Jihadists Study Jihadi Studies

At the risk of seeming omphaloskeptic, I will add a few more observations about jihadists citing western scholars, because this phenomenon taking larger proportions than I expected. Since my last post on the subject, both the Militant Ideology Atlas and the RAND study mentioned by al-Maqdisi have been posted on al-Maqdisi’s own website, Minbar al-Tawhid wa’l-Jihad (MTJ). Maqdisi’s readers can now enjoy the original version, the original executive summary as well as an Arabic summary of both reports. As many of you know, MTJ is the largest online library of jihadi literature, so this means that the CTC and RAND are now part of the official jihadi literary canon. It also means we now know which RAND study al-Maqdisi was referring to in last week’s statement:  Building Moderate Muslim Networks by Angel Rabasa, Cheryl Benard, Lowell Schwartz and Peter Sickle. Since the last post I have also learned that Joas

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Maqdisi invokes McCants

The al-Maqdisi controversy has taken a very interesting new turn. In a statement posted his website earlier this week, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi cited several Western scholars, including Dutch al-Maqdisi specialist Joas Wagemakers and Jihadica founder Will McCants, to make the point that his enemies understand him better than his detractors in the jihadi community do. The statement, entitled “Among the Methods Used by the Infidels to Plot Against the Call and the Preachers, and shared by many Ignorants and Fools,” represents another attempt by al-Maqdisi to rid himself of accusations that he has moderated his position on jihad. For previous attempts see here and here. What’s distinctive about this statement is its frequent references to Western academics and liberal Arab commentators, which al-Maqdisi uses variously to discredit his critics and to boost his own credentials. Al-Maqdisi first accuses his critics of running the errand of the infidels by implementing a

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Q&A in Bellum

I am travelling this week so coverage of the forums will be limited. In the meantime you can read this Q&A with yours truly in Bellum, a very interesting blog affiliated with the Stanford Review. The jihadis have been doing Q&As for ages, so it was about time we here at Jihadica did one.

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Jihadica Shmoohadica

Last week David Solway at Frontpage Magazine published an entertaining article ridiculing people who try to “understand” jihadism and its “roots” (his quotation marks). These people are like the cartoon characters shmoos (see also here), because, like the shmoos, they “recognize no threats, treat everyone as a friend and, even as they are about to be voluntarily exterminated, are all smiles and contentment.” Solway proceeded to highlight yours truly as a resident of the “Valley of Shmoon” in good standing, describing my review essay in the Times Literary Supplement as an excellent example of the “sacrificial” attitude to jihadism. As someone who studies jihadism for a living, I do not often find myself accused of not taking jihadi terrorism seriously. I am sometimes criticised for emphasising the political over the theological sources of jihadism, but usually by people who actually know what they are talking about (such as Raymond Ibrahim).

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Jihad Recollections

We usually don’t cover English language jihadi media here at Jihadica, but the recent release of a new magazine entitled Jihad Recollections (JR) attracted my attention because it is produced by Fursan media and because it is so well done. The magazine fills a gap in the world of jihadi media, as the editorial states: “We have acknowledged that the Arabic Jihadi media have surpassed the English community by light years. Many of our hard working brothers in the English Jihadi community – may Allah reward them with mountains of good deeds – usually limit themselves to translating works rather than developing their own. Henceforth, we have decided to take it upon ourselves to produce the first Jihadi Magazine in English.” It is not quite true that this is the first jihadi magazine in English, but this is indeed the most serious one I have seen. It is seventy pages

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Oslo Workshop Summary (part 2)

Continued from here. The fourth panel on “networks, strategy and ideology” started off with a paper by CTC’s Scott Helfstein on the dynamics of terrorist networks. Helfstein has examined six key al-Qaida plots using network analysis tools to find out why certain individuals come to play central roles in attack networks, and how attack networks change over time. He showed that people’s centrality was a function of personal attributes (skills, education) and their function in the network (weapons acquisition etc). Helfstein is one of a small but growing number of American political scientists who are applying formal methods to the theoretically starved field of terrorism studies with very interesting results (other scholars include CTC-affiliated Princeton professor Jake Shapiro). Bill Braniff, also from CTC, presented a very interesting model for thinking about al-Qaida’s future strategic evolution. He identified five scenarios: 1) persistence (no-change), 2) horizontal escalation (concerted geographic spread), 3) vertical

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