Jihad in Saudi Arabia: Violence and Pan-Islamism since 1979

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Saudi Arabia, homeland of Osama bin Laden and many 9/11 hijackers, is widely considered to be the heartland of radical Islamism. For decades, the conservative and oil-rich kingdom contributed recruits, ideologues and money to jihadi groups worldwide. Yet Islamism within Saudi Arabia itself remains poorly understood. Why has Saudi Arabia produced so many militants? Has the Saudi government supported violent groups? How strong is al-Qaida's foothold in the kingdom and does it threaten the regime? Why did Bin Laden not launch a campaign there until 2003? This 2010 book presents the first ever history of Saudi jihadism based on extensive fieldwork in the kingdom and primary sources in Arabic. It offers a powerful explanation for the rise of Islamist militancy in Saudi Arabia and sheds crucial new light on the history of the global jihadist movement.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A rare combination of sympathetic nuance and critical rigour…[A] useful corrective to common misreadings of the kingdom and deserve a wide audience…Mr. Hegghammer’s analysis of the rise and fall of Saudi jihadism reveals some fascinating details…Yet what stands out most are his persuasive insights. The spread of jihadist ideas in Saudi Arabia, it seems, owed as much to temporary local factors as to outside influences or, for that matter, to Islamic scripture. The state erred, for instance, with policing methods that switched abruptly from being so hard as to provoke anger to so soft as to dispel fear. Hair-splitting ideological rivalries between Islamists, meanwhile, led to a polarisation of the different camps and to a radicalisation of no more than a few men.”
The Economist

“The definitive work on Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, this book makes an exceptional contribution to studies of Saudi Arabia, political Islam, and comparative political violence.”
David Commins, Dickinson College

“Thomas Hegghammer presents the first substantiated study of the jihadist movement in Saudi Arabia. He brilliantly analyses a wealth of hitherto unexamined material and adds both depth and subtlety to our understanding of Islamic politics in the Kingdom. In doing so, he perceptively highlights the importance of pan-Islamism as a mobilizing and radicalizing factor. This informed and conceptually suggestive study deserves a very wide reading.”
James Piscatori, The Australian National University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521732369
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/2010
  • Series: Cambridge Middle East Studies Series, #33
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 302
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Hegghammer is a Senior Fellow at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI). He has contributed chapters to several edited books and his articles have appeared in journals such as International Affairs, The International Journal of Middle East Studies, The British Journal of Middle East Studies, The Middle East Journal, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, and The Times Literary Supplement.

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Table of Contents

List of figures and tables vii

Acknowledgements viii

A note on conventions x

Introduction 1

1 The politics of pan-Islamism 16

The rise of pan-Islamism 17

The Afghan jihad and the Saudi state 24

Pan-Islamist bidding games 30

2 The classical jihadists 38

Afghanistan, cradle of the jihadist movement 38

Jihad in Bosnia, the anticlimax 48

Tajikistan, Chechnya and the minor jihad fronts 52

3 Recruitment to the early jihad fronts 59

Hijazi domination 59

For the umma and the afterlife 60

Recruitment in the open 65

4 Opportunities for global jihad 70

From the Burayda intifada to the 1995 Riyadh bombing 70

Between police oppression and complacency 74

New pan-Islamist causes 78

The rise of the al-Shu'aybi school 83

5 Al-Qaida and Saudi Arabia 99

The global jihadists 99

The global jihadist doctrine and Saudi Arabia 102

Al-Qaida central 108

Al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia 112

6 Recruitment to al-Qaida 130

Unemployment and 'Najdification' 130

Classical jihad exploited 133

Gatekeepers 138

7 Post-9/11 Saudi Arabia 143

New symbols of Muslim suffering 143

Al-Qaida's scholars 147

From soft to hard policing 155

8 The mujahidin on the Arabian Peninsula 161

Returning from Afghanistan 161

Al-Nashiri and al-Qaida's failed 2002 offensives 166

The al-Uyayri network 170

Launching the jihad 180

9 Recruitment to the QAP 186

Boys of Riyadh 186

The Afghanistan factor 189

Anti-Americanism and companionship 193

Persuasion, incrimination and protection 196

10 The failure of the jihad in Arabia 199

The aims of the QAP 199

Evolution of the campaign 202

Explaining the downfall of the QAP 217

Conclusion 227

Appendix 1 Socio-economic data on Saudi militants 239

Appendix 2 Chronology of Islamist violence in Saudi Arabia, 1979-2009 244

Bibliography 250

Index 277

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