chapter  2
20 Pages

Militant Islam in local, national and transnational networks

ByPHILIP W. SUTTON, STEPHEN VERTIGANS

Introduction Interpretations of contemporary Islamic militancy have been heavily influenced by the al-Qa’ida phenomenon with its international cells, global discourse and anti-Western motivation. However, as Chapter 1 identified and Chapter 3 develops, Islamic militancy can be shown to have taken numerous forms with some groups operating locally or regionally, others nationally and yet more looking to create transnational connections. This chapter argues that at all these levels, but in particular the transnational, the sociology of social movements offers theoretical and conceptual resources which form a significant aspect of any comprehensive and satisfactory explanation for their emergence and development. The main problem with such a view, however, has been that the field of social movement studies has, until very recently, not shown much interest in religious movements including moderate or radical Islamic movements. Kurzman (2004: 289) rightly argues that, ‘Over the past generation, the fields of social movement theory and Islamic studies have followed parallel trajectories with few glances across the chasm that has separated them.’ Clear evidence of such parallel development can be seen in the lack of integration of Islamic movement studies, and religious groups generally, into the social movements’ mainstream, as well as the recourse by many commentators to reductive psychological theories of Islamic brainwashing of vulnerable young individuals (Dawkins 2001; Hudson 1999; Rashid 2005).