The Emergence of Al-Qaeda

Introduction

Despite numerous small attacks before the September eleventh attacks in the United States, international terrorism had been given little attention. The 9/11 attacks was an eye opener not just to the Americans but to the whole world on existence of extremist groups and the risk they posed on lives on individuals who had different believes from their ideologies. The fist most known and recognised of the groups is the Al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda was formed in the year 1988 by Abdullah Azzam and Osama bin laden in response to invasion and occupation of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. The initial ideology behind the formation of al Qaeda by Abdullah Azzam and its principle mandate was that the movement acted on the basis of its Islamic religious obligation to fight for and defend Islam and oppressed Muslims against a defined enemy (Gray, 2015). While azzam’s original intention was not to create an international terrorism network, this was realised after his assassination by the same group when they disagreed on his ideology. Azzam’s contribution to the formation of al Qaeda largely relies on his recruitment skills and influence of young Muslims in Afghanistan to join the terrorist group; that however changed significantly when Osama bin laden, a Saudi royal with influence and financial capability joined him. Osama bin Laden’s contribution was money and he channelled money from Saudi Arabia in disguise of relief money and aid to help the afghan people who were living in deplorable conditions during the Soviet Union invasion (Gray, 2015).

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Change in ideology

Following the assassination of Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin laden assumed the leadership roles of al Qaeda, the anti- communist and anti-western believer now targeted not only enemies of Afghanistan but also other Muslim countries he perceived have had secular regimes (Bergen, 2011). The ideology changed from religious inspiration in defence of the oppressed Muslims to fighting any country they perceived to be enemies of Islam as a religion. Osama bin laden also blamed America and their collaborators against oppression of Muslims in countries such as Somalia, Bosnia and Lebanon (Riedel, 2010). This conventional ideology was shaped by extremist teaching and believes of two Islamic Sunni teachers who believed that the Islam religion had been corrupted and that western civilisation was an enemy to the religion. Through declaration of war on enemies of Islam, extremist practises were adopted and fight on civilians approved as a religious sanction. Other than declaration of war against western civilisation, enemies of Islam also included Shia, Sufi and liberal Muslims who had not adopted extreme and strict practises of the sharia laws. Muslim countries in alliances with western countries were regarded as infidels and thus open to being attacked by the al Qaeda (Bergen, 2011).

Methods

With funding from the royal Saudi family from which Osama bin laden was an heir, the Al Qaeda had been able to purchase weapons, food supplies and train thousands of soldiers loyal to their movement. Other sources of funding are believed to have come from donations from wealthy supporters and sympathisers of the group from other countries such as politicians and business men (Riedel, 2010). Heroin trade from Afghanistan has also been considered a source of income for the terrorist group accounting for millions of dollars. Before the assassination of Osama bin laden in 2011, al-Qaeda was a highly organised group that had several committees within it to handle various issues in the organisation (Turner, 2010). The first committee handled military responsibilities which aligned with training volunteers, purchasing and acquiring weapons and organising terrorist attacks both local and international. The second committee dealt with finances, collection of revenue within towns and villages they overtook and running businesses that fund the organisation. The third committee imposed extremist sharia laws amongst locals and within the organisation; developed and implemented punishment for anybody who failed to adhere to such laws. The fourth committee oversaw religious obligations, teachings and wrote religious articles which supported the course and justified ideology of al Qaeda operations within and outside Afghanistan (Turner, 2015). They were also responsible for the distribution of such material with an aim to influence and convert as many people as they could. The fifth committee handled information distribution to masses through media; they were responsible for printing newsletters and newspapers as well as live broadcast of their activities through al-Sahab, a media production company (Wu et al., 2014). This committee was also responsible for organising interviews between foreign media personalities and Osama bin laden or other members of the organisation. Despite a centralised management, several groups operated within the movement and made independent terrorist attacks but solely depended on al-Qaeda for financial and intelligence support. Since its formation, the al-Qaeda has managed to spread its wings to forty countries worldwide (Wu et al., 2014). This has been mostly enabled by the ease of communication through social media where it does recruitments and calls upon Muslim faithful’s to carry jihadi attacks on infidels wherever they are. Other groups of the militia loyalists have undergone thorough training similar to military quality training in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan and other countries and are able to practise command on insurgent forces during an attack. It has been estimated that over 60% of the military volunteers have had university education and may be well travelled or informed of the countries they attacked; that has been attributed to the previous success in the militia operations prior to operations by the us government against al Qaeda (Quiggin, 2009). The group has strategy in fighting has been listed as; firstly they are said to provoke reaction and response from target countries and organisations by invading local towns or other neighbouring Muslim countries, launching attacks that result in mass death and casualty of civilians. Another method used by the al-Qaida in waging war is incitement of the group’s sympathisers and those willing to join them in their ideology so as to expand global terrorism outside their territories. This move has been seen in US and attacks in Europe. Strategy of attack and global take over was recorded in seven faces namely the awakening, opening eyes, arising and stand up phase, growth, declaration of Islam caliphate, total confrontation and victory. (Quiggin, 2009).

