupation,
and stop their interception of the Mujahideen, still have time to reconsider their positions before it is too late.621
The audience to which the deterrent messages are addressed varies. In the previous
example it is very broad and general, while other messages have the more specific
intention of intimidating Iraqi people to keep them from doing certain jobs for the
US forces or the Iraqi government. After AAS captured a female translator working
at an American base in Tikrit, it warned other female translators in particular to
stop their work. The statement points out that female translators play a crucial role
for the coalition forces since many male translators have stopped working due to
the high risk of being killed by the mujahedeen. According to the statement, women, like the abducted translator, can more easily hide their employment because
they can pass the checkpoints of the mujahedeen unnoticed when wearing a “hijab,
which took advantage of the Mujahideen’s respect for those who wear it.”622
Claiming to have obtained a list of other female translators in the area, AAS warns
them to “leave your work immediately before we get you. Your fate will be the
same as those who came before you … you have a choice.” This is just one example of the intimidation strategy against Iraqis working with contracting firms, the
Iraqi government, or the coalition forces. Translators, employees in other occupational groups, and their families are exposed to a high risk and only increasing salaries can avoid a shortage of crucial services.
The third strategic purpose of jihadi violence the insurgents occasionally express
in their messages is that they frustrate the interests of the enemy in Iraq with their
attacks and demonstrate their own operational capability. Many claims for highprofile attacks, such as attacks within the Green Zone or against prominent targets,
stress the point that the mujahedeen operate freely in Iraq and strike where they
want and against whom they want. After the assassination of the President of the
Iraqi Governing Council Ezzedine Salim, Tawhid wal jihad boasted that they:
will continue their strikes, with God’s permission, until the whole world knows that
the Crusade on Islam and Muslims failed. It will not succeed, and will not have the
fruitful results that the Jews and Crusaders desire. […] [W]hat the Mujahideen have
done so far, through their operations, their sacrificing of blood, money and time, is
enough proof of this Ummah’s [Nation] capability to give, confront, resist, and triumph.623
The jihadists in Iraq seek to demonstrate their own capability and to frustrate the
achievements of their enemies by striking on the occasion of political events such
Tawhid wal-jihad, May 22, 2004.
AAS, June 18, 2006.
Tawhid wal-jihad, May 17, 2004.
7. Jihadism in Iraq
as state visits or political speeches. It is a well-documented strategy of terrorism to
choose the right timing or highly symbolic targets to maximize attention. The Iraqi
insurgents seek publicity in this way as well, in order to demonstrate to a large audience the failure of their enemies to stabilize Iraq and provide security. After a
spate of attacks in Baghdad coinciding with a trip by Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafaari made to Washington in 2005 in order to discuss security matters with George
W. Bush, AAS declared:
The whole world watched the speeches of Bush and al-Jafaari at the press conference yesterday, and their failure to convince even the audience, especially when
voices rose higher from inside America itself to admit the severe hits which American forces and its allies get in Iraq. From inside Iraq, the mujahideen proved the
failure of Operation Lightning. After the mujahideen went down in several areas of
Baghdad and had complete control over it, even the American forces did not dare to
interfere, being afraid of the ambush prepared by the mujahideen.624
The statement claims that al-Jafaari’s speech, which aimed to highlight the success
of Operation Lightning in improving the security situation in Baghdad, stood in
sharp contrast to reality. In one of his statements, AAZ provides another example of
how AQ ridicules its enemies. At the occasion of a 2007 joint press conference
with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki and Ban Ki-Moon, insurgents were able to detonate a mortar shell in close proximity to the place in the Green Zone where the
conference was being held.625 AAZ uses clips from the press conference video
which show the trembling room and Ban Ki-Moon’s frightened reaction. AAZ comments on the video clip sarcastically by inviting President Bush to the cafeteria of
the Iraqi Parliament to drink a glass of juice with him over his successful security
Although only few messages explicitly try to debunk the enemy’s claims of success in Iraq, this seems to be the message many other attacks convey implicitly, in
particular those which remain unclaimed. In an article about violence against civilians in Iraq, Boyle explains this point: “[M]any of the spectacular attacks have few
coherent goals beyond denying the American military’s efforts to establish a functioning state. […] These attacks are generally marked by the desire to see as many
dead as possible, without a clear delivery of threat beforehand or credible political
demand afterwards. […] They lack in Lawrence Freedman’s terms a ‘narrative’
which helps the threats to be interpreted by the intended recipients.”627 However,
when terrorists do claim their acts the intention is to make them appear stronger
than they actually are and to make the enemy appear more impotent than it actually
AAS, June 25, 2005.
Semple 2007.
AAZ, May 4, 2007.
Boyle (2009, 278) referring to Freedman 2007, 320.
7.3 Ideological alignment of AQ central and AAS/AQI
might be. Public perception is crucial in this regard; if the public believes the disparity in power between the mujahedeen and the Iraqi government is small they
will act differently than if they trust the Iraqi government to control the terrorist
Not all strategic purposes of jihadi activism are openly declared. This is not surprising since strategic success partially depends on secrecy. Most notable in this
regard is how Zarqawi made the strategic decision to spark sectarian violence,
trusting that a sectarian divide in Iraq would grant him political advantages. Zarqawi targeted Shiites in order to distract the beginning negotiations between Sunni
tribal leaders and the US occupiers, thereby avoiding the otherwise inevitable clash
with influential Sunni tribes.628 Through this move he was expecting to bisect the
conflict to form a clear cut front between Shia-US on the one hand and united Sunnis on the other, hoping that AQI would be the leader of the latter.629 Many of these
attacks remained undeclared (most notably the Askariyya mosque bombing on February 2006 in Samarra) or were justified on other than sectarian grounds. These
attacks were not in line with AQ’s doctrine, but although Zarqawi pledged alliance
to UBL he operated his group somewhat independently of AQ central.
Ideological transfer and lessons learned
The line of ideological influence between AQ in AfPak and AQI is not unidirectional. There are clear indications that the Iraqi experience influences the ideology
of AQ central, although this influence is limited. When looking into the content of
the 31 statements by AQ’s leaders which deal specifically with Iraq, one can see
that this content is part of the aforementioned jihadi journalism: facts and information which support and illustrate the more abstract issues, themes, and narratives
in AQ’s ideology.630 AQ’s leaders selectively include events and observations from
the Iraqi conflict in their statements in order to confirm classical jihadi thinking,
but there are no fundamental ideological innovations, with the exception of AAZ’s
description of the “religious trading charlatans.” For UBL, the war in Iraq is just
another example for the global conflict between the “Crusaders and Islam,” and
Saddam Hussein is just another apostate: “Indeed, Saddam is a thief and an apostate, but the solution should never have been to transfer Iraq from the indigenous
Fishman 2006, 22.
Although it is well known that al-Zarqawi terrorized the Shiite population to spark
sectarian clashes, the claims of responsibility are reluctant to specify this tactic but rather justify the killing of Shiites based on their function within the (apostate) government and their hostility against the mujahedeen, not on the sole ground that they are
When coded as a category of its own, the theme “Iraq” is the largest single category.
8.4 percent (that is 15,000 words) of the content from the sampled statements of AQ
leaders in AfPak refers directly to Iraq.
7. Jihadism in Iraq
thief to the foreign thief.”631 Other passages include recommendations and appeals
to the insurgents.
Jihadi journalism also is supposed to demonstrate to its audience the strength and
capability of the jihadists in Iraq. To give one example: One video interview with
AAZ includes an ISI video clip that shows insurgent activity and footage of US
General Sanchez and the police chief of Diyala admitting their heavy losses. The
ISI video is occasionally interrupted by a choreographed conversation between
AAZ and the interviewer in which both praise the military achievements allegedly
made by the ISI.632
The predominant theme of the Iraqi-related content is apostasy. The complexity
and the cultural environment of the Iraqi conflict have added to AQ’s experience
with the near enemy. AQI has witnessed unexpected alliances between its former
allies and the US. In an attempt to explain the reasons for and motivations of traitorous insurgent armed groups, AAZ invented the term “religious trading charlatans,” who are the third phenomenological group of the near enemies alongside the
defeatists and the beggars according to AAZ’s classification. The Anbar Salvation
Council is their prototype, but there are also various other Sunni insurgent groups
who stopped fighting the occupation and turned against AQI due to political opportunism and a dislike for AQI’s indiscriminate violence. Large parts of AAZ’s descriptions of this group take developments of the Iraqi insurgency as examples.
UBL, in one of his speeches in support of the ISI, lectures about the similarities of
the Afghan insurgency and the Iraqi insurgency, concluding that treason of former
mujahedeen is a common element in both conflicts. He compares the assassinated
Anbar leader Abdul Sattar Abu Risha with Afghan military leaders such as Rabbani
or Ahmad Shah Massoud, who both fought against the Soviet occupation but later
turned against the Taliban as leaders of the Northern Alliance.633 Occasionally, the
AQ leaders use the media of Iraqi insurgent groups in their video statements to illustrate a point in their message. For instance, one interview with AAZ includes
clips from the documentary “The Insurgency against the Evil of Mankind,” produced by AAS. The clip shows a group of masked members of AAS as they discuss their experience with the Anbar Revolutionaries in the shadow of a palm tree.
The speakers express their respect for the clans in al-Anbar and al-Ramadi, claiming that many of their members fight for AAS but also naming individuals from
these clans whom they consider apostates.634 These clips spice up the often endless
monologues or interviews of the ideologues and demonstrate that they do not only
UBL, December 16, 2004.
See annex 3., No. 282.
See annex 3., No. 280.
See annex 3., No. 281.
7.4 Conclusion
have abstract theoretical and theological knowledge but also know about facts and
details on the ground.
The analysis of the communiqués of AAS and AQI in the time from 2004 to 2007
has shown different purposes of jihadi militancy. In line with the ideology of AQ
central, the Iraqi mujahedeen assume religious and strategic benefits from the use
of force, whereas religious purposes can obstruct strategic success. AQI apparently
is willing to sacrifice strategic success in favor of coherency with the ideology of
AQ central. The analysis of the communiqués has also shown that the narrative
about the strategic instrumentality of force of AQ central is put into action by AQI
and AAS, though with certain adaptations to account for the regional nature of the
conflict, while the geopolitical implications of AQ’s strategy are not their main
The jihadi ideology is evidently relevant for jihadi insurgents, but there are also
examples of their disregard for it. Although the jihadi ideology is critical of Shiite
positions, it does not call for an all-out confrontation with the Shias. Nonetheless, a
considerable portion of violence in Iraq is directed against Shiite targets, be they
governmental or civilian. Such ideas are not openly promoted in the statements of
the jihadi leaders in AfPak. Rather, the jihadi doctrine states that collaborators with
the US have to be fought, no matter how influential and strong they might be. After
Zarqawi’s death, AQI (by this time called the ISI) consequentially launched an
assassination campaign against tribal leaders in al-Anbar and elsewhere. Considering the weak position of the ISI after 2009, it seems that the group held on to the
particular principles of the ideology which caused strategic disadvantages (namely
battling the Sunni Awakening movements and clan structures) while disregarding
principles that could have brought about more success (namely avoiding excessive
targeting of neutral Muslim civilians and a sectarian clash with Shias).635 It seems
that AQ central often does not adhere to its own doctrines either when striking civilian targets. However, the civilian casualties in Iraq are excessive even for jihadi
standards. While this strategy was initially successful in undermining everything
the US and the Iraqi government tried to achieve, in the end it facilitated the coalition between the Anbar Awakening Councils and the US, which drove the nail into
the coffin of AQI. It is one of the most characteristic traits of jihadi fundamentalist
that they prefer military loss over military achievements if they can only achieve
victory by violating their principles, which they consider to be Islamic principles.
In this regard religious fanaticism outweighs political opportunism and pragmatism. For the jihadi movement this trait is a vulnerability and an asset at the same
See AAZ’s jurisprudence about the permissibility to kill civilians.
7. Jihadism in Iraq
time. While it can obstruct strategic achievements, it also indicates doctrinal coherence and substantiates the claim that jihadism is the impartial and unbiased interpretation of Islam, or in other words, the fundamentalist interpretation of Islam.
Summary, conclusions, and outlook
The ideology of jihadism contains too many reasonable political claims to be dismissed as purely religious fanaticism, but it also makes too many fanatical religious
claims to be accepted as a reasonable, not to say legitimate, political position. Upon
closer scrutiny, it becomes apparent that a large part of the legitimate political criticism of AQ is adopted by the ideologues precisely in order to appear as a goaloriented, reasonable movement with a clear political agenda. If it did not address
popular grievances, AQ’s ideology would be marginal in the Arab world. AQ attributes all sociopolitical problems, like corruption or state repression, to the inherent flaws of secular governance and promotes the model of the Salafi theocracy
instead to remedy these problems. This, however, is a vision many moderate Islamists (not to mention the liberal elites and modernists) do not share. They seek political change, including the assertion of Islamic principles, but not by radical means
and without trading the nation-state for a fundamentalist emirate with strict and
unpopular laws.
If the revolutions in the Arab world succeed in bringing about the overdue political change, AQ has to come up with a new appealing narrative, or otherwise they
might lose their raison d’être and end up as an irrelevant social movement with an
outdated agenda. It is now up to the ‘moderate Islamists’ (a description many in the
West believe to be an oxymoron) to make the jihadi ideology completely obsolete
or to moderate the jihadists most extremist positions in their jurisprudence about
takfir, jihad, and siyar.
In conclusion, this study delineates the theological and political positions, sentiments, views, claims, and grievances expressed by AQ AfPak in a sample of 31
statements. AQ’s expectations about the benefits for the use of force are imbedded
in the general thematic structure of their ideology. Religious and strategic expectations converge in AQ’s rationale for violence. Due to this vagueness, jihadi militancy is not strictly goal oriented in the strategic sense, but nevertheless rational
according to jihadi rationality. In order to better understand this rationality and its
peculiarity, chapters 1 and 2 described the Western academic conceptions of terrorism as a form of political violence, and jihadism as an ideology of a certain Islamic
social movement.
It is important to thoroughly describe what jihadism is, because the various opinions, positions, worldviews, assertions, and theological views of different Islamist
movements are sometimes difficult to distinguish by outsiders, not least because
they partially overlap. Figure 1 on page 50 summarizes the constitutive traits and
8. Summary, conclusions, and outlook
particularities of jihadism. In contrast to other forms of Islamic activism, jihadists
reject all forms of secular law as a source of legislation and constitutional legitimacy and oppose all profane tendencies by means of militancy. Through a distinctive
corpus of jurisprudence they want to prove that their militant activism fulfills the
legal requirements of a (defensive) jihad as stipulated in Sharia law and that it is
therefore the individual duty of Muslims to defend Islam against the threats of secularism, apostasy (governments in the Middle East), and the global enemy (Israel
and the US).
In addition to the phenomenological model of jihadism, this study describes an
analytical model of political and terrorist violence. According to this model, the
preference or the indifference in the choice of targets is a meaningful criterion to
distinguish between different types of political violence, such as guerilla tactics and
terrorist tactics. This model makes the case that terrorist violence is not self-evident
and that it should be considered as just another occurrence within the broad behavioral range of interpersonal violence. For this understanding, it is essential to avoid
the usage of the term “civilian victim” because it makes terrorist violence per definition illegitimate. As for the question what we can reasonably perceive as terrorism, the question of legitimacy is not analytically relevant. The question here is not
whether a certain form of political violence is ethical, legitimate, or legal but what
the empirical traits of such actions are. The answer to this question is not given by
distinguishing between whether the victims of political violence are civilian or military, neutral or partial, innocent or responsible, but whether the assailant is indifferent between a civilian and a military victim, or between a neutral and a partial
According to this understanding, terrorist violence is defined here as physical
harm against humans committed by an assailant who is indifferent about who the
victim is, and indifferent about what the political consequences of these attacks are.
This is not to argue that terrorist violence is irrational; it would be irrational if the
perpetrator knows that the consequences would worsen his situation. The peculiar
thing about terrorists is that they do not anticipate specific consequences but assume that all possible consequences will improve their situation one way or the
other. For violence at the other end on the continuum, where purpose and victim
are narrowly defined, the purpose of the attack determines the victim (see Table 2
on page 23).
Political violence à la jihadism includes all different types of militant action,
from indiscriminate bombings to targeted assassinations. Since terrorist violence is
characterized by multitude of expectations about what can be achieved through the
use of force, the empirical results of this study provide an answer to the question of
what these various expectations actually are. AQ has strategic as well as religious
expectations about the use of force and violence. In this regard this study adds empirical support to Jeffrey Cozzens’ suggestion that global jihadi violence should not
only be understood as functionalistic (that is, violence with straightforward politi-
8. Summary, conclusions, and outlook
cal aims) but also as a form of cultural expression.636 According to these mixed
expectations, religious performance can compensate for possible strategic flaws,
and therefore the jihadists are indeed indifferent about various consequences of
many of their attacks, as long as they consider the attack to be part of jihad warfare.
This is the rationale of jihadi violence as communicated in AQ’s media. At the very
least, even if this is not the personal motivation of individual jihadists, this rationale is a PR strategy to defend AQ’s militant activism against the criticism of
other Islamist movements who blame AQ for their apparent strategic and tactical
shortcomings, that is, for engaging in terrorism. AQ ideologues reply to such accusations as follows:
[W]hen the jurists (may Allah have mercy on them) divided acts of worship [jihad]
they never even imagined the definition of ‘means’ which is held up by contemporaries who have made this phrase a cushion from which to abandon Jihad, shirk its
burdens and search for alternatives with which they claim they will reach the same
goal the Jihad will reach.637
Therefore, AYL argues, jihad cannot be dismissed on strategic grounds alone but
has to be carried out even against all strategic odds.
Chapter 4 sets out a standardized research design for content analysis which is
appropriate to analyze ideologies of any given kind. This methodology mixes approaches from discourse analysis, frame analysis, social movement theory, grounded theory, and content analysis. Automated concept mapping (using the scientific
software Leximancer) was conducted to complement and cross check the results of
interpretative coding with MAXQDA (see annex section 1). The linguistic-statistical analysis of AQ statements divides AQ’s ideology into two dimensions which
are also latent in most of the narratives and themes: a theological and political dimension. This finding is consistent with human coding, which shows that the ideologues give most aspects political and theological consideration, or to use the
words of the ideologues, “rational” and “legal” consideration. By means of this
mixed methodology and the scientific software MAXQDA, chapter 6 dissects the
ideology of jihadism in order to scrutinize its individual narratives, themes, and
topics, as well as its hidden agenda. Content analysis is a useful method not only
for structuring and mapping the explicit content of jihadi media, but also for identifying hidden and implicit themes through relational analysis. The results provide a
comprehensive picture of the different jihadi political and theological positions,
strategies, and goals focusing on the question of how the ideology describes political (jihadi) violence to be necessary, legitimate, and functional for realizing the
Cozzens 2007, 129.
AYL, September 9, 2007, 65.
8. Summary, conclusions, and outlook
Through the use of force, AQ wants to achieve strategic, tactical, and operative
goals, but it also seeks to demonstrate religious supremacy over competing Islamist
movements. The chapter about the religious instrumentality of force (chapter 6.3.
1.2) shows that jihadi activism has a strategic as well as a religious dimension and
that the two themes, the politically and the religiously inspired promotion of the
armed conflict, are quite different from each other. The claims of responsibility of
jihadist groups in Iraq show that this divide is not only of a theoretical nature but is
strictly followed in practice by some jihadi insurgents, namely AQI and to some
degree AAS. Other Sunni insurgent groups first adopted and later discarded AQ’s
ideology. It seems that AQ activists participate in jihad because it is the only remaining option for demonstrating even more devotion to Islam than the already
pious and austere Salafi community and even more military determination than
other Islamist movements. In AYL’s words, the mix of various strategic and religious expectations is the “genuine pillar of the Jihadist methodology.” It is a
trademark which distinguishes AQ from other Islamist movements striving for institutionalized political power on the one hand, and from the inherently nonpolitical Salafi fundamentalists striving for religious supremacy on the other. Because jihad is at the same time a political means and religious performance for the
jihadists, they can appreciate military achievements and military loss equally. The
more desperate and unsuccessful the military action is, the more self-sacrificing
and devout it appears, because the jihadists claim to defend Islamic principles
where everyone else has already surrendered. Although AQ does not publicly state
it, one implicit purpose of performing jihad seems to be to maintain ideological
segregation from moderates, and thus allegedly effete Islamist groups. The ideological assets of the jihadi movement are certainly bigger than its military assets. On
the ideological front, AQ is particularly vulnerable because it cannot compensate
losses so easily in this domain.
During the writing of this book, important political events and developments have
taken place. First, two of the ideologues whose statements have been analyzed were
killed by US forces. On May 2, 2011 UBL was killed in his compound in Abbottabad during the US Operation Neptune Spear. According to US officials, AYL was
killed in Mir Ali (located in North Waziristan) in a drone strike on June 4, 2012.
Without a doubt, both were important intellectual and iconic assets for AQ. Even
more significant for the jihadi movement however is the political transformation in
some parts of the Arab world, which were triggered by the self-immolation of the
Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi in December 2010.
