Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against the West

Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against the West

by Walid Phares

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This Foreign Affairs bestseller from MSNBC terrorism expert Walid Phares allows a frightening look into the future of jihad. Phares—who has served as an expert with the Justice Department, briefed the Defense and State Departments, and testified to Congress—shows that ther has been a fundamental misunderstanding about al Qaeda's ultimate goal in the West and what victory means to jihadists. Future Jihad shows how our defenses have been infiltrated; identifies the future generation of home-grown terrorists; and points the way for America to win the ideological war at the heart of jihad.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781403975119
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 09/19/2006
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 1,145,113
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.67(d)

About the Author

Walid Phares is a world-renowned terrorism and Middle East expert. He is a senior fellow at The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a visiting fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy. He is an analyst on MSNBC, has testified before the State Department many times, and has led NGO delegations to discuss Middle East terrorism with the UN Security Council. He is also a professor of Middle East studies, ethnic and religious conflict at Florida Atlantic University. He has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN, NBC, C-SPAN, al Jazeera, al Hurra, Fox News, and Abu Dhabi TV, among others, and is a frequent contributor to U.S. and international radio programs. He is the author of several books, including The War of Ideas: Jihad against Democracy.

Read an Excerpt

Future Jihad

Terrorist Strategies Against America

By Walid Phares

Palgrave Macmillan

Copyright © 2005 Walid Phares
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4039-7074-9



When the President of the United States delivers speeches about "them," he calls them "terrorists." When they address the world, they call themselves "the men of jihad." Are the terrorists waging a war whose name we do not want to accept, or is the international community waging a war against terrorism while ignoring its goals and its ideology? This is more than a question of semantics. When asked about "jihad," many diplomats and scholars used to dismiss it as irrelevant in world politics. Today, however, we have to ask whether in doing so we are just ignoring a name or whether we are also turning a blind eye to the enemy's aims, deepest beliefs, and the wellspring of its will. If we do this, are we actually mobilizing against the instruments of terror rather than against the roots of its creation?

To understand who the jihadists really are and what they ultimately want, we need to examine the complex history involved in the term, the ideology behind it, its evolution, and its effect on individuals. We need to understand the historical alliances of jihadists as well as their ideological enemies. Without understanding this past, we can never fully understand our enemy and what the future might hold.

We first need to absorb then later we need to get familiar with the origins of jihad as a word and as an ideology in order to develop an understanding of who the ideological and political users of this concept are today. Osama bin Laden, Ayman Thawahiri, al Zarqawi of al Qaeda, and Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah all invoke jihad; we cannot afford to ignore or dismiss the concept and its history.

Among the many important questions that have to be answered are: Why is there a debate about the concept of jihad? Does it have a single meaning or multiple ones? When did it arise, and why? Who has used it and for what purposes? What is the relationship between jihad and the "infidels"? What is the connection between jihad and peace?


The first time I read about jihad was in middle school, in my native Beirut, Lebanon. I attended classes in more than one school in different parts of that small multiethnic country. At the time, there was no major media debate about jihad, as everyone had just one understanding of what it was. It was part of history, part of the dominant culture, and so it was never questioned. Decades later, after I relocated to the United States in 1990, I had my second encounter with the word. But this time it was in the center of a public debate and the object of much intellectual and academic wrestling. In the sophisticated elite establishment of America, the term "jihad" brought unease, even before September 11, 2001. But the concern was not about what jihad might mean for the future. High-profile professors, respected journalists, and political activists were trying to diffuse the tension surrounding the word and deflect its historical sense. In most literature, scholarly articles, public lectures, and lobbying and social efforts related to Middle East politics, as well as religious studies and interfaith activities, there was a constant attempt to portray jihad as a spiritual phenomenon that could be and was abused by extremist ideologies and radical political factions who were making it into something it really was not. In the early 1990s, I was stunned to read and hear the western establishment making these tremendous efforts to convince audiences and readers of the benign character of jihad; in the Middle East, for the most part, the term retained its age-old, unreconstructed meanings. Jihad is not benign, and the West's denial of that fact was terribly ironic. By instinct and as a result of my personal and professional background, I realized the enormity of what was happening: The United States was paving the way for its own defeat, by blurring its vision, confusing its mind, and moderating its reactions to the early danger signs, not to mention the terrorist strikes to come. It was clear that the nation turned a blind eye to the historical definition of jihad, the one that would really come to matter.


