History of Al Qaeda

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Al-Qaeda is an Arabic word meaning ‘the base’. It refers to an Islamist militant group founded by Osama bin laden in around August of 1988 with the support of the group Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Osama teamed up with Ayman al-Zawahiri with whom they merged resources and expertise to run the network that sought to liberate Muslims from the purported grip and interference of and by western political and cultural powers. It has the ideology of Sunni Islamism and Islamic fundamentalism that advocate for aggressiveness in the Causes of the faith.

From around 1992, it has had more presence and visibility with well structured terrorist attacks, the 2001 September 11th attack of the U.S standing at the apex as the most extensive and destructive and whose impact was felt the world over. Other major attacks include the 1993 World Trade Center bombings where six people were killed and about 1000 injured, the 1998 bombing of the US Embassies in East African capitols of Nairobi and Dar Es-Salaam where more than 220 people were killed and over 4000 wounded, the 2000 USS Cole bombings, as well as the 2002 Bali bombings. Osama and his deputy al-Zawahiri openly took credit for these acts of terrorism through videos and interviews. Most recent attacks include the Danish embassy bombing in Pakistan 1n 2008.

The militants claim that the reasons for the 9/11 attacks on US soil was to compel the US to stop its foreign policies in the Middle East and its support and recognition of Israel. They mention the position of the United States against Palestinian Muslims, occupancy of the US military in Saudi Arabia and the invasion of Iraq as the reasons for their ‘retaliatory’ attack (Alexander & Kraft, 2008).

Jihad has been fronted as the tool to uphold Islamism and forms a major doctrine of Islam as a religion. However, it has had a vague interpretation that is aimed at encompassing the activities of terrorism. Islamic religious scripts define Jihad as a ‘duty of Muslims’. On a personal level, it is the struggle of the Muslim believers towards morality and chaste and therefore a spiritual Jihad. On the Muslim commonality as a unit, it is their belligerent war against non believers. The term ‘non believer’ taken to mean those who do not profess the faith of Islam. Muslim scholars and authors connote and stress on the non-militant aspect of this war, choosing to interpret it based on the ideals of the teachings of Muhammad and the Quran which directs that pugnacity should only be directed to those who perpetrate acts of oppression (Qur’an 2:190-193). To this end, extremists view the United States and Israel together with their allies as the perpetrators (Alexander & Kraft, 2008). Jihad has two layers of violence and non-violence as well as its two prongs of practice by the Muslim individual and Islam as a community.

According to the video discussing US foreign policies, efforts of counter-terrorism and its presence and strategies in the Middle East, panel members are of the view that while there have been perceived successes and progress by these efforts, a closer and more in-depth examination reveal that so far they have been counter-productive. They cite the surge of militancy around the world and the increased efforts and budget to avert terrorism, the rise and expansion of Radical Muslims in pockets across all continents compared to their erstwhile presence and concentration in the Middle East. Perhaps this is the true reflection of the situation as it is.


BIBLIOGRAPHY l 1033 Alexander, Y., & Kraft, M. (2008). Evolution of United States Counter-terrorism Policy. Westport: Greenwood Publishind Group.