The third wave of terrorism facing the world is a leaderless mishmash of young and bored terrorist wannabees, according to a leading US expert.
Former CIA officer and now author Marc Sageman says that the latest jihadis taking up the global call for action more closely resemble criminal gang members than religious fanatics.
Dr Sageman who has just published his second book on terrorism networks, Leaderless Jihad: Terrorist Networks in the Twenty First Century, said they were typically young men looking for action, and wanting to copy their heroes, who include Osama bin Laden.
“It is more about hero-worship than about religion,” said Dr Sageman.
“It’s about youth culture … about being cool – jihadi cool.” […]
Jihadists have certainly cultivated a pop-culture dimension to their appeal to youth, from children’s programming and music videos on Hizballah and Palestinian television, to jihadist rap. But the ideology always lies beneath whatever may be the packaging of choice at the moment, along with the cultural conditions created by that ideology which make it possible for Osama bin Laden and his ilk to seem appealing in the first place.
The point of any advertising is to get one’s name out, and one’s foot in the door, so to speak. There will be idle inquirers and “wannabes.” But, with those ideological conditions present, some will take the message very seriously.
After the September 11 attacks, Dr Sageman started collecting biographical material on about 400 al-Qa’ida terrorists to test the validity of the conventional wisdom on terrorism.
His research was published in his first book, Understanding Terror Networks.
He has testified before the 9/11 Commission and is now a consultant to various government agencies on terrorism.
His latest book is the result of two years spent travelling the world collecting information about terrorists.
Dr Sageman said the third wave of terrorists were unlike anything we have seen before.
They have little or nothing to do with al-Qa’ida, they don’t read the Koran and are not particularly religious. But they are enraged by the Iraq war.
“They are looking for glory … thrills, and a sense of belonging to a group,” he said in a recent presentation.
“There is a thrill and excitement attached to belonging to the vanguard of a violent social movement that is irresistible.”
Dr Sageman said the best thing to do to combat them was to take the glory out of terrorism. He has called for politicians to resist grandstanding about the war on terror. He also advised to stop indulging terrorists’ passion for glory by immortalising them on wanted posters and putting bounties on their heads.
Obviously, what we need is a War on Boredom.