In my classrooms, in the books I read, on the radio, and on the black-and-white television programs of my childhood and school years, jihad was simple and clear. It was a word that had meant one thing for the last thirteen centuries. It was part of the history of many peoples and of a gigantic region, and was understood by all parties—those whom it was applied against and those who applied it—as a call for action. The concept of jihad was so widespread and so deeply rooted in the culture of the region that many—even non-Muslims—used it as a name for their children. A cousin of mine and other children in my own village shared the name jihad. It was used as commonly as the word "crusade" in the West. In all Arabic stories, legends, and even in cartoons, jihad was omnipresent. No one was trying to hide it, camouflage it, or moderate its meaning. From Morocco to Afghanistan, the word meant only one thing.

In the United States, however, political and intellectual forces were mobilizing to insert a new meaning into the concept and inject that new and reshaped concept into mainstream American thinking. The question is: Why? Why would lobbies want to blur the meaning of jihad in the West, while those who called for jihad east of the Mediterranean had no intention of redefining it? This question can be answered only after we have investigated the various strategies developed by the jihadists and the efforts made by their apologists inside the United States and the West in general.

To understand the ideology of the jihadists, or those who call themselves jihadiyun or mujahidin (and thereby extrapolate their policies, strategies, and future actions), one must first understand the full definition of the word. This is not as easy as you might think, for several reasons.

First, the word itself: Arab linguistics are very complex; furthermore, the field is dominated by schools that are malleable to political pressures. It seems prudent to say that, in addition to mastering the Arabic language, I have also been trained in comparative cultural analysis, the next step after linguistic translation. While you do not need this level of education to understand and interpret the term "jihad," it is the level of knowledge you need to be able to identify the influences and permutations that can exist in Arabic over one single word. My unique perspective provides me with the advantage of a strategic cultural analysis, but at the same time makes it more difficult to relate findings to either western or arab society. That is to say, it is very difficult for a genuinely bilingual person to explain an alien culture and its cultural history to a monolingual society, and vice versa. Linguistic translation is one thing, cultural explanation is something else. Among Arab speakers, for example, the concept of jihad comes naturally. In western or non-Arab, non-Muslim societies, serious academic effort is required to explain the term. And herein lies the challenge. The "translator" may neither be able nor willing to convey the fundamental meaning.

We in the West have been at the mercy of those who where supposed to translate and explain an entire ideology but instead sanitized it and camouflaged it. The same applies on the other side. In western culture, democracy is being taught in the classroom, but it is a historically understood concept. The intellectual translation into Arab Muslim culture depends on the "translating party." In those cultures, its real meaning has been complicated and altered in the madrassas (Islamic religious schools) or when taught by antidemocracy teachers.

A second difficulty is the fact that jihad as a concept has actually mutated to some degree over time. In the early seventh century A.D./C.E., jihad meant a unified set of values in full adherence to what was then the ambient political vocabulary of the time. Jihad was a dual religious and political theme at its very first inception. Centuries later, as the stages of Arab Islamic statehood and doctrines developed, the jihad concept would be reinforced by what was achieved by the Islamic state and the related worldview. In other words, it was strengthened, not weakened. But with the modern age, the rise of international secular ideas, the development of international law, and the surge of different strategic interests among the Islamic ideologies, jihad developed different meanings in different intellectual settings as a way to satisfy various interests. Hence, what was universally accepted in the seventh century or commonly understood in the seventeenth century has become more complex at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Therefore, one has to use the term "jihad" carefully, while remaining faithful to the popular and historical perception of it.


