The online jihadist community represents a new phenomenon in the global spread of Islamic radicalism. Many terrorism experts largely ignore the fact that the Internet is more than just a tool for established terrorist organizations--it can be a platform for the evolution of the jihadist social movement itself.
While the majority of this movement's members are casual supporters of a global Islamist jihad against the West, a number of the community's members have already proven willing to take their virtual beliefs into the real world through terrorist acts. Many of these terrorists have attracted significant media attention--Jihad Jane, the Christmas Day Bomber, the Fort Hood Shooter, the attack on CIA agents in Afghanistan, the Times Square Bomber, and a number of other "homegrown" terrorists. The individuals perpetrating these terrorist acts are as diverse as they are dangerous, presenting a significant challenge to counterterrorism officials and policymakers.
This study profiles 20 recent cases of online jihadists who have made the transition to real-world terrorism along a number of characteristics: age, ethnicity, immigration status, education, religious upbringing, socio-economic class, openness about beliefs, suicidal tendencies, rhetoric focus, location, target, terrorist action, offline and online activity, and social isolation or the presence of an identity crisis.
The analysis shows that today, it is much less important how al-Qaida or any other jihadist group expresses its ideology, because any individual may self-radicalize and interpret the jihadist social movement in their own way and carry out terrorist attacks based on this understanding. When the jihadist social movement becomes borderless, the threat presented by the terrorists it inspires is no longer limited by the artificial boundaries of the real world. Counterterrorism officials must recognize this and adopt a long-term strategy for combating this movement.
|Advisor:||Rosenthal, Justine A.|
|School Location:||United States -- District of Columbia|
|Source:||MAI 49/02M, Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||International Relations, Political science|
|Keywords:||Counterterrorism, Internet, Islamist, Jihad, Online, Terrorism|
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