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Jihadi Violence: A Study of al-Qaeda's Media

NCJ Number
Andreas Armborst
Date Published
278 pages
Based on a systematic analysis of al-Qaeda's (AQ's) claims of responsibility for various deadly attacks as well as its video messages, this study examined the officially stated reasons, motives, and purpose for jihadi violence as a means to achieve a set of socio-political goals.
The study concludes that in contrast to other forms of Islamic activism, jihadists reject all forms of secular law as a source of legislation and constitutional legitimacy. Socio-political trends perceived as profane from the perspective of a strict interpretation of Islamic theology are opposed with militant, violent tactics. Through a distinctive corpus of jurisprudence, jihadists intend to prove that their militant activism fulfills the legal requirements of a jihad as stipulated in Sharia law. AQ believes that it is the individual duty of Muslims to defend Islam against the threats of secularism, apostasy (governments in the Middle East), and the global enemy of a pure Islam, i.e., Israel and the United States. Their tactics in defending and promoting this agenda include various types of action, including indiscriminate bombings and targeted assassinations. This study's empirical analysis of these tactics provided support for Jeffrey Cozzens' suggestion that global jihadi violence should not only be understood as functional, i.e., to achieve their jihadist goals, but also as a form of cultural expression. This could lead to an indifference about the various consequences of many of their attacks, as long as they are satisfied that their attacks are an expression of jihad warfare. Possible future historical trends for jihadism are discussed. As part of this study's efforts, one chapter presents a standardized research design for content analysis that is appropriate for an analysis of ideologies of any given kind. 8 figures, 6 tables, a bibliography of 200 listings, and appended supplementary details of study methodology and findings