Saudi Arabia, homeland of Osama bin Laden and many 9/11 hijackers, is widely considered to be the heartland of radical Islamism. For decades, the conservative and oil-rich kingdom contributed recruits, ideologues and money to jihadi groups worldwide. Yet Islamism within Saudi Arabia itself remains poorly understood. Why has Saudi Arabia produced so many militants? Has the Saudi government supported violent groups? How strong is al-Qaida's foothold in the kingdom and does it threaten the regime? Why did Bin Laden not launch a campaign there until 2003? This 2010 book presents the first ever history of Saudi jihadism based on extensive fieldwork in the kingdom and primary sources in Arabic. It offers a powerful explanation for the rise of Islamist militancy in Saudi Arabia and sheds crucial new light on the history of the global jihadist movement.
Introduction; 1. The politics of pan-Islamism; 2. The classical jihadists; 3. Recruitment to the early jihad fronts; 4. Opportunities for global jihad; 5. Al-Qaida and Saudi Arabia; 6. Recruitment to al-Qaida; 7. Post-9/11 Saudi Arabia; 8. The Mujahidin on the Arabian Peninsula; 9. Recruitment to the QAP; 10. The failure of the jihad in Arabia; Conclusion.
Winner, 2011 Silver Medal, Arthur Ross Book Award, Council on Foreign Relations
“A rare combination of sympathetic nuance and critical rigour…[A] useful corrective to common misreadings of the kingdom and deserve a wide audience…Mr. Hegghammer’s analysis of the rise and fall of Saudi jihadism reveals some fascinating details…Yet what stands out most are his persuasive insights. The spread of jihadist ideas in Saudi Arabia, it seems, owed as much to temporary local factors as to outside influences or, for that matter, to Islamic scripture. The state erred, for instance, with policing methods that switched abruptly from being so hard as to provoke anger to so soft as to dispel fear. Hair-splitting ideological rivalries between Islamists, meanwhile, led to a polarisation of the different camps and to a radicalisation of no more than a few men.”
“The definitive work on Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, this book makes an exceptional contribution to studies of Saudi Arabia, political Islam, and comparative political violence.”
David Commins, Dickinson College
“Thomas Hegghammer presents the first substantiated study of the jihadist movement in Saudi Arabia. He brilliantly analyses a wealth of hitherto unexamined material and adds both depth and subtlety to our understanding of Islamic politics in the Kingdom. In doing so, he perceptively highlights the importance of pan-Islamism as a mobilizing and radicalizing factor. This informed and conceptually suggestive study deserves a very wide reading.”
James Piscatori, The Australian National University