“the Ummah Calls for Us”: Forms of Orientation Towards Armed Conflicts in the Muslim World in Processes of Mobilization Among Jihadi-Salafist Milieus in Europe

Monday, 16 July 2018: 15:45
Oral Presentation
Stefan MALTHANER, Hamburg Institute for Social Research, Germany
When examining Jihadi-Salafist milieus in Europe, it is striking to what extent their discourse and activities, and radicalization-trajectories of individual members, revolved around violent conflicts in the Middle East and Central Asia even long before the rise of the phenomenon of Western foreign-fighters in Syria and Iraq. Identification with the “heroic” mujahedin and solidarity with Muslim brothers and sisters abroad who suffer at the hands of “crusader” or apostate armies becomes the driving force of mobilization and gives meaning to personal experiences and grievances.

Drawing on an in-depth case-study of a Jihadi-Salafist network in southern Germany, this paper examines the role of radical Islamist milieus in the West as a particular kind of global audience and reference group, and the dynamics of perception and legitimacy – but also competition for attention and support – it entails. From the perspective of Islamist armed groups in the Middle East and elsewhere, appealing to this kind of global following requires not only to draw attention and project an image of strength, but also to develop a type of messaging and notions of identity that resonate with this audience.