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Understanding Islamic Fundamentalism

Understanding Islamic Fundamentalism: The Theological and Ideological Basis of al-Qa‘ida’s Political Tactics

Sayed Khatab
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Understanding Islamic Fundamentalism
    Book Description:

    Beginning with an examination of medieval Islamic fundamentalist movements such as Kharjism, Ibadism, Hanbalism, and Wahhabism, Sayed Khatab looks at the similarities and differences between them and present organizations such as al-Qa‘ida. It may be surprising that many of the radical narratives embraced by modern groups have not emerged recently. Identifying these roots can lead to a better understanding of al-Qa‘ida’s theological and intellectual narratives, and how they effectively indoctrinate youths and attract many of them to violent acts of terrorism. The book then focuses on al-Qa‘ida’s theology, ideology, and tactics; the geographic contours and implications of al-Qa‘ida’s political strategy in relation to the western and eastern countries which are considered enemy states; the impending clash of cultures; and the ideological war within al-Qa‘ida. Innovative in its concept, examining political Islamic thought from a historical to a contemporary perspective, Islamic Fundamentalism generates new understanding of the many complexities of political Islam, and the role of violence and terrorism.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-384-0
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Islamic fundamentalism has risen to world prominence since the 1970s. It began locally, but reached its moment of climax in 2001 with the tragic events of September 11. Al-Qa‘ida’s terrorist attacks on the United States (U.S.) on September 11, 2001, constitute a real turning point, not only in the world order, but also in international relations. If September 11 occurred because of the presence of the U.S. in the Middle East, as extremists say, it is notable that the current level of the United States’ involvement in the Middle East is the greatest it has been for the past sixty...

  4. 1 Islamic Fundamentalism
    (pp. 9-26)

    Fundamentalism is a word, like many words in both Arabic and European languages, that has a range of meanings across cultures. This is relevant to the task at hand. In the science of politics, for example, the concept of ‘the Left’ in western literature traditionally refers to workers, laborers, the lower classes, and needy and unfortunate people.¹ However, in Arab-Islamic literature, ‘the Left’ refers to the aristocrats, to wealthy people who lead a comfortable life. Likewise, the concept of ‘the Right’ in western literature refers to aristocrats, the owners and controllers of capital, the upper classes, and those who do...

  5. 2 The Origins of Fundamentalism
    (pp. 27-76)

    The aims of Islamic movements of the modern epoch are to establish an Islamic order and to confirm the theoretical relevance of Islam to the modern world. The theological and ideological discourse of contemporary Islamic movements also has its roots in Islamic history and has developed in step with social and political contexts through the centuries. Numerous movements have emerged throughout the history of Islam. Among them are the Kharijis, ‘Ibadis, Hanbalis, and Wahhabis, which are presented here as examples that substantiate the link between medieval and modern movements including al-Qa‘ida. All of these movements call for rule by shari‘a,...

  6. 3 From Fundamentalism to Neo-jihadism
    (pp. 77-84)

    The transformation from fundamentalism to neo-jihadism is one of the remarkable processes of recent Islamic history. It is unrealistic to assume that Islamic extremism, which has recently grown into the most energetic force in the Middle East, emerged out of a vacuum. Contemporary Islamic extremism, rather, is the product of previous movements and has been reshaped over time in step with the shifting political climate of the Middle East. Currently, Islamic extremist movements have their own jurisprudential view and continue to push their operatives and their narratives deeper into the region and beyond. Al-Qa‘ida and similar networks are distinguished by...

  7. 4 Al-Qa‘ida
    (pp. 85-128)

    During the twentieth century, there was a widespread assumption that the role of religion would gradually diminish across all cultures as modernity and secularity came to reign supreme. In the early 1990s, the Egyptian Muhammad Ahmad Khalafallah suggested that the future would not favor an Islamic resurgence.¹ Similarly, in 1992 the French scholar Olivier Roy published his book,The Failure of Political Islam, a title that indicates the book’s theme and contents.² Adopting a similar theme, the French scholar Antoine Basbous published his bookL’Islamisme une révolution avortéein 2000.³ This is the same premise that the French scholar Gilles...

  8. 5 Ideology
    (pp. 129-166)

    In seeking to understand the mindset of al-Qa‘ida and its affiliated individuals and groups, one must appreciate their ideological ideas and tactics. Al-Qa‘ida’s main objective, in al-Zawahiri’s words, is to “establish an Islamic state and to uproot the regimes who are enemy to Islam.”¹ It was in the name of this ideology that the leadership of al-Qa‘ida, namely Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri, considered jihad to be the only means of achieving their ideological goal. Focusing on the attitude of al-Qa‘ida’s thinking on jihad, one first needs to appreciate the concept of jihad as conceived by a Muslim consensus.

    The word...

  9. 6 Al-Qa‘ida’s Tactics
    (pp. 167-208)

    This chapter focuses on al-Qa‘ida’s tactics in order to identify and understand the mentality that selects targets, plans operations against them, and prepares statements to be given after each operation.

    The departure of Soviet troops from Afghanistan was considered a great victory not only for the Mujahidin Afghans, but also for the jihadists in general. These are the jihadists who carried out their jihad against those whom they called ‘infidels,’ in the name of their doctrine of jihad. It is in this sense that when the jihadists consider their participation in the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan they do...

  10. 7 Inside al-Qa‘ida: The Ideological War
    (pp. 209-236)

    This chapter focuses on the theo-political ideas in the debate between the two main ideologues of global jihad, Dr. Fadl and Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri. Dr. Fadl is the chief ideologue who influenced both Ayman al-Zawahiri and Bin Laden. The dispute between the three men began earlier but remained beneath the surface until late 2007. This internal war was based on theology and ideology, and caused a number of key jihadist individuals and groups to abandon al-Qa‘ida and renounce violence and terrorism.

    Dr. Fadl’s real name is Sayyid Imam ‘Abd al-‘ Aziz al-Sharif. He was the founder of the first Egyptian...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 237-248)

    The main debate on the future of Islamic fundamentalism and its radical offshoots, such as al-Qa‘ida and jihadism in general, is turning toward a consideration of ideology and doctrinal propriety, as well as issues that the jihadists perceive as matters of core belief. Recent studies agree on the fundamental importance of theology and ideology in the process of radicalization, the embracing of violence, and terrorism. While studies have confirmed that radicalism sustains terrorism at its very roots, they have also confirmed that the organizational and tactical growth of radicalism is always coupled with selective fundamental narratives and perverted interpretations. In...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 249-280)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 281-294)
  14. Index
    (pp. 295-306)