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The Globalization of Martyrdom

, 360 pages

3 halftones, 10 line drawings

December 2008



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The Globalization of Martyrdom

Al Qaeda, Salafi Jihad, and the Diffusion of Suicide Attacks

2009 Outstanding Academic Title, Choice

This groundbreaking volume examines the rise and spread of suicide attacks over the past decade. Sorting through 1,270 terror strikes between 1981 and 2007, Assaf Moghadam attributes their recent proliferation to the mutually related ascendance of al Qaeda and its guiding ideology, Salafi Jihad, an extreme interpretation of Islam that rejects national boundaries and seeks to create a global Muslim community.

In exploring the roots of the extreme radicalization represented by Salafism, Moghadam finds many causes, including Western dominance in the Arab world, the physical diffusion of Salafi institutions and actors, and the element of opportunity created by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He uses individual examples from the Middle East, Southwest Asia, and Europe to show how the elite leaders of al Qaeda and affiliated groups and their foot soldiers interact with one another and how they garner support—and a growing number of converts and attackers—from the Muslim community. Based on over a decade of empirical research and a critical examination of existing thought on suicide attacks, Moghadam distinguishes the key characteristics separating globalized suicide strikes from the traditional, localized pattern that previously prevailed.

This unflinching analysis provides new information about the relationship between ideology and suicide attacks and recommends policies focused on containing Salafi Jihadism.

Assaf Moghadam is Senior Lecturer at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, Israel. He is the author of The Roots of Terrorism and coeditor of Fault Lines in Global Jihad: Organizational, Strategic, and Ideological Fissures.

"An excellent read. Moghadam is a leading expert in the study of Al Qaeda and suicide attacks and his expertise shines through... Well-researched and argued, this book deserves a close read by all scholars interested in questions of terrorism, Al Qaeda, and the way globalization is influencing the trajectory of terrorist groups."

"One of the most authoritative books on the subject. Moghadam offers a unique contribution not only to terrorism studies but Middle East and Islamic studies as well. Throughout its entirety, the book carries an interdisciplinary timbre, maintains the highest level of analytical integrity, and keeps the reader interested, if not intrigued."

"Moghadam's study stands out from the many studies of terrorism because of the clarity of its argument and presentation, as well as the strength and distinctive character of its thesis about suicide attacks... Highly recommended."

"One of the most interesting, nuanced studies published in our field in some time, then, Globalization contributes immensely to ongoing debates over the manner in which the campaign against global terrorism should be prosecuted... truly remarkable, thought- provoking text."

"A rigorous and important examination of suicide attacks executed by Osama bin Laden and the movement he inspires. This timely book is a valuable contribution to an improved understanding of suicide attacks, terrorism, and Al Qaeda alike, and provides plausible policy recommendations to help stem the further spread of this tactic."

"One of the most thorough and important works available on this often misunderstood subject. Assaf Moghadam's authoritative study provides a welcome corrective to many of the canards and misperceptions that unfortunately comprise at least some of the conventional wisdom regarding suicide terrorism. The author's masterful treatment of this phenomenon's history and its contemporary growth and evolution, alongside his incisive analysis and perceptive policy recommendations, makes The Globalization of Martyrdom a welcome and seminal contribution to the field of terrorism studies."

"This book is a 'must read' for all concerned with post-9/11 terrorism. Assaf Moghadam has broken new ground with this highly original analysis of the globalization of suicide attacks by al Qaeda and the Salafi Jihadist movement. Thoroughly researched and fully documented, the author brings to light the central role that ideology plays as an enabler in the escalation of this particularly insidious form of terrorism. This is clearly demonstrated in those insightful chapters discussing such complex concepts as takfir, tawhid, and istishhad. Moghadam's empirical analysis leaves no doubt that al Qaeda and the Salafi Jihad movement has over the last several years moved suicide terrorism to center stage in their global ideological fight with the West. This fine book concludes with thoughtful recommendations on ways to counter this challenge."

"This is an authoritative and updated study on suicide attacks that is better than any other research published in the field. Moghadam offers a clear conceptualization of a complicated phenomenon and a fascinating historical background of the various manifestations of suicide in political contexts."

"A tour de force by an important new contributor to terrorism studies. This learned corrective to the received wisdom on suicide attacks shows that military occupation alone fails to account for their proliferation. Moghadam’s conclusion that the fight against suicide missions should involve counter-ideological strategies will greatly enhance international security."

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