They bill it as the “first systematic mapping” of an ideology sometimes called jihadism. They conclude that bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, have had a relatively minor influence on the movement’s intellectual foundation. Among the network’s ideologists, they have come to be seen more as propagandists than strategic thinkers.
The study predicts that the scholarly work of a group of Saudi and Jordanian clerics — most notably Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, a Jordanian — seems more likely to influence the next generation of Islamic militants.
A coffee-table point is that they list ‘Cited authors’ in jihadist literature, and George W Bush and Richard Nixon are in there, as the only non-Islamists. I quite like that.
But the Atlas also contains recommendations of how the ‘West’ can intellectual challenge what is more accurately labelled Salafism. The Atlas warns that “The West, especially the United States, should be modest” about its ability to do that.
But then goes on to recommend – and this is a centre based at West Point Military Academy, staffed by senior Generals and acknowledged experts – that the West should:
“Remind people of what happens when Jihadis come to power. This could done with commercials and documentaries focusing on the atrocities committed by the Taliban or by
al-Qa`ida in Falluja, or perhaps a video game or movie in which the setting is a Middle East governed by the Jihadi caliphate.” [my italics]
We’ve had plenty of films and games on that subject already; good guys battle against evil empire, good guy wins eventually by shooting the shit out of everything and blowing loads of stuff up. New High Score. Go to Next Level. And that hasn’t really worked, has it? And what happens when the film/game comes out in Cairo, or Beirut? Unless of course it’s an ideological game, and instead of arming yourself with guns you lob a few copies of Rousseau in to buildings.
My jaw drops every time I read that recommendation, and it’s been a few. So when kids are directing Sonic the Hedgehog around the Middle East, fighting for freedom and securing oil wells, remember who thought of the idea first.