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«Ann-Sophie Hemmingsen PhD dissertation University of Copenhagen Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies Primary supervisor: Jørgen Bæk ...»

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The Attractions of Jihadism

An Identity Approach to Three Danish Terrorism

Cases and the Gallery of Characters around Them

Ann-Sophie Hemmingsen

PhD dissertation

University of Copenhagen

Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies

Primary supervisor: Jørgen Bæk Simonsen, University of Copenhagen

Secondary supervisors: Lars Erslev Andersen, Danish Institute for International Studies (2008-10)

and Anja Dalgaard-Nielsen, Danish Institute for International Studies (2007)



Part 1 Chapter 1: Introduction

Research Questions


Chapter 2: Theories and Methods

Positioning the present dissertation

Moderate social constructivism



Cultic Milieus and Countercultures

Classical versus Global Jihadism



How to find settings for observations and potential informants

How to generate data – asking, looking and listening

Written narratives

The data

Ethical challenges

Chapter 3: The Three Cases

The Glostrup-case

The Glasvej-case

The SÜ-case

Chapter 4: Trends and Debates in the Literature

Terrorism research

New versus Old

Ideology and al-Qaida

Radicalization processes


Part 2 Chapter 5: Counterculture

Cultic Milieus, Meta-countercultures and Countercultures

Cultic Milieus



The cultic milieu, meta-countercultures and countercultures in different times

What’s in it? Towards a typology of purposes which the counterculture can serve

Motivations formulated by individuals who have been prosecuted

Motivations formulated by individuals who claim to have engaged in Jihad

Motivations and views formulated by informants who have not been in trouble with the authorities

A typology of purposes which the counterculture can serve


3 Social belonging

Intellectual challenges

Being counter

Other typologies


The role of ideology


Chapter 6: Jihadism or Jihadisms?

Distinguishing between support for violence in conflict areas and in non-conflict areas........... 128 Two different Jihadisms

The case of Hammad Khurshid

Al-Qaida inspired?

Two more examples – a well-known path and not so new

The case of Eric Breininger

The case of Slimane Hadj Abderrahmane

Trends in the three narratives

The role of conflicts and conflict areas and ideology


Chapter 7: Eschatology

The narrative about the End of Days



Conflicts and battles


Accompanying narratives

Dangers, signs, and miracles


The narratives and identity – Defiant pride

Sources of the narratives

‘Us’ and ‘them’…

Turning the tables

Misery loves company

Being the chosen ones

The narratives’ potential for justifying violence

How widespread are these narratives


Chapter 8: Sources and Credibility

Assigning credibility to others

Assigning credibility to oneself

Being ‘counter’

Religious immunity




Breaking with traditions by returning to tradition

4 Beards


Refusing one restricting set of rules only to find another


Chapter 9: Conclusions




in English

Resumé på dansk


First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to my three advisors, Dr. Jørgen Bæk Simonsen from the University of Copenhagen, Dr. Anja Dalgaard-Nielsen from the Danish Institute for International Studies and Dr. Lars Erslev Andersen from the Danish Institute for International Studies who have provided most valuable and constructive feedback and support throughout the writing of this dissertation. I am also indebted to Dr. Manni Crone from the Danish Institute for International Studies. Our cooperation and many discussions have been indispensable.

This study had never seen the light of day were it not for the immensely forthcoming and helpful attitude of my informants. I have done everything within my power to protect their anonymity and their names shall remain concealed here. It is my sincere hope that they will feel that I have done them justice.

I also wish to thank my many great colleagues at the Danish Institute for International Studies, among them notably Dr. Ulla Holm, Dr. Jorgen Staun and Jon Alix Olsen, to our Director, Nanna Hvidt, for her continuous support and interest, and to Zia Krohn for her assistance with the models.

My thanks also extend to other colleagues, whose interest has been inspiring and helpful.

Among these I am in particular indebted to Dr. Marc Sageman from the Foreign Policy Research Institute for continuous encouragements and many inspiring exchanges throughout the duration of this work and to Dr. Martha Crenshaw from Stanford University for her encouragement and inspiration during the early phases.

Finally, I wish to thank the Danish Institute for International Studies for its generous funding without which I would not have been able to carry out this study.

All errors and faults are of course my responsibility alone.

Copenhagen, September 2010

–  –  –

Jihadism – which is also referred to as militant Islamism, Islamic militancy, al-Qaida-inspired terrorism, Islamic terrorism, radical Islamism, radical Islam, extreme Islam, Militant Islam, etcetera – has attracted much attention in recent years and is occasionally identified as the main threat to

security today. On 3 September 2010 former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair argued that:

–  –  –

Much has been said and written about Jihadism and the main contribution of the present dissertation is it is based on ethnographic fieldwork in Denmark which stretched over more than two years and included the narratives of participants who have been convicted of planning terrorism as well as of participants who have not been in trouble with the authorities.

Over the course of five terrorism trials which I attended as part of this fieldwork it became evident that the individuals who had ended up on trial and some of their acquaintances perceived themselves as parts of something which most other individuals were not a part of. These individuals perceived themselves as sharing something – something which included worldviews, norms, dress codes, language and insights. They perceived themselves as parts of a ‘shared we’.