The Arab revolutions challenge the jihadist notion according to which Western
hegemony is an insurmountable obstacle to the liberation of Islamic countries from
“tyranny and apostasy.” Indeed, it has been one of the foreign policy paradoxes that
8. Summary, conclusions, and outlook
Western democracies supported authoritarian regimes for the sake of stable access
to resources, and in order to contain Islamism and jihadism. As former CIA analyst
Michael Scheuer says: “Our entire strategic position in the Middle East depended
for 50 years on the maintenance of tyranny to secure access to oil and to protect the
Israelis. That is now collapsing.”638 With the advent of popular protest in Tunisia,
Egypt, and Libya, Western governments have begun to change their foreign policy,
without a premonition of what is to come. Not only is the West cutting off its vital
support for the tyrants, freezing their assets, and appealing for democratic change,
it also supported the armed resistance in Libya against a former ally. In the case of
Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain, the international community is much more hesitant to
take a position.
AQ may find the latest developments puzzling and contradictory to their message and some of their aspirations. However, there are reasons why they should
also welcome the situation. Disrupting the vital link between the near and the far
enemy and abandoning the apostate regimes have been the official strategic goals
of AQ ever since their declaration of war against the US in 1996. Never have they
been so close to seeing these goals realized. What the jihadi movement probably
did not expect is that they are witnessing these events as bystanders and not as
winners. Because the political success of the revolution came faster than ever anticipated by Islamists, Salafists, and jihadists, their ideologies have lagged behind the
social reality that they criticize. As the new political reality, at least temporarily,
silences some of their allegations against the political elites and challenges some of
their core ideological arguments, Islamists and fundamentalists will likely undergo
an extensive ideological shift. To date, it remains open whether the ideology of
national Islamism and the ideology of jihadi fundamentalism will converge or further split apart.
The Arab revolutions not only challenge Islamist ideology but also our academic
theories about them. Oliver Roy’s seminal book “The failure of political Islam”
(discussed in chapter 3.1) describes and explains the split of the formerly homogeneous movement into three currents: nationalist Islamism, Salafism and jihadism.
The main reason for this divide is what Roy calls “the failure of political Islam,”
namely the failure to find an adequate answer to the repression of Islamism by despotic Arab rulers, and the failure to offer competitive alternatives to Western secular ideologies (parliamentary democracy, positive law, human rights, and capitalism). Roy’s theses have become common knowledge in the study of Islamist
movements. The Arab revolutions call for a review of this theory because in some
countries (such as Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya) factors inhibiting the enlargement of
Islamism during the last decades are now temporarily suspended or replaced by
others. The (maybe temporal) halt of state repression opens unprecedented oppor____________
Michael Scheuer, interview with The Agenda from March 8, 2011.
8. Summary, conclusions, and outlook
tunities for Islamic movements, whereas in other Arab countries there is now new
hope for the Islamists that regimes can actually be brought down.
A strong case can be made in support of Roy’s theory if the “comeback of political Islam” actually reverses the division of the formerly monolithic Islamist movement. Quite to the opposite however, two reasons could cause a further ideological
split. First, if Islamists, despite having the opportunity and the political power to
implement their socio-religious programs, still fail to remedy the social problems
that plague many countries in the Middle East (such as corruption, state repression,
or unemployment). Or second, if Western ideologies (e.g., positive law, liberal democracies) influence Islamist thinking up to a point where it is not genuinely Islamist and becomes indistinguishable from secular political programs. In both cases, ideologies will further diversify and radical (i.e. jihadi) thoughts may be revived
as a result of political Islam second failure.
In this regard the classical jihadi narrative about the West strengthening Arab
despots may become increasingly obsolete, whereas the denial of secular governance will gain more importance. Classical popular grievances of AQ’s ideology
might diminish, whereas the theological aspects might receive more emphasis. And
whatever the social problems of Arab countries in the future will be, the jihadists
will probably attribute them to the enlargement of the “blasphemous” secular system. Bearing in mind the level of sophistication of the contemporary jihadi media,
it can be suspected that the narrative will retain a certain level of persuasiveness
and intellectual appeal in its ongoing development. Notwithstanding the death of
UBL and AYL, the ideology of jihadism will continue to morph and adapt in the
near future. AAZ has been very active with more than a dozen statements released
in the first half of 2012.
In addition to ideological shifts, organizational and individual developments can
also be expected to take place. Many jihadi activists may disperse and enter Islamic
organizations and parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood. The most prominent
extremists of AQ may not want to make this move or may find it difficult to gain
the favor of Islamist parties, but less narrow-minded jihadists may get credit for
their past as mujahedeen and start a new career. Of course, for political reasons
every organization will be cautious about who is admitted, but it seems plausible
that jihadi activists without an apparent AQ stigma, and without a criminal record
as terrorists, may consider this option as a viable exit strategy should they start to
doubt AQ’s doctrine. On the other hand, hard-liners in Islamist organizations may
despise the extent of political realism which comes together with participation in
electoral systems. They might be convinced by the jihadist’s message that religious
matters cannot be compromised.639 Likewise, in countries where social protest and
Armborst 2013.
8. Summary, conclusions, and outlook
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1. Automated concept mapping using Leximancer
This section describes the technical procedure for automated concept mapping of
the 31 al-Qaeda statements and reports the results. Concept mapping with Leximancer basically involves six steps to derive from the text documents a visual and
statistical representation of the various issues and themes touched upon in the texts.
At each stage there are numerous options the researcher has to set. Only those decisions are discussed here that differ from the program’s default settings or which
have a major impact on the results.
1. (Document preprocessing) At the first stage the software breaks down the whole
text body to standardized blogs of a number of n sentences. These segments are
the principle units of analysis later tagged with the various codes. Unlike coding
with MAXQDA, the length of codings (number of sentences) is the same for
every coding. Parts of sentences cannot be coded separately. The decision about
the number of consecutive sentences classified under each concept depends on
the denseness of different issues and information within the content. The codewidth in interpretative coding of the jihadi statements varies considerably,
reaching from parts of sentences to several paragraphs, while often coded segments span over one paragraph that usually contains two to five sentences.
Therefore, the value was set to three sentences per block, which is also recommended in the Leximancer manual as an appropriate setting for most text-types.
Codes are not allowed to cross paragraphs, but the sentences must be consecutive. Automatic merging of word variations is enabled. The preconfigured stopword list is not altered (stop-words with low semantic content, such as “and” or
“the” etc. cannot be selected as concept seeds).
2. (Automatic concept identification) With these settings the program automatically extracts a list of frequent and co-occurring lexical terms from the document
set. These terms are the starting point (so called concept seeds) for the definition
of a concept-thesaurus. Leximancer identifies 70 concept seeds from the jihadi
statements. Thereof some unessential terms were manually deleted (such as
“day” or “take”) and some were merged into one seed (such as the plural and
singular form of the same word (e.g., mujahid and mujahideen), or capitalized
and uncapitalized form of the same word (e.g., “Jihad” and “jihad”) since the
program discriminated between Jihad as a proper name and “jihad” as a word.
(Jihad indeed is an Islamic proper name but it does not occur as such in the
statements). This procedure left 45 concept seeds.
3. (Concept editing) The user has the option to add seed words manually. In addition to the program-generated concept seeds a list of user selected seed words is
made that resembles the category scheme from interpretative coding as best as
possible. For most categories from the taxonomy, seed words were manually
chosen after searching for code-characteristic terms in the retrieved text segments in MAXQDA.640 The corresponding list entails 68 seed words, such as
“beggar,” “democracy,” “infidel,” “Egypt,” “UN,” “punish,” or “martyr” (only
five words from the automated seed word list were kept).
4. (Thesaurus learning) Based on the seed word list, Leximancer computes a text
classifier. The classifier (or coding scheme) contains criteria upon which the
program later decides whether to tag a given text segment with a certain concept
or not. The computation of these criteria is crucial because the concepts should
be a coherent, descriptive, and accurate representation of the actual meaning of
those parts of the text they classify. The selection of criteria directly influences
the validity of concept mapping (that is, whether certain concepts are proper representatives of certain meanings and whether they measure what they should
measure). To this end, Leximancer assigns a thesaurus for each seed word, that
is, “a set of words that discriminate each category across the corpus of data.”641
The program calculates the contextual-exclusive usage of terms by weighting
terms according to how frequently they occur exclusively in those sentences
about which the program assumes they indicate a certain concept compared to
the frequency of their occurrence in concept-unrelated contexts.642 The more exclusive a key-term is used as content of a certain concept the higher its weight,
that is, the higher its relevancy value. The relevancy value is a statistical measure quantifying the cumulative evidence for the presence of a certain concept in
a sentence. The concept definition with its weighted terms is computed by an iterative learning process: After automatic identification and manual setting of
seed words, the program starts to define the concept by searching for cooccurring terms in the document with high relevancy values (words occurring
often and exclusively in combination with the seed word). After initial definition
of the concept, the program again calculates the relevancy value for all words in
the text based on the new concept definition which might lead to the inclusion of
This is not feasible for all categories and codes identified during interpretative coding. It is not useful, for
instance, to manually create a seed word for the category “religious quotations” (from Quran and hadiths)
because these text passages are semantically not coherent enough to be identified by the program. What
the program can easily detect though are the introducing phrases to such quotations as they do have a reoccurring semantic form (such as “the Truth, exalted is he, said …”). But between the introduction and
the subsequent content there is no semantic correlation.
Smith & Humphreys 2006, 263.
Computation is based on a naïve Bayesian co-occurrence metric as discussed in Salton (1989); and Dumais et al. (1998).
1. Automated concept mapping using Leximancer
additional terms to the previous concept definition. Leximancer repeats this procedure until the point when further interpolation of the concept definition does
not alter the number of sentences that are classified with this concept. “The semantic extraction stage utilizes a concept bootstrapping algorithm developed
from a word sense disambiguation algorithm to identify families of weighted
terms which tend to appear together” (Stockwell et al. 2009, 428) which is further described by (Yarowsky 1995).
The parameters for thesaurus learning stage are set as follows. The concept generality (related to the number of different words that can be included into the
concept definition) is set as default, which resulted in a number of three iterations until the concept definition was learned (three to 11 iterations are recommended in the manual). Sampling is set to 1 meaning that every text segment is
used for thesaurus learning (while for large text bodies only every nth segment
can be sampled in order to reduce the processing time). The classification
threshold specifies how much cumulative evidence (expressed as the sum of the
weighted relevancy values) per sentence is necessary for this sentence to be
coded with a certain concept. This parameter is set to three (default).
5. (Locating concepts) In the next stage the learnt semantic classifiers are used to
code the text body. The user can choose which concepts should be coded into
the text. The 31 jihadi statements are coded in two separate runs to contrast their
results; one using the automatically extracted concept seeds, the other using the
handpicked concept seeds. Compared to human coding, Leximancer has the advantage that coding at this stage is highly consistent (reliable) because it strictly
applies the same criteria (cumulative evidence) to decide if each segment is coded with a particular concept or not.
6. (Generating a map) After the concepts are tagged to the text segments, analysis
can start. For this purposes Leximancer creates a visual representation of the data: the identified concepts are located on a planar map643 where their distance is
used as an indicator for relatedness, that is, the closer they are located to each
other on the concept map the more likely it is that they co-occur within the text.
Absolute and relative concept frequencies and concept occurrence (conditional
probabilities) are visually and numerically displayed. Retrieved segments can be
browsed and each concept’s definition can be reviewed (including the relevancy
score for each word included in a concept’s definition, as well as the number of
iterations needed to define the concept). Co-occurring concepts are clustered on
the concept map and are summarized as a theme, whereas the theme’s name is
the concept with the highest communality among a set of co-occurring concepts.
This corresponds to the hierarchical structure of issues and themes from interpretative coding. Thematic representation in Leximancer reminds of factor anal____________
For the mapping algorithm, see Chalmers & Chitson 1992, 333.
ysis, which also identifies potential latent factors that explain the variance of a
group of covarying variables.
Results from automatic concept mapping
Automated concept mapping is carried out to contrast the result of the computer
generated concepts with those from human interpretative coding and to see whether
this approach provides additional insights into qualitative content analysis. Leximancer identifies themes (clusters of concepts that belong to a more general or abstract category). They should resemble to some degree the issues, themes, narratives, and framing tasks from interpretative coding. For instance, it is expected that
the software generated concepts “ruler,” “Hosni Mubarak,” “agent,” “tyrant,” “beggar,” and “seller,” should cluster around a single theme “apostasy.”
The most frequently occurring concepts from both the program generated and
the user generated seed word list can be seen in figure 7. The absolute count shows
how many times the concept was coded into the statements. The relevance score is
the percentage of the most frequent concept. Frequent occurrence of a concept does
not necessarily indicate relevance of the content classified by this concept. The
concept “Allah,” for instance, was coded 877 times into the text compilation. This
concept co-occurs with concepts like “mercy,” “path,” or “peace” throughout the
text and is defined with thesaurus terms like “grace,” “most high,” “his messenger,” indicating that the program coded many of the greetings, religious phrases,
and introductions to Quran citation within this concept. Since this part of the messages is not of interest for the overall research question, the concept “Allah” can be
deleted from the seed word list notwithstanding its frequent and coherent occurrence within the statements.
Among the more relevant concepts (e.g., “Iraq,” “crusader,” “agent”) some computer-generated concepts differ from a human-generated concept, such as the concept “crusader” (occurring 209 times within the statements coded with the computer generated concept map). Reviewing thesaurus for the concept “crusader,” as Leximancer defined it, shows the term with the highest indicative power for the
presence of this concept in a text segment (the evidence) is “religion-traders,” a
term that is rather associated with the narrative “apostasy” in interpretative coding.
“Crusader” and “religious traders” are indeed sometimes mentioned in the same
breath within the jihadi media but when they co-occur usually one is prevalent,
while the other is mentioned rather casually in this context. In this case statistical
co-occurrences of terms do not reproduce category building from interpretative
However closer scrutiny of the text segments labeled with the concept “crusader” as identified by Leximancer shows that its content is similar to the content clas-
1. Automated concept mapping using Leximancer
sified as “global conflict” narrative in interpretative coding.644 Despite their similarity, both categories are not congruent. Leximancer’s concept definition does
miss many criteria that were used in interpretative coding to decide whether a given
text segment fits the description through this category “global conflict” or not.
Therefore automatic coding falls short of covering all text of this category (as coded in MAXQDA).
Figure 7: Concept extraction based on computer generated seed word list (left)
and user based on user generated seed word list
A closer look into the second frequent concept “agent” (coded 364 times) shows
that it is basically coherent with what has been interpretatively coded as “apostasy”. Concepts frequently co-occurring with “agent” resemble the “apostasy” subcategory “grievances” to some degree, such as the grievance about political “cap____________
Unfortunately there is no easy way to calculate the text overlap of content from both concepts (the function “intercoder agreement” of MAXQDA would be the appropriate option, but Leximancer text retrievals cannot easily be exported to MAXQDA). One has to compare both text retrievals by reading through
them separately.
tives” (38 percent conditional probability for co-occurrence), “torture” (concept
torture with 34 percent conditional probability for co-occurrence), and the collaboration with Western powers (concept “allies” with 34 percent conditional probability for co-occurrence), and Zawahiri’s own categorization of “religious trading
charlatans” (36 percent). Other high ranking co-occurring concepts that were also
used as coding heuristics in interpretative coding are “apostate,” “traitor,” and “nationalism.”
In order to analyze the hierarchical structure of concepts, Leximancer software
generates themes on varying levels of abstractness. Themes in Leximancer are dynamic, that is, they can encompass all static categories within the interpretative
taxonomy (issues, themes, narratives, frames, ideology). Themes on the automated
concept map are interpretative aids that summarize content under clusters of highly
connective concepts, that means, a concept that co-occurs with other concepts
throughout certain parts of the text data. Leximancer considers concepts with the
highest connectedness-score among a cluster of interrelated concepts as being the
predominant topic or theme of this cluster. The user can choose the range across
which the theme shall span. At the lowest resolution, the program identifies one
single theme integrating all concepts occurring in the statements. At the highest
resolution, all concepts are separated. If congruent with interpretative coding, the
highest ranking theme should represent the ideology, the second highest the four
framing tasks, then the eight narratives (apostasy, global conflict, instrumentality of
force, etc.), and the various themes and single issues.
The predominant theme on the concept map is “Iraq.”645 If one takes a closer
look at the different concepts that are closely related to the theme “Iraq,” ones notices that the theme resembles the content that is classified by the narrative on the
“global conflict” from the interpretative coding. The concept “Iraq,” as it was coded by the program, co-occurs frequently with other concepts such as “Afghanistan,” “American,” “Palestine,” “crusader,” “mujahideen,” “forces,” and “victory”
indicating that the theme is not about Iraq per se, but rather about the conflict with
the US and Israel in arenas like Iraq and Afghanistan. The above discussed concept
“crusader” is also highly connected with the concept “Iraq,” whereas Iraq is the
parental category of “crusader.”646 Therefore the theme “Iraq” on the concept map
is the synonym for the global conflict. But due to the generality and high connectedness of the theme “Iraq,” it also encompasses some highly related concepts not
subsumed under “global conflict” in interpretative coding but under “apostasy,”
Two different maps are analyzed: one based on the automatically extracted seed word list and the other
based on the handpicked seed words lists. On both lists, “Iraq” is the predominant theme, after eliminating the rather peripheral but frequent seed word “Allah” from the computer generated seed word list.
Both concepts, as coded by Leximancer, co-occur 79 times in the statements, which correspond to a
conditional probability of 38 percent meaning that more than one third of all text segments encoded with
the concept “crusader” (209) are also encoded with the concept “Iraq.” In turn, only 18 percent of all 444
text segments encoded with the concept “Iraq” are also given the code “crusader,” indicating that Iraq (=
global conflict) is the parental concept of crusader.
1. Automated concept mapping using Leximancer
such as “charlatan,” “(religion-)sellers,” “traitor,” and “agent.” This suggests that
the narrative about the global conflict and the narrative about apostasy are highly
connected with each other. For instance, 37 percent of all 364 segments that are
classified as belonging to the category “agent” (apostasy) are coevally coded with
the concept “Iraq” (global conflict). This finding is consistent with those from data
analysis with MAXQDA where content of the category “apostasy” frequently intersect with content from the category “global conflict.”647 The difference between
both methods is that within automatic concept mapping the concept “Iraq” (integrating the narrative on the near and the far enemy) is the hierarchically highest
ranking theme whereas in the taxonomy deduced from qualitative coding both concepts are not only separated (though related) but are also lower ranking in the structure of taxonomy. It seems justified that Leximancer identifies this concept as the
most representative and integrated one. After all, AQ’s ideology essentially is
about the global jihadi conflict against the near and the far enemy.
There is another noteworthy observation to be made from the automated concept
map (the one based on the hand-picked seed word list). If Leximancer is told to
identify the two broadest themes of the statements, “Iraq” and “moderate” appear
on the map (see figure 8). Looking at the concepts related to each of the two
themes it appears that Leximancer divides AQ’s ideology into a political-secular
branch and a doctrinal-theological branch, whereby the theme “Iraq” refers to the
political dimension of the global conflict (as described above) and the theme “moderates” refers to the theological antagonism with secularism (indicated by concepts
such as “democratic,” “voting,” “majority”) and with the moderation of Islam (indicated by concepts such as “defeatism” or “abandonment” [of jihad]). Although
categories in interpretative analysis are not organized according to this dichotomy,
it is consistent with the finding that many themes and narratives subdivide into a
political and a theological branch.
Statistical semantic categorization divides the data into a religious and a secular
frame on the most abstract level, whereas in human classification the most abstract
categories are the core framing tasks “diagnosis”, “goals”, “strategies”, and “references” (see figure 4). The human made taxonomy makes this division not until the
more concrete level of themes as subdivisions of different narratives (for instance
strategic refusal vs. theological refusal of secular governance; strategic instrumentality vs. religious instrumentality of violence, jihadi journalism vs. theological
references). Although the four basic elements of the jihadi ideology as generated in
interpretative coding are not reproduced on the automated concept map, they are
still meaningful categories for describing and analyzing the jihadi media. However,
Twelve percent of the content coded as “apostasy” (or subthemes of it) is also coded as “global conflict”
(or subthemes of it). Although the values of concept co-occurrence calculated in Leximancer and the value of code intersection calculated in MAXQDA cannot directly be compared, both values indicate a substantial link between both categories. No other narrative intersects more frequent with “apostasy” than
“global conflict.”
this distinction is not represented in the semantic and linguistic patterns of the
Figure 8: Leximancer concept map for 31 AQ statements648
Text exploration by software does not bring about fundamentally new insights into
the jihadi propaganda, nor can it replace interpretative analysis of jihadi media. For
someone who is not acquainted with the socio-political view of AQ, the concepts
and themes identified by Leximancer may be rather confusing. A good deal of interpretation is necessary to understand the actual meaning of concepts and themes.