A short lesson in the linguistic history of the term is necessary to further understand its complexity. "Jihad" comes from the root word Jihd, but is not synonymous with it. Jihd means "effort." From that root many other branches were developed in ancient Arabic, depending on the action, context, and the historical meanings that developed as a result of linguistic mutations.

In Arabic syntax, the word "jihad" (Jehaad) means haalat al Jihd, or "a state of jihd." In analytical linguistics, "jihad" transliterates into "a state of permanent efforts." The word was constructed to launch a particular vision. It came from a specific situation, at a specific time, and espoused the need of that time but has continued to develop since. In essence, it was created to change with the relevant historic situation.

Many in the scholarly community in the West admit that the word "jihad" had an initial meaning, but not all interpretations are alike. Some believe the word first had only one sense, while others affirm that it always had two senses. In Arab Muslim culture, the consensus on the meaning of jihad is much larger. It definitely draws from historical accounts and religious citations. But yet again, even in the culture of origin, ideologies and schools produce their own versions. Some stress its intangible meaning; others widen its sense into alternatives and shades. But the comprehensive and widely understood content of "jihad" is universal. It was born during the early stages of the Islamic expansion and developed for centuries as a state and religious concept, before being redefined by an ideological movement at the onset of the twentieth century.


Because of its implications for international politics, the question of war and peace, and most recently its connection with terrorist movements, which have adopted it fully in their lexicon, the concept of jihad has dramatic importance in today's world. Regardless of its ancient use, jihad as practiced by terror networks such as al Qaeda and Hezbollah and regimes such as the Taliban or Iran's mullahs is in conflict with all types of secular and human rights–based laws. But since its users—the radical organizations—and modern doctrines refer to jihad in the most historicist dimension, we are forced to investigate it historically. In other words, even if great powers used the term "jihad" in the past as a tool of war and peace, it nevertheless deserves a historical understanding since the jihadists of modern times fully adhere to its past roots (or so they claim).

Jihad as a concept was initially advanced by the early Muslim leaders at the onset of the establishment of the Islamic state, al dawla al Islamiya. The first recorded use of the concept of jihad as a political word goes back to the early military efforts made by the followers of Prophet Mohammed during their struggle with the Meccan establishment (seventh century A.D./C.E.). According to Islamic history, this occurred after the migration of the faithful from Mecca to Medina in what Muslims believe was the beginning of the Hijra era, or emigration. In fact, the Islamic era starts then, and the foundation of the political entity of Islam can be traced to the Medina era.

The debate about the identity of Islam as a religion and a state has had many streams. Historically, the early Muslims formed a state around their religion. "Al islam deen wa dawla," said the founding fathers: "Islam is a religion and a state." Hence at the time of the inception, theology and politics were molded in one. While I intend to bypass the theological discussion on Islam, it must be noted that, according to historical accounts of both secular and Muslim historians, the Islamic movement was political as much as it was religious. In comparative religion, one could compare it to the biblical march of the ancient Hebrews or the movement of Christian empires. The divine was part of the sociopolitical. The early movement of Muslims, first under their Prophet and later after his passing, advanced both religion and political dynamics. In addition to the five tenets of faith, the organization of the community was centered on structures, movements, decision-making systems, and political agendas.

The five pillars of the faith are (1) witness (Shahada); (2) prayer (salat); (3) pilgrimage (hajj); (4) alms (Zakat); and (5) fasting (sawm). All of these articles of faith are entirely spiritual and in some ways comparable to elements from the previous monotheist religions, Judaism and Christianity. Muslim theologians believe that Islam is the last expression of Abrahamic revelations that started with Adam and Eve and ended with Mohammed. But many secular historians and sociologists argue that early Islam was influenced by Jewish and Christian teachings. This debate will remain in the realm of comparative religions as it deals with metaphysical beliefs and messianic revelations. The question of Mohammed's prophetic character is comparable to the question of Jesus' divine nature and of the Hebrews' covenant with God. It was, is, and will remain a question of faith, above and beyond international relations. The question of jihad, however, is qualitatively different.

