Transnational Radical Islamism

Patrick Anderson

Abstract


This article examines the al-Qaeda movement in terms of the categories of “global” and “local.” Both descriptions are relevant. Structurally, the label al-Qaeda is used to describe many things: the original al-Qaeda-central organization; locally-based affiliated groups who operate under its banner; and a global social movement of sympathizers and participants connected via the internet. Ideologically, the emergence of jihadist doctrine has taken place against the backdrop of social change on a global scale and can be convincingly analyzed as a direct symptom of modernity and globalization. The roots and aims of the movement are, however, local. They pertain to specific societies and emerge from widely-felt grievances against the state system and the ruling elites of the Arab world. As such, the al-Qaeda movement is best viewed as a global expression of local grievances: a new “global” strategy in the service of local goals centered on the states of the Middle East.

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