This ‘shared we’ and the attractiveness of it is what ties together the present dissertation and the aim is to attempt to grasp it and shed some light on it. I argue that this ‘shared we’ can best be understood as a counterculture. A counterculture within which there are diverging analyses of what should – and could – be done. Some individuals and groups within it believe the best one can hope for is to pave the way for change by setting a good example via one’s own behaviour. Others have 11 abandoned the hope that status quo can be changed for anybody other than themselves and have resigned to distancing themselves from surrounding society to protect their own purity. Yet others have confidence in education as the answer and therefore engage themselves in developing and disseminating material which explains their points of view, they engage themselves in demonstrations to invoke the attention of surrounding society or perhaps engage themselves in activities to attract the attention of the media. Others believe only through violent means can anything really be changed. Yet others engage themselves in collecting money and other resources for the individuals and groups who engage in the abovementioned activities or simply support them in words.

Research Questions

A puzzle identified by Wiktorowicz captures what guided my research:

–  –  –

In my view the question which had to be posed to shed light on this puzzle was: ‘what is in it – what are the attractions that outweigh these costs and risks?’ Under this overall question I

formulated two more defined research questions:

–  –  –

 What are the attractions of contemporary Jihadism in the West?

The dissertation is divided into two parts. The first part sets the scene by introducing the theories and methods upon which I have relied in chapter 2. In chapter 3 The Three Cases the three terrorism cases and the outcomes of the trials I have attended are introduced. The three cases are the Glostrup-case, the Glasvej-case and the SÜ-case. The trends and debates in the existing literature to which the present dissertation contributes are introduced in chapter 4.

The second part of the dissertation consists of the four chapters in which I present and analyze the empirical data and the conclusions. In the four chapters I subject the material to different analyses and draw on different theories.

In chapter 5 Counterculture I combine Kaplan & Lööw (2002) with Roszak (1995) and analyze contemporary Jihadism in the West as a counterculture which interacts with mainstream society and with a broader under-wood of society which questions the majority’s definition of normality. In this chapter the first research question “Is contemporary Jihadism in the West one phenomenon?” is explored and I show that there is more to contemporary Jihadism in the West than violence and terrorism. It is also a counterculture which attracts individuals who use it for different purposes. As a consequence contemporary Jihadism in the West is not only a phenomenon related to terrorism and violence but also a phenomenon related to identity and to social mechanisms. The second research question “What are the attractions of contemporary Jihadism in the West?” is also explored in this chapter drawing on a combination of theories on identity: Jenkins (1997), Baumann & Gingrich (2004), Jackson (2002) and Honneth (1995).

It is argued that three types of attractions can be identified: individual attractions, context dependent attractions and attractions which are specific to the Jihadism counterculture.

Four archetypes of individual attractions which motivate individuals to look up the Jihadism

counterculture are identified:

 Action  Social belonging  Intellectual challenges  Being counter 13 Because individuals look up the Jihadism counterculture in their search for different rewards the counterculture serves different purposes. As a consequence individuals act differently within the counterculture not because of the counterculture or its ideology but because of what the individuals are searching for.

The counterculture provides a framework which the individuals who look it up need – a framework which can transform individual motivations and needs into collective needs and a greater cause. The counterculture also provides a network where individuals can find resources – financial, intellectual, social or material. The counterculture in itself does not cause anything but it does make things possible.

It is argued that, in theory, any counterculture could hold these attractions but the Jihadism counterculture has a comparative advantage in how it is being perceived and received by its context – i.e. that it is high-profiled and treated as a threat to security. These are the context dependent attractions. Many of the individuals inhabiting the Jihadism counterculture would probably have inhabited another counterculture at another point in time – and some have. There are examples of individuals who have a past in left-wing and right-wing countercultures as well as in criminal settings. But at present the Jihadism counterculture is the most high-profiled. An individual who signals that he or she is part of this counterculture will not only be recognized as being against the established, find social belonging, find access to action or find intellectual challenges – he or she will also be recognized as a security threat and therefore be taken seriously. The third type of attractions – the attractions which are specific to the Jihadism counterculture – are explored in chapter 7 Eschatology and chapter 8 Sources and Credibility.

In chapter 6 Jihadism or Jihadisms the question “Is contemporary Jihadism in the West one phenomenon?” is further explored by focussing on the violence and terrorism aspects of contemporary Jihadism in the West. The narratives of one individual who has been convicted of planning terrorism and two individuals who claim to have been actively engaged in Jihad are analyzed by drawing on Hegghammer and Lacroix’s distinction between two types of Jihadism. It is argued that the violence and terrorism aspects of contemporary Jihadism in the West must be divided into Territorialized Jihadism – which only sanctions violence in areas where there is violent conflict – and Global Jihadism which sanctions violence anywhere.

In chapter 7 Eschatology the question “What are the attractions of contemporary Jihadism in the West?” is further explored. A series of narratives are analyzed as elements of identity and as 14 attractions. These are attractions which are specific to the Jihadism counterculture. In this chapter I draw on the abovementioned combination of theories on identity.

In chapter 8 Sources and Credibility the way credibility is attributed to sources, to others and to oneself is explored. Drawing once again on the combination of theories of identity I analyze how this too is part of identity and serves as an attraction which is specific to the Jihadism counterculture.

The present dissertation thus not only sheds light on violence and terrorism but also on other aspects of contemporary Jihadism in the West.

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