Chapter 1: Introduction
Towards a New Understanding of Terrorism and Extremism?
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This is a study of terrorism and extremist politics. Equally, this book examines political ideas and comparative politics. Indeed, the volume addresses, respectively, issues that are germane to understanding political thought and comparative political studies: the evolution of ideologies, and the extent to which it is possible to identify ‘the degree’ to which concepts, principles, paradigms and practices can ‘travel’ through time, space and culture to demonstrate continuities, contradictions and departures from earlier or later understandings and manifestations of political phenomena. Specifically, the book queries the validity, accuracy and applicability of distinct continuity theses defined as ‘the view of an unbroken continuity’ between distinct political actors in different time periods, which view the ‘past as a single, undifferentiated tradition’ (S.F. Cohen 1985, p. 40). The present study interrogates the continuity theses that politicians, pundits and sometimes academics have espoused in relation to groups like al-Qaeda, Jema’ah Islamiyyah (JI), various ‘home- grown’ cells and the subculture and ideas that drive them – or what I refer to in this book as The Movement. First, that such groups have descended from, and constitute a new form of twentieth-century totalitarianisms, especially fascism and Nazism; and second, that they are a direct continuation of Islamist thought, especially that which emphasizes the instrumentalization of jihad to achieve political objectives, or jihadism, which emerged following World War II. However, to date, most commentators – particularly elected politicians – have utilized concepts or markers that have been value-laden and tinged with political bias to classify The Movement.