Historisk Tidsskrift
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Lars Erslev Andersen

Al-Qaida’s Strength and Vulnerability: Salafism and the War against Terror

(109:1, 153)

After the terrorist attacks in London in July 2005 anti-terrorist focus shifted from the conflicts in the Middle East and South Asia to the struggle against radicalization in European societies. The present article argues that this shift is based on an erroneous interpretation of al Qaida that identifies effects as causes. Against the background of al-Qaida’s communication strategy and Salafism’s political rhetoric it is made clear that militant Salafism must be analysed in its political and societal context. The radicalization theory is criticized, and it is argued that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the dominant focus on plans to counteract radicalization within European societies by increasing surveillance and enacting further anti-terror legislation have failed, because al-Qaida has exploited this strategy to reorganize and establish its centre of operations in Pakistan. The article concludes that only tenable political solutions in South Asia and the Middle East can effectively combat al-Qaida and militant Salafism.

Translated by Michael Wolfe