ISIS

As not much is known about the formation of ISIS, its origin however can be traced back to al Qaeda in 2003. It was formed by Abu Musad al-Zarqawi who was a member of the al-qaeda’s leadership committee and while he was assassinated in 2006, this group lived on and has been famous since 2014. Abu musad’s ideology was to form a Muslim caliphate through capture of territories and declaration of Islam as the true religion (Jasko et al., 2018). Unlike al-Qaeda whose interests could be urged to be political, economic and religious, the ISIS base their ideology on Islamic teaching and their operations are determined to start and fuel war between Sunni in whose extremist believes they practice and Shiite Muslims. This however has been extended to the rest of the world where they call upon their followers to kill infidels and destroy their property (Cheterian, 2015). ISIL has based its ideologies and sources of reference to Wahhabis, ancient extreme Sunni Islamic teachings. This has been observed on the chants conducted by ISIS forces and online publications. The aim of the group is to reject westernisation as they have strongly condemned involvement of western countries in Muslim nations and also condemned the adoption of western practises which they believe has corrupted the Islam religion (Kis-Benedek, 2017). ISIS has over the years adopted what they term as prophetic methodologies in implementation of their ideologies, these methodologies are in line with teachings of Prophet Muhammad which they have implemented and used in justification of enslavement of women, murder and crucifixion (Weiss & Hassan, 2016). The group’s tight ideologies have also been based on their belief on eschatology and need for recruitment to form an army that will fight and defeat the army of Rome according to prophesies. The success of existence of ISIS has been highly attributed to the Arab spring movement when most Islamic nations were rendered jeopardised and weak. Isis managed to grow to its presence is northern Iraq and capture a large part of Syria where it still holds base to date (Jasko et al., 2018). Sources of income for ISIS cannot be attributed to one economic activity in particular but assumptions have been made that the group amassed wealth during the instability in the Arab spring. They had received donations from wealthy nations who share in their belief such as Saudi Arabia, politicians, businessmen and members of the royal family (Riedel, 2010). Other sources of income can be traced to taxes and fine imposed on locals and illegal smuggling of goods such as oil between countries close to Syria and Iraq. The adoption of the name state has been their acknowledgment of Muslims with who share the same believes as a nation and calling upon them to fight infidels, however many Muslim countries do not recognise it as such and their presence in Iraq and Syria condemned and rendered a war crime (Steindal, 2016) Unlike al-Qaeda which imposed strict rules and movement of women, ISIS has encouraged and enabled the participation of women for their fight as jihadist. While the participation of women was not at the war fronts, their involvement was mainly encouraged as aids to main, they were married to the jihadist ,cooked and nursed injured men. Through fulfilment of their duties as required by prophetic teachings, their recruitment was encouraged just as much as men’s recruitment (Shorer, 2018). Despite ISIS being a regional terrorist group based in Middle East, their recruitment was successfully done in various countries across the world and unlike al-Qaeda whose forces were mainly Arab, the ISIS has forces from America, Europe, Africa and Asia. In addition to local recruitment, ISIS is one the terrorist groups that made the most use to social media to influence and recruits new members (Awan, 2017). Its strong social media presence can be traced to active participation on twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms under various tags. ISIS professionally utilised social media platforms as a means to entice men in the fight for war either by brain washing and giving them a sense of purpose based on their teaching or making promises of material rewards. Women on the other hand were promised marriage by jihadi men. Unlike al Qaeda whose target was informed and well learned individuals, a majority of ISIS fighters are young and vulnerable individuals who were searching for a purpose in life and that they took advantage of (Shorer, 2018). Social media has also been used as a means of influence, communication and coordination of attacks by sympathisers in other countries, mostly in Europe and America. Some of the attacks that can be attributed to such practises are the Boston marathon attack. The fight in ISIS has been strategically recorded in three phase where the first phase involves empowerment of the jihadists, through concentration of forces at particular locations and places of interest, the forces opt to destroy the enemy, by launching a hard battle on the unaware and undermined forces (Kis-Benedek, 2017). The second phase involves overthrowing the government; through control and capture of vital resources such as oil plants and other economically strategic facilities, ISIS hopes to cut off financial sources to the government and create mass instability. The final phase involves declaration of a caliphate and imposing a single ruler who would unite the states and declare Islamic laws to the people (Kis-Benedek, 2017).

