Beyond belief: Islamist strategic thinking and international relations theory

  • Jones D
  • Smith M
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The development of radical Islamist strategic thinking and the impact of post-modern, Western styles of thought upon the ideology that informs that strategy is often overlooked in conventional discussions of homegrown threats from jihadist militants. The propensity to discount the ideology informing both al-Qaeda and nominally non-violent Islamist movements with an analogous political philosophy like Hizb ut-Tahrir neglects the influence that critical Western modes of thought exercise upon their strategic thinking especially in the context of homegrown radicalization. Drawing selectively on non-liberal tendencies in the Western ideological canon has, in fact, endowed Khilaafaism (caliphism) with both a distinctive theoretical style and strategic practice. In particular, it derives intellectual sustenance from a post-Marxist Frankfurt School of critical thinking that in combination with an English School of international relations idealism holds that epistemological claims are socially determined, subjective, and serve the interests of dominant power relations. This critical, normative, and constructivist approach to international relations seeks not only to explain the historical emergence of the global order, but also to transcend it. This transformative agenda bears comparison with radical Islamist critiques of Western ontology and is of interest to Islamism's political and strategic thinking. In this regard, the relativist and critical approaches that have come to dominate the academic social sciences since the 1990s not only reflect a loss of faith in Western values in a way that undermines the prospects for a liberal and pluralist polity, but also, through a critical process facilitated by much international relations orthodoxy, promotes the strategic and ideological agenda of radical Islam. It is this curious strategic and ideological evolution that this paper explores.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Caliphism
  • Critical terrorism studies
  • Hizb ut-Tahrir
  • International relations
  • Islamism
  • Strategy

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  • David Martin Jones

  • M. L.R. Smith

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