Walid Phares goes to the heart of the matter in this World Defense Review piece fisking a Washington Post article:
In an article titled “Al Qaeda finds new partner: Salafist group finds limited success in native Algeria” (The Washington Post, October 5, 2006) by Craig Whitlock, Western sources, including French and American, assert that the Salafist Group for Call and Combat (originally a local Algerian group) has become global by joining with al Qaeda.
While the article is very interesting and informative, the analysis of the International Salafi movement by Western sources and expertise shows a continuous misunderstanding of Jihadism and its strategies. For in the essence of the article there is an assertion that the Algerian Salafists were restricted to fight their Government for “local” reasons, but it was U.S. intervention in the region that “compelled” the Combat Salafists to join al Qaeda worldwide. This assertion and other little informed debates taking place in the U.S. these days are committing an analytical sin: Projecting onto the Jihadists an alien thinking, most likely because of the pressures of American politics.
The academic, expert, and journalistic assertions that Jihadists in general and Salafists in particular, are initially local, then become international, is derived from how Western scholarship monitors the Islamists actions but in many cases fail to analyze the motives and thinking process of these Jihadists. The Salafists for example, do not consider their Jihad as solely confined to a particular country, even if their actions are restricted to the boundaries of a particular country. Salafists and other Jihadis are international by essence, by ideology, and by ultimate goal. It is not the foreign policies of Western powers that “open their eyes” on the necessity of initiating action internationally, but it is their analysis of the feasibility of such action, in conformity with their ideology.
“La hudud lil jihad illa qudrat al mujahideen” is in the center of their strategies: “There are no frontiers to the capacity of the Mujahidin.” The decision to go global, regional, or to stay local, depends on a calculated process, not on an emotional reaction.
While it is true that Salafists born in Europe and never having been to Algeria are motivated to join the network, the reason behind it is deeper than just a so-called “Islamic anger over conflicts in Iraq , Afghanistan and Israel.” These are the reasons invoked by the ideologues, the Salafist propagandists and al Qaeda. The reasons to join are a conviction that they are joining the Jihad, and pleasing Allah. They have been conditioned to see the world as a struggle between infidels and Islam. And it is through this prism that all matters related to international relations are seen and read….