Cause for Concern

In a study that may shed light on the process of building anti-western hatred, this study suggests that mosques are not the sole breeding grounds for Al Qaida:

Report: Al Qaida recruited from social networks, not mosques

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Monday, May 7, 2007

WASHINGTON — Al Qaida has recruited operatives mostly through family and friends rather than through Muslim groups, a study found.

The report said Al Qaida operatives in Saudi Arabia were largely recruited through social networks rather than the mosque or Islamic institutions. Authored by Thomas Hegghammer and published in Middle East Policy, the study said most of the recruits did not express anti-American sentiments before they underwent training in Al Qaida camps in Afghanistan.

“My analysis was based on a collection of 240 biographies, compiled from Arabic primary sources and extensive fieldwork in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Hegghammer said. “So I feel that this work provides a fairly accurate picture of these militants.”

The study disputed the image of Al Qaida as an insurgency group sustained by religious Muslims. Hegghammer said most of the Saudi recruits had no intention of fighting the United States or other Western states.

“The most common motivations for going to Afghanistan were: a desire to fight in Chechnya; a desire to defend the Taliban from the Northern Alliance; and adventurism,” the report said. “Anti-American sentiments were only developed after their time with Bin Laden’s cohorts.”

The report said the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 foreshadowed the Al Qaida offensive in Saudi Arabia two years later. Hegghammer said the invasion forced hundreds of Saudi recruits home and prompted Al Qaida to change its strategy.

“These returnees used their military contacts from Afghanistan to organize their new Al Qaida movement at home,” Hegghammer said. “This work highlights the need to track returnees from war zones, and the importance of the social networks formed in those areas. Future returnees from Iraq must be closely monitored in order to prevent future instability in Saudi Arabia.”

Link for earlier Thomas Hegghammer paper

2 Responses to “Cause for Concern”

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