Jihad was declared by the early Muslim leaders as a sixth unofficial pillar of Islam. It was conceived as an "instrument of Islam," a sufficient but not a necessary condition for the spread and defense of the religion. In its pure logic, jihad was needed if things were not going smoothly. To simplify, for one to be a Muslim, he or she had to perform the five duties mentioned above. But if the conditions requiring jihad were not present, one could still be a Muslim. What were the necessary conditions for jihad?

From historical accounts, including (but not only) religious texts and references, jihad was a state of mobilization in the interest of the Muslim umma (nation) as it developed its military and strategic dimensions. When Muslims fled Meccan oppression at the hands of Mecca's pagan political establishment, they defined themselves as an "umma." As they settled in Medina, north of Mecca, the followers of Mohammed organized themselves into a political and military institution. They decided to overrun Mecca's ruling institution and replace it with a dawla, a state. It was to become the dawlat al Islam: the state of Islam, soon to become the Islamic state. That theologically grounded choice to establish a government for the new religion was the basis on which the ruler—first the Prophet himself, then his successors—granted themselves the right of sovereignty to manage the affairs of the state for the nation. The protection of, expansion of, and management of the dawlat al umma (the state of the Muslim nation) led logically to the buildup of instruments of governance for war and peace. Jihad, as per all theological and historical references, is a state of juhd: a state of effort at the service of the umma, the state, and Allah. It is a call to mobilize the resources, energies, and capabilities of individuals in the service of the higher cause. Jihad is the sum of all jihds, or efforts. It is triggered by an order given by the legitimate authority. It has a theological force that cannot be canceled except by a legitimate authority.

Nida' al jihad, or the call for jihad, is the highest injunction to gather the forces of the community in the service of the Islamic umma. Originally there was no jihad for one's personal interests. Jihad outside the global effort prescribed by the umma does not exist. Personal efforts to enhance jihad are part of communal jihad. Many analysts and scholars in modern times presented jihad as either personal-spiritual or as collective-political. Muslim scholars' distinction between al jihad al akbar (greater internal and spiritual strife) and jihad fi sabeel al umma (at the service of the community) force modern scholars to draw political conclusions. In fact, Muslim scholars conceive all levels of jihad to be at the service of the global jihadic effort for the advancement of the community.


Excerpted from Future Jihad by Walid Phares. Copyright © 2005 Walid Phares. Excerpted by permission of Palgrave Macmillan.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsix
Chapter 1The Historical Roots of Jihad17
Chapter 2Who Are the Jihadists?47
Chapter 3After the Caliphate69
Chapter 4The Nazi Alliance77
Chapter 5The Communist Dilemma83
Chapter 6Israel's Fate87
Chapter 7What the Cold War Meant for the Future99
Chapter 8The New Jihad113
Chapter 9Jihadist Strategies against America133
Chapter 10The Inevitability of 9/11153
Chapter 11Bin Laden's Strategy against America161
Chapter 12The Root Causes of America's Failure171
Chapter 13Projecting Future Jihad179
Chapter 14The Clash of Strategies: America Versus Jihad195
Chapter 15America: Jihad's Second Generation211
Chapter 16Mutant Jihad239
Chapter 17Guidelines and Prescriptive Policies247

