TERORRIST DIASPORAS IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND SOUTH ASIA

Shannon Peterson

David Goetze


Ever since the Bush administration’s declaration of a global war on terror after 9/11,academics and policymakers have sought ways to counter the global terrorist threat. However asJeffrey Record (2003) has noted, treating terrorism monolithically and failing to discriminatebetween terrorist groups and other actors reduces the ability to produce effectivecounterterrorism strategies. Moreover, it can set actors “on a course of open-ended andgratuitous conflict with states and nonstate entities that pose no serious threat.” If terrorism andterrorist groups are not homogenous entities, then understanding the differences and similaritiesbetween groups is a crucial first step in constructing an effective counterterrorist response.This research seeks to better discriminate between terrorist groups by examining thegoals, tactics and images embedded in the narratives of terrorist or terrorist spawningorganizations. We define narratives as shared understandings of historical events and relevantactors that are used to justify past political actions or mobilize people for contemporary politicalactions as generally expressed through descriptions or charters issued by organizations orthrough statements of organizational leaders.2 Narrative, as noted by Benedict Anderson, formsthe underbelly of an “imagined community:” the glue binding a group of like-minded individualswho, “will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet inthe minds of each lives the image of their communion” (Anderson 6). Consequently, we believethat narratives are excellent sources for uncovering group conceptions of “self” and “others” thatare key in attracting and maintaining ties to diaspora communities, as well as related group goals,strategies and tactics. We argue that by comparing the goals, images and tactics embedded in thenarratives of these different organizations, we can shed insight on crucial differences andsimilarities between these terrorist groups. These insights not only help discriminate betweenterrorist groups and other organizations, but also shed insight on the evolution of suchorganizations themselves.Specifically, this research examines the narratives of four groups: the MuslimBrotherhood, Hamas, Al Qaeda and the Tamil Tigers. Two of these groups, Hamas and AlQaeda, have roots in the Muslim Brotherhood and therefore can be viewed as diasporas of thelatter. However, while the Muslim Brotherhood takes an evolutionary and nonviolent approachto goal attainment, Hamas and Al Qaeda advocate violence and terrorism to advance their cause,tactics that are also promoted by the fourth group in the analysis, the Tamil Tigers. Since theTamil Tigers have no connection with the Muslim Brotherhood, their inclusion in ourcomparative analysis allows us to determine how much of the commonality of goals acrossterrorist organizations pertains to common roots and how much pertains to commonality oforganizational type, function or tactics.

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Filed Under: EgyptFeaturedHamasIkhwanophobiaMuslim BrotherhoodPalestine

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