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Recomposed Hierarchical Organization or Pan-Islamic Ideological Movement?

NCJ Number
Crime & Justice International Volume: 23 Issue: 99 Dated: July/August 2007 Pages: 13,15,21
Brig Barker
Date Published
July 2007
8 pages
This article examines the current organizational manifestations of radical Islamic terrorism based on Etzioni's (1964) definition of organizations as "social units deliberately constructed and reconstructed to seek specific goals."
The author first provides a brief history of al Qaeda as an organization prior to September 11, 2001, when it planned and orchestrated its most notorious attacks. Founded by Osama bin Laden in 1988 in Pakistan for the purpose of uniting Arab fighters against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, it emerged as a militant Sunni Muslim group dedicated to various goals that included expelling the non-Muslim presence from Muslim countries and overthrowing governments in Muslim countries that assimilate Western ways. The core leadership council approved policies and activities, and separate committees (military, religious/legal, finance, and media) focused on specific substantive issues. After the multipronged response to the 9/11 attacks, including an invasion of Afghanistan and the dismantling of al Qaeda's supportive Taliban government and the capture or killing of some al Qaeda leaders, al Qaeda's infrastructure and operations were destroyed. Currently, al Qaeda is more appropriately defined as a religious and operational cartel with international ties to autonomous terrorist groups. Its leaders are still revered but have no credentials in the Muslim religious hierarchy. It is a loosely structured conglomerate of independent entities. Its communications and recruitment system as a movement is effective but uncontrolled. al Qaeda's initial goals apparently continue to motivate receptive Muslims throughout the world in devising their own targets and strategies for attacking perceived enemies of their Islamic faith and culture. Extensive cooperation and assistance from the moderate Muslim community is required in identifying such individuals and groups in various countries. Local law enforcement is also a key resource in detecting terrorist activities in the course of police intelligence collection and routine law enforcement duties. 24 references