Sakset/Fra hofta

Thomas Hegghammer gir en forsmak på sin kommende bok Jihad in Arabia: The paradox of Saudi Islamism i en lengre artikkel i Times Literary Supplement som er høyst ujevn. Når han endelig kommer til sin egen fortolkning, er den heller tvilsom: Al Qaidas jihadisme kan tolkes som en form for religiøs nasjonalisme, der ummaen står for nasjonen.

The overall tendency is very clear: nationalist groups have carried out many more suicide bombings than revolutionary groups. Until 2003, the Egyptian al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya and the Algerian GIA, both of which fought their local regimes, practically never used suicide bombings. It would thus seem that nationalism has more mobilizing power than revolutionary utopias. Put differently, people will die for their people, but not necessarily for a state system.

As for al-Qaeda, one might argue that it represents a form of religious nationalism centred on the imagined community of the umma and emphasizing the defence of Muslim territory worldwide. The 2005 London bombers may not have been personal victims of occupation, but they had come to see themselves as part of an oppressed and humiliated Muslim body. In his «martyrdom» tape released after the bombing, Muhammad Siddique Khan said he was acting to avenge his Muslim brothers in Iraq and Palestine. He thus killed fellow British citizens to avenge brothers in faith he had never met. Such is the power of pan-Islamic nationalism.

Dette virker som en teori for «normalisering» av Al Qaida. Og ganske riktig: Hegghammer ender opp med si at jihadistene må behandles ikke som onde eller fanatikere (!), men som mennesker.

More than six years after 9/11, the study of jihadism is still in its infancy. Why has it taken so long to develop? One reason, of course, is that we started almost from scratch. Another factor is that it takes time for primary sources to emerge. But the most important reason is no doubt that the emotional outrage at al-Qaeda’s violence has prevented us from seeing clearly. Societies touched by terrorism are always the least well placed to understand their enemies. It is only when we see the jihadists not as agents of evil or as religious fanatics, but as humans, that we stand a chance of understanding them.

Hvis noen mener dette er en odiøs tolkning: Setningen om at samfunn som er rammet av terror alltid er minst skikket til å forstå sine fiender, er avslørende på en ubehjelpelig måte. Hegghammer kan skrive sin bok ved Princeton, i landet som ifølge ham selv er minst skikket til å forstå 9/11. Det må vel en nordmann til.

Jihadi studies
The obstacles to understanding radical Islam and the opportunities to know it better