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The virtues of violence and arts of terror: the salafi-jihadi political universe

Bhatt, Chetan ORCID: 0000-0002-4025-4203 (2014) The virtues of violence and arts of terror: the salafi-jihadi political universe. Theory, Culture & Society, 31 (1). pp. 25-48. ISSN 0263-2764

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Identification Number: 10.1177/0263276413500079


The article examines some recent areas of Al Qaeda and salafi-jihadi ideology and argues that, while there has been an evolution in strategy since 9/11, the core elements of salafi-jihadi ideology have remained unchanged. The article explores ideological, technical and aesthetic aspects of Al Qaeda and salafi-jihadi literature. It is argued that salafi-jihadi ideology is characterized by a particular association between political virtue and visceral violence, an association that dominates the aesthetic and cultural universe created by salafi-jihadis. Existing views that salafi-jihadi thought represents an ethical project or a project for humanity or a response to military occupations are, it is argued, consequences of a broader philosophical and social theory tradition that privileges a specifically theological idea of sacrifice. Instead, it is argued that salafi-jihadi ideology is characterized by an array of sharp oppositions. These contrasting doublets of ideas include ones about the temporal world and the afterlife, authoritarian law and violent chaos, loyalty and enmity, defilement and plenitude, tangible lands and imagined spaces. These severe theoretical oppositions in salafi-jihadi thinking are outlined and considered in relation to broader social theory. The article also considers the sociological importance of ideas of Paradise and the afterlife in salafi-jihadi thought. The distinct nature of salafi-jihadi thought, and the understanding of political violence it contains, are considered in relation to nationalist jihadi and political Islamist tendencies.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2014 by Theory, Culture & Society Ltd.
Divisions: Sociology
LSE Human Rights
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Date Deposited: 21 Nov 2013 10:29
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 02:07

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