Toward Greater Understanding: The 'Jihadist' Ideology of 'Al Qaeda'   [open pdf - 407KB]

From the thesis abstract: "Osama bin Laden and Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri enticed tens of thousands of Muslims from around the world to travel to Afghanistan, swear allegiance to bin Laden and the cause of 'Al Qaeda', fight and even die for that cause. Bin Laden united faithful Muslims under his ideological banner by making relevant the historical context of authentic Islam and promoting 'jihad' not only as a religious obligation, but a legally sanctioned and moral responsibility of every good and true Muslim. This monograph explains 'Al Qaeda's' narrative as a 'jihadist' organization that currently poses the greatest threat to United States and Western interests around the world. The first section offers an explanation of terms that people commonly use to describe an enemy they may not fully understand - these terms include fundamentalist, extremist, 'Salafi' and 'jihadi'. The next section provides a historical overview of the threat the United States faces in Afghanistan today. After explaining the roots of 'Al Qaeda' in Afghanistan, the paper details the organization's ideology and goals as well as the historical basis for this ideology, reaching back to the Prophet Muhammad and the origins of Islam. The paper argues that in order to defeat bin Laden and 'Al Qaeda', it is necessary to understand the roots of 'Al Qaeda's' Islamic narrative and the environmental context that allowed these concepts to gain such a following. By understanding the true nature of the threat, United States political and military leaders will be better able to formulate plans and develop operations that counter the effectiveness of 'Al Qaeda's' messages and provide alternatives for those currently engaged in 'jihad' against America."

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