Ekhlaas member Abu Hamza 2005, whom we’ve already met, has written a short essay called, “Bin Laden and the Globalization of Jihad.” In it, he argues that Bin Laden and al-Qaeda have transformed Jihadi-Salafism from an ideology in service of national or regional goals into a global ideology. Before 9/11, AQ was an organization that carried out operations. Through its actions and the response of the U.S. and its allies, Muslims came to more fully identify with the suffering of foreign Muslims. Now its primary role is to motivate the Muslim community to become part of the global conflict.
In its role of advocate and exemplar rather than organizer, AQ has done away with structural organizations and is instead marketing a methodology (manhaj). On account of its success and notoriety, cells have formed that identify with its methodology but do not necessarily join its organization.
Complimenting the shift of AQ from an organization to a methodology has been has been its use of new media to spread its message. This allows it to circumvent the censorship of state-controlled media in the Middle East and to have equal footing with the U.S.-dominated global media.
Many analysts have asked, “Will AQ survive once Bin Laden is gone?” Of course! Abu Hamza answers; one need only look at the death of Zarqawi. Many analysts said his organization would fall apart after he died, but the opposite happened. This will also be the case when Bin Laden dies since AQ is a flat organization that does not depend on leaders.
To finish, here are two interesting quotes:
The spidery chain of spontaneously-generating cells, an expanding network, and terrorist strikes will not end as long as there are basic incentives, like religious and ideological doctrine and the bitter reality of domination, oppression, and humiliation in which the umma lives.
Al-Qaeda is not an organization or a traditional side in an international war. It is cells and an ideological orientation that jumps every day to new regions that meet the requisite Sharia and strategic goals. It is important to note that a majority of the members of al-Qaeda are well educated and from the upper classes. They are skilled at dealing with the modern technology that the West produces and many of them have studied at technical institutes, which gives them an advantage in designing terrorist attacks…
All of this sounds suspiciously like Marc Sageman’s recent Leaderless Jihad, in which he argues that AQ Central’s international role is confined to inspiring a decentralized network of like-minded militants who follow the organization’s method and ideology, but do not have any formal ties to it. This is not to say Abu Hamza is reading Sageman (although Jihadis are quite well read in the latest Western academic literature on AQ). But it does seem to be an idea that has really taken hold among Western analysts and Jihadis.
For my part, I think Abu Hamza’s thesis is as overreaching as that of Sageman (whose book has a number of excellent observations to recommend it). This whole business about flat organizations, networks, spontaneous generation, and the like may sound swell in our current Facebook milieu, but it misses two important things. First, it presumes that AQ was something different before 9/11–a bureaucracy that had tight command and control. I don’t think that’s the case. In fact, I think it functioned much the same as it does today, albeit in a diminished capacity. It was and is a terrorist venture capitalist firm that funds projects and people it likes but does not absorb many personnel into its organization.
Second, the idea that you can knock off a talent like Bin Laden and it won’t matter is nonsense. Sure, the Jihadi Movement will keep rolling and Bin Laden will be hailed as a martyr, but it is very difficult to replace someone with Bin Laden’s skills. Look at Abu Hamza’s Zarqawi example: Abu Hamza maintains that AQ in Iraq was just fine after Zarqawi’s death. But a more reasonable assessment has to conclude that AQI has suffered a great deal and is close to completely losing its footing in Iraq.
Document (Arabic): 5-21-08-ekhlaas-abu-hamza-on-globalization-of-jihad