In the post-September 11 world, Al Qaeda is no longer the
central organizing force that aids or authorizes terrorist attacks
or recruits terrorists. It is now more a source of inspiration for
terrorist acts carried out by independent local groups that have
branded themselves with the Al Qaeda name. Building on his previous
groundbreaking work on the Al Qaeda network, forensic psychiatrist
Marc Sageman has greatly expanded his research to explain how
Islamic terrorism emerges and operates in the twenty-first
In Leaderless Jihad, Sageman rejects the views that place
responsibility for terrorism on society or a flawed, predisposed
individual. Instead, he argues, the individual, outside influence,
and group dynamics come together in a four-step process through
which Muslim youth become radicalized. First, traumatic events
either experienced personally or learned about indirectly spark
moral outrage. Individuals interpret this outrage through a
specific ideology, more felt and understood than based on doctrine.
Usually in a chat room or other Internet-based venues, adherents
share this moral outrage, which resonates with the personal
experiences of others. The outrage is acted on by a group, either
online or offline.
Leaderless Jihad offers a ray of hope. Drawing on
historical analogies, Sageman argues that the zeal of jihadism is
self-terminating; eventually its followers will turn away from
violence as a means of expressing their discontent. The book
concludes with Sageman's recommendations for the application of his
research to counterterrorism law enforcement efforts.
Subjects: Political Science
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