What the program does show is the semantic patterns in the statements, though this
is not always helpful to structure the text comprehensibly. In closer examination of
the concept “Iraq”, for instance, it can be seen that the theme “Iraq” is representative not so much for the Iraqi conflict but for the broader narrative about the global
conflict. Where the software can enhance easy understanding about the meaning of
Settings for the concept map are: 100 percent visible concepts; 99 percent theme size; 360° rotation. The
color of the theme circles are heat mapped, meaning the more the circle’s color tends towards red, the
more interconnected the theme is to other concepts.
2. Sample transcript: AAZ, July 27, 2006
the data is when it comes to the identification of the most holistic themes in the
narrative; more detailed, thematic variations within the text can only be mapped if
the user manually selects keywords and supervises the software’s learning process
in which the concept definitions are developed. However, this requires a certain
level of knowledge about the data and might be efficient only when larger text
compilations are analyzed.
Fully automated concept definition usually does not resemble the categories
from interpretative coding substantially. Hand picking the concept seeds drastically
increases the match between automated concept mapping and the interpretative
taxonomy. While the concept and thematic maps resembles the structure of the
interpretative coding scheme to a certain degree, the categorized text passages (codings) from both methods match to varying degrees.649 So whose codings are correct? The semantic patterns calculated by the Leximancer algorithm are statistical
facts. A text passage is only coded with a certain concept when it contains sufficient evidence that this concept is present (determined by the thesaurus and the
threshold level). If these results differ from the interpretative coding decisions (as
they occasionally do) two different conclusions from this observation can be
drawn. First, statistically similar patterns in the content may not always convey the
same meaning. Second, the human coding decisions are too interpretative, meaning
that the coder discerns two different topics within a set of semantically coherent
text-passages where no such differences in the meaning exist.
2. Sample transcript: AAZ, July 27, 2006
The Zio-Crusaders’ War on Gaza and Lebanon650
Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri [May Allah protect him]
Jamada al-Akher 1427 Islamic Calendar
As-Sahab Media Production
In the Name of Allah; the Grace of Allah, peace and prayers upon the messenger of Allah, his family and his companions and whoever supported him.
Muslim brothers everywhere: peace and mercy and blessings from Allah upon you.
The serious events in Gaza and Lebanon prove to every sane person that the Zio-Crusader war does
not care about us and is without conscience.
There are ten thousand hostages in Israeli prisons, but for three Israeli soldiers the world was risen.
Again, quantifying the gap between the two methods would have required an overly painstaking effort.
However, from a glance into the retrieved segments it can be seen that text passages that are coded by
Leximancer with a certain concept are often coded with a different concept in interpretative coding.
The transcript is taken from the archive of SITE.
War with Israel is not subject to a treaty, cease fire, Sykes-Picot Treaty agreements, patriotism or
disputed borders, but it is jihad for the Cause of Allah until the entire religion is for Him only. Jihad
seeks the liberation of Palestine, the entire country of Palestine and to liberate every land that used
to be a territory of Islam, from Spain to Iraq. The entire world is an open field for us, so just like
they attack us everywhere we will attack them everywhere, and just like they united to fight us, our
Ummah [Nation], we will unite to fight them.
The missiles and rockets that tear the Muslim bodies in Gaza and Lebanon are not completely from
Israel but it comes from and gets financed from all countries of the Crusaders’ league; therefore,
whoever has participated in this crime must pay the price.
We cannot remain silent and cringe while watching these missiles pouring fire on our brothers in
Gaza and Lebanon.
How can we remain silent, and we are the sons of Abi Bakar, Othman, Hamza, Ja’afar, Ali, alHussein, Sa’ad, Khaled, Talha, al-Zobier, Akrama, Salah al-Din, Yusef ibn-Tashfeen, and Muhammad the Conqueror. We are the sons of the ones who confronted the apostates, opened the world,
and transformed the people from darkness of polytheism to the light of unification, and from worshiping humans to worshiping Allah. They extinguished the fires of Magis and opened Constantinople. With the Grace of Allah we have now returned to the field.
About a year before the two raids of New York and Washington DC the leader, Abu-Hafs (may
Allah have mercy on his soul), gave a lecture to a group of trainees about Palestine and the Muslims’ conditions in Qandahar. At the end of the lecture the hero, Muhammad Attah (may Allah have
mercy on his soul) stood up and asked the leader with seriousness and enthusiasm “what is the way
to defeat the attack on Palestine?” and America knows very well the rest of the story.
The Ummah that produced the nineteen who shook America is able with the assistance of Allah to
produce double that number.
Dear Muslim brothers everywhere, today we must target the Jewish and the American interests
everywhere. Not only that but we must target the interests of all the countries who participated in
the assault against the Muslims in Chechnya, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon.
All of these governments and their people are fighting Muslims according to the Islamic Shari’a
Dear Muslim brothers everywhere, I do not want to stir your emotions by an electrifying speech or
by an emotional word, but I ask you in the Name of Allah, who there is no other God but Him, and
for the love of the Messenger of Allah – prayers of Allah and peace be upon him, I ask you with the
obligation of jihad which is imposed on every Muslim, to rise wishing for martyrdom to exasperate
the Crusaders and the Zios.
The events which are occurring shows the seriousness of the two jihadi fronts in Afghanistan and
Iraq, so Muslims must support jihad until the American forces get out of there totally paralyzed,
dragging itself back to its country, and it pays the price for attacking Muslims and for supporting of
By Iraq being near Palestine it is an advantage; therefore the Muslims should support its Mujahideen until an Islamic Emirate of jihad is established there. Subsequently it would transfer the jihad
to the borders of Palestine with the Aid of Allah, then the Mujahideen in and out of Palestine would
unite and the greatest conquest would be accomplished.
The martyr Imam – as we consider him – Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has said “In Iraq we are very close
to al-Aqsa Mosque of the Messenger of Allah, so we fight in Iraq and our eyes are on Jerusalem
which can only be restored by the guiding Qur’an and sword of victory.”
Perhaps the events of the Zio-Crusaders’ attack on the Muslims may push the traitors in Iraq to
swallow their shame and their disloyalty, and stop justifying and supporting the American Crusaders presence in Iraq.
My Muslim Ummah, without a doubt it is clear to you now that the governments of the Arabic and
Islamic countries are inefficient and conniving [intrigant, AA], the organizations are paralyzed and
3. Text segments from AQ statements
defeated and you are all alone in the field. So proceed with the Help of Allah and depend only on
Him. Fight your enemy, the worshipers of this existing world with the fearless weapon. Allah had
said: Then fight in the Cause of Allah, you are not tasked except for yourself, and incite the believers, it may be that Allah will restrain the evil might of the disbelievers. And Allah is Stronger in
Might and Stronger in punishing. [An-Nisa 4:84]
As far as you, oppressed and weak, victims of the idolatry, oppressing Western civilization and
America its leader, do stand together with us because we stand by you against oppression and idols
which are forbidden by Allah and His Book: The way is only against those who oppress men and
rebel in the earth without justification; for such there will be a painful torment. [Ash-Shura 42:42]
Stand by us so we can bring back the rights to the people, and the symbol of oppression falls from
the history of humanity.
Last of our supplications is the grace is to Allah, God of the two worlds, and Allah prayed and
greeted our master Muhammad, his family and his companions.
3. Text segments from AQ statements
The following text segments have been retrieved from a sample of 31 statements of
the AQ leaders UBL (Usama bin Laden), AAZ (Ayman az-Zawahiri), and AYL (Aby
Yahya al-Libi). All statements including the [annotations] have been obtained either from the archive of the SITE Intelligence Group, the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment (FFI), the IntelCenter “Words of …” series, or the al-Qaeda
Reader of Raymond Ibrahim.651 The main text in chapter 6 directs the reader to the
related text segments; the sequence of the following segments are incoherent and
out of context and should be read as supplements to chapter 6. The expressed views
are not those of the author.
Text segment No. 1*:
Socio-political diagnoses (AYL September 9, 2007, 86 et seq.)
And the relations which tie the major infidel states to the statelets and their apostate governments
are close, overlapping relations on all fronts: political, economic, military and even cultural. So in
general, they are a single entity, a single enemy and a single army, and they are a single hand
against us and the battle they are waging against us is a single battle which either the infidel Crusader states adopt themselves or is taken up by their traitorous proxies who reign over the Muslim
peoples. This is in addition to the heavy military presence of those states – foremost among them
America – on the soil of the Muslims, killing, sabotaging and destroying, and violating their sanctities, plundering their treasures and imposing on them their policies and laws. And these apostate
regimes with these states are like troops with their commander, or rather, like slaves with their master: making not a sound and speaking not a whisper. And all of us know that smashing this modern
idol and inflicting defeat on it automatically means the weakening of these emaciated regimes of
treason, which will be buried with their god to whom they were devoted and be thrown with him in* The text segments are not counted consecutively but appear in blocks of numbers. The first block (1-19) is
reserved for text segments classified by the category “socio-political diagnosis,” the second block (20-29)
for text classified by the category “apostasy/grievances,” and so forth. This counting was necessary because
the author did not know from the beginning how many examples for each category he would refer to in the
annex. To remain flexible blocks of numbers were reserved for each category.
See chapter 4 for sampling procedure and the bibliography of the text sources.
to the trash heap of history, without being mourned. So the Mujahideen today are in the situation of
repelling the enemy and stopping his fierce attack of the Muslim lands, and thus the option of beginning fighting with this enemy or that doesn’t really have much meaning now.
And even the one who wants to begin by fighting the apostate regimes dominating the Muslim lands
will find himself after a little while – if not from day one – confronting in one way or another the
Crusader forces, foremost among them America.
Text segment No. 20:
Grievances (apostasy), grievances (global conflict), and grievances (secularism): intersection (AAZ, January 6, 2006, 19 et seq.)
The parliamentary elections in Egypt, which Justice Ahmed Mekki, the Deputy of the High Court,
said frankly that they were not under the supervision of the legal system but were under the direct
supervision of the Minister of the Interior, the biggest gladiator in Egypt. The elections which were
arranged as an American game allowed for people who call themselves Muslims to come to the
elections with a certain number of candidates. If they all win they will still be in the minority in the
parliament and made it open for the national party to experience its crimes to get the result which
America decided beforehand, elections which won’t achieve any real changes.
Then they will say to the Muslims people, this is the parliament that represents you. And each party
took his chair which he deserved. We [the US] said the rule and the power are ours. And you (people) can cry and demonstrate but we have control of the land, the people, and the resources, and you
have only to cry and denounce. We have the freedom and talks and you have the humiliation and
torture and prisons.
We (United States) have al-Quds (Jerusalem) and the nuclear weapons and the waterways and military bases and you (Egypt) have the incapable armies and the security establishments and martial
courts and emergency laws.
The real game which America planned in Egypt in both elections, the presidential and the parliamentary, deceived the Muslim people and took advantage of their love of Islam. It would be said
that they got 30 seats before and now you have 80 and after five years you may have 100. As long
as you behave well, we will give you more, as long as you become secularists, and are false Muslims like Erdogan and his companions. We will allow you to have the power but with a condition.
That you have to forget the rule of Shari’a and you must welcome the rules of the crusaders in your
land. And you accept the Jewish presence, which is armed with nuclear weapons, which you will be
denied of.
Text segment No. 25:
Grievance (apostasy) (AAZ, July 4, 2007, 127 et seq.)
And the third reason for the massiveness of Saudi defense expenditure despite the insignificance of
the army is the huge amount of thefts which the senior princes of Al Saud swallow as bribes and
commissions for the making of sham deals for which the kingdom has no need. The famous alYamama deal alone suffices.
[footage from the al-Jazeera documentary “trail of the dove” showing an interview with David
Leigh, journalist for The Guardian about the al-Yamamah arms contract between the British and
Saudi governments, followed by excerpts from a PBS frontline documentary showing an interview
with Prince Bandar admitting and trivializing corruption. And then, voice recording of Dr. Sa’ad
al-Faqih, a Saudi dissident listed under SC 1267 as an AQ affiliated individual]:
They are so corrupt in every sense: in the Islamic sense, in the financial sense, in the administrative
sense … in every sense, that no way they can reform and go back and become faithful to the country, let alone faithful to Islam. […].
3. Text segments from AQ statements
[Zawahiri returns]: And even with the 50 billion dollars which Bandar admitted to, no one has the
right to ask, where has it gone? Into whose pockets has it gone? And on what sort of depravity has it
been spent?
And then, let us consider: what has the kingdom achieved with all this huge spending, massive
treasure and widespread corruption of which Bandar is so proud? Has the kingdom become a military power? Has it become an industrial power? Has it become an economic power? Regrettably, it
has become none of that.
The Saudi army is extremely weak and unable to protect its own country, and it is not allowed to
increase its numbers and abilities, despite the widespread unemployment in the country, and its
budget is devoured by the crocodiles of Al Saud in bribes and deals.
The kingdom is unable to meet its needs for university qualifications like doctors, engineers, accountants and scientists, nor even technicians like nurses and skilled workers, nor even drivers. All
this despite the presence of massive capabilities to achieve all of that. So why has it not been
Nor has the kingdom become a strong industrial power exporting its products and competing with
them on the world markets. On the contrary, it is a market for foreign deputations of every commodity and of every country.
Text segment No. 30:
Religious supremacy (AYL, May 22, 2008, 45 et seq.)
We see many of those who raised the slogan of moderation and were convinced of it, in claim and
pretense. They made it a riding-camel with which they discredit foundations that are among the
evident truths of Islam, negligently. Any time others disagree with them, and the rejecters snub
them, they accuse them of excess, extremism, and lack of openness unto the reality, to the extent
that they opened the doors to the biggest atheists to attack Islam from the same door – the claimed
door of moderation. So, they spread their mischief there. They left no detail without tampering investigating it with their ideas, and chased it with their mockery, and destroyed it with the help of
their moderation. And he who tries to prevent them and stop their atheism, they accuse him of extremism, abuse, and dullness. Then, they exaggerated and continued to destroy Islam as a whole.
In the name of moderation, the domes of councils of cooperation were infiltrated, not to open them,
and raise the flag of Tawhid on them, but, to open unto them and to strengthen their pillars, to assert
their legitimacy, and to participate with their leaders in their legislations.
So that if the disclosers say the word of truth, which they were ordered to say, and if they recite
verses of Allah to those whose hearts are repelled by it, and they are accused of excess, extremism,
and misunderstand of politics, Allah will not avail them of their policy and their moderation, at all.
Text segment No. 31:
Religious supremacy and religious references: intersection (AYL, May 22, 2008, 47 et
So that if the disclosers [the jihadists] say the word of truth, which they were ordered to say, and if
they recite verses of Allah to those whose hearts are repelled by it [the apostates], and they are accused of excess, extremism, and misunderstand of politics, Allah will not avail them of their policy
and their moderation, at all: “The Day when all the secrets will be examined. Then he will have no
power, nor any helper.” [At-Tariq 9-10]
If those who are convinced of moderation are told, “It is not for a believer, man or woman, when
Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision.”
[From Al-Ahzab 33:36], they say, you are extremists.
And if they are told that the word of Allah the Almighty, “They took their rabbis and their monks to
be their lords besides Allah, and Messiah, son of Mary, while they were commanded to worship
none but One God. Praise and glory be to Him, from having the partners they associate (with Him).”
[At-Taubah 9:31], does not deter you, they say you are closed-minded experts.
And if they are told, “Or have they partners with Allah, who have instituted for them a religion
which Allah has not allowed.” [From Ash-Shura 42:21], they say, you are stubborn and rigid.
And if they are told, “And if you obey most of those on earth, they will mislead you far away from
Allah’s Path. They follow nothing but conjectures, and they do nothing but lie.” [Al-An’am 6:116],
they say we are in a time of democracy and sovereignty of peoples.
Text segment No. 32:
Appeal to apostates (AYL, May 22, 2008, 123)
As for the hypocrites and apostates, I tell them: Anyone who reverts to Islam, repents, and declares
the truth, God will forgive him. This will be better for him in his religious and worldly affairs. But a
person who insists on slandering religion and calling Jihad terrorism, by way of deploring it, and
championing the apostate rulers against the Muslims, be it by his hand, tongue, or pen, then this
person has no right to live on this earth, after showing his unbelief in the Creator of this earth. This
person should write his will and only blame himself.
Text segment No. 34:
Beggary (AAZ, December 16, 2007, 346 et seq.)
Sahab: Your mentioning of the religion-selling charlatans in Iraq takes us to the Fatwa of the Mufti
of Al Saud deeming it impermissible to go forth to the Jihad in Iraq and elsewhere. What is your
view of this fatwa?
Zawahiri: This Mufti is another star of the roster of the club of the Fuquahaa of the Marines, and
this Fatwa’s chain of transmission is an American Crusader one: from the Mufti from the interior
minister from the king from the American embassy and so on until Bush. So, what a terrible chain
and what terrible transmitters.
And it is a Fatwa of enigmas and secrets. The Mufti of Al Saud talks about the outside in general,
the unstable conditions, the unclear banners the strife and those with suspicious intentions, and it is
upon the listener to deduce and try to understand from the ambiguous words and veiled expressions
what exactly the Mufti means and his proofs are. This is the evidence of moral cowardice, for if he
were a brave man, he would have listed the happenings, events and parties, to make it possible to
examine and study what he said.
And it is a Fatwa which talks about a legal pledge of allegiance and the people of authority and a
ruler to whom allegiance has been pledged by consensus. So it is possible for the Mufti to tell us
who these people of authority are, and who chose them and how they were chosen, and who did
they represent, and when did they sit and consult one another, and which candidates for the Imamate
did they run through, and then, why – after study and deliberation – did their decision come to rest
on Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz as being the one – among all the candidates – who met the qualifications for rightful rule?
Also, the Mufti talked about the youth lacking legal knowledge. So why doesn’t the Mufti clarify to
us just what the academic qualifications of his ruler, Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz, are? Is it possible
for him to enter elementary school? Or does he need lessons from His Eminence to teach him the
fundamentals of reading and writing before he can qualify for that?!
And the Mufti also talks about a ruler who leads the Jihad and defends the country and worshippers.
Would that the Mufti had kept silent and not expose himself and his regime! Could it have been
missed by his copious knowledge that when the Kingdom was threatened by Saddam, it sought help
from the Americans, and procured a suspicious Fatwa permitting the Americans to be called on and
saying that they would stay for a few months and then leave, but they’ve now been there 17 years?
Why doesn’t the Mufti inform us of the ruling concerning the ruler who places his country and its
resources at the service of the forces of the infidels and their fleets and aircraft, for them to take off
3. Text segments from AQ statements
from it to bomb, destroy and burn the Muslims’ countries and the villages and exterminate thousands of them in Afghanistan and Iraq?
Also, oh Mufti who has pledged allegiance to a ruler who defends the lands of Islam, here is Palestine under occupation for more than 80 years, and the Muslims’ countries have been occupied one
after the other, both those close to your ruler as well as those far from him. So tell us about the armies mobilized by your ruler which filled the horizons, the aircraft which covered the sun, and the
fleets which choked the seas to liberate the lands of the Muslims. Actually, tell us about his famous
initiative for the recognition of Israel, and about the pressure he put on HAMAS in his palace at
Makkah to compromise on four-fifths of Palestine. And tell us, oh Mufti of great knowledge, what
is the number of rockets which have been fired from the Land of the Two Sanctuaries to kill the
Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan? What is the number of air sorties flown from the bases of the
Land of the Two Sanctuaries against Iraq and Afghanistan? What is the number of ships supplied
from the ports of Land of the Two Sanctuaries against Iraq and Afghanistan? And what is the number of barrels of fuel which your ruler has supplied the Crusader forces so they can invade, destroy
and bomb Iraq and Afghanistan?
And tell us, oh Mufti, why was Jihad against the Russians in Afghanistan and individual obligation,
whereas today in Iraq, it is one of the greatest of cardinal sins? And finally, wouldn’t have it been
more appropriate for this Mufti who rules according to the school of Bush to reproach his so-called
guardian for his visit with the Pope, show has insulted Islam and Muslims? Is this how the moderate
creed and confrontation of polytheism is supposed to be? Bewildered questions for Al Saud’s Mufti,
and our appointment is with Allah, and to Him we will complain.
Text segment No. 35:
Beggary (AAZ, May 4, 2007, 129 et seq.)
Interviewer: But these movements which carry what you call the culture of concession and methodology of backtracking have Muftis who provide them with fatwas which approve the path they
have taken, and they have produced studies and writings in this regard. Don’t you admit that?
Yes, I admit that. And you also have to admit that among these Muftis are the scholars of the Marines, who were asked for a fatwa by Muhammad Abd al-Rasheed, the head Imam in the American
armed forces, and who replied to him with the scandalous fatwa which permitted the Muslim to join
the American Crusader forces to fight his brothers, the Muslim Mujahideen, whom the scholars of
the Marines called “terrorists in Afghanistan.”
And among these scholars of the Marines is the great scholar who also gave a fatwa which called
for respecting the old agreements which were made between the Americans and the rulers of the
region and as a result of which American bases exist in the Gulf region, because they came – according to his fatwa – in accordance with the resolutions of legitimate governments.
