Towards a New Understanding of Terrorism and Extremism?

Pete Lentini

Many years after 9/11 we are still struggling to categorize groups like Al Qaeda, home-grown cells and others that claim to be perpetrating and justifying terrorist acts under the banner of jihad. This book introduces the concept of ‘neojihadism’ as a new form of political organization, grand narrative, global subculture, counterculture and theological understanding, with an approach to political violence that is unique to the post-Cold War period. What these groups espouse and enact differs radically from fascism, totalitarianism, cults, jihad – and even jihadism.

Chapter 4: On The Movement’s global dimensions: bin Laden as a political and spiritual commentator

Pete Lentini

Subjects: asian studies, asian politics and policy, politics and public policy, asian politics, international politics, terrorism and security


This chapter examines Osama bin Laden’s contributions to and under- standing of jihad and conflict, and serves as a basis for establishing bin Laden’s political, and perhaps even theological contributions to the broader themes analysed in the previous chapter. Additionally, as this book is concerned with The Movement as it exists in global and local contexts and the inter-relationship between the two, the analysis of bin Laden’s ideological and theological materials helps to generate understandings on the former. Examples of more local concerns are addressed in the following chapter. In addition, this chapter outlines how bin Laden framed the ummah, the Islamic nation, in his public statements. This analysis is significant as bin Laden sought to mobilize the ummah to achieve political goals. Additionally, the role, type and composition of the nation play important roles in the other extremist ideologies and movements examined in this volume. Establishing bin Laden’s under- standing and presentation of the ummah will provide a basis for later comparisons. What follows is not an assessment of the overall themes in his public statements. Writing as Anonymous, Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit analysed some of the main topics bin Laden raised in his writings and speeches up to 2002: civilizational conflict, antagonism towards so-called apostate Muslim regimes, his appeals to young Muslim males’ religious duties to engage in jihad, and Muslims’ obligations to acquire nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction (Anonymous [Scheuer] 2003, pp. 45–68).

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