Al-Qaida Between Ideology and Technology: Electronic Jihad From September 11 to the Assassination of Bin Laden

Menawer Alrajehi, Jamal Al-Shalabi

Abstract


More than ten years elapsed between the bloody events of September 2001 that hit the United States (US) and the assassination of al-Qaida’s leader, Osama Bin Laden, in 2011. To understand the relationship between these two events and to analyze them from a political and intellectual viewpoint, the analysis must expand to include the role of the media, especially the “alternative media”, and its impact as an important weapon in the hands of this “extremist” Islamic organization. Al-Qaida, which existed in the middle of 1990, pledged to use all political and military means and media (De Cessole, 2012, p.74) to fight what was called “the far enemy”, i.e. the West and its allies, particularly the US (Kepel, 2004, p.113). The latter had emerged victorious from the ‘cold war’ that had lasted for more than half of a century and had ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc, and the dominance of liberal concepts: democracy, human rights, and market economy (Al Shalabi, 2000, p.7). On the other hand, the political changes in the light of information and communication revolution led to the emergence of extreme ideas pursued by violent fundamentalist groups combining two types of extremism: religious and political (Jones Stevens, 1998), which are incompatible with the principles of democracy, freedom of opinion, expression, religion tolerance, and others (Armstrong, 2000). Al-Qaida’s dialectical relationship between ideology and technology concentrates on the youth who are able to use social networking tools, such as the Internet, Facebook, and Twitter, which “exceeded the traditional means like radio, television, and newspapers” (Penn, 2003) to recruit or to induce them to embrace the ideas and principles they seek to disseminate. To analyze and understand the role of alternative media in the war between al-Qaida and the West and its allies, we will investigate the phenomenon of the technological means used by al-Qaida to achieve its objectives and to disseminate its ideas through three major axes: The beginning of a Jihad media, the “holy” media strategy, and shedding light on the media institutions owned by this organization.


Keywords


Bin Laden; Al Qaida; Alterntive media; New media; Facebook; Twitter; Ideology/technology

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3968/7597

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