Text segment No. 36:
Beggary (UBL, December 16, 2004, 34, 38)
The false ‘ulama and mercenary writers turn wherever the ruler turns, and they fall in with him
wherever he falls in for the sake of money, and [yet] they still claim religious knowledge and wisdom and guidance and uprightness. […]
Those [clerics] who are opposed to the people of the land conducting armed dialogue with the governments in order to regain their rights – those [clerics] practice gross deception […] Their approach
is extremely dangerous for two reasons: first […] because they let their capricious ideas compete
with God’s law, which is a grave sin, as is well known […] Second, because they participate in
stopping people from following God’s course and they mislead them about their religion, by preventing them from taking their rights in the ways prescribed by God. This pushes the hypocrites and
the ignorant to consider adopting the course of the Northern Alliance [Afghan military faction hostile to Taliban] and of others like them, such as ‘Allawi and his followers. This is absolutely forbidden.
Text segment No. 37:
Defeatism (AAZ, September 11, 2006, 124)
So, they are in fact are striving for the secularization of Islam. And in fact the secularists are braver
than them, even if the secularists are actually more cowardly than the atheists because the atheist
declare clearly that he does not believe in the religion because he considers it a false creed which
must be fought and excluded from public and private matters, whereas the secularist is a coward
who knows that to openly profess atheism will attract the scorn of intelligent people and reveal his
worn out stance towards the faith and in turn the system to which he likes will collapse. Thus, the
calls for removing religion from life and making it a personal matter flees from the frank, serious,
theological confrontation which is that if the religion is a false creed then it must be removed from
all aspects of life, whether personal or private. And if the Truth, Exalted is He, exists and is the
Creator of the Universe, then just as he is the Creator and Sustainer, he also must be the Legislator
and Ruler. So, if the secularists are more cowardly than the atheists, then you can imagine the condition of those who strive for secularism under the cover of Islam.
Text segment No. 38:
Defeatism (AAZ, December 16, 2007, 563 et seq.)
Hassan Nasrallah with English translator: Now we said as Hezballah that we commit ourselves
to liberate every inch of Lebanese territory that is under occupation. However, I don’t say this territory [previously in the interview talking about Sheeba Farm] is Lebanese or not. It is up to the government to determine this. If the government says there is no longer Lebanese territories under occupation, I have no problem with this. In other words I’m not looking for a pretext or a justification.
We are sincere in saying we do not want any inch to remain under Israeli occupation. Now we have
nothing to do with the current discussion that is undergoing today concerning whether the Sheb’a
farms are Lebanese or not. I said this publicly. The Lebanese government says that the Sheb’a farms
aren’t Lebanese. I wouldn’t mean that there needs to be resistance operations operating.
Zawahiri: And while he is loyal to the “Ayatullahs” in Tehran – thousands of miles away – he sees
himself as being under no responsibility to liberate Sheba’a Farms which lie only a stone’s throw
away from him, should the Lebanese government – which he considers to be a puppet – deny the
Lebanese nature of the Farms. And in this he is not talking about the individual duty of Jihad for the
liberation of the lands of the Muslims, but is talking about a narrow, nationalistic, partisan concept
unknown to Islam.
Sahab: We might here compare this methodology with the famous oath of Shaykh Usama bin Ladin
that America will never dream of security until we experience it in Palestine, and with your message
entitled “Palestine is Our Concern and the Concern of Every Muslim,” and with the statement of
Abu Mus’ab (may Allah have mercy on him), “We fight in Iraq and our eyes are on Jerusalem.”
Zawahiri: Correct. And here the difference between the two methodologies becomes clear.
Sahab: In fact, he agreed to Resolution 1701, which called for the disarmament of an area extending 30 kilometers north of the border and the deployment of international forces in that zone: i.e., he
agreed to the presence of foreign occupation forces on a large part of Lebanon.
Zawahiri: Exactly. So even by the standard of national liberation, his party can’t possibly be considered a national liberation movement. There isn’t a national liberation movement sincere in its
nationalism which would agree to have the border of its country moved back 30 kilometers and the
entire abandoned region left without any national sovereignty over it and under the control of foreign forces. So don’t ask about Sheb’a Farms, and indeed, don’t ask about Palestine in the first
place. And if that’s the case, then why did they curse Anwar al-Sadat when he accepted the Sinai
disarmed of weapons?
3. Text segments from AQ statements
Text segment No. 39:
Religious trading charlatans (AAZ, December 16, 2007, 104)
Zawahiri: And then, have we forgotten what the State [of Iraq] was accused of in al-’Amiriyyah,
after which it became clear that the “Revolutionaries of al-’Amiriyyah” were agents of the Americans, and a picture appeared of their leader receiving payments from General Petraeus, and his organization disowned him? […]
Sahab: Do you mean by that the “Revolutionaries of al-Anbar”?
Zawahiri: No. The “Revolutionaries of Anbar” is a well-known, notorious case, more obvious than
the midday sun. Rather, what I mean is what many have acknowledged regarding the participation
of groups and factions in fighting alongside the Americans against the Islamic State of Iraq, among
them Shaykh Muhammad Bashar al-Faydi, who has made a number of statements in this regard,
most recent of which was in his conversation on the al-Baghdadiyyah channel, Sunday, November
4th, and also Dr. Muthanna Harith al-Dari [Interview clip is shown].
Text segment No. 40:
Apostasy due to coercion (AAZ, July 4, 2007, 249)
The conditions being experienced by these captive brothers to whom the retractions are attributed
are conditions of compulsion and suppression, extraction of statements by force and pressuring and
blackmailing them with dirty methods to lend a foundation to ideas and methodologies which anyone with the least bit of understanding realizes couldn’t be farther from having a connection to legal
evidence and scientific foundation. Thus, fairness demands of us that we refrain from considering
these newly-proposed ideas and methodologies as being in line with the convictions of their proposers until they speak them and adopt them in complete freedom and of their own accord. If Law has
permitted the Muslim to speak the word of infidelity – which is the most enormous thing that can be
said – in a state of compulsion with the serenity of the heart with faith, then what about saying
something less than that?
Text segment No. 50:
Sequence (Near 1) of defeatism and instrumentality (AAZ, May 4, 2007, 156 et seq.)
But on the other hand, those who take part in elections in the circumstances you mentioned
say that using what they call violence has led to nothing but failure. What is your comment?
My comment is twofold: first, the fundamental difference with them is in their skid towards secularism, by their adoption of the rule of the majority of voters and abandonment of the rule of Shari’ah
with no logical or legal proof; by their recognition of citizenship as a basis of coexistence and their
abandonment of the fraternity of Islam; by their satisfaction with the nationalistic territorial state
and abandonment of efforts to restore the Caliphate; and by their recognition of the legitimacy of
the corrupt rulers and their regimes and their claim that Jihad is only possible with their permission.
As for the dispute about the fruitfulness or otherwise of violence, it is a secondary dispute about
which means to use, even if events – particularly in Egypt and Algeria – have proven the complete
failure of their method of begging rights from the corrupt rulers, and that it is a fruitless method
from its roots to its branches.
The second point is that the one who has thwarted the American plot in the region and forced the
Americans to accept a pullout – about which they only differ in regard to its timing – is what they
call the movement of violence.
Text segment No. 54:
Grievances (UBL, September 7, 2007, 47)
And if you would like to get to know some of the reasons for your losing of your war against us,
then read the book of Michael Scheuer in this regard.
Text segment No. 55:
Grievances (AAZ, September 29, 2006, 43)
Bush, you deceitful charlatan: You’ve captured Ramzi Yousef, Umar Abd al-Rahman, Wali Khan,
Ibn al-Shayhk, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Khalid al-Shaykh, Abu al-Faraj al-Libi, and hundreds of Mujahideen and champions of Islam in your war against Islam which you call the “war on terror.”
Text segment No. 60:
Intersection of grievance and real-world references (UBL, December 16, 2004, 21)
Whoever wants a recent real-life example for the role of America in deciding to depose someone
should look at the case of Prince Hassan Ibn Talal of Jordan. After he had been viceroy for a number of decades, his brother Hussein returned from America a few days before his death determined
to depose his brother, and [indeed] he deposed him. He [Hassan] acquiesced, and became a mere
political footnote. It is this [fate] that Prince ‘Abdallah fears [would befall him] should he disobey
his protector – America. Thus, it is no secret that those who make decisions about important things
are in America. The proof of the depth of the Crusaders’ control over our country is that their agents
carry out the changes imposed on them by those who appointed them …
Text segment No. 61:
Intersection of grievance and real-world references (UBL, December 27, 2004, 99 et
We have been through wars, and are aware of what they involve: the most difficult of which is for
the United States to deliberately kill our women and children, and then deny it. If it became exposed, then it would claim that the killings happened by mistake. This is what came to pass in Afghanistan, including the killing of many of our brothers, sisters, and children, as well as killing the
wife of Dr. Ayrnan al-Zawahiri, his daughter, and only son, may their souls rest in peace.
This is what Sharon is doing to you in Palestine today. This is what the butcher of women and children in the White House is doing to you in al-FalIujah, al-Ramadi Bal qubah, Samarra, Mosul, and
other Iraqi cities. He resorts to killing the innocent when he fails to stop the resistance.
Text segment No. 65:
Points of conflict (UBL, unknown date 2002, various paragraphs)
The Islam preached by the advocates of interreligious dialogue does not contain [the doctrine of]
Loyalty and Enmity; nor does it contain Jihad; nor boundaries established by the Sharia – since it is
these very doctrines that worry the West most. And the West already possesses certain knowledge
that these fundamentals are the point of conflict with Muslims and not the other principles. [...]
Why all the lies and false claims that the conflict with the Americans is not over values of justice
and the choice of freedoms? For indeed, the conflict with the Crusading Americans is over values of
justice – both in theory and practice; likewise with freedoms – in theory and practice. [...]
For practically everything valued by the immoral West is condemned under sharia law. And the few
things that we do agree over – such as forthrightness and keeping promises, etc. – these are peripheral matters, not the heart of the problem between us. They [the moderates] claim that, if possible,
we should discuss every issue the West submits, so that things go better with us all. Yet the issues
most prominent in the West revolve around secularism, homosexuality, sexuality, and atheism. So
what shared aspects are we to advance dialogue over in order to make for “a better place for us all?”
They [the Westerners] think that something that denies them [the freedom] to pursue obscenities,
atheism and blasphemy, and idolatry is an “oppression.” They think that an attack launched against
their ground, as in an Offensive Jihad, is an “injustice.” And so forth. […] Indeed, the wars they
visit upon Muslims are waged solely because they disagree with us over what constitutes justice and
oppression. [...]
3. Text segments from AQ statements
What the West desires is that we abandon [the doctrine of] Loyalty and Enmity, and abandon [Offensive] Jihad. This is the very essence of their request and desire of us. Do the intellectuals, then,
think actually possible for Muslims to abandon these two commandments simply to coexist with the
West? (ibid, 46)
Thus our talks with the infidel West and our conflict with them ultimately revolve around one issue
– one that demands our total support, with power and determination, with one voice – and it is:
Does Islam, or does it not, force people by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually? Yes. There are only three choices in Islam: either willing submission; or
payment of the jizya, through physical though not spiritual, submission to the authority of Islam; or
the sword – for it is not right to let him [an infidel] live. The matter is summed up for every person
alive: Either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die. [...]
The West perceives fighting, enmity, and hatred all for the sake of the religion as unjust, hostile, and
evil. But who’s understanding is right – our notions of justice and righteousness, or theirs? [...]
The picture of Islam that Western governments and [their] intellectual circles have is very exact and
minute. Since the start of colonization, they have devoted whole centers where they research and
study Islam – and all this so they can formulate a clear conception of Islam. And the West’s notions
that Islam is a religion of jihad and enmity toward the religions of the infidels and the infidels themselves is an accurate and true depiction. [...]
That the West understands their religion and the foundations of their exclusive creed more than the
Muslim laity. So they think that the West’s position toward us is due to its lack of understanding
Islam, its principles, and its laws. In fact, the West did not treat Islam in this atrocious manner until
after it [first] understood the truth about Islam – comprehended its essence and soul. And the West
is knowledgeable of all religions, but it would never confront any of them, nor persecute their people. But it is berat on pulverizing the Muslims, since first learning of their enterprise [Offensive
And the most important feature of the moderation the West favors is elimination of jihad – especially Offensive Jihad; also elimination of enmity for the infidels and the things they worship, and their
religions and idols. Or, at the very least, to disregard and overlook these duties. (127)
Text segment No. 66:
Defeatism, interpretative dominance and points of conflict: Intersection and cooccurrence (UBL, unknown date 2002, 31 et seq.)
The [defeatists] try to ostracize the mujahidin, disavow their deeds, and hold them in contempt.
Conversely, its expressions toward the Crusaders are full of humility, entreaties, and prostrations. It
repudiates Offensive jihad and frantically seeks for any shred of evidence to agree with the whims
of the Crusaders. There is no ability or power save in Allah.
Nor does this defeatist declaration merely grossly distort our religion, but it possesses another aspect
– the dialogue between religions or conferences seeking to unify all religions. Nor were those who
represent Islam at these conferences to discuss the foundations of the religion [Islam] or its particulars that separate it from other religions. Instead, they focused on matters secondary to every religion, such as repudiating injustice, the ban on suicide, being kind to people, justice, and other matters connected to Islam but that do not conflict [with] other religions. As to what distinguishes Islam
from other faiths, this they shy away from mentioning or calling attention to. Even more, they efface
it, fearing lest the wrath of the West fall upon us. The Islam preached by the advocates of interreligious dialogue does not contain [the doctrine of] Loyalty and Enmity; nor does it contain [Offensive] Jihad; nor boundaries established by the sharia – since it is these very doctrines that worry the
West most. And the West already possesses certain knowledge that these fundamentals are the point
of conflict with Muslims and not the other principles.
Hindus burn women along with their husbands when the latter die. Buddhists sell and buy women as
a commodity and part of commerce; the woman is obliged to worship her husband as well as her
idols. As for women in communism, they are available for all, both far and near, and no one has
possessions. Indeed, there are many laws and principles inherent to these nations that contradict
nature. So if the Americans claim to battle those who oppose freedom and justice, then first they
should battle these other nations – not the Islamic umma, which possesses well-gauged justice and
freedom, the likes of which can never be found in other religions. But instead, the declaration of the
intellectuals came supporting the United Nations and their humanistic articles, which revolve
around three principles: equality, freedom, and justice. Nor do they mean equality, freedom, and
justice as was revealed by the Prophet Muhammad. No, they mean the West’s despicable notions,
which we see today in America and Europe
Text segment No. 70:
War of ideas (UBL, December 16, 2004, 23)
The proof of the depth of the Crusaders’ control over our country is that their agents carry out the
changes imposed on them by those who appointed them – even in our school curricula – with the
intention of disfiguring the identity of the Islamic nation and westernizing its children. This is an old
plan, which began decades ago, with regard to the curricula of al-Azhar in Egypt.
America has also asked the other agent-[Arab]states to change their curricula so as to dry up what it
[America] calls: “The fountainheads of the [Islamic] awakening.” America demanded from Yemen
that it close its scholarly [Islamic] institutes more than two decades ago; likewise, America required
the rulers of Riyadh to change the religious curricula, and this was actually done in deference to its
[America’s] wishes. All this happened more than 15 years before the attacks on New York and
Washington […] This Crusader intervention in the changing of the curricula is absolutely the most
dangerous intervention in our affairs, because it is, in short, a change in the religion, while the religion is a whole, which is indivisible […]
It is evident that the outcome of changing the religious curricula is damaging both to religion and to
material interests. As for [the damage to] religion, you already know that it is blatant apostasy, and
as for material interests, the [altered curricula] will eventually produce educated slaves in our country, who will be loyal to America, sell the interests of the country and smile in the face of the Americans, while they conquer the land and defile the [Muslims’] honor, under the pretext of liberty,
equality, and the laws of the United Nations. This is one example of the American intervention in
domestic policy.
Text segment No. 71:
War of ideas (AYL, September 9, 2007, 34)
After their coming into contact with Mujahideen and their becoming privy to many of the details of
their ideas, which they arrived at through the Mujahedeen’s literature and communiqués or through
the discussions which take place now and then inside the interrogation center behind bars, they
realized that the matter is larger and deeper than being just atmospheric crackle, temporary reactions
or mere reflection of interlinked suffering. They realized that the greatest part of the battle lies in the
well-founded convictions and doctrinal-methodological bases which the Mujahideen adopt and
through which they work and which represent their real motivation and mover in the actions they
carry out against these infidel states and their allies. And thus, they reflected and calculated, then
looked around, then reflected and calculated, then came to the conclusion that a large part of the
battle depends on shaking the convictions on which the Mujahideen build their march and casting
doubt on the doctrinal bases.
Text segment No. 72:
War of ideas (AYL, May 22, 2008, 28 et seq.)
The chiefs of this Crusade managed to plant for themselves children of this faith inside the territories of Muslims, assigned to market a lot of their ideas, do propaganda for a lot of their theories,
instill their terms, repeat their terminology, and to try to convince Muslims of them; or at least, to
3. Text segments from AQ statements
kill the sentiment of their hideousness, so that, they become, day after days, commonplace, accepted
thoughts, and a considerable theory.
Because they knew that the key to the success of this plan of theirs is estrangement from jihad and
the mujahideen, and to eliminate them militarily, in addition to fighting them intellectually. As soon
as any obscure man murmurs words referring to the mujahideen, their media are alerted to reveal
and publicize him, and conduct continuous interviews and successive meetings to guide the worshippers to that matchless idea from which originated an insane man, who is unable to distinguish.
Text segment No. 73:
War of ideas (AYL, September 9, 2007, 39)
Interviewer: And according to your outlook, what are the methods which the Crusaders might use
to achieve this goal?
Al-Libi: […] But when talking about the ideological war, it seems to that [the methods] can be
listed in a number of fundamental points. First, announcing the backtracking of some of the Mujahideen’s leaders in prison, their [sic] deeming themselves mistaken in what they used to believe and
do and their [sic] advising their brothers to abandon the path which they are on. The media is present in force in this operation to run interviews, print articles and books of the retractions and blow
them up out all proportion and portray them as axioms which aren’t open to discussion and giving
and taking. And I spoke about this issue previously and mentioned to you the proper bases on which
to deal with it.
Text segment No. 74:
War of ideas (AYL, September 9, 2007, 40-43)
Second, fabrication some repulsive lies or exaggerating and blowing up some mistakes from which
no field of Jihad is free and considering them to be deviations glued to the Jihadist methodology and
an inseparable part of it, and widening their circle to make them a general rule covering all Jihadi
groups in all fields of Jihad.
Interviewer: Could you give us an example, Shaykh?
Al-Libi: Like the allegation that the Mujahideen deem the Ummah and its ‘Ulama to be infidels and
legalize the spilling of their blood and taking of their wealth, and the portrayal of them as being a
small group outside the law and deviating from the path of the Believers whose ideas are ideas of
extremism, militancy, isolation and harshness with no connection to the mercy of Islam and its
tolerance and leniency. And among the amusing things I have heard in this regard is what some of
those who are called analysts and experts in Islamic groups said: that the constitution of al-Qaida
Organization calls for the killing of anyone who breaks away from it! We tell these slanderers who
aren’t ashamed to spread blatant lies, “Produce your proof, if you are truthful.” Show us this constitution in which you found this passage, and we guarantee to you that we will distribute it at the
widest level and on all fronts. Al-Qaida Organization and its leaders are too noble and pure to descend to the rotten level of such nonsense. They’re not committers of random deeds and impulsive
acts or callers to imaginary temporal interests, nor do they tread aimlessly in their march; rather,
they base their methodology on clear legal evidence, well-founded Islamic fundamentals and definite doctrinal constants, and anyone can see the milestones of their journey, on one condition: that
he be unbiased in his search for the truth and facts and not be blinded by hostility, jealousy or sheer
Also from the methods which we indicated is concentrating on interpretive issues followed by the
Mujahideen on the basis of legal interpretation and actual need and making them the central focus
of criticism and considering them to be categorically flagrant mistakes which can’t be accepted or
rectified, and moreover, moving by way of these [“mistakes”] to pass unfair judgments without
verification, deliberation or proof. And the most prominent example of this is the bombings with
which the Mujahideen target dens of infidel legislation, centers of criminal intelligence, military
barracks and elsewhere, as occurred in Algeria and before that on the Arabian Peninsula. These
blessed acts are portrayed as having targeted first and foremost – if not solely – the general public
and the powerless, and the criminality and compound apostasy which was targeted hides behind a
scene which moves emotions and whips up storms and is carried by the media.
