Panel 8b Between Palestine and the Umma: Transnational Jihad Ideologues of Palestinian Origin

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Chair: Professor Brynjar Lia, Research Professor, Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI)

Paper 1: Early Palestinian Ideologues of Global Jihadism: The Life and Heritage of Sheikh Izz al-Din Al-Qassam
Dr Reuven Paz, Director, Project for Research of Islamic Movements (PRISM) at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya

In the research of Palestinian Jihadism there is a neglect of the introductory role of Palestinians in contributing to the idea of Global Jihad between the 1920s and 1950s, especially of Sheikh Izz al-Din al-Qassam in 1920-1935. Beside Al-Qassam, there are several other Islamist Palestinian figures worth mentioning. One is the Palestinian Mufti between 1922 and 1948, Hajj Amin al-Husayni, another the Palestinian Sheikh Taqi al-Din al-Nabhani, the founder of the Islamic Tahrir (Liberation) Party in Jerusalem in 1952-53. The paper will focus on the heritage of al-Qassam, which was also a kind of spiritual guidance to Abdallah Azzam and Abu Qutadah al-Filastini. However, it will discuss the importance of the others in developing and contributing the idea of Global Jihadism, and will explain the reasons for the significant role of Palestinian scholars in this field. >> download the paper

Paper 2: Palestine in the Life and Ideology of Abdallah Azzam
Dr Thomas Hegghammer, Senior Research Fellow and Director of Terrorism Research, Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI)

The Palestinian preacher Abdallah Azzam (1941-1989) is widely considered as one of the most influential ideologues in the modern history of transnational jihadism. Azzam is best known as the main entrepreneur of the Arab mobilization to the 1980s war in Afghanistan. In spite of his documented influence, Azzam’s biography and ideological production remains understudied. This paper examines Azzam’s relationship to his native Palestine, in the hope of understanding how a Palestinian Islamist could become the main proponent for a global Muslim effort to liberate Afghanistan. The paper traces Azzam’s Palestinian biography, asking what we know about Azzam’s early life in the West Bank and his subsequent connections with Islamists in the territories. Second, it analyses Azzam’s writings in order to gage his views on the Palestinian struggle and its place in his overall worldview.

Paper 3: Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi and Palestine
Dr Joas Wagemakers, Lecturer, Radboud University

Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi (b. Barqa, West Bank, 1959), is one of the most influential radical Islamic ideologues alive. He has inspired militant Muslims in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, has advised others in the North Caucasus and Somalia and his work is read from Europe to Indonesia. Considering al-Maqdisi’s Palestinian origins, occasional references to Palestinian issues throughout his writings it is tempting to assume that he has a strong Palestinian identity and that this is one of the guiding principles in his ideology. This paper argues instead that, while there is indeed some evidence pointing to a soft spot for Palestinian issues in al-Maqdisi’s work, he lacks a strong Palestinian identity and his more recent focus on events in the Gaza Strip as well as his earlier references to the Palestinian question should be seen in the broader context of his efforts to focus on areas where both da’wa (calling people to Islam) and jihad can be effective, fruitful and legitimate. >> download the paper

Paper 4: Abu Qatada and Palestine
Petter Nesser, Research Fellow, Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI)

Abu Qatada “the Palestinian” is considered an influential ideologue of the so-called salafist-jihadist movement. Born in Palestine, Qatada grew up in Jordan and ended up as a militant Islamist preacher in London. In spite of his Palestinian background, Abu Qatada appears to have focused more on supporting armed Islamist groups in other parts of the world than the Palestinian struggle against Israel. Since the 1980s he has pursued fierce activism with a view to overthrow Jordanian monarchy. In the early 1990s he spent time among the Arab volunteer anti-Communist fighters in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 1993 he gained asylum in Britain and began acting as a spiritual guide for Islamist guerrillas in Algeria and Chechnya. Over the last decade, while going in and out of prison accused of aiding international terrorism, Abu Qatada has continued working to define the theological basis of al-Qaida and likeminded movements. This working paper explores Qatada’s life and ideology, focusing on his relationship to the Palestine cause. The paper argues that, although the preacher appears to have an emotional connection to the homeland and obviously fosters strong hatred for Jews and the state of Israel, his uncompromising ideology has prevented him from playing a role among the Palestinian resistance movements. Qatada’s relationship to Palestine appears to be one of love and hate. While acknowledging the suffering of the Palestinian people and eulogizing its martyrs, he despises the Palestinian leadership, including HAMAS’s leadership, having given upon the idea that Palestine could be liberated from within. His disappointment with Palestinian militants’ political endeavours (which in his view constitute the sin of putting worldly self-interests before religion), appears to have been a central factor in pushing Qatada towards the global jihad camp. >> download the paper


These are abridged versions of the abstracts submitted by  the presenters.

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