Great Addition to the Jihadist Studies Literature

Check out the latest offering from West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, Self-Inflicted Wounds: Debates and Divisions within Al-Qaida and Its Periphery, edited by Assaf Moghadam and Brian Fishman.  This is an edited volume that looks at all sorts of internal jihadist debates such as over the notion of takfir, tactics, strategy, and many other things.  It’s the usual bang-up job from the CTC and it would be a useful antidote to those who think that the jihadists are actually more pure in their understanding of Islam than other Muslims.  (I say “would be” because I rather doubt that the people who believe that will read this book.  Call me cynical and I’ll plead guilty.)  The New American foundation had a great launch for this book a couple weeks ago and they have posted the video online.

Every one of the essays in this volume shows why the jihadist movement cannot only be understood as a single united entity.  My own work, it is true, has tended to show them as a united entity.  (See e.g. this and this.)  That said, I do not believe that that is the only way to understand them.  Rather, I think it is merely a way, albeit an indispensible one, to think about them.  The differences among jihadists are equally important. 

The analogy I give is with communism.  During the Cold War there were decided differences among, say, Soviet Communism, Chinese Communism, Hungarian Communism, Albanian Communism, and Eurocommunism.  That said, the adherents of these various movements could all, quite correctly, be said to be communists.  One would have been hard-pressed to understand any of these without knowing something about Marx, Lenin, Mao, the dialectic, the proletariat, etc.  At the same time, these differences which seemed so minor to those of us where were small “d” democrats were felt very passionately by the communists.  This fact opened up opportunities for us.

So it is, I think, with the jihadists.  At the risk of sounding blasphemous, the jihadists are many, yet they are one.

Published in: on December 26, 2010 at 9:37 PM  Comments (1)  
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Interesting Jihadist Iconography


So, an atrocious poem entitled in English “The Chechen Massacre” has appeared on the Ansar al-Jihad forum.  It comes with the following artwork:

I find it interesting that the artist–whose anti-American sympathies can be taken for granted, chose to use a version of one of the most famous patriotic American images in existence, the flag-raising at Iwo Jima by the US Marines:

The artist even rendered the figures wearing a reasonable approximatination of Marine uniforms of the time.  Interestingly, there is some echo in reality to this, because the Chechen mujahideen have frequently been photographed wearing American-style camouflage.

The late Emir of the Chechen mujahideen, Abu Walid.


It could be that somehow the “Chechen Massacre” artworks was meant ironically, but aside from some glancing references to Somalia, Bosnia, and Baghdad the United States doesn’t figure in this poem, so I rather think not.  This looks rather more like another of those moments like when the kid wearing the Coca-Cola t-shirt brandishes a photo of Bin Laden for the camera.

Published in: on December 5, 2010 at 11:10 PM  Comments (6)