Text segment No. 75:
War of ideas (AYL, September 9, 2007, 44)
Third: among the greatest methods used in the ideological war is the issuing of fatwas – or rather,
the procuring [herbeiführen, beschaffen, AA] of fatwas – which criminalize Jihad and Mujahideen
and describe them with well-known, repulsive legal terms like “bandits” and “Kharijites” and even
“Qaramites,” “extreme fanatics” and the like, and paint them with allegations of treachery and treason. These muftis have become experts in perverting the source texts and are accustomed to bending
their necks and don’t even see anything wrong with occasionally breaking them if they refuse to be
flexible.In fact, states now form special committees of Shaykhs to debate the Mujahideen repressed
behind the prison bars, like what is happening on the Arabian Peninsula, where they are following
the tradition of the Egyptian government. Tell me, what do you expect from someone who sees the
sword above him, the rug in front of him and the Shaykh dictating to him the proof and evidence for
the obligation of obeying the ruler? For so long the Mujahideen and their ‘Ulama have called for
open, public debate without conditions or restrictions, so why didn’t these ‘Ulama accept the offer
and confront evidence with evidence before the hands were placed in shackles? And in a further
attempt by the region’s traitors to besiege the Jihadist methodology, there are rapid and continuous
attempts to codify the sources of the fatwa and prohibit and criminalize deviation in the issuing or
requesting of fatwas from the channels which they will specify. And the mission of those official
channels will be to chant the praises of the tyrants, beat the drum for them and justify their hideous
deeds while at the same time slandering the Mujahideen, stirring up misconceptions about their
actions and issuing stringent fatwas against them.
Text segment No. 76:
War of ideas (AYL, September 9, 2007, 45)
Fourth, strengthening and backing some of the methodologies adopted by Islamic movements far
removed from Jihad, especially those with a democratic approach and those groups which melt and
bend the source texts and iron them out so that they agree with the civilization, culture and methodologies of the West, and portraying these groups as the moderate, balanced, reasonable and civilized
alternative, and accordingly, pushing these groups into ideological conflict with the Jihadist groups,
feeding that conflict and busying the Mujahideen with it. This is one of the steps meant to isolate the
Mujahideen inside their societies and place them in front of a torrential flood of ideas and methodologies which find backing, empowerment and publicity from numerous parties. And finally, when
those groups’ mission is over, a cold shoulder will be turned to them, upon which they will realize
they were only used to harm their brothers.
Text segment No. 77:
War of ideas (AYL, September 9, 2007, 46)
Fifth: killing, capturing, incapacitating or defaming the guiding Jihadi symbols isolating them and
preventing their voice from reaching the people, and emptying the arena of them or restricting them
as much as possible, after which the Mujahideen will be without an authority in which they can put
full confidence and which will direct and guide them, allay their misconceptions, and regulate their
march with knowledge, understanding and wisdom which in turn will lead to the intervention of
some of those who have not fully matured on this path or are hostile to them in the first place, to
spread whatever ideas and opinions they want to cause disarray and darkness in the proper outlook
which every Mujahid must have.
3. Text segments from AQ statements
Text segment No. 78:
War of ideas (AYL, September 9, 2007, 47)
Sixth: blowing out of proportion some of the minor, interpretive disputes which might occur among
the Mujahideen, and considering them to be doctrinal/methodological disputes, and inventing new
names and descriptions for those groups on the basis of these disputes, and making it an inroad for
them to fan the flames of differences, bandy about allegations and spread rumors, to be able – by
way of that – to turn minor interpretive disputes open to discussion into something portrayed as
being deep, contradictory methodological differences on the basis of which groups are categorized
as being moderate, middle-of-the-road or extreme. And without a doubt, the atmosphere that reaches this degree of tension becomes a protected incubator and safe haven for rumormongers, deserters
and demoralizers, and the door is thrown wide open for defamation, casting of doubts, making of
accusations and slander. And at that point, however much the Mujahideen try to explain the truth,
remove the misconception and reply to the accusations, their voice will be like the voice of someone
with a hoarse throat in the middle of thousands of people shouting with one voice, a voice which is
today represented by all media without exception. And Allah we ask for help.
Text segment No. 79:
War of ideas and conditions for truce: text intersection (AYG, May 29, 2007, 29)
Put an end to all forms of interference in the educational curricula and information media of the
Islamic world and impose a blanket ban on all broadcasts to our region, especially those designed to
alter or destroy the faith, minds, morals, and values of our people.
Text segment No. 80:
Interpretative dominance and war of ideas: intersection (AYL, May 22, 2008, 77)
These deviant calls that infiltrate matters of the faith slowly and stealthily through envelopment and
equivocation, and that many people would trivialize, and that some even consider as the ultimate
victory and the ultimate wisdom, I say: If these calls are not confronted by the honest scholars of the
Ummah and its ardent preachers, with determination, courage, and truthfulness, their consequence
will be creation of a new religion in the broadest sense of the word, and I think its features have
begun to take shape. It is a new faith in its terms and new in its concepts. It is new in its controls and
foundation. It is new in its doctrine and branches, and new, even in its worship and transactions. It is
new in its sources of reception. Then we are told that this is a moderate Islam, a balanced Islam, the
Islam of the twentieth-first century. It is the Islam of openness, brotherhood, and peace. It is the
Islam of moderation and reason, while it is none but the Islam of the RAND Corporation and its
like. It is the Islam that the imams of infidelity in their modern Crusader seek to reach, which will
not be attainable to them until a camel is placed through the eye of a needle. So die in your wrath
and taste of the grief. The faith of Allah is preserved. A human will afflict but himself: “Verily,
those who disbelieve spend their wealth to hinder from the Path of Allah, and so will they continue
to spend it; but in the end it will become an anguish for them. Then they will be overcomed. And
those who disbelieve will be gathered unto Hell. In order that Allah may distinguish the wicked
from the good, and put the wicked one on another, heap them together and cast them into Hell.
Those! It is they who are the losers.” [Al-Anfal 8:36-37]
Text segment No. 90:
Secularism (AAZ, September 11, 2006, 124)
The secularists are actually more cowardly than the atheists because the atheist declare clearly that
he does not believe in the religion because he considers it a false creed which must be fought and
excluded from public and private matters, whereas the secularist is a coward who knows that to
openly profess atheism will attract the scorn of intelligent people and reveal his worn out stance
towards the faith and in turn the system to which he likes will collapse. Thus, the calls for removing
religion from life and making it a personal matter flees from the frank, serious, theological confron-
tation which is that if the religion is a false creed then it must be removed from all aspects of life,
whether personal or private.
Text segment No. 92:
Secularism (AYL, May 22, 2008, 51)
And if they [the secular defeatists] are told, “And if you obey most of those on earth, they will mislead you far away from Allah’s Path. They follow nothing but conjectures, and they do nothing but
lie.” [Al-An’am 6:116], they say we are in a time of democracy and sovereignty of peoples.
Text segment No. 93:
Secularism (AYL, July 27, 2006, 69)
And on the basis of this fundamental, we caution some of the Islamic groups, among them HAMAS,
which are risking the blood of their members and pushing them into battles which have reins or
bridles, and we call on them to cleanse and empty their Jihad of contemporary Jahili [pre-Islam]
pollutants and of the terms which Satan made to appear pretty to them but which are like wind in the
desert on the balance of Law: e.g., patriotism, nationalism, shared destiny, the supreme interest and
the other slogans which are repeated many times daily on the tongues of their officials and commanders. None of this has any place in the religion of Allah (the Glorious and Great), and it is one
of the major catastrophes resulting from the failure to appreciate this genuine pillar of the Jihadist
Text segment No. 94:
Vanguard (AAZ, September 11, 2006, 23)
But who will carry the burden of gathering the Ummah in the field of confrontation with its
The Mujahid vanguard of the Muslim Ummah, because of the organizations affiliated to Islam
which have given up Jihad and recognize the legitimacy of tyrants [e.g., the defeatists] are incapable
of confronting the attacking enemy. So only the Muslim Ummah with its Mujahid vanguard remains
in the arena of confrontation, defending the Ummah’s creed, sanctities, homelands, and destinies.
Text segment No. 95:
Secularism (UBL, December 27, 2004, 80 et seq.)
Religious ruling concerning participation in the upcoming elections, whether in Iraq, Palestine, or in
Afghanistan and the likes.
First of all, it is no secret that the selection of emirs [rulers] or presidents is the right of the nation.
However, this right is governed by conditions, whose absence makes participation in the selection
of an emir prohibited. Then people exert efforts to install a Muslim emir who would rule in accordance with the law of God. Among the most important of these conditions are that the emir should be
Muslim and Islam should be the religion that people would be ruled by. This means that the only
source of these laws and regulations is Islam.
It is well-known that the constitution, which was imposed by US occupier Bremer, is a man-made
and pagan constitution, which insisted that Islam should not be the sole source of legislation. Therefore, if we suppose, for the sake of argument, that 90 percent of the laws and regulations are derived
from the Islamic Sharia and 10 percent are derived from man-made legislation, then this constitution, according to Islam, is a constitution of infidelity. [...]
If someone believes in a part of it and rejects another part, then he becomes an infidel and his prayers and fasting will be to no avail.
3. Text segments from AQ statements
God Almighty says: “Then is it only a part of the Book that you believe in, and do you reject the
rest? But what is the reward for those among you who behave like this but disgrace in this life? And
on the Day of Judgment they shall be consigned to the most grievous penalty. For Allah is not unmindful of what ye do.” [Koranic verse]
If people [in a certain country] abide by all the laws of Islam, but do not prohibit usury, for example, and sanction dealing with banks that deal in interest, then the constitution of this country is a
constitution of infidelity for such a behavior means that the people of that country do not believe in
the perfection of the Islamic law or its revealer, God Almighty. It is no secret that this disbelief is a
strong cause for departure from the Islamic faith.
In addition, these elections will be held upon the United States’ orders and under the shelling of its
warplanes and tanks.
Based on this, if anyone participates in the above-mentioned elections knowingly and willingly, he
would then have rejected God Almighty. “There is no power and no strength save in God” [Koranic
Beware of the imposters, who speak in the name of Islamic parties and groups, and who urge people
to participate in the elections in a defiant apostasy. Had those people been honest, they would have
tried day and night to be faithful to God Almighty and would have dissociated themselves from the
apostate government. They also would have urged people to be engaged in Jihad against the Americans and their allies. If they cannot, they should renounce that deep in their hearts and avoid participating in the programs of apostates or sitting in the seat of apostates.
Whatever we mentioned about Iraq fully applies to the situation in Palestine. Palestine is under
occupation and its constitution is man-made and pagan, and Islam has nothing to do with it. Candidate Mahmud Abbas is Bahii, agent, and apostate. He was brought after he and his companions had
wasted ten years of the lives of Muslims in Palestine through the Oslo conspiracy, not to mention
other conspiracies. Abbas was brought so as to send people into further loss, to offer more concessions in this round, to tame the Intifadah, and to repress jihad and resistance.
Muslims should heed God in their lives and religion and beware of taking part in these upcoming
elections for this is a serious thing. Muslims should know that there is no difference between believing that it was right to elect the first Abu-Jahl, Arm Bin-Hisharn and between electing Abu-Jahl
Iyad Alawi, Abu-Jahl Mahmud Abbas, Abu-Jahl Hamid Karazai, Abu-Jahl Husni Mubarak, AbuJahl Fand Bin-Abd-al-Aziz, or other apostate rulers.
Text segment No. 96:
Secularism (AAZ, September 11, 2006, 55 et seq.)
But some say that what you are calling for is insane and ignores the realities of international
This way of thinking is what has taken us to where we are today. Each and every time, we have
contradicted the constants of Islam, submitted to international infidel law, and bowed to its resolutions, to exchange our religion and rights for a small gain and lose both our religion and worldly
life. The reality of international politics is the humiliation and repression of the Muslims at the
hands of the idol kings who dominate this world. That’s why the only one who accepts it is a person
for whom religion, honor and dignity is an easy matter. As for the understanding which they claim
to have, al-Mutanabi said about it. The cowards consider impotence to be smart. And that is the
deception of lowly nature. My noble brother these realities of international politics which they talk
about originate in what they call international law, the United Nations and the secular states. Fruits
of the noxious tree of Sykes/Picot.
Text segment No. 97:
Secularism (UBL, December 29, 2007, 18)
Everyone meets in the middle of the road and accept compromises, which means that the Ba’athists
and other parties will abandon some of their principles, and the Muslims also abandon some of their
Text segment No. 98:
Secularism (AAZ, May 4, 2007)
But they say that they are a moderate Islamic movement practicing politics, so what objection
do you have to that?
My brother: fie on moderation, politics, the presidency and the cabinet, and I thank Allah for the
bounty of extremism, militancy and terrorism and everything else we are labeled with.
Text segment No. 99:
Intersection secularism and apostasy (subcode defeatism) (AAZ, December 20, 2006,
29 et seq.)
It is our duty to reject and cast off these resolutions and wage war on them [e.g., Belfour declaration], instead of taking indecisive stances towards them, and saying that we shall respect them and
acknowledge them as a fact of life, and other such terms which lead to the forfeiture of the Muslims’ rights.
Recognizing these resolutions implies recognizing the Hebrew state in the land of Palestine, criminalizing Jihad against it, and isolating the Mujahideen outside it from the Mujahideen inside it.
And the secularists who have approved these resolutions are criminals in the eyes of Islam who
have agreed to the establishment of Israel in one of the holiest places in Islam.
These secularist traitors – who have renounced Islamic Law, agreed to the presence of Israel and
traded for crumbs – cannot possibly have any legitimacy, and we cannot possibly recognize them as
legitimate rulers, much less consider them our brothers. They are enemies of Islam and Muslims
who have turned their backs on the Shari’ah of Islam and surrendered the Muslims’ lands to the
Text segment No. 100:
Hypocrisy (AAZ, May 4, 2007, 143)
I read in it American hypocrisy, which calls for democracy even as it considers Hosni Mubarak to
be one of its closest friends, and which sends detainees to be tortured in Egypt, exports tools of
torture to Egypt and spends millions to support the security organs and their executioners in Egypt,
even as the American State Department, in its annual report on human rights, criticizes the Egyptian
government because it tortures detainees!
Text segment No. 110:
General grievances (hypocrisy and contradictions) (UBL, October, unknown date,
2002, 64 et seq.)
(xi) That which you are singled out for in the history of mankind, is that you have used your force to
destroy mankind more than any other nation in history; not to defend principles and values, but to
hasten to secure your interests and profits. You who dropped a nuclear bomb on Japan, even though
Japan was ready to negotiate an end to the war. How many acts of oppression, tyranny and injustice
have you carried out, O callers to freedom?
3. Text segments from AQ statements
(xii) Let us not forget one of your major characteristics: your duality in both manners and values;
your hypocrisy in manners and principles. All manners, principles and values have two scales: one
for you and one for the others.
(a) The freedom and democracy that you call to is for yourselves and for white race only; as for the
rest of the world, you impose upon them your monstrous, destructive policies and Governments,
which you call the ‘American friends.’ Yet you prevent them from establishing democracies. When
the Islamic party in Algeria wanted to practice democracy and they won the election, you unleashed
your agents in the Algerian army onto them, and to attack them with tanks and guns, to imprison
them and torture them – a new lesson from the ‘American book of democracy’!!!
(b) Your policy on prohibiting and forcibly removing weapons of mass destruction to ensure world
peace: it only applies to those countries which you do not permit to possess such weapons. As for
the countries you consent to, such as Israel, then they are allowed to keep and use such weapons to
defend their security. Anyone else who you suspect might be manufacturing or keeping these kinds
of weapons, you call them criminals and you take military action against them.
(c) You are the last ones to respect the resolutions and policies of International Law, yet you claim
to want to selectively punish anyone else who does the same. Israel has for more than 50 years been
pushing UN resolutions and rules against the wall with the full support of America.
(d) As for the war criminals which you censure and form criminal courts for – you shamelessly ask
that your own are granted immunity!! However, history will not forget the war crimes that you
committed against the Muslims and the rest of the world; those you have killed in Japan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Lebanon and Iraq will remain a shame that you will never be able to escape. It will
suffice to remind you of your latest war crimes in Afghanistan, in which densely populated innocent
civilian villages were destroyed, bombs were dropped on mosques causing the roof of the mosque to
come crashing down on the heads of the Muslims praying inside. You are the ones who broke the
agreement with the Mujahideen when they left Qunduz, bombing them in Jangi fort, and killing
more than 1,000 of your prisoners through suffocation and thirst. Allah alone knows how many
people have died by torture at the hands of you and your agents. Your planes remain in the Afghan
skies, looking for anyone remotely suspicious.
(e) You have claimed to be the vanguards of Human Rights, and your Ministry of Foreign affairs
issues annual reports containing statistics of those countries that violate any Human Rights. However, all these things vanished when the Mujahideen hit you, and you then implemented the methods
of the same documented governments that you used to curse. In America, you captured thousands
the Muslims and Arabs, took them into custody with neither reason, court trial, nor even disclosing
their names. You issued newer, harsher laws.
What happens in Guantanamo is a historical embarrassment to America and its values, and it
screams into your faces – you hypocrites, “What is the value of your signature on any agreement or
Text segment No. 111:
General grievances (hypocrisy and contradictions) (UBL, September 7, 2007, 29 et
This war was entirely unnecessary, as testified to by your own reports. And among the most capable
of those from your own side who speak to you on this topic and on the manufacturing of public
opinion is Noam Chomsky, who spoke sober words of advice prior to the war, but the leader of
Texas doesn’t like those who give advice. The entire world came out in unprecedented demonstrations to warn against waging the war and describe its true nature in eloquent terms like “no to spilling red blood for black oil,” yet he paid them no heed. It is time for humankind to know that talk of
the rights of man and freedom are lies produced by the White House and its allies in Europe to deceive humans, take control of their destinies and subjugate them.
So in answer to the question about the causes of the Democrats’ failure to stop the war, I say: they
are the same reasons which led to the failure of former president Kennedy to stop the Vietnam war.
Those with real power and influence are those with the most capital. And since the democratic system permits major corporations to back candidates, be they presidential or congressional, there
shouldn’t be any cause for astonishment – and there isn’t any – in the Democrats’ failure to stop the
war. And you’re the ones who have the saying which goes, “Money talks.” And I tell you: after the
failure of your representatives in the Democratic Party to implement your desire to stop the war, you
can still carry anti-war placards and spread out in the streets of major cities, then go back to your
homes, but that will be of no use and will lead to the prolonging of the war. […]
It has now become clear to you and the entire world the impotence of the democratic system and
how it plays with the interests of the peoples and their blood by sacrificing soldiers and populations
to achieve the interests of the major corporations. […]
And despite this brazen attack on the people, the leaders of the West – especially Bush, Blair, Sarkozy and Brown – still talk about freedom and human rights with a flagrant disregard for the intellects of human beings. So is there a form of terrorism stronger, clearer and more dangerous than
this? This is why I tell you: as you liberated yourselves before from the slavery of monks, kings,
and feudalism, you should liberate yourselves from the deception, shackles and attrition of the capitalist system.
If you were to ponder it well, you would find that in the end, it is a system harsher and fiercer than
your systems in the Middle Ages. The capitalist system seeks to turn the entire world into a fiefdom
of the major corporations under the label of “globalization” in order to protect democracy.
And Iraq and Afghanistan and their tragedies; and the reeling of many of you under the burden of
interest-related debts, insane taxes and real estate mortgages; global warming and its woes; and the
abject poverty and tragic hunger in Africa: all of this is but one side of the grim face of this global
So it is imperative that you free yourselves from all of that and search for an alternative, upright
methodology in which it is not the business of any class of humanity to lay down its own laws to its
own advantage at the expense of the other classes as is the case with you, since the essence of manmade positive laws is that they serve the interests of those with the capital and thus make the rich
richer and the poor poorer.
Text segment No. 115:
Denial of the United Nations (AAZ, December 20, 2006, 36 et seq.)
The fourth fact is that recognition of Israel takes many forms. Among the forms of recognition of
Israel is membership in the United Nations, because Israel is a member like the rest of the members,
and it is the obligation of all members – according to the text of the UN charter – to respect its sovereignty and the integrity of its territories.
And one of the regrettable events in this sphere concerns the conference of “emerging democracies”
which was held under UN auspices in Qatar this past October and which the Israeli foreign minister
refused to attend because a delegation from the Palestinian government which included members of
the HAMAS movement was attending the conference! i.e., they complain about attending the same
conference as us, while we eagerly compete for that! Is this the political action which protects the
honor and rights of the Muslims?!
Another lamentable example in this context is the recent draft Security Council resolution put forward by Qatar on behalf of the Arab grouping and vetoed by the United States, which condemned
the latest Israel aggression against Gaza in addition to condemning the launching of rockets against
Israel. The ambassador of Palestine at the United Nations supported this draft and regretted America’s objection to it: i.e., the Palestinian government adopted and supported a draft resolution criminalizing Jihad against Israel!
And here we must make clear the true nature of the United Nations. The United Nations is an organization hostile to Islam. Its charter is based on the rule of other than the Shari’ah and obligates all
UN members, including the governments of the Islamic countries, to recognize Israel, because it –
like them – is a member of the UN. And it also obligates them to recognize Russia’s occupation of
3. Text segments from AQ statements
Chechnya and the Muslim Caucasus, China’s occupation of East Turkistan, Spain’s occupation of
Ceuta and Melilla and the occupation of other Muslim lands by non-Muslim governments which are
part of the UN.