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Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies Against the West 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an outstanding book. The introduction sets the stage for a riveting read and in the first chapter Phares succeeds in explaining complicated Islamic history and Islamic teachings that have created and continue to support violent jihad in a way that anyone can understand. I could hardly put the book down. Walid Phares clearly understands the jihadists' minds. I have watched him on MSNBC. I suspect his incredible understanding is related to being born, raised, educated and having practiced law in Lebanon where terrorism against the U.S. was initiated through the 1983 suicide bombing of the U.S. marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. Marines. Phares monitors and analyzes the jihadists' websites (Arabic), has contacts in the Arab world, and is invited to debate jihadist supporting clerics and scholars on al-jazeera and other Arabic TV and radio. This book should be required reading for anyone who truly wants to understand jihad in America and abroad, the deadly threat it presents to the U.S. and the free world, and what we need to do to stop it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Future Jihad addresses the issue of how the nation was paralyzed in understanding the coming of 'a' 9/11 and what should be done to prevent a future that the Jihadists wanted to see unfolding years ago. 'Americans and other societies were led to believe that Jihadism wasn't a threat,' argues Phares in his introduction. 'It was a systematic and dramatic penetration of American and Western intellectual defenses that led to Terror thrusts for a whole decade.' In his introduction, ten overwhelming questions challenges us: The gist of the questionnaire is revolutionary: Did we engage in a war which was launched against us, declared against us, and which signals were blurred by many among us? Richard Clarke told the American people that the Government failed the public. Phares responds: and who failed the Government and the public? Was there a Trojan Horse inside our own political culture? This book is badly needed on campuses.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have never read a book as powerful as this one on Terrorism and the war we're in. This author explains it all: from the historical roots of Jihadism, its various schools, its strategies, how it penetrated the West, the US all the way to 9/11. The most frightening one is chapter 13. A must read. Phares read their minds, projects how they can attack and crumble US security, had they waited more time. In short, if you wish to understand the big picture, the bigger picture than our daily debates, read this book: Academic, some chapters are hard, but a must. But from chapter 4 on, you are transported to a world you haven't understood before.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A must read for anyone who is interested in the unapologetic truth about the Jihadists and their agenda. Phares explores Jihad in all of it's mutations, from the beginning to the present, and offers sober advice for our future. Make no mistake, Jihad is not some amorphous 'spiritual' development. One can only hope that the politicians and policy makers are 'getting it' by reading and learning from insightful books like this, instead of shriveling from the constant threat of political correctness. I am not holding my breath, though.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Walid Phares carefully distinguishes between radical and moderate Muslims. He gives historical context as well as summarizing recent events. This book is a great help in understanding why 9/11 happened.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Walid Phares'book Future Jihad is the leading work on the strategies of the Jihadists worldwide and in America. Phares, a professor of Middle East Studies was the first scholar to break the 'Taboo' about Wahabism, Salafism, Khomeinism and showed the reader the real big picture about the Jihadist campaigns against the US, the West and Muslim moderates. Against hundreds of scholars, funded by the Oil producing regimes, on dozens of campuses around the US and Europe, Phares embarrassed the apologists for Jihadism and the frustrated 'reviewers.' For years the Middle East studies scholarship was trying to blur the vision of Americans and cover up for the so-called 'Jihad of the soul.' This book, not only pulverised their theories, but finally gave the readers what they needed to understand the War on Terror and the War of Ideas around them. It is read in Congress, at the European Parliament and by students seeking real knowlege. But better, it is indeed leading the field. It is number one on Barnes and Nobles..
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best of many books that are currently out on the subject of Jihad. What I particularly appreciated was the lack of hyper-partisanship, and the no-nonsense tracing of Jihad from it's beginning, to today and into the future. Along with David Cook, and Bruce Hoffman, this book should be on your shelf if you want to understand where those who hate us are coming from.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author of the book does seem to understand Middle Eastern culture, no doubt (afterall, he is from the Middle East). However, he unfortunately twists and turns that understanding into a naive, unreliable and frightening comprehension of what's been going on. He does not do justice whatsoever when it comes to understanding the motivation and goals of extremist groups, and what it takes to solve the issue. If you want a excellent book on the politics of the Muslim world, see 'The Future of Political Islam' by Graham Fuller. Otherwise, this is just another book that legitimizes the far right-wing view of Islam and the Muslim world.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Phares really knows his stuff. He displays a great deal of information on Islamic Jihad and describes how modern day terroists use it as a weapon against America and Europe. If you're having a hard time understanding current events, or just want to know more about what motivates terroists, read this book. It explains a lot.