Al-Qaeda and Sacrifice

Al-Qaeda and Sacrifice : Martyrdom, War and Politics

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This is a pioneering critical intervention into the study of terrorism, language and political thought. Challenging the commonly held idea that `suicide-bombings' are motivated by a nihilistic hatred of life, this book argues that it is more helpful to examine such violent agency through the concept of `sacrifice'.

Through a unique look at the way `sacrifice' is used in the Arabic language, this book offers penetrating insights into jihadi thought. How does it compare to western political theorists such as Machiavelli and von Clausewitz, Hannah Arendt, Julia Kristeva and Judith Butler?

Concluding that the heedless certainty of such violence undermines attempts to redress political grievances, Al-Qaeda and Sacrifice goes beyond simplistic or apologetic explanations of terrorism and allows the authentic jihadi voice to speak for itself.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 264 pages
  • 135 x 215 x 17.78mm | 385.55g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New
  • 0745332625
  • 9780745332628
  • 1,460,935

Table of contents


1. From the Vantage Point of Sacrificial Violence: Al-Qaeda's Worldview in Context

2. The Meanings of Sacrifice in Islam

3. Etymological Reflections on Sacrifice

4. Comparative Political Thought on War, Sacrifices, and Politics

5. The Limits of Sacrificial Subjectivity for Politics

6. Conclusion: Sacrificial Subjectivity for Acephalic Politics


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Review quote

'A sophisticated comparative analysis of Jihadi and Western notions of militant sacrifice, the book offers important insights into the mindsets and practices of bombers' -- Alex Houen, University of Cambridge, author of Terrorism and Modern Literature: From Joseph Conrad to Cieran Carson 'It is rare for terrorism research to engage directly with the voice of the terrorist. Finn joins the small but notable list of scholars willing to take terrorist subjectivity seriously. In a courageous, eloquent but always robust analysis of the notion of sacrifice in jihadist thought, she lays bare the inner world of al-Qaeda' -- Richard Jackson, National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Otago, and co-author of Terrorism: A Critical Introduction 'A fresh perspective on the motivations behind al-Qaeda's suicide operations' -- Christina Hellmich, University of Reading, author of Al-Qaeda: From Global Network to Local Franchise 'A fascinating and alternative insight into the universe of al-Qaeda and its importance in understanding twenty-first-century global politics' -- Professor Beverley Milton-Edwards, School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy Queens University of Belfast 'Delving deeply into Islamic conceptions of sacrifice, Finn sheds light on how the martyrdom frame can be employed to give meaning to self-immolation. Finn is careful to give voice to the Jihadi other without slipping into apologia or essentialism. In doing so, she exhibits a rare mastery of the subject' -- Dr. Mohammed M. Hafez, Associate Professor, Center on Contemporary Conflict, Naval Postgraduate School, author of Suicide Bombers in Iraq (2007), Manufacturing Human Bombs (2006) and Why Muslims Rebel (2003).

'Groundbreaking... sheds new light on al-Qaeda's thought and actions' -- Rohan Gunaratna, Professor of Security Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, author of Inside al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror (Columbia University Press) 'Brilliant, precise, nuanced and very timely' -- Shannon Bell, Department of Political Science, York University (Toronto) 'Fills a large void in the literature and shows the promise of offering practical solutions to one of humanity's major challenges at this time. It will find a wide audience including academics, policy makers, and broadly all those interested in a better understanding of terrorism' -- Wanda Krause, Assistant Professor and Coordinator, Gulf Studies Program, College of Arts & Sciences, Qatar University 'Excellent. An intelligent, nuanced and innovative analysis of a key phenomenon of our times. Melissa Finn takes the scholarly debate on transnational terrorism into the next phase by critically unpacking Al-Qaeda's thought, phraseology, and logic of political violence' -- Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies and Geneva Centre for Security Policy, author of Understanding Al-Qaeda: Changing War and Global Politics
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About Melissa Finn

Melissa Finn is a lecturer in the Department of Political Science and the Department of Global Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada. She is the co-editor of a special edition of Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, entitled 'Veiled Constellations: The Veil, Critical Theory, Politics, and Contemporary Society' (Spring 2012).
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