And furthermore, the UN is the one who established the Jewish presence in Palestine, the Crusader
presence in Afghanistan, and the Crusader occupation of Iraq, and it is the international false witness which runs the rigged elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it is the one who today is attempting to enable the Crusaders to invade Darfur under cover of the UN. The United Nations is the one
whose international forces are today deployed on the borders of Lebanon, to prevent the meeting up
of the Mujahideen from outside Palestine with those within it, in order to complete the blockade
against the Mujahideen in Palestine. The United Nations is a tool in the hands of the United States
and its Crusader partners for taking over the world through intimidation, enticement and extortion,
and it has a leadership comprised of the Big Five and a backyard called the General Assembly in
which the weak states shout at one another.
Text segment No. 116:
Denial of accords (AAZ, January 24, 2007, 39)
The one who agrees to Resolution 1701 is approving the international Crusader military presence in
South Lebanon, and is approving the isolation of the Mujahideen in Palestine from their brothers in
Lebanon. Accepting this resolution is an historic fall which cannot be justified or excused.
Text segment No. 117:
Denial of accords (AAZ, May 4, 2007, 71 et seq.)
You criticized in your most recent speech the leadership of HAMAS for its signing the Makkah accord, and some have accused you of dividing Palestinian ranks. What is your reply?
It’s not necessary that uniting Palestinian ranks be made into an excuse for abandoning the rule of
Shari’ah and giving up most of Palestine. The Truth (Exalted is He) says, “And hold fast, all together, to the rope of Allah, and be not divided among yourselves.” (3:103) So we must hold fast to the
rope of Allah, not the rope of the secularist, Palestine-selling hirelings of America. We must hold
fast to the rope of Allah, not the rope of the spy Muhammad Dahlan, who HAMAS continues to this
very day to refuse to appoint to the National Security Council, because – as they announced – he is
working for Israel against Palestinian national security. So has HAMAS, by its rejection of Muhammad Dahlan, become a divider of Palestinian ranks?
We don’t want a single rank full of holes through which the Crusaders and Jews can come in; rather,
we want unity around the word of Tawheed.
Text segment No. 120:
Intersection secularism and global conflict (AAZ, January 6, 2006, 22)
The real game which America planned in Egypt in both elections, the presidential and the parliamentary, deceived the Muslim people and took advantage of their love of Islam. It would be said
that they got 30 seats before and now you have 80 and after five years you may have 100. As long
as you behave well, we will give you more, as long as you become secularists, and are false Muslims like Erdogan and his companions. We will allow you to have the power but with a condition.
That you have to forget the rule of Shari’a and you must welcome the rules of the crusaders in your
land. And you accept the Jewish presence, which is armed with nuclear weapons, which you will be
denied of.
Text segment No. 121:
Intersection secularism global conflict (AAZ, April 17, 2008, 34)
What happened in the elections of the Shura Council and after that in the localities of Egypt; what
happened in the Jordanian and Moroccan elections; and the threats to dissolve the Justice Party in
Turkey is the new American method after the trend for change exhausted its role through elections.
The Americans used this method to divert the Ummah from serious jihad and resistance against its
enemies at home and abroad. And when it did not succeed in defeating the wave of the jihadi councils, they moved to the present method; the method of the Awakening Councils in Iraq, constitutional amendments, full control over the elections, rationalization document in Egypt, 652 and the method of forcing the reality of humiliating the status quo on the Ummah through oppression,
falsification, killing, and lies.
Text segment No. 123:
Intersection secularism (grievances) and global conflict (grievances) (AAZ, May 4,
2007, 143)
I read in it American hypocrisy, which calls for democracy even as it considers Hosni Mubarak to
be one of its closest friends, and which sends detainees to be tortured in Egypt, exports tools of
torture to Egypt and spends millions to support the security organs and their executioners in Egypt,
even as the American State Department, in its annual report on human rights, criticizes the Egyptian
government because it tortures detainees!
Text segment No. 129:
Goals and objectives (AYL, September 9, 2007, 69)
Therefore, let our intent be clear, our target defined and our objective declared: the establishment of
Allah’s religion in its complete and comprehensive sense which is articulated by the statement of
Allah, “and religion is wholly for Allah.” And it is an objective for which we make sacrifices and
for whose establishment we pour out our blood sand give our efforts, and everything else, whatever
its value, is less than it. And that’s why we don’t accept the least compromise regarding it, nor do
we agree to make it the subject of research, review and giving and taking, even if holding on to its
leads to the total annihilation of our groups. We aren’t better in that regard than the People of the
Text segment No. 130:
Goals and objectives (UBL, October 22, 2007, 48)
History has turned a new page with major changes, and the map of the region will be redrawn at the
hands of the Mujahideen, with Allah’s permission, and the artificial borders placed by the Crusaders
will be erased, for the state of truth and justice to be established: the greater state of Islam from the
ocean to the ocean, Allah permitting. This quest is extremely dear, and infidelity on all its levels –
international, regional and local – is combining its efforts to prevent the establishment of the state of
Text segment No. 131:
Goals and objectives (AAZ, September 11, 2006, 108)
Interviewer: And what is al-Qaida’s wider vision regarding the Jihad in Iraq and Afghanistan?
AAZ: The wider vision of the Mujahideen in Iraq and Afghanistan is the establishment of an Islamic
Emirate in both of them which will be a launch pad for the defense of Islam and Muslims and a step
on the road to the restoration of the Caliphate. And in Iraq, we must not forget that Jerusalem is a
stone’s throw from Baghdad, so if the Islamic Emirate arises in Iraq, with Allah’s help, and is able
to infiltrate the traitorous Jordanian entity, to stand on the borders of Palestine and – Allah permit-
By Sayyed Imam.
Group of people described in the Quran, who were forced to denunciate their faith or to be burned in fire
pits, and who opted for the latter.
3. Text segments from AQ statements
ting – the Mujahideen come one after another from both inside and outside Palestine, then we will
see the biggest conquest and greatest victory, with Allah’s permission.
Text segment No. 132:
Goal and objectives (AAZ, July 27, 2006, 28 et seq.)
The events which are occurring shows the seriousness of the two jihadi fronts in Afghanistan and
Iraq, so Muslims must support jihad until the American forces get out of there totally paralyzed,
dragging itself back to its country, and it pays the price for attacking Muslims and for supporting of
By Iraq being near Palestine it is an advantage; therefore the Muslims should support its Mujahideen until an Islamic Emirate of jihad is established there. Subsequently it would transfer the jihad
to the borders of Palestine with the Aid of Allah, then the Mujahideen in and out of Palestine would
unite and the greatest conquest would be accomplished.
The martyr Imam – as we consider him – Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has said “In Iraq we are very close
to al-Aqsa Mosque of the Messenger of Allah, so we fight in Iraq and our eyes are on Jerusalem
which can only be restored by the guiding Qur’an and sword of victory.”
Text segment No. 133:
Goals and objectives (UBL, December 29, 2007, 77 and 83)
Today Baghdad and tomorrow Damascus, Amman, and Riyadh. […] The support of the truthful
Mujahideen, especially in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, North Africa, and Somalia is the project of
the whole Ummah, and it is its first line of defense against all of its enemies. In it lies its good and
religion and its security, yes, including your military, social, health, and economic security, so as to
preserve your oil and resources and your money that you are losing right now, […]. Supporting the
Mujahideen is the project of the Ummah to liberate all of Palestine and so Al-Aqsa smiles and we
release the female and male prisoners, Allah willing.
Text segment No. 134:
Goals and objectives (AAZ, July 4, 2007, 294)
And the long-term plan is divided into two halves: the first half consists of earnest, diligent work to
change these corrupt and corruptive regimes. I am unable here to offer a single prescription for
change in every country, because every country has its own circumstances and conditions […].
Text segment No. 135:
Goals and objectives (UBL, October 22, 2007, 50 et seq.)
In conclusion, I address a brief message to the rulers of Riyadh, and another to those who wield
influence. I say to them [i.e., the rulers of Riyadh]: leadership is a contract between the sovereign
and his subjects, and both have rights and obligations that derive from the contract. There are also
things which nullify it, one of which is when the sovereign betrays his religion and nation – and this
is what you did […].
It is no secret to you now that the [Saudi] people have awakened from their apathy … and the Muslims in Saudi Arabia now insist in reclaiming their stolen rights, no matter what it takes. Therefore,
you have to choose between paths. The first is to return the trust to its owners in a peaceful manner
and to let the people of the country choose a Muslim ruler so that he might rule them according to
God’s Book and His Prophet’s tradition. The second is to refuse to return the people’s rights […]
and to recruit some of them with money from the public money of the [Islamic] nation to beat up
and kill their own brothers and cousins who reject your authority. You should know, however […]
that when peoples rise up to demand their rights they can not be stopped by security apparatuses.
You should bear in mind the fate of the Shah of Iran, despite the reputation and the power and the
experience of his security apparatus, and likewise the fate of Ceausescu in Romania […].
You know that we in the al-Qaida organization are not fighting you over worldly affairs; what offends us rather is that you commit acts which remove you from Islam – among them, ruling by
[laws] other than those which God has revealed, and making alliances with the infidels.
Text segment No. 136:
Apostasy (UBL, December 16, 2004, 14 and 17)
That which I just mentioned is one of the important causes of disagreement between the Muslims
and the rulers of Riyadh. The solution to this matter is simple and well known in God’s religion,
provided that the ruler honestly wants reform, and [indeed] if he wants it at all. As for us, God
knows that we want reform and strive for it as much as we can. We left our country only because of
our love for reform, for we didn’t lack any wordly goods. […]
Thus, if we want to arrive at a proper solution – theoretically and practically – to this conflict [between the ruler and his subjects], we must know its roots and dimensions. For this conflict is partly
a local conflict, but in other respects it is a conflict between world heresy – and with it today’s apostates – under the leadership of America on the one hand, and on the other, the Islamic nation with
the brigades of mujahidin in its vanguard. This oppressive [regime] in the region, which at present
represses every movement for reform and imposes upon the peoples policies that contradict both
their religion and their worldly interest, is the very same family which helped the Crusaders against
the Muslims a century ago.
Text segment No. 137:
Appeal for action (UBL, December 16, 2004, 53)
I now address the influential people among the honest ‘ulama, the leaders, the dignitaries and notables, and the businessmen. The message is: take action before it’s too late […] Do everything you
can to defuse the crisis, as you know that the mujahidin in Saudi Arabia have not yet launched the
war against the regime – for had they launched it in fact, the top priority would have been to get rid
of the local leaders of heresy – namely the rulers of Riyadh. However, what is currently going on is
merely an extension of the war against the Crusader-American coalition, which is fighting us everywhere, and whom we fight everywhere, including within Saudi Arabia. We strive to expel them
from it [i.e., Saudi Arabia], God willing. You, the people of influence: fear God, for your own sake
and for the sake of your nation. Let those of you who can do so emigrate from the country, thus
freeing themselves from the imaginary shackles and the psychological pressure that the regime has
put on them.
Text segment No. 138:
Goals & objectives and religious references: intersection (AYL, September 9,
2007, 68)
[…] its first objective [is] the establishment of the religion, rule of the Law, and making the Creation worship their Creator. So it is a noble means to a great end which is not dirtied by the pollution
of patriotism, the filth of nationalism, the stain of rationalism or the rigging of whims. And it is the
lofty concept which the Quran and Sunnah express with the phrase “in the path of Allah”: i.e., in
obedience to Allah (the Glorious and Great). And this motive must be clearly defined in the depths
of the soul, just as it must be active and tangible in practically pursuits. This is why it is related in
the authentic Hadeeth from Abu Musa that he said: “A man came to the Prophet (peace be upon
him) and said, ‘One man fights for booty, another man fights for fame, and another fights to show
off, so which of them is in Allah’s path?’ He replied, ‘The one who fights for the supremacy of Allah’s Word is in Allah’s path’” And he (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “He who
fights under an ambiguous banner out of partisan anger or calls to partisanship of aids partisanship
and is killed, is one killed in the Time of Ignorance.”
3. Text segments from AQ statements
Text segment No. 139:
Goals & objectives and other references: intersection (Abdullah al-Nafisi, quoted in
AAZ, July 4, 2007, 290)
The Arabian Peninsula is a very important part of the heart of every Muslim in the world. It has two
sanctuaries: it has the grave of the messenger (peace and prayers be upon him), and has the revered
Ka’aba. It is the land of the Two Sanctuaries. We don’t fear for our houses the way we fear for the
land of the Two Sanctuaries. We fear for the land of the Two Sanctuaries more than we fear for our
houses because our destiny is there. You understand how? That’s why it should be pointed out that
in the land of the two sanctuaries, the supreme hand in all affairs should be for the Muslims and not
the central states, and this can only be achieved if the will of the messenger (peace and prayers be
upon him) is executed: “Expel the polytheists from the Arabian peninsula.”
The messenger (peace and prayer be upon him) was on his deathbed with his companions around,
saying, “Advise us, O Messenger of Allah, advise us.” His reply: expel the polytheists from the
Arabian Peninsula, and you will be safe. That is, if you expel them, you will enjoy safety and security. But come along, let us look at the Arabian peninsula today: what is happening on it today?
What is happening is that with every day that passes and every sun that rises, the more the polytheists take control of the Arabian Peninsula. Now there are cities being built on the Arabian Peninsula
to take in communities and migrations of these Latin and Anglo-Saxon polytheists. And there will
come a day when we will bite our fingers in regret because we were the ones who opened up this
Arabian Peninsula to them and we were the ones who prepared these homes for them and we were
the ones who built skyscrapers on the Gulf Coast for them. And in particular, the Islamic movement
on the Arabian Peninsula is entrusted with confronting this problem: the problem of stopping this
polytheistic march to reside in the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Text segment No. 150:
Strategic instrumentality of force (AAZ, December 20, 2006, 116)
There is no solution without Jihad. All other solutions are not only futile, but moreover, will exacerbate the state of collapse and humiliation in which we live. They are like treating cancer with aspirin. And even worse than that is that these fruitless, impotent solutions give the Crusader-Zionist
enemy plenty of time to strengthen its presence and plenty of time for the collective consciousness
of the Ummah to become accustomed to the Crusader-Zionist occupation in our countries and for
the groups of hypocrisy and profiteering to start repeating that there is no point in resisting, that the
occupation is a fact of life with which we must deal, and that we can’t overstep international law,
and so on, to the last of the dissonant notes in the recital of submissiveness and surrender.
Text segment No. 151:
Strategic instrumentality of force (Abd al-Bari Atwan, editor of the newspaper AlQuds Al-Arabi, cited in AAZ, July 4, 2007, 274)
And to date, if we look at the results of this strategy, America has lost. The Soviet Union didn’t
inflict the losses that Shaykh Usama bin Ladin has inflicted on America. America has lost to date
360 billion dollars in the war against terror. America has lost approximately 5,000 people, both
military and civilian, in Iraq and Afghanistan, in addition to the 3,000 people it lost in New York in
the two world trade towers. America is now facing a continuous rise in spending on security and the
ongoing security measures, and is confused and insecure.
Text segment No. 152:
Strategic instrumentality of force (Dr. Abdullah al-Nafisi, cited in AAZ, July 4, 2007,
288 et seq.)
The new theory which al-Qaida organization brought with it is that there is no escaping the confrontation with the central states, comprising the United States and Western Europe, and that the only
way to confront them – according to al-Qaida’s theory – is by taking the war from the outlying
states to the central states, in which case the damage and the consequences of this damage will take
place in the central states.
The story isn’t unrestrained violence as the media of many states portrays it. No, never! There is a
theory, that it is a must to take the battle from the outlying states to the central states for the central
states to bear the consequences of this confrontation instead of us bearing their wars on our soil.
Then, and only then will the central states look at the outlying states and start evaluating things in a
calmer and more objective way which will motivate it to have negotiations and mutual understanding with the outlying states.
Text segment No. 153:
Strategic instrumentality of force (AAZ, December 16, 2007, 80 et seq.)
<minute 9:52: Media reports with video clips of Iraqi troops, officers, and policemen with ISI banner behind them. Clip of kidnapped individuals in a row getting shot:>
In addition, the elements of the police and army, who have long tasted the flavor of death at the
hands of the Mujahideen have today begun to flee from their accursed jobs, which usually end with
a Mujahid’s bullet in the head.
Video clip from Al-Furqan Foundation of the Islamic State of Iraq. Brigadier General Ghanem Al-Qurashi speaks:
And no one wants to join. Before they would join up for work before an administrative order was
issued. Now the administrative order is given and no one wants to sign up for work. But why should
he volunteer when he is frightened? This has meaning: this is part of the terrorism.
Zawahiri: And this proves the correctness of the Mujahideen’s methodology in targeting these apostate forces from the outset, and proves the misguidance of the religion-and-life-destroying Fatwas
which encouraged the Muslims to join these forces
Text segment No. 155:
Strategic instrumentality of force (UBL, November 12, 2002, 24)
If you were distressed by the deaths of your men and the men of your allies in Tunisia, Karachi,
Faylaka, Bali and Amman,654 remember our children who are killed in Palestine and Iraq every day,
remember our deaths in Khowst mosques and remember the premeditated killing of our people in
weddings in Afghanistan. If you were distressed by the killing of your nationals in Moscow, remember ours in Chechnya. Why should fear, killing, destruction, displacement, orphaning and widowing continue to be our lot, while security, stability and happiness be your lot? This is unfair. It is
time that we get even. You will be killed just as you kill, and will be bombed just as you bomb.
Text segment No. 156:
Strategic instrumentality of force (AAZ, July 4, 2007, 2009 et seq.)
For the sake of brevity, I will give one example: Dr. Saud al-Hashimi. He is not a terrorist, nor does
he believe in violence, nor is he from the Qaida al-Jihad group. On the contrary, he opposes its inclinations and calls for non-interference in the affairs of the rulers and concerning ourselves with the
building of foundations.
Previously in the statement, UBL mentions “the killing of Germans in Tunisia and the French in Karachi,
[…] the British and Australians in the Bali explosions” indicating that he refers to the 2002 al-Ghriba
synagogue attack in Djerba (Tunisia); the Karachi bombing from May 8, 2002; and the Bali twin bombings from October 12, 2002. By mentioning Amman, he possibly refers to the assassination of US diplomat Laurence Foley on October 28, 2002. UBL’s mentioning of the Khost mosque incident may refer to
an alleged US air strike at the Light of the Quran Mosque in Khost, November 16, 2002, targeting Maulvi
Jalaluddin Haqqani, former Taliban minister for tribal affairs (Herold 2002).
3. Text segments from AQ statements
<Footage from speech by Dr. Saud al-Hashimi at conference>
[…] people will be able to say to the wrongdoer [ruler], “Oh wrongdoer, sit on this throne until the
Day of Resurrection, but distribute resources justly, and give me my right to practice my freedom,
give me my right to state my opinion and give me my right to build.” I would just like to say that
there is an error in conflict management. The Islamists don’t know conflict management, except for
one type, perhaps. One type, and that’s armed resolution.
<Zawahiri returns>
So what was his fate? Prison.
Text segment No. 160:
Feligious instrumentality of force (UBL, September 28, 2001, 9)
Jihad is the sixth undeclared pillar of Islam. Every anti-Islamic person is afraid of jihad. Al-Qa’ida
wants to keep jihad alive and active and make it a part of the daily life of the Muslims. It wants to
give it the status of worship.
Text segment No. 161:
Religious instrumentality of force (AYL, September 9, 2007, 21 et seq.)
Take, for example, the incident of the Red Mosque in Islamabad, which I consider to be a major
step forward in contemporary Jihadi life – by all standards. If we wanted to place this incident on
the scale of the balance of worldly gain and loss, which its proponents often camouflage with labels
like prudence, profound understanding and dealing with reality with wisdom and composure, then
its heroes would no doubt be described as reckless, foolhardy and inexperienced individuals who
embroiled themselves in a battle they couldn’t win, and thus killed themselves and caused the wasting of promising efforts which were in the interest of Pakistan ... and so on. But if we were to put
this event on the proper Islamic balance which is tied to the world of the hereafter, you will find that
something similar occurred in the era of the Prophet (peace and prayers of Allah be upon him),
when 70 of the ‘Ulama [men of knowledge] of the Companions were killed at the Well of
Ma’oonah. And pay attention to our statement, “the ‘Ulama of the Companions”: i.e., in familiar
contemporary terms, the cadres of the state, and the highest-ranking ones as well. If this were to
happen in our era, it would be considered a disaster, policies would be changed because of it, retractions would be made, and bitter criticism would continue from all sides. […]
So this eternity-related part is the part lost in the equation of appraising gain and loss in our battle
with our enemies. Of course, this doesn’t mean – neither rationally nor legally – neglecting to take
precautions; being negligent in taking those which can be taken; not making an effort to correct
flaws, remove deficiencies and benefit from experiences and examine them; and not taking the negligent to account. But this is one thing, whereas turning the Mujahideen’s sacrifices – however costly they might be – into obstacles and barriers with which we prevent the continuation of the march
is something else altogether. Therefore, the killing of those leaders of the Mujahideen who have had
the greatest of impacts on Islam’s contemporary battle between the party of the Most Merciful and
the party of Satan is part of the sacrifices whose makers were the people most eager for and desirous
of them and most appreciative of their value.
