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Al-Qaeda is an Islamist organization responsible for several terrorist attacks on military and civilian targets, including the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 (Shahzad 2012). The organization is international, with a strong ideology, centralized decision-making, and a variety of persuasion and recruiting tools at their disposal. The proposed documentary will be composed of existing relevant footage and interviews with experts to cover the history of al-Qaeda, the analysis of the organization’s narratives, and its impact.
The history of al-Qaeda as a terrorist network started in Afghanistan during the Soviet War in that country (Mohamedou 2011). The organization then became international as it advanced its structure of decentralized execution and recruited new members from many countries. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for several terrorist attacks in such countries as the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia. The organization also participated in many military conflicts, including wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Syria. The death of one of its founders, leaders, and main ideologists, Osama bin Laden, killed by the CIA in 2011, significantly undermined the organization. According to Gerges (2011, p. 5), ‘very little’ remains of al-Qaeda today.
The principal narrative that the organization uses is that ‘Islam is under attack’ (Holtmann 2013, p. 141). Related narratives promote the idea that external forces are to be blamed for the problems that Arab and Muslim societies face. Al-Qaeda calls upon its supporters to take up arms for the war with infidels. The narratives are violent and tied to religious concepts. It has been stressed repeatedly by researchers that the narratives that promote radicalization, extremism, violence, and terrorism are very challenging to oppose or combat. It is important to understand why reactions to such narratives are sometimes counterproductive, i.e., why they foster further radicalization and violence.
Al-Qaeda has had an impact on the modern world in various ways. The main outcome of the organization’s activities was the declaration of the global ‘war on terrorism’ (McCrisken 2011). The organization has operated in many countries, but nowadays, researchers are paying special attention to the Arabian Peninsula, particularly Saudi Arabia (Boucek 2011). It is argued that the efforts aimed at containing terrorism in the region have been successful, but failure to maintain these efforts may worsen the terrorist threat dramatically.
Another important aspect of al-Qaeda’s activities was operating through mass media, particularly the Internet, to propagate their ideology and find supporters in different parts of the world. This model of building a worldwide network with extremist views and violent rhetoric is still used today by Islamist terrorist groups. It makes the study of al-Qaeda’s impact relevant to addressing modern-day global issues associated with terrorism.
The proposed documentary will try to evaluate al-Qaeda’s role and significance in modern history. The relevance of the work is justified by examining the organization’s discourses and messages that have proved to be influential to this day for creating Islamist networks around the world. Most importantly, the mechanisms for constructing the organization’s narratives will be analyzed to evaluate the effectiveness of combating strategies.
Boucek, C 2011, ‘Terrorism Out of Saudi Arabia’, Carnegie Endowment, p. 4.
Gerges, F A 2011, The rise and fall of Al-Qaeda, Oxford University Press, New York.
Holtmann, P 2013, ‘Countering al-Qaeda’s single narrative’, Perspectives on Terrorism, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 141-146.
McCrisken, T 2011, ‘Ten years on: Obama’s war on terrorism in rhetoric and practice’, International Affairs, vol. 87, no. 4, pp. 781-801.
Mohamedou, M M O 2011, The rise and fall of Al Qaeda, Geneva Centre for Security Policy, Geneva.
Shahzad, S S 2012, Inside al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond bin Laden and 9/11, Pluto Press, London.