One reason why terrorist violence is sometimes placed in the realm of megalomania, and psychotics is that most terrorists (arguably jihadist) indeed have a fundamental different worldview and perception of current affairs and therefore are acting on different cognitive premises. However this biased perception is not due to psychological or neuronal deficiencies but is the result of socialization, steady influence of different worldviews and sometimes indoctrinations and ad hoc religious education. Apart from that flawed perception even extremist behavior (terrorism) is rational and consequent.

Ob­ject of the pro­ject

In ter­ror­ist con­flicts the ad­verse act­ors util­ize vi­ol­ence as a means to as­sert their ant­ag­on­iz­ing views about the ideal so­cial or­der and the sov­er­eignty of power. Both act­ors con­strue a cor­res­pond­ing nar­rat­ive of how the ap­plic­a­tion of vi­ol­ence is le­git­im­ate, func­tion­al, and ne­ces­sary. This re­search pro­ject in­vest­ig­ates the nar­rat­ive that pro­motes ji­hadi vi­ol­ence and ji­hadi ter­ror­ism.

Ji­hadism is an il­lus­trat­ive case of con­tem­por­ary ter­ror­ism. It can be de­scribed as a re­cent form of (Sunni) Is­lam­ic fun­da­ment­al­ism that op­poses sec­u­lar in­flu­ences through vi­ol­ent act­iv­ism (namely ji­had). Ji­hadi vi­ol­ence can be defined as phys­ic­al harm against per­sons com­mit­ted by act­ors who thereby ex­ecute the doc­trine of ji­had (ac­cord­ing to the het­ero­dox in­ter­pret­a­tion of ji­hadism). In oth­er words, ji­hadi vi­ol­ence is vi­ol­ence mo­tiv­ated through and in­spired by the ideo­logy of ji­hadism. This defin­i­tion is sub­ject­ive be­cause it is char­ac­ter­ized by mo­tiv­a­tion rather than by clear-cut be­ha­vi­or­al cri­ter­ia – vi­ol­ence is con­sidered ji­hadi when the act­or claims it to be so. However, this sub­jectiv­ity is in­trins­ic to ji­hadi vi­ol­ence: While or­tho­dox Muslims con­demn most as­pects of ji­hadism as heretic, ji­hadists claim to be the guard­i­ans of true Is­lam.

Des­pite all ef­forts to counter ji­hadi ter­ror­ism it is dif­fi­cult as­sess wheth­er the glob­al ji­hadi con­flict is a volat­ile phe­nomen­on in de­cline, or wheth­er it will sus­tain, harden, in­tensi­fy and thereby coin the fu­ture of for­eign af­fairs, do­mest­ic se­cur­ity and so­cial or­gan­iz­a­tion like oth­er glob­al con­flicts did be­fore.

Meth­od of the study

The study ana­lyses pub­lic state­ments of al-Qaeda and af­fil­i­ated groups with fo­cus on the ques­tion: “What do ji­hadi dis­courses say about mo­tiv­a­tion (cause), jus­ti­fic­a­tion, and ex­pec­ted out­come/util­ity (func­tion­al­ity) of vi­ol­ent ac­tion?” In a second step the doc­trine of ji­hadism is com­pared with its ac­tu­al im­ple­ment­a­tion in re­gion­al con­flicts, by ana­lyz­ing claims of re­spons­ib­il­ity for ter­ror­ist/mil­it­ary op­er­a­tions.

The em­pir­ic­al ma­ter­i­al (video/au­dio speeches, com­mu­niqués and state­ments of AQ and af­fil­i­ated groups) is sampled from the archive of the SITE In­tel­li­gence Group, a com­mer­cial in­tel­li­gence pro­vider that closely mon­it­ors vari­ous kinds of me­dia from the ji­hadi move­ment. Through in­duct­ive con­tent ana­lys­is (us­ing the soft­ware MAXQDA) open and lat­ent pat­terns in the data shall be iden­ti­fied and de­scribed.

Status of the pro­ject

Lit­er­at­ure from Is­lam­ic and ori­ent­al stud­ies, an­thro­po­logy, crim­in­o­logy and ter­ror­ist stud­ies has been re­viewed in or­der to draw a de­script­ive pro­file of ji­hadism and to cla­ri­fy the term. Ji­hadism can be char­ac­ter­ized and defined in re­gard to three con­stitutive di­men­sions (see fig­ure): The first is a set of re­li­gious, ideo­lo­gic­al and polit­ic­al at­ti­tudes which dis­tin­guishes ji­hadi Salafism from oth­er forms of Is­lam­ic act­iv­ism (e.g. Is­lam­ism, Is­lam­ic na­tion­al­ism, pur­ist Salafism). The second di­men­sion is the ju­di­cial dis­course about the doc­trine of ji­had (as stip­u­lated in Is­lam­ic in­ter­na­tion­al law [si­yar]). From this het­ero­dox in­ter­pret­a­tion de­rives the move­ment’s mod­us op­erandi (third di­men­sion) that has no pre­ced­ence in the his­tory of ji­had war­fare.

Like­wise, an ana­lyt­ic­al defin­i­tion of ter­ror­ism has been draf­ted by com­pil­ing rel­ev­ant con­tri­bu­tions from the lit­er­at­ure on the top­ic. Fol­low­ing Black (2004) ter­ror­ism is un­der­stood as so­cial con­trol. Ad­di­tion­ally the work­ing defin­i­tion con­siders that ter­ror­ism is it is neither genu­ine crime nor genu­ine mil­it­ary ag­gres­sion.