And even if the killing of these great leaders has some negative effects on the Jihadi groups, these
negative effects are nearly equaled or perhaps overshadowed by the positive aspects, among the
greatest of which is the proving of the strength of the loyalty of the people of this religion to their
Creed and Law, and that they are prepared – in the interest of realizing, establishing and empowering [the Law] – to give up everything, even their souls and lives. From those positive aspects as well
is the definite proof that our Shari’ah and our Jihad in particular isn’t bound to any individual, however high his value and apparent his impact. No, it is a Creed here to stay and a Law preserved
which is further strengthened and empowered in proportion to the blood its people expend for it.
Text segment No. 162:
Religious instrumentality of force (AYL, September 9, 2007, 25)
Doesn’t the Quran say, “And many a Prophet there has been beside whom fought numerous companies of his followers. They slackened not for aught that befell them in the way of Allah nor did they
weaken, nor did they humiliate themselves before the enemy. And Allah loves the steadfast” (3:146)?
And let me give you some examples of that. Before the killing of the Mujahid Shaykh Abu Musab
al-Zarqawi (may Allah have mercy on him), who is more or less the most prominent of the leaders
of the Jihad which the arena has lost, the American media machine was trying to convince its miserable people that its victory in Iraq will be achieved with the mere killing or capture of this champion, to the extent that it turned the issue of Iraq into the story of Abu Musab (may Allah have mercy
on him), and portrayed him as being like the string of the rosary, whose cutting causes its beads to
fall one after the other. But did the dreams and fantasies of the Bush administration in this regard
come true? The answer is in what we see today in Iraq and the major and continuous progress being
achieved by the Mujahideen there and the daily heavy losses being taken by the Americans and their
underlings. And similar to that is the martyrdom in Afghanistan of Commander Dadullah (may
Allah have mercy on him): the media inflated the issue of his killing and considered it to be a turning point in the course of the Afghan Jihad, claiming that his martyrdom will lead to the breakdown
of or a decline in Jihadi activities, especially martyrdom operations. But the daily reality and what is
being suffered by the Crusader forces and the government of treason in Kabul clearly gives the lie to
those claims. Today, martyrdom operations strike in the heart of the Afghan capital, Kabul, in Kandahar and Khost, and indeed, in all Afghan provinces, and no effect has been seen on the Jihadi field
work in Afghanistan, and for Allah is all praise. […]
So to summarize this issue, we say: yes, the Mujahideen have presented – with pride and honor – a
number of their heroic commanders. They presented Khalid al-Shaykh, they presented Abu Anas alShami, they presented Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, they presented Abu Umar al-Sayf and before him
Khattab, they presented Mulla Dadullah, they presented Abd al-Aziz al-Muqrin, and most recently,
they presented Shaykh Abdul Rashid Ghazi. May Allah have mercy on them all. And they don’t
hide this, nor do they consider this – in accordance with the balance of Shari’ah – a loss because of
which they must stop their Jihadi work. Rather, they consider the blood of these leaders to be an
instigator and motivator for them to stay firmly on their path, follow them and make every effort to
avenge them. And the Ummah is full of champions who will fill these gaps, and just as the school of
Jihad produced them, it will produce others, and just as they have led, others will lead, with Allah’s
permission. If one of our chiefs passes, another arises in his stead.
Text segment No. 163:
Religious instrumentality of force (AYL, September 9, 2007, 26)
And this is why the Americans themselves have begun to realize that the movement of the Jihadi
march doesn’t hinge on the presence of an single commander and cannot fall apart in his absence,
and their dealings with the Jihadist groups have started to be based on this conviction, and thus they
have gone and knocked on other doors in the hope of winning this round of the match: for example,
what they call the “battle of ideas” and so on.
Text segment No. 170:
Instrumentality of force and global conflict and apostasy: intersection (AAZ, September 11, 2006, 76)
[T]he occupier will either leave under a shower of blows from the Mujahideen or if all free men and
Mujahideen of Iraq turn into traitors and charlatans like you who sell religion for a little worldly
gain and turn into agents of American intelligence and protectors of Crusader and Jewish interests,
then the occupation will leave because he will be satisfied that his interests are being fulfilled
against the Muslim Ummah at the hands of traitorous religion sellers like you.
3. Text segments from AQ statements
Text segment No. 180:
Political justifications for violence (UBL, October, unknown date, 2002, 43 et seq.)
(3) You may then dispute that all the above does not justify aggression against civilians, for crimes
they did not commit and offenses in which they did not partake:
(a) This argument contradicts your continuous repetition that America is the land of freedom, and its
leaders in this world. Therefore, the American people are the ones who choose their government by
way of their own free will; a choice which stems from their agreement to its policies. Thus the
American people have chosen, consented to, and affirmed their support for the Israeli oppression of
the Palestinians, the occupation and usurpation of their land, and its continuous killing, torture,
punishment and expulsion of the Palestinians. The American people have the ability and choice to
refuse the policies of their Government and even to change it if they want.
(b) The American people are the ones who pay the taxes which fund the planes that bomb us in
Afghanistan, the tanks that strike and destroy our homes in Palestine, the armies which occupy our
lands in the Arabian Gulf, and the fleets which ensure the blockade of Iraq. These tax dollars are
given to Israel for it to continue to attack us and penetrate our lands. So the American people are the
ones who fund the attacks against us, and they are the ones who oversee the expenditure of these
monies in the way they wish, through their elected candidates.
(c) Also the American army is part of the American people. It is this very same people who are
shamelessly helping the Jews fight against us.
(d) The American people are the ones who employ both their men and their women in the American
Forces which attack us.
(e) This is why the American people cannot be not innocent of all the crimes committed by the
Americans and Jews against us.
(f) Allah, the Almighty, legislated the permission and the option to take revenge. Thus, if we are
attacked, then we have the right to attack back. Whoever has destroyed our villages and towns, then
we have the right to destroy their villages and towns. Whoever has stolen our wealth, then we have
the right to destroy their economy. And whoever has killed our civilians, then we have the right to
kill theirs.
Text segment No. 190:
Theological justifications for violence (UBL, unknown date, 2002, 79 and 112)
He also said, per Berida as found in [the accounts of] Muslim and Ahmad: “Whenever the Messenger of Allah appointed someone as Leader of an army or detachment, […] he would say: Attack in
the name of Allah and in the path of Allah do battle with whoever rejects Allah. Attack! – but do not
embezzle [the spoils], nor behave treacherously, nor mutilate [the dead], nor kill the children. If you
happen upon your idolatrous enemies, call them to three courses of action. If they respond to any
one of these, accept it and stay yourself from them. [1] Call them to Islam: If they respond [i.e.,
convert], accept this and cease fighting them. ... [2] If they refuse to accept Islam, demand of them
the jizya: If they respond, accept it and cease fighting them. [3] But if they refuse, seek the aid of
Allah and fight them.” […] Does Islam, or does it not, force people by the power of the sword to
submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually? Yes. There are only three choices in Islam:
either willing submission; or payment of the jizya, through physical though not spiritual, submission
to the authority of Islam; or the sword – for it is not right to let him [an infidel] live. The matter is
summed up for every person alive: Either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die.
For it is, in fact, part of our religion to impose our particular beliefs upon others. Whoever doubts
this, let him turn to the deeds of the Companions when they raided the lands of the Christians and
Omar imposed upon them the conditions of dhimmitude. These conditions involve clothing attire,
specific situations, and class distinctions known to ulema as the pact of Omar, and they are notoriously famous. Let the signatories review them so they know that we are to force people by the pow-
er of the sword to [our] particular understandings, customs, and conditions, all in order to induce
debasement and humility, just like Allah commanded when he said “[…] until they pay the jizya by
hand, in complete submission and humility” [9:29].
Text segment No. 191:
Theological justifications for violence (AAZ, unknown date, 42)
And among those needing to be fought at this day and age are those rulers who govern the people
without the sharia – they who fight against the people of Islam, who befriend the infidels from
among the Jews, Christians, and others. And Ibn Kathir has transmitted the consensus that it is an
obligation to battle such rulers.655
These rulers and their helpers are the leaders of infidelity, whom Allah Most High spoke of: “[T]hen
fight the leaders of infidelity—surely their oaths are nothing—so that they may desist” [9:12].
All ulema are agreed that leadership should never fall into the hands of an infidel, or if infidelity
should suddenly descend upon him, and he becomes an outcast not ruling in accordance to the sharia of Allah, his authority diminishes and it becomes a duty for Muslims to revolt against him and
eject him.
Text segment No. 192:
Theological justifications for violence (AYL, September 9, 2007, 84 et seq.)
Interviewer: Speaking of the issue of priorities in fighting, there are some who propose beginning
with fighting the apostate governments, due to them being the enemy closest to the Muslims, instead
of the Americans and the other infidel coalitions.
Al-Libi: Without a doubt, the original confirmed ruling laid down by the noble verse and attested to
by the biography of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and practiced by his
Companions after him is that we begin fighting the nearest, then the next nearest, as Allah (the Glorious and Great) said, “O you who believe! Fight the unbelievers who are near to you.” (9:123) But
this is when the situation is uniform and regular, i.e., when things are going normally, so that the
Mujahideen move in their conquests from the nearest to those adjoining them. And this verse is one
of the strongest proofs that Jihad is not stopped by borders nor limited to the defensive form alone,
as many modern defeatists try to establish. In any case, the jurists who spoke about this issue and
clarified its ruling stipulated that there are numerous situations in which it is better to start by
fighting the farther enemy and giving priority to him over the others. And among those situations is
if the farther enemy is more harmful and dangerous to the Muslims and their religion, and assessing
this is the job of the commanders of the Mujahideen, who decide – after consultation and review –
which of the enemies are more deserving of beginning with, in light of any of the accepted legal
considerations […].
And the relations which tie the major infidel states to the statelets [sic] and their apostate governments are close, overlapping relations on all fronts: political, economic, military and even cultural.
So in general, they are a single entity, a single enemy and a single army, and they are a single hand
against us and the battle they are waging against us is a single battle which either the infidel Crusader states adopt themselves or is taken up by their traitorous proxies who reign over the Muslim
peoples. This is in addition to the heavy military presence of those states – foremost among them
America – on the soil of the Muslims, killing, sabotaging and destroying, and violating their sanctities, plundering their treasures and imposing on them their policies and laws. And these apostate
regimes with these states are like troops with their commander, or rather, like slaves with their master: making not a sound and speaking not a whisper. And all of us know that smashing this modern
idol and inflicting defeat on it automatically means the weakening of these emaciated regimes of
Raymond Ibrahim, who has translated and commented on this piece of Zawahiri points to “Ibn Kathir’s
famous exegesis regarding the duty of deposing whoever does not govern according to the Sharia” (Ibrahim 2007, 144).
3. Text segments from AQ statements
treason, which will be buried with their god to whom they were devoted and be thrown with him
into the trash heap of history, without being mourned. So the Mujahideen today are in the situation
of repelling the enemy and stopping his fierce attack of the Muslim lands, and thus the option of
beginning fighting with this enemy or that doesn’t really have much meaning now.
And even the one who wants to begin by fighting the apostate regimes dominating the Muslim lands
will find himself after a little while – if not from day one – confronting in one way or another the
Crusader forces, foremost among them America. And thus he will stand face-to-face with the enemy
he used to consider and suppose to be the farther and avoided fighting first. So with our enemies
today, their near is near and their far is near, and the part the Mujahideen play in choosing the time
of the confrontation is to try and aim as much as they can to enter the decisive battle which suits
their abilities, has the factors for success, saves them from a lot of effort and leads to the elimination
of the greater enemy which spreads corruption and ruin and under whose wings the regimes of tyranny and torture develop and prosper.
Text segment No. 200:
Theological justifications for violence (AAZ, unknown date, 136 et seq.)
Having quoted what applies to us from the various schools of jurisprudence of the ulema, regarding
bombarding the infidels if either Muslims, women, children, or dhimmis are among them or used as
shields, we conclude that the views of the ulema are condensed into three perspectives:
The first view: total prohibition, based on Malik and al-Awza’i.
The second view: total legitimacy with blood money and atonement [as the price], based on the
words of the Hanafis, Ahmad, a number of Hanbalis, and the later Malikis.
The third view: based on the words of al-Shafi’i and the Hanbalis, permissibility to bombard the
idolaters even if Muslims and those who are cautioned against killing are intermingled with them as
long as there is a need or an obligation for Muslims to do so, or if not striking leads to a delay of the
jihad. As for blood money and atonement, these are to be judged individually.
This [third] view is the one that we hold to, that is, permitting bombardments in order to expedite
the jihad and never cause it delay. And based on this, we see that:
1. Bombarding the organizations of the infidels and apostates in this day and age has become an
imperative of jihad in our war with the idolatrous tyrants, where weakened mujahidin battle
massive and vigilant armies armed to the teeth: it has become next to impossible to confront
them in open warfare.
2. The tyrants and leaders of the infidels shelter themselves in armored vehicles with lots and
varied forms of intricate security measures, so that it has become exceedingly difficult to
reach them without employing explosives and rockets and other missile weaponry. Therefore, it is permissible to fire at them.
3. The tyrants and enemies of Allah always see to it that their organizations and military escorts
are set among the people and populace, making it extremely difficult to hunt them down in
isolation. But if we hold off our jihad against them for this [reason], the jihad would be delayed. Also, take note: It is of course more proper to kill the enemies of Allah Most High in
isolation without exposing Muslims or the others [women, children, dhimmis] to death. And
we endeavor to [find] him isolated and separated far from the people. But expediency makes
it so.
4. These means of reaching [them] – explosives and missiles – have proven to be very effective
in Egypt, Algeria, Palestine, and Lebanon, wreaking great havoc among the ranks of the enemies of Allah Almighty.
5. The mujahidin should see to it that they repeatedly warn the Muslims who are intermixed
with the tyrants and their aides to stay away from their centers, offices, and organizations –
but this warning should be done in a general way so that the mujahidin do not become exposed and suffer losses.
6. There is no question that those [Muslims] who are intermixed with the infidels, apostates,
and their aides, of their own free will, are less sacred in the religion than those Muslims who
are coerced and used as shields – and even these latter [who are more sacred], the ulema
have permitted to be fired upon whenever they are in the midst of the infidels.
7. The only thing mujahidin are specifically required to do, should they knowingly kill a Muslim [who is intermixed with the targeted infidels], is make atonement. Blood money, however, is a way out of the dispute altogether. Payment should be made only when there is a surplus of monies, which are no longer needed to fund the jihad. Again, this is only if their
intermingling with the infidels is for a legitimate reason, such as business. And we assume
that those who are killed are martyrs, and believe that what the Sheikh of Islam said about
them applies: [T]hose Muslims who are accidentally killed are martyrs; and the obligatory jihad should never be abandoned because it creates martyrs.
As for those dubious persons who say that jihad should be abandoned for now due to certain ambiguities, let them know that forfeiting the faith is a much greater harm than forfeiting money or lives.
Moreover, we see that the “ambiguities” they speak of have no value in light of what we have meticulously demonstrated here – especially the fact that what the mujahidin undertake in many countries has to do with Defensive – not Offensive – jihad.
Text segment No. 210:
Rules of engagement (AAZ, unknown date, 103)
[Part] C. Permissibility to Kill Oneself in Order to Guard Aainst the Exposure of Secrets under
At this juncture, we wish, by the aid of Allah Most High, to point out one of the most important
circumstances for one to destroy himself for the general good, and that is, for a hostage to kill himself in order to guard against divulging the secrets of the mujahidin to the[ir] enemies. You will note
that most who have passed judgment on this issue have grounded their decision in the unadulterated
sunna, based on the hadith of the youth and the king, which we have discussed earlier – for as we
said, the ulema consider this hadith fundamental to these issues.
Regarding this question, Muhammad bin Ibrahim was asked by a group of Algerian mujahidin during the liberation war if it was permissible for a hostage to take his own life in order to prevent
himself from exposing secrets to the enemy. The question was put thus: “During these last few
years, whenever the French have taken hold of an Algerian, they have utilized drugs that make him
divulge the whereabouts of hideouts and provision stores. Moreover, some of those taken captive
are among the leaders [who know much], and they reveal this place and that. Is it permissible, then,
for a person to commit suicide if he knows that they will inject him with the drug, so that he may
say, ‘Let me die as a martyr,’ although they may torture him with various torments?”
[Muhammad bin Ibrahim] responds: “If it is as you say, then yes, it is permissible.” Among the
evidence he relies on is the hadith of the youth and tyrant king, as well as the warriors who drowned
themselves instead of allowing themselves and their possessions to be captured by the Crusaders [at
Text segment No. 220:
Appeal for support (UBL, December 27, 2004, 51)
So, seize this unique opportunity to carry out this great duty [jihad], for this will ensure your pride
in this life and in the hereafter. Do not waste nor neglect this opportunity as many people missed the
chance of Jihad in the cause of God in Afghanistan 25 years ago, when they opted to stay in their
countries whose borders were demarcated by the Crusaders. They claimed that they were defending
their own battlefronts. They, however, failed to defend their battlefronts.
3. Text segments from AQ statements
Text segment No. 221:
Appeal for support (UBL, December 27, 2004, 56)
This is the answer to those who fear the Day of Judgment. Whoever runs into a devil – whether a
human or genie – along the path of Jihad who tells him. “If you go out for Jihad you will be killed,
you property will be divided, your wife will get married, and your children will be orphaned,” he
should recite to him God’s saying: “Say Short is the enjoyment of this world: the Hereafter is the
best for those who do right: Never will ye be dealt with unjustly in the very least!” [Koranic verse]
Text segment No. 222:
Appeal for support (AAZ, December 20, 2006, 129)
And just as I call on the grandsons of Sultan Muhammad the Conquerer (Allah have mercy on them)
[Sultan of Ottoman Empire 1444–1446] to cling to their religion and Islam, and to confront the
secularist clique allied to Israel, I also call on the grandsons of Salahuddin (Allah have mercy on
them) [Ayyubid Sultan, conquered Jerusalem in 1187] to cling to their religion and Islam, and to
confront the secularist clique loyal to Israel and dominating them with American money and aid.
Text segment No. 223:
Appeal for support (UBL, December 29, 2007, 77)
Today Baghdad and tomorrow Damascus, Amman, and Riyadh, so fear Allah and do not be afraid
to assign blame. What your Mujahideen sons require in terms of money for equipment and to fight
in the Name of Allah is not much and can be supplied by one and can lead – Allah willing – to the
defeat of global infidelity, so till when will you [cease to] fear America and its agents?
Text segment No. 224:
Appeal for unity (UBL, December 27, 2004, 112)
I would like to remind the Mujahideen that uniting under banner of “there is no God but Allah” is
not a supererogatory task but is a leading duty that should be given due attention. Mujahid groups
should coordinate amongst them in order to unite their ranks under one banner. Ibn Taymiyah, the
sheikh of Islam, said: Once people abandon some of God’s orders, enmity and hatred would befall
them. If a nation divides, it would become corrupt and then perish. If a nation unites it would be
competent and would rule because unity is mercy and division is torture.
Text segment No. 225:
Appeal for unity (UBL, December 29, 2007, 48, 55)
The Muslims heard that some of the scholars in the jihadi groups were angry that matters were done
without their presence or counsel, so I say that there is no shame in this due to difficult security
measures that make communications hard between the brethren, and with the knowledge that your
brothers said that they contacted you and waited for you for almost two months and that matters
would not be resolved without your presence, but it was not to be. Some of the best companions
were disturbed when the decision was taken on Sakifat Bani Sa’eda day without consulting them, on
the other hand Abu Baker, Omar, Abu Obaida and the others (may Allah be pleased with them all)
didn’t act like this because they wanted to monopolize the matter or despotism, but there were conditions and events which are not hidden that pushed them to hurry in taking the decision before
consulting the other concerned because of fearing Fitna and disunity, then those who were disturbed
hurried to pledge allegiance to Abu Baker after a period of time and the allegiance was not revoked,
so reflect on carefully.
My Muslim brothers in Iraq: The call has been repeated time and again to the Mujahideen leaders to
meet, and some met and others refused. If the leaders of the jihadi groups and the Shura Council
members make a serious effort to meet and unify all the Mujahideen under one banner to fight the
Crusaders and apostates, then that is their duty, for Allah has ordered us to do this. Now you see
global infidelity and local infidelity in all of its forms now united, and every day the wolf tyrant is
eating from the sheep. The prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) said to Hudhaifa Ibn Al Yaman (may Allah be pleased with him), when he asked him about similar circumstances: (You should
keep to the Muslim group and their imam obligatorily), and if this couldn’t be established, then it
becomes an obligation upon every single Muslim and Mujahded to work for establishment of the
Muslims’ State by pledging allegiance to the most sincere and adherent to the right from the present
Text segment No. 226:
Appeal for unity (UBL, December 29, 2007, 57 et seq.)
And whoever observes the campaigns of global and local infidelity sees that their primary target is
the Islamic State of Iraq, for America runs the campaigns and America has been running a sustained
campaign in Diyala for six months, and Mosul and Salah Al-Din, with campaigns by the army and
the national guard and the police, and others by the Sadr and Hakim militias and neighboring countries, not to mention the harm Sahawat (alleged awakening councils) and the harm parties and sects
leaded by the traitor of the religion and the nation Tariq Al Hashemi and the smear campaigns to
slander the image of the Islamic State of Iraq done by the rulers of Riyadh and its scholars and media people. All this is done because the Mujahideen of the Islamic State of Iraq are the most adherent to the creed of the Prophet.
