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September 11, 2001, marked the coming to the fore of the "jihadist international," a loosely connected movement of militant and terrorist groups worldwide with a common ideology and increasingly shared tactics and methods. While such groups still have limited recruitment potential eight years on, they have inflicted substantial physical damage and have forced free societies to take costly precautionary measures. Perhaps most alarming, the global jihadist movement has continued simultaneously to feed off of and perpetuate the growing radicalization that Muslim culture has endured over the last few decades.
The purpose of The Jihadist International series is to review critically the record, plans, and prospects of al Qaeda, as the main franchise of the global jihad, in its major areas of activity around the world--as presented, conceived, and attempted by al Qaeda's ideologues and affiliates themselves. Through an analysis of jihadist self-assessments, culled from the open sources used by extremist networks for dissemination and recruitment, this series will provide a window into the patterns of thought potentially shaping future waves of jihadist action. It also will underline the longer-term effects that radical propositions have begun to imprint on Muslim culture.
From the question of Palestine to the utopian and dystopian dream of a twenty-first-century caliphate, al Qaeda is striving to invoke sensitive themes in order to shift the conflict in which it is engaged from one between a discredited fringe and a unified world community to a clash between civilizations. This evolving effort, used to set a framework for al Qaeda-linked terrorism, will thus be examined in this series in both its retrospective and prospective dimensions.
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Hassan Mneimneh is a visiting fellow at AEI. AEI research fellow Jeffrey Azarva worked with Mr. Mneimneh to fact-check and edit successive drafts of this report.