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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.
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Chapter 3: On jihadism

Towards a New Understanding of Terrorism and Extremism?

Pete Lentini


This chapter identifies core elements of the twentieth-century phenomenon of jihadism. The information contained in this chapter will establish a basis from which it will be possible to evaluate to what extent, if any, The Movement’s approach to jihad and martyrdom possesses continuities with or contradictions from established twentieth-century political thought. Indeed, should these be identified later, it will be possible to consider such instances to be departures from jihadism. The chapter engages with three of the most influential modern writers on jihad and how their ideas transformed the body of thought on the instrumentalization of violence using jihad to achieve sharia in domestic contexts to global dimensions. These writers are the Egyptian ideologue Sayyid Qutb who wrote during the time of Nasser’s rule; the Egyptian thinker Muhammad Abd al-Salam Faraj whose Neglected Duty held great significance over the assassins of Egyptian Anwar El-Sadat; and the Palestinian cleric-fighter Abdullah Azzam whose writings encouraged many overseas Muslims to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Others have correctly drawn attention to these authors and even the writings analysed here in their works (Esposito 1999; Juergensmeyer 2003; Cook 2005; Wiktorowicz 2005; Khatab 2011). Moreover, these authors also draw attention to the significance that Hassan al-Banna and Mawdudi’s thoughts had in politicizing jihad and establishing jihadism as a major political movement and ideology. However, al-Banna’s writings were somewhat relevant to a specific time period, and Mawdudi, writing from a subcontinental perspective, was not as influential in the Muslim Arabic speaking heartlands, as for instance, Qutb (see Cook 2005, 102).

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