For the Emir, Abu Omar,656 and his men are not the type to negotiate with their religion and accept
half solutions, or meet with the enemy in the middle of the road, instead they fight with righteousness and please Allah, even if they anger people. They are not afraid to assign blame and they refused to be associated with any government among the governments of the Islamic world, without
exception, and refused to deal with the polytheists to support the religion for they know that religion
should be all for Allah and He is their supporter. They would never associate with the polytheistic
tyrants to empower religion, and their imam in this is the Prophet when he said: […].
Text segment No. 227:
Appeal for unity (AYL, March 22, 2007, 26 et seq.)
It also requires all sincere Mujahideen in Iraq to combine their efforts, close their ranks, and join
forces to be a compact, cohesive rank and single hand with which the hearts of the true lovers are
gladdened and the hearts of the jealous and hateful are enraged.
And from here, I call on and urge my Mujahid brothers in the Helpers of the Sunnah group [presumably Ansar al-Sunnah] the Islamic Army, the Mujahideen Army and other Jihadi groups which
continue to enjoy success and renown in fighting the Nazarene occupiers and their apostate hirelings: I invite both their leadership and members to the racing to goodness which the Quran calls
for, encourages and orders, and in which lies the success of this world and the next: […]
And I call on them to provide the best help possible in order to make this tremendous project, the
Islamic State of Iraq, successful by their joining in heart and soul with their brothers in it and standing at their side to support it and strengthen its pillars.
So just as unity is a legal obligation first and foremost, it is also a realistic demand and urgent need
imposed by circumstances and required by the stage which the blessed Jihad in Iraq is passing
Abu Omar al-Baghdadi (known under various pseudonyms) successor to Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi and
commander of the Islamic State of Iraq, until his alleged death in April 2010.
4. Text segments from the claims of responsibility of AAS and AQI
Text segment No. 230:
References to Iraq (UBL, December 27, 2004, 109)
I believe that the Mujahid Emir, dignified brother Abu-Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, and the groups affiliated
with him are good, and are from the group that fights according to the orders of God. God sufficeth
them. We were pleased with their daring operations against the Americans and Allawi’s renegade
government. We were also pleased by their response to the orders of God and the prophet, may
God’s peace and blessings be upon him, with regard to unity and adhering to the covenant of God.
We, in the al-Qaeda Organization warmly welcome their union with us. This is a great step toward
rendering successful the efforts of the Mujahidin to establish the state of right and annihilate the
state of injustice. We hope that God would accept and bless this step. It should be known that Mujahid brother Abu Mus’ ab al-Zarqawi is the emir of the Tanzim al-Qaeda Ii Bilad al-Rafidayn. The
brothers in the group there should heed his orders and obey him in all that which is good.
4. Text segments from the claims of responsibility of AAS and
Text segment No. 251:
(MSC, March 20, 2006)
The media exchanged some statements and reports of the Crusader army leadership about the results
of the ongoing military operations north of Baghdad, where they claimed to have captured tens of
the mujahideen and confiscated their weapons and so on.
The Mujahideen Shura Council announces that this is all lies. They are still avoiding any serious
confrontation with the mujahideen, but attack scattered Muslim house with a show-off operation to
frighten the peaceful Sunni people. Everyone that knows the area is sure that the aim from this campaign is to lift the morale of the American Army that is now very poor. Also, the converted dark
slaves and the wrongdoer Shi’ites who take part in this operation hope to be in control after their
masters defeat and withdrawal, which we see soon, Allah willing. The same thing was announced
by the midgets of the converters that they had arrested special groups who participate in eliminating
the satellite director of the converted “Iraqia.” These are illusion and imaginations because not even
one mujahid was captured by the Crusaders and their followers. The pictures that were published
are pictures of regular, peaceful Sunni Muslims who were targeted by the cowards in the area. We
would like to draw the attention of our people, the Muslims, not to listen to such lies as they are a
part of the information war. If they have a little bit of courage, they would have told what happened
to their soldiers by the hands of the Tawhid lions in the city of al-Ramadi and other places.
Text segment No. 256:
(Harvest of ISI, May 2, 2007)
Total Results of Casualties
Total Number of Destroyed Vehicles
Fuel Tanker
(5 as Booty)
(2 Ruined)
Total Number of Destroyed Vehicles/Booty
80 +
(46 Booty)
Total Results of Operations of Destruction Against the Bases of Infidels and Apostates
of Interior
Explosive Devices
Executing Allah’s Ruling
Suicide Attacks
Deterring Attacks
Booby-Trapped Cars
Losses of the Infidels and Apostates
Infidel Crusaders
Idolater Guards
Interior Members
Ghadr Brigade
Al-Dajjal Army
Agents and Spies
Logistic Support
Operations of Destruction Against the Apostate Bases
Al-Dajjal Army
Ghadr Brigade
Idolater Guards
Interior Quarters
Watch Tower
Destroyed Vehicles and Planes
Four-Wheel Drive Car
Two-Wheel Drive Car
Unidentified Vehicles
Troop Transporter
Bullet-Proof Car
Armored Vehicle
3 (Peshmerga)
4. Text segments from the claims of responsibility of AAS and AQI
Tanker Truck
Unidentified Plane
Four-Wheel Drive Car
Two-Wheel Drive Car
Tanker Truck
Glock Pistols
2 (Damaged)
Text segment No. 257:
(AAS, November 2, 2006)
On Monday, 10/30/2006 at 6:15 in the evening, groups from the army of the deceiver attacked our
people in the area of al-Fadel, in the center of the capital Baghdad. With the help of Allah and because the Sunni people were used to the double-crossing of the Shi’ites, they became ever ready to
defeat any attack at any time. The surveillance continues by the young men in the areas of the Sunni
people and without interruption.
Therefore, the heroes quickly responded to them and the people of the area gathered each one with
his weapon, and fierce combat escalated because the groups of the double-crossers were many and
Immediately the heroes of the Mujahideen came out of the area and surrounded the Shi’ites from
other directions. They surrounded them and heavily fired upon them such that Shi’ites came between two lines of fire and began to drop one after another. The rest ran away like rats, according to
their habits.
Hussien Kazem and his assistant, Ahmed Ali Wahhab (they are shown in the images) were delayed
because they were trying to collect the ammunition in their car, then escape (their car is a Monikamake, which are cars for private police use). The cars belong to the Treasury Department which is
headed by the Farsi (the Iranian) Solagh. The Mujahideen captured and detained them, their car and
their ammunition, and then they discovered that they were from Badr forces and work with al-Farsi
Solagh in the Treasury Department. He was the one who sent them to help their brothers in alMahdi Army.
The heroes were also able to arrest two from al-Mahdi Army who participated in the attack; they are
Ra’ad Behar Nada and Abdul Sattar Ali Wahab (their documents are shown in the image) and they
are from an area which they call it “al-Sadr City,” the stronghold of al-Mahdi Army.
After a quick interrogation it was discovered that the attack was a joint [operation] between the
double-crossing forces (Badr) and the army of Dajjal (God forbid that is not the real al-Mahdi), and
its purpose was to kill largest number of Sunni people in the area of al-Fadel and to quickly withdraw. But Allah prepared and He is the best. Immediately Allah’s ruling was executed upon the four
by shooting them in the middle of the street and in front of the people so they can be a lesson to all
the Shi’ite double-crossers. The rest returned crushed and disappointed, dragging the tails of defeat,
while the lions of Tawhid returned safe winning and victorious. The Finance Minister now practices
two jobs at the same time: the first is stealing the money of the Muslims and the second is the shedding of their blood; however, with the permission of Allah, we are preparing for you and our swords
are anxious for your throats and we will only quench our thirst with your blood.
We include in the following links copies of the IDs of the criminal gang members who were killed
by your hero brothers.
The Military Office of Ansar al-Sunnah
Shawwal 11, 1427 / November 2, 2006
Bashir al-Sunnah
Text segment No. 258:
(MSC, February 26, 2006)
On Sunday morning, Moharram 28, 1427, February 26, 2006 the Tawhid lion started a new battle
“Abi Abdulaziz al-Ansari Battle” in the city of al-Mosul as revenge for their brothers in the Crusader and Converted Jails and for what happened to the Sunni people from the killing and expelling in a
number of Iraqi cities.
They started by bombing the Converted Operation Center of the American Army and then the Converted Forces represented by the Converted National Guard. They made the electricity compound a
station for them in the al-Yarmouk section in the right side of al-Mosul with thirty-two mortar
82mm shells. After the bombing, [in which] they attacked the center with rockets and moderate
weapons, BKC and 60mm mortar rounds, the enemy had heavy losses and the American Army fled
the center. After the Converted Police reinforcements arrived and before reaching the center, the
lions attacked this [arriving] convoy which was compiled of a number of police cars with light and
moderate weapons. Whoever was in them fell between killed and injured. After that, the mujahedeen ambushed the American forces, and they were able to detonate a car bomb of an armored
American vehicle in the al-Islah section in the right side of al-Mosul. It was completely destroyed
and all who were in it were killed. Then, the heroes placed an explosive package on Baghdad street
in the right side of al-Mosul. The package was detonated and it exploded on a foot patrol when they
delivered an American Humvee. The vehicle was destroyed completely and the soldiers fell between killed an injured. More than ten ambulances were seen rushing to the scene, and the hero Abi
Sarhan was martyred in this operation and the attack was named after him, and one of the heroes
was wounded, Thanks unto Allah.657
Text segment No. 259:
(AAS, May 24, 2005)
The mujahideen attacked a center of volunteers to the non-believers’ guards in the section of alWasti, a city of Kirkuk, where more than 200 converters were gathered. Our heroes went out of
their cars, and hailed them with bullets using machine guns and RPGs and Kalashinkovs. The ambulance rushed to the scene. The casualties of the converters are not yet known. All the mujahideen
went back to their homes safely after this blessed attack, thanks be unto Allah.
Text segment No. 260:
(AQI, December 20, 2005)
Your brothers in Om al-Momenein Aisha Brigade [from AQI], in response to the Crusaders and
their followers celebrating what they call the “wedding party” for the elections, executed a daring
operation to burst into the combined base of the Crusaders and the converters of the National Guard
in the area of al-Latifiya (The circle).
The terrorism incident reference for Iraq 2006 confirms the detonation of an IED near a Stryker vehicle in
Mosul, killing a US soldier, Jushua M. Pearce, IntelCenter (2008d), Terrorism incident reference (TIR):
Iraq: 2006, p. 37. The Iraqi War Logs report five events in Mosul on the same day the MSC claims the
battle: 1) an IED attack in the vicinity of Mosul, 4 detained enemies, 1 Coalition force killed in action, 3
Coalition forces wounded in action, Stryker destroyed; 2) small arms fire against Iraqi Police in vicinity
on Mosul, 1 detained enemy, 1 Anti Iraqi force killed in action; 3) Murder of 1 Iraqi Police and two other
murders with no further specification given.
4. Text segments from the claims of responsibility of AAS and AQI
Thirty-five Tawhid lions participated in this operation; their emir was the mujahid Abu Thabet alNagdi. The mujahideen were divided into three groups: the bursting-in group, the assist and ambush
group to cut the supplies from reaching the base, and the main group consisting of two suicidal
brothers of al-Bara’a bin Malik Brigade.
The operation began with the first suicider, Abu Jazar al-Jazaeri, may Allah accept him as a martyr,
by bursting in the base gate with his car bomb. He succeeded in opening the gate and removing the
shields. After they came down, the attack group used machine guns and rocket-launchers against the
shields. The main object for the brothers was to keep the guard towers busy and prepare for the
main explosive package which was loaded into the car of the second suicidal hero, Abu Dagana alNagdi, may Allah accept him as a martyr.
At the same time, the third group could keep the supply convoy busy, consisting of three Humvees.
The entire base was completely destroyed. More than thirty converters of the National Guard were
killed and about fifteen infidel Crusaders, and some vehicles were destroyed. All of the mujahideen
returned back safely with the exception of very slight wounds. Thanks unto Allah.
Text segment No. 270:
(AAS, November 28, 2007)
Avoid embroiling Jihad in illegitimate conflicts that waste time and energy, and avoid the strengthening the occupiers’ policies and that of the apostate Iraqi government and its supporters in the area.
Because the Sunnis in Iraq are our people. Do not let people who have special interests beg in the
name of Jihad and trade with the Sunnis to deviate from the correct path, and participate in conferences and conspiracies that are supported by the intelligence services of neighboring countries that
end in concessions in various “Councils, Fronts and Awakenings.”
Text segment No. 280:
(UBL, December 29, 2007, 37-41)
And another lesson is that the brothers not be tricked by the names of factions or leaders. Sayaf was
a prominent leader of the Mujahideen and his party’s name was the Islamic Union then he supported
the Americans against the Muslims and this is a clear infidelity, it was the same thing with Rabbani
and his party known as the Islamic Association, also for Ahmad Shah Masood who went to the
crusaders in Europe to present himself in public to be a tool to let fall the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, and some misleading claimed that he is a martyr.
If some of the Afghan leaders slipped others stood firm by the grace of Allah, they were truthfull
and honest, from them Sheikh Younus Khales (mercy of Allah be upon him), as well Sheikh Jalalu
Deen Hakkani (may Allah protect him), and both of them made fatwa that Jihad against the American is a duty and they participated in it (Jihad), and the whole world saw the truthfulness and firmness of the Emir Mujahid Mulla Muhamad Omar in fighting the international infidelity alliance, and
he didn’t submit to them by renouncing on his trust, he refused to relinquish the Sharia’a (Islamic
Legislation), or to deliver the Arab immigrants who joined his State to the Americans because they
are his brothers in the religion even if this would lead to the loss of the Emirate and leadership, great
positions signify that there are great men.
There is a great difference between the attitude of a Muslim leader and a hypocritical leader who
cooperated with America in the global war against Islam. The former sacrificed his kingdom for his
religion, while the latter sacrificed his religion for his kingdom.
And some people may say that the leaders of Jihad in Afghanistan, who slipped were from those
who made Jihad earlier against the Russians so their stumbles must be pardoned and I say: We
should make difference between a stumble which must be pardoned and the limits of Allah which
must be established, here we deal with the religion’s laws and no one is excluded from it, […]
My view of these leaders comes from this perspective: For they have committed a great crime
against Islam, which is to choose the infidels over the Muslims, and the creed of sucking up to the
powerful is a widespread creed among the Muslims, which lead to moving away from the path of
Allah. For [stopping this movement] is a Shari’a-based duty that will cleanse the perpetrator and
purifying the Muslim society, otherwise it is the path of destruction.
Text segment No. 281:
(AAZ, December 16, 2007, 145 et seq. showing a video clip from AAS)
[Mujahideen discussing their experiences and stories about American troops forming the “Revolutionaries of al-Anbar” in Iraq:]
The second is Jasim Abu Marz. He represents the small band of apostates which doesn’t represent
the al-Musawdah clan, because this clan is a fine clan and there are many Mujahideen in it: no, he
represents only himself and the apostates who are with him. This individual has spent his life as a
thief and bandit. As for the other individual representing this gang, he is from the Abu Fahd clan.
The Abu Fahd clan is also a fine clan, and we don’t deny the stands it has made with the Mujahideen, and it has sacrificed a lot of blood on this path, but this ugly traitor who has emerged recently,
whose name is Farid Ahmad Salih, and a few of his group ... everyone knows him: a morally degenerate person in the true sense of the word who spent his life in prison because of thefts and embezzlements. These people represent themselves alone.
As for the clans of al-Anbar, they – by the grace of Allah the Most High – are renowned, and Allah
has honored them and so today there is no one on the face of the globe who doesn’t know al-Anbar
and al-Ramadi and the clans of al-Ramadi, and these brothers of yours, the lions of Ansar-ulSunnah, each represent a clan. These fine faces – even though they’re covering their faces, but
they’re still fine faces – aren’t the ones who represent the clans of al-Anbar, not those despicable
ones who sold their honor for a small price.
Text segment No. 282:
(AAZ, December 16, 2007, 50)
Media clips of General Sanchez:
Our forces continue to wage a desperate struggle in Iraq without any noticeable effort being made to
craft a strategy for achieving victory in that war-torn country or in the greater struggle with extremism. This administration made unrealistic and catastrophically optimistic plans for war. This administration failed to properly employ and schedule its political, economic and military power. The best
we can do is to distance ourselves from defeat, and the administration, Congress and State Department must recognize this failure.
Sahab: But Petraeus and Crocker repeated more than once in their addresses that the Americans
have been able to “deprive the Mujahideen of ground.” Isn’t this an achievement on their part?
Zawahiri: Isn’t this the same failure which occurred previously in al-Qaim, Samarra, [Haditha], alFalujah, Tal’afar and other cities, after which the Mujahideen always return?
Video clip from Al-Furqan Foundation of the Islamic State of Iraq. Brigadier General Ghanem Al-Qurashi speaks:
As we discussed previously, in the 7000 area there is a headquarters of the Islamic State, not its
primary headquarters. Here in this area – 7000 – is a headquarters of the Islamic State. In it is a
Shari’ah court and a Finance Ministry headquarters.
<Media reports with clips of Mujahideen firing a large gun at foreign forces:>
As for the aircraft, they find the squadrons of air defense in wait for them as soon as they circle
above any position. And the result was that the Americans’ hands were amputated and hung in the
province’s streets.
5. Humor, sarcasm, and irony in jihadi media
Zawahiri: The repeating of these deceptive phrases means one of two things: either the American
administration is lying outrageously through Petraeus and Crocker, or the Americans haven’t
learned anything from four years of losses in the attack-and-retreat war in Iraq, and moreover, didn’t
learn anything from their defeat in Vietnam.
Sahab: Or perhaps it means both things at once?
Zawahiri: Perhaps. If you don’t know, that is unfortunate. And if you know, then that’s even worse.
Sahab: So the remaining hope for the Americans is in readying the apostate forces to cover the
withdrawal of their forces?
Zawahiri: This is like Satan’s hopes for paradise.
Video clip from Al-Furqan Foundation of the Islamic State of Iraq. Brigadier General Ghanem Al-Qurashi speaks:
Destroyed vehicles ... how many vehicles? 850 vehicles have been destroyed in the district. No one
has given us any weapons. Everyone who leaves work takes his weapon and equipment, and the
new recruits: where can I find weapons for them? I don’t have factories to make weapons for those I
send on military missions. Where can I find weapons? Answer me! There are no support weapons,
there are no weapons, there are no vehicles, there is no equipment, nothing.
5. Humor, sarcasm, and irony in jihadi media
UBL, December 27, 2004, 32
You recall Bush’s words, when he said “the major operations are over,” just a few weeks after the
beginning of the [Iraq] war. They think that the people in front of them are sheep and that the whole
thing is a picnic in Panama.
AAZ, September 11, 2006
Interviewer: But you can’t deny that these movements have wide popular support.
AAZ: And the Sufi paths and football clubs have even wider popular support.
AAZ, December 20, 2006, 22
The first thing that I wish to talk about is the passing of 89 years since the Balfour Declaration, in
which someone who didn’t own the Holy Land of Palestine gave it to someone who didn’t deserve
AAZ, December 20, 2006, 57
I mentioned previously the presidential and parliamentary elections in Afghanistan. In regard to the
presidential polls, the vote-counting in it took 15 days, during which the ballot boxes were passed
from bandits to warlords to American military and intelligence. And as for the parliamentary elections, the counting of its votes took one month. And it is for the intelligent people of the world to
imagine what can happen in Afghanistan in one month.
AAZ, March 11, 2007, 20
How can America refer the case of Darfur to an international court which it itself doesn’t recognize
and refuses to be subject to? What sort of tyranny is this world ruled by?
AAZ, March 11, 2007, 28
But today, the leadership of HAMAS will teach it to their students thus:
Haifa is wailing, so don’t be alarmed by the wail of Haifa […] / Get up and sell your weapon and
buy a drum and tambourine and dance a jig with them in the parade of lies and hold a demonstration
in solidarity with the spy / Forget about Haifa, for she will die her death / sell her and sign your
name, Haifa is like Spain.
AAZ, March 11, 2007, 32
The leadership of HAMAS regards with contempt the intelligence and feelings of the Muslims, and
thus says that it will “respect,” not “comply with” international resolutions. What’s the difference,
oh you intelligence and honorable ones, between complying with international resolutions and respecting them? Isn’t it like the difference between kneeling and bowing? Or between defeat and
failure? Or between backing down and giving up? Or between lying on one’s stomach and throwing
oneself to the ground? Playing with words has no place in the dictionary of Jihad.
AAZ, July 4, 2007, 249
I read a ridiculous bit of humor in al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper, which claimed that it received a
communiqué from one of the backtrackers, who faxed it from prison! I laughed inside and asked
myself, “do the prison cells of Egypt now have fax machines? And I wonder, are these fax machines
connect to the same line as the electric shock machines or do they have a separate line?”
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I 20
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I 18
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