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    Change and continuity in the thought and praxis of Salafi-Jihadism: studying the case of al-Nusra front in Syria between 2012 and 2018

    Al Kassir, Azzam (2021) Change and continuity in the thought and praxis of Salafi-Jihadism: studying the case of al-Nusra front in Syria between 2012 and 2018. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    Abstract

    The thesis’ main contribution pertains to demonstrating the importance of factoring in the agency of Islamists when studying militant Islamist activism. The surrounding structural and cultural conditions offer opportunities and pose constraints that in turn are interpreted by Islamist activists. Islamists, however, are not equally involved in processes of strategic framing and decision making. The inside of militant Islamist activism is more dynamic than it is often depicted as it hosts constant competitions over power, wealth, prestige, and influence. The research shows that intra-movement vying for power is central to determining the group’s actions and strategic preferences in response to turning points in the political milieu. The thesis questions the validity and utility of scholarly attempts to “exceptionalise” Salafi-Jihadism on the bases of being extant and rigid. The research does so by showing that Salafi-Jihadism is an extension of the modern phenomenon of Islamism. The qualitative analysis of the discourse of al-Nusra’s ideologues demonstrates that Salafi-Jihadists share with other Islamists the centrality of politics in their discourse, the long-term objectives of activism, and the vision of how an ideal society should be. Notwithstanding such ideological conformity, there is ample room for strategic prioritisations, manoeuvrings, and adaptations in Salafi-Jihadist activism. The historical and discursive experiences of Salafi-Jihadists reveal a dialectical interplay between ideology and pragmatism. The necessity to bridge the gap between discourse and real-life considerations has given rise to new and modified branches in Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh). These aspects of religion are theorised and elaborated by an increasingly empowered class of jihadist strategists. Specific choices made by the strategists have shaped the trajectory of al-Nusra and determined its oscillation between “moderation” and “radicalism” between 2012 and 2018. Armed with relevant geopolitical knowledge, the strategists marginalised other competing currents accusing them of being either ghulat “extremists” or too lenient and compromising.

    Metadata

    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 22 Dec 2021 11:02
    Last Modified: 22 Dec 2021 11:03
    URI: https://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/47105

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