Despite military targeting successes against al-Qa'ida (variant: al-Qaeda) leadership over the last 14 years, al-Qa'ida's network and influence continues to grow. More significantly, its narrative has been gaining traction, reaching target audiences in far-flung areas across the globe, contributing to the radicalization of more young individuals, and generating a greater number of recruits for al-Qa'ida and its affiliates and adherents (AQAA). As a result, we find a recruiting pool today that's larger and more easily accessible compared to that of 14 years ago. This recruiting pool and deep bench developed from a group of Islamist extremists with whom AQAA shares its underlying ideology: Salafism. The Salafi movement offers Salafi-Jihadists like AQAA fertile ground planted with seeds of extremists who, with comparatively little indoctrination by way of narratives, may become ready to make the jump from non-violent extremism to violent extremism (in this case, from non-violent Salafism to Salafi-Jihadism).
This paper addresses this issue and surrounding dynamics within the Muslim community, some of which have been observed first-hand by the Muslim author of this paper. It begins by providing the reader with an overview of al-Qa'ida's narrative. It then presents AQAA's foundational ideology as well as insights from historically influential scholars who have impacted and shaped today's Salafi-Jihadist groups. Later, this paper will discuss a mixture of counternarratives, to be used in various combinations as custom-designed solutions for specific communities in which stakeholders will implement the counternarratives. It will also introduce moderate Muslim scholars and activists who support those counternarratives and, correspondingly, shall illustrate the differences between mainstream orthodox Sunni Muslims and Salafists. Worth noting, this paper uses the terms "moderate", "traditional", and "mainstream" interchangeably to refer to orthodox Sunni Muslims. Orthodox Sunni Muslims comprise only those who follow the Ash 'ari or Maturidi creeds and who belong to one of the traditional four schools of jurisprudence - Hanafi, Shafi'i, Maliki, orHanbali. Lastly, this paper will highlight a model in which many of the proposed counternarratives and methods have proven fruitful.
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What is al-Qa'ida's narrative? * Evolution of the AQ Narrative: The Salafist-Jihadist Movement * Salafism * Taqi ad-Din Ahmad Ibn Taymiyya * Sayyid Qutb * Muhammad Abd al-Salam Faraj * Nasiruddin al-Albani * Orthodox Sunni Muslims in Relation to Salafis * Shaykh Dr. Tahir ul-Qadri * Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani * Timothy Winter (Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad) * Maajid Nawaz * Implications for Countering AQ's Narrative * Method * Content * Key Considerations * The Montgomery County Model * Conclusion * Bibliography