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Thomas Hegghammer

Thomas Hegghammer

Former Associate, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2009–2010; Former Research Fellow, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2008–2009

 

Experience

Former Associate, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2009–2010; Former Research Fellow, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2008–2009

 

 

By Date

 

2011

AP Photo

February 2011

"The Foreign Fighter Phenomenon: Islam and Transnational Militancy"

Policy Brief

By Thomas Hegghammer, Former Associate, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2009–2010; Former Research Fellow, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2008–2009

"...[F]oreign fighter mobilizations empower transnational terrorist groups such as al-Qaida, because war volunteering is the principal stepping-stone for individual involvement in more extreme forms of militancy. For example, when Muslims in the West radicalize, they usually do not plot attacks in their home countries right away, but travel to a war zone such as Iraq or Afghanistan first. A majority of al-Qaida operatives began their militant careers as war volunteers, and most transnational jihadi groups today are by-products of foreign fighter mobilizations."

 

2010

AP Photo

Winter 2010/11

"The Rise of Muslim Foreign Fighters: Islam and the Globalization of Jihad"

Journal Article, International Security, issue 3, volume 35

By Thomas Hegghammer, Former Associate, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2009–2010; Former Research Fellow, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2008–2009

Why has transnational war volunteering increased so dramatically in the Muslim world since 1980? Standard explanations, which emphasize U.S.-Saudi support for the 1980s Afghan mujahideen, the growth of Islamism, or the spread of Wahhabism are insufficient. The increase in transnational war volunteering is better explained as the product of a pan-Islamic identity movement that grew strong in the 1970s Arab world from elite competition among exiled Islamists in international Islamic organizations and Muslim regimes.

 

 

AP Photo

March 31, 2010

"Lady Gaga vs. the Occupation"

Op-Ed, Foreign Policy

By Thomas Hegghammer, Former Associate, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2009–2010; Former Research Fellow, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2008–2009

"To the extent that Westernization causes militancy, the violence it inspires is nearly always directed at other Muslims, typically against regimes in Arab countries, because these legislate over matters of public morality. Jihadists are idealists, but they are not so utopian as to think they can stop Westernization by attacking America. However, they do think that by installing Islamist local governments, those governments can take measures to limit social liberalization."

 

 

April 2010

Jihad in Saudi Arabia: Violence and Pan-Islamism since 1979

Book

By Thomas Hegghammer, Former Associate, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2009–2010; Former Research Fellow, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2008–2009

This 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.

 

 

AP Photo

February 25, 2010

"The Failure of Jihad in Saudi Arabia"

Occasional Paper

By Thomas Hegghammer, Former Associate, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2009–2010; Former Research Fellow, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2008–2009

The paper argues that despite the widespread view of Saudi Arabia as "al-Qa'ida country," and despite the recent developments in Yemen, the jihad in Saudi Arabia has failed so far. The late 1990s saw no operations in the Kingdom because Bin Ladin's infrastructure there was too weak. The AQAP campaign, made possible by the massive influx in 2002 of al-Qa'ida members from Afghanistan, petered out in 2006. Today, practically nothing remains of the original AQAP organization. Nevertheless, its legacy and propaganda continues to inspire amateur cells, and al-Qa'ida in Yemen is actively planning operations in the Kingdom.

 

 

AP Photo

March 11, 2010

"There is Nothing Soft about Saudi Counterterrorism"

Op-Ed, Foreign Policy

By Thomas Hegghammer, Former Associate, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2009–2010; Former Research Fellow, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2008–2009

In May 2003, al Qaeda launched its first major terrorism offensive in the Kingdom, only to see the campaign wane and end within a few years, despite the many predictions to the contrary. Why did it fail? One of the main reasons why its campaign ended so quickly and relatively bloodlessly was that Saudi authorities did not overreact. Many analysts have called the Saudi approach "soft" counterterrorism. The truth is that the Saudi approach was simply good counterterrorism. 

 

 

January 7, 2010

Book Review: Family Values

Magazine or Newspaper Article, The National

By Thomas Hegghammer, Former Associate, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2009–2010; Former Research Fellow, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2008–2009

A new memoir of Osama bin Laden by his wife and son presents the most intimate portrait yet of the al-Qaeda leader, but its revelations do little to illuminate its subject, Thomas Hegghammer writes.

 

 

2009

AP Photo

December 2009

"Jihad, Yes, But Not Revolution: Explaining the Extraversion of Islamist Violence in Saudi Arabia"

Journal Article, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, issue 3, volume 36

By Thomas Hegghammer, Former Associate, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2009–2010; Former Research Fellow, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2008–2009

Patterns of Islamist violence in Saudi Arabia suggest that it has been much easier to mobilize Saudis for extreme pan-Islamist activism than for revolutionary activism. This is unlike most Arab republics which show the opposite pattern. This article empirically documents the curious extraversion of Saudi militancy, contrasts it with patterns of Islamist violence in Algeria and Egypt, and presents four explanations to account for it: first, that the typical grievances of revolutionary Islamism are less pronounced in Saudi Arabia; second, that structural characteristics of Saudi state and society inhibit anti-regime mobilization; third, that Wahhabism or socio-cultural isolation make Saudi Islamists particularly hostile to non-Muslims; and fourth, and most important, that the Saudi regime has promoted pan-Islamism to divert challenges to its own legitimacy.

 

 

AP Photo

November 18, 2009

"The Ideological Hybridization of Jihadi Groups"

Journal Article, Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, volume 9

By Thomas Hegghammer, Former Associate, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2009–2010; Former Research Fellow, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2008–2009

In the past five years, "far enemy groups" such as al-Qaeda Central have adopted a more hostile and explicitly takfiri rhetoric toward Muslim regimes. Conversely, "near enemy" activists such as the militants in Algeria have become more anti-Western in both words and deeds. A process of ideological hybridization has occurred, with the result that the enemy hierarchies of many jihadist groups are becoming more unclear or heterogeneous than they used to be.

 

 

AP Photo

November 11, 2009

"The Big Impact of Small Footprints"

Op-Ed, Foreign Policy

By Thomas Hegghammer, Former Associate, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2009–2010; Former Research Fellow, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2008–2009

"The power of small incidents has increased in the past decade thanks to the Internet. Increasing bandwidth, cheaper digital cameras and fast-learning activists have turned the world wide web into a giant propaganda tool which can generate powerful visual messages and project them instantly to a global audience. The smallest detail can be dramatically enlarged and turned into a symbol of 'Muslim suffering at the hands of non-Muslims.' On jihadi discussion forums such as Faloja (named after the Iraqi city whose 2004 battles between jihadis and U.S. forces made it an icon of Muslim suffering), high-quality video productions appear on a daily basis. The relationship between objective physical destruction and jihadi mobilization has never been less linear."

 

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