Shiraz Maher’s project explores the intellectual development of al-Qaeda and the global jihad movement. Drawing on hitherto unexplored primary source material it examines how and why core ideological concepts within the global jihad movement developed over time leading to an age of almost nihilistic campaigns post-9/11.
Yet, al-Qaeda was not always like this. When Arab mujahideen fought the Soviet Union in Afghanistan during the 1980s, there were no suicide bombings and care was taken to identify only explicitly military targets. Less than two decades later, al-Qaeda was targeting civilians in lower Manhattan and helped to fuel a bloody sectarian conflict in Iraq. How did the movement justify this new course? And why did a more radical voice triumph over those counselling caution?