Al Qaeda's ideology through political myth and rhetoric
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This Thesis develops and applies a theoretical framework to understand Al Qaeda’s ideology. A concept of ideology comprising a number of political myths, shaped through rhetoric is the central feature of this research. The Thesis tests the theory that extremist ideologies emerge out of social and political crises and postulates that the primary components of ideology are a number of political myths created in the context of historical,theological and political factors. These myths and other components of ideology are given form through rhetoric and the rhetorical styles and techniques employed, in turn, shape ideology. Rhetorical analysis is carried out to identify aspects of Al Qaeda’s ideology, particularly in the construction of political myth. Analysis of the relationship between textuality and political style reveals that while Al Qaeda adopts republican attitudes to political debate, its textual style most closely matches the texts of modern revolutionary terrorists and reveals a great deal about its dual reliance on horrific violence and reasoned discourse. The rhetorical influences on Al Qaeda’s main ideologue are examined to reveal how they shape its ideology. The research fills a gap in academic analysis of terrorism in general and ideology in particular by providing a novel framework to identify the roots, causes, beliefs and trajectories of a particular seam of political thought. Specifically, it identifies Al Qaeda as an extreme and inevitable manifestation of Islamist political ideology, which in turn was a reaction to a number of modern political and social crises and ideas. The political myths that comprise Al Qaeda’s ideology are inherited from mainstream Islamism and are open to critical challenge. However, its motivations and strategies are driven by its primary ideologues’ perception of their political and conflict experiences. The belief that Muslim countries are ruled by unrepresentative and ineffective regimes subservient to the West and the belief that through asymmetric tactics such as terrorism it is possible to destroy a superpower are the two driving forces that sustain Al Qaeda’s ideology. These perceptions are less susceptible to critical debate and may only change after a transformation of political reality; when convincing changes have occurred in the nature of regimes in the Muslim world and when Al Qaeda’s political aims of defeating the West are demonstrably unachievable.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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