The postmodern middle-class laptop jihadist ideologue (with an engineering background)

Abu Musab al-Suri never received an advance for his magnum opus, The Global Islamic Resistance Call, written in safe houses after the fall of the Taliban and published in December 2004 by a clandestine press. But a few weeks before his book appeared, the Bush administration bestowed an honour on him more valuable than anything the jihadi market had to offer: the announcement of a $5 million reward for his capture.

Abu Musab al-Suri is the nom de guerre of the Syrian jihadi Mustafa bin Abd al-Qadir Setmariam Nasar, al-Qaida’s most formidable and far-sighted military strategist. Al-Suri played a key role in the 1990s in establishing al-Qaida’s presence in Europe and forging its links to radical jihadis in North Africa and the Middle East, the Balkans and the former Soviet Union, South and East Asia. He was a spokesman for the Algerian Groupe Islamique Armé, a press attaché for Osama bin Laden in London and an adviser to Mullah Omar in Kabul, and he appears under a variety of aliases in books by foreign correspondents he escorted to meet the man in Tora Bora. Until he was captured in Quetta by Pakistani intelligence agents in October 2005 and handed over to the CIA, he went wherever the jihad travelled. Indeed, it was al-Suri who first argued that in order to survive, al-Qaida had to become a kind of travelling army based on mobile, nomadic, flexible cells operating independently of one another, unified by little more than a common ideology – and by the sense of shared grievances that the West’s ‘war on terror’ was likely to foster among Muslims. The concept of ‘leaderless jihad’, now much in vogue among so-called terrorism experts, is to a great extent al-Suri’s invention.


[W]hat’s most eerie about al-Suri’s book is not so much its content as its form. The Call is a military manual written in a strikingly secular – at times even avant-garde – idiom. His aim in writing is no different from what it was when he trained mujahedin at camps in Afghanistan: to produce better, smarter fighters, and to defeat the enemy. Most of his arguments, he emphasises, are not drawn from religious ‘doctrines or the laws about what is forbidden (haram) and permitted (halal)’ in Islam, but from ‘individual judgments based on lessons drawn from experience’: ‘Reality,’ not God, ‘is the greatest witness.’ Though he embroiders his arguments with the occasional quote from the Koran, he clearly prefers to discuss the modern literature of guerrilla warfare. Jihadis who fail to learn from Western sources are ridiculed for their inability to ‘think outside the box’. Just as weirdly familiar is al-Suri’s celebration of nomadic fighters, mobile armies, autonomous cells, individual actions and decentralisation, which recalls not only Deleuze and Guattari’s Mille Plateaux, but the idiom of ‘flexible’ capitalism in the age of Google and call centres. His vision of jihadis training themselves in mobile camps and houses, presumably from their laptops, is not so far removed from our own off-site work world. Guerrilla life has rarely seemed so sterile, so anomic, so unlikely to promote esprit de corps. The constraints of the New World Order make jihad a rather grim, lonely crusade, a form of private combat cut off from the movement’s – mostly imagined – following.



2 Responses to “The postmodern middle-class laptop jihadist ideologue (with an engineering background)”

  1. 1 politika March 20, 2008 at 1:59 am

    listen to the interview of Clare Short:

    its quite inetersting, she does touch on some very important issues regarding the current climate for muslims aswell as the israel/palestine and iraq issues.

  2. 2 politika March 20, 2008 at 2:01 am

    listen to the interview of Clare Short:
    talks about current climate of islampohobia aswell as the iraq war and israel/palestine conflict. v intersting!

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