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How Islamic is al-Qaeda? The politics of Pan-Islam and the challenge of modernisation

Hellmich, C. (2014) How Islamic is al-Qaeda? The politics of Pan-Islam and the challenge of modernisation. Critical Studies on Terrorism, 7 (2). pp. 241-256. ISSN 1753-9161

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/17539153.2014.912913


This article investigates the contested ideology of al-Qaeda through an analysis of Osama bin Ladin’s writings and public statements issued between 1994 and 2011, set in relation to the development of Islamic thought and changing socio-political realities in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Challenging popular conceptions of Wahhabism and the “Salafi jihad”, it reveals an idealistic, Pan-Islamic sentiment at the core of his messages that is not based on the main schools of Islamic theology, but is the result of a crisis of meaning of Islam in the modern world. Both before and after the death of al-Qaeda’s iconic leader, the continuing process of religious, political and intellectual fragmentation of the Muslim world has led to bin Ladin’s vision for unity being replaced by local factions and individuals pursuing their own agendas in the name of al-Qaeda and Islam.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations > Politics and International Relations
ID Code:36505
Uncontrolled Keywords:Al-Qaeda; Osama bin Ladin; Pan-Islam; modernity; meaning
Publisher:Taylor & Francis

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