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Research Report

The evolution of Al-Qaedaism: Ideology, terrorists, and appeal

Edwin Bakker
Leen Boer
Copyright Date: Dec. 1, 2007
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 100

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. [i]-[ii])
  2. (pp. [iii]-[iv])
  3. (pp. 1-2)
    Onno Kervers

    For the past six years, the phenomenon that is Al-Qaeda has been the subject of intensive study, and many publications, in all realms of today’s global landscape: politics, government (not in the least by its intelligence and security services), international co-operation, non-governmental circles, journalism, science and academia. So when Edwin Bakker and Leen Boer started on their work on “The evolution of Al-Qaedaism”, it seemed a tall order indeed to write something meaningful and original, adding value to what we already know about Al-Qaeda and its terrorists. The reader will obviously judge for her- or himself, but to me this...

  4. (pp. 3-6)

    More than six years after the attacks on the United States, Al-Qaeda is still perceived by many as one of the most important threats to the security of the West, most notably to the United States. In September 2001 it was obviously a very serious physical threat to security. In the years following these catastrophic events, Al-Qaeda has not managed to repeat a deadly attack that has been anywhere near the scale of ‘9/11’. This has partly been the result of the ‘Global War on Terror’, including the fall of the Taliban regime and the hunt for persons belonging to...

  5. (pp. 7-24)

    The Arab word ‘Al-Qaeda’ is probably one of the most often quoted non-European words in Western politics and media. It is used on a daily basis, but what is exactly meant by it? Among the general public and politicians, many would agree that the word Al-Qaeda means ‘the base’ or ‘the source’ in Arab and that it is the name of a terrorist organization headed by Osama bin Laden. Among scholars, this general description is not very satisfying and raises questions. First, the Arab word ‘Al-Qaeda’ has many different meanings. More important, however, the idea of ‘Al-Qaeda’ as an ‘organization’...

  6. (pp. 25-54)

    What does Al-Qaeda stand for? What is ‘Al-Qaedaism’? What are the core messages of Al-Qaeda’s ideology? Is Islam or ‘politics’ the prime mover of Al-Qaeda? Texts of Al-Qaedaists, Osama bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri in particular, will be the starting point in answering these questions. These sources represent the inside perspective. Al Qaeda’s statements (most of them written texts and transcriptions of audio- and videotapes) can be found on the internet as well as in several compilations that have been published in the past few years.36 Of course, these statements may contain distortions for reasons of propaganda, disinformation, hidden agenda’s, and...

  7. (pp. 55-62)

    Discontentment is widespread among Muslims, in particular among Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa. Al-Qaeda feeds on this discontentment. It has made itself the mouthpiece of the discontented. It also amplifies the voices of the discontented. Moreover, Al-Qaeda’s ideological messages are clearly meant to further and strengthen Muslims’ feelings of dissatisfaction, frustration and victimization.

    The major reasons or sources of discontentment have already been touched upon in Chapter 3, in which we discussed Al-Qaeda’s ideology. Al-Qaeda keeps reiterating on, for instance, the current dysfunctioning of the regimes of Muslim countries and the ‘permanent threat and aggression of the...

  8. (pp. 63-74)

    As mentioned in the previous chapter, as a result of widespread discontentment in the Middle East and the Muslim World at large, Al-Qaeda has managed to become the mouthpiece of the discontented by amplifying the voices of the despondent. One could even argue that, to a certain extent, Al-Qaeda is in line with Muslim public opinion. But is that really what contributes to sympathy with Al-Qaeda in the Muslim World? And how essential is the support of the Muslim masses to Al-Qaeda’ existence?

    With regard to the 'attractiveness' of joining Al-Qaeda, analysts are still formulating preliminary hypotheses. Few empirical studies...

  9. (pp. 75-86)

    Under the title “The evolution of Al-Qaedaism: Ideology, terrorists, and appeal” we have analyzed a highly complex and continuously changing phenomenon. We have looked at the different phases of Al-Qaeda and its evolution into something broader than an organization or a movement, into ‘Al-Qaedaism’. We have looked at its members and followers, its ideology and its appeal and inspiration to others.

    In this final chapter, we want to try to go a few steps further. We want to draw some conclusions, to make a few generalisations and to list the key factors that explain what makes Al-Qaeda and Al-Qaedaism tick....

  10. (pp. 87-95)
  11. (pp. 96-96)