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Conclusion

While Muslim jihadists have strategic and ambitious plans that sound easy, achievement of such ambitions have been described as a fallacy and farfetched. The openness with which they describe their plans and objectives may be a strategy to create influence, recruit members, build loyalties, receive and receive sympathy and donations. This same strategy however is the downfall of most terrorist regimes in that it has created an easy environment to know their motives predict their moves and build resistance (Steindal, 2016). Owing to the temporary existence of one terrorist group, its failure and development of another terrorist group, this strategy has clearly failed; their success however can also be attributed to specific geographical regions and for a specific period of time. It is however common to note that most jihadist groups however base their ideologies on religious teachings however economic and political interests can also be established (Wu et al., 2014)

References

Al-Ibrahim, B. (2015). ISIS, Wahhabism and Takfir. Contemporary Arab Affairs, 8(3), 408-415.

Awan, I. (2017). Cyber-extremism: Isis and the power of social media. Society, 54(2), 138-149.

Bergen, P. L. (2011). The longest war: The enduring conflict between America and Al-Qaeda. Simon and Schuster.

Cheterian, V. (2015). ISIS and the Killing Fields of the Middle East. Survival, 57(2), 105-118.

Gray, J. (2015). Al Qaeda and what it means to be modern (Vol. 2). Faber & Faber.

Jasko, K., Kruglanski, A. W., bin Hassan, A. S. R., Gunaratna, R., & Springer, C. (2018). ISIS: Its History, Ideology, and Psychology. Handbook of Contemporary Islam and Muslim Lives, 1-25.

Kis-Benedek, J. (2017). The Isis and the Global Terrorism. Science & Military Journal, 12(2), 5-10.

Quiggin, T. (2009). Understanding al-Qaeda’s ideology for counter-narrative work. Perspectives on terrorism, 3(2), 18-24.

Riedel, B. (2010). The Search for Al Qaeda: Its Leadership, Ideology, and Future. Brookings Institution Press.

Shorer, M. (2018). Mobilization of women to terrorism: tools and methods of ISIS. International Annals of Criminology, 56(1-2), 93-104.

Steindal, M. (2016). ISIS totalitarian ideology and discourse: an analysis of the Dabiq Magazine discourse (Master's thesis, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås).

Turner, J. (2010). From cottage industry to international organisation: the evolution of Salafi-Jihadism and the emergence of the Al Qaeda ideology. Terrorism and Political Violence, 22(4), 541-558.

Turner, J. (2015). Strategic Differences: Al Qaeda's Split with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. Small Wars & Insurgencies, 26(2), 208-225.

Weiss, M., & Hassan, H. (2016). ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror (updated edition). Simon and Schuster.

Wu, E., Carleton, R., & Davies, G. (2014). Discovering bin-Laden’s replacement in al-Qaeda, using social network analysis: a methodological investigation. Perspectives on Terrorism, 8(1), 57-73.

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