Is a jihadist the same as a terrorist

Answers to Salafism

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What is Jihad / Jihad?

"Jihad" or "Jihad" means: effort or effort. Salafists argue that there is a "duty of faith" that has been forgotten, namely militant or military jihad. According to this, every Muslim is obliged to provide military support to oppressed fellow believers.

"Small" and "great" jihad

Jihad literally means “effort” or “effort”. The Islamic tradition knows both the "small jihad" and the "great jihad":

  • The "great jihad" is peaceful. It describes the spiritual and spiritual endeavors of the believers for the correct religious and moral behavior towards God and their fellow human beings.
  • The "little jihad" is bellicose. It describes the militant use to defend or expand the Islamic territory. Jihad is often used by militant groups as religious legitimation for terrorist attacks or liberation struggles.

"Jihad" in the Salafist interpretation

There are five classic Islamic pillars of faith: the creed, prayer, fasting, the alms / poor tax and the pilgrimage to Mecca. Salafists spread the view that a “sixth duty of faith” has been forgotten: the militant or military jihad. According to this, every Muslim is obliged to provide military support to his oppressed fellow believers - whether in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Somalia or Syria.

Salafism: Jihad as a "holy war"

Jihadist Salafists mainly refer to the "small jihad". They interpret jihad as a violent struggle and thus as a "holy war". Jihadist Salafists see themselves as "warriors of God" or "fighters for the cause of Allah". For them, acts of violence are allegedly justified by Islam. Or they simply declare it to be an “order from Allah”. Jihadists call for a worldwide fight against the supposed enemies of Islam. Violent criminals who are killed in combat praise them as "martyrs" for the cause of God.


"Numerous violence-oriented argumentation patterns have been condensed into an ideological catalog in the course of the concrete history of violence of terrorist organizations - documented in self-declarations, confessions and calls for mobilization, legal opinions or video messages, etc. - so that jihadism can be spoken of as an independent violence ideology. This ideology of violence has broken away from authoritative weighing processes under Islamic law and is freely available in numerous translations, especially on the Internet. (...) If this ideology of violence emerged above all in the course of the development of al-Qaida, it will be intensified by the "successes" of the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) and their propaganda preparation. "

(Quoted from: Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Jihadism as an ideology of violence - The abuse of Islam for terrorist purposes)

Abuse of Religion for Jihad

Contrary to what jihadists claim, Islam is unanimously held by religious authorities to prohibit both murder and suicide. Armed struggle (to defend Muslim territories) is only permitted under strictly defined conditions. Religious scholars must expressly approve of it. Leading terrorists like Usama bin Ladin or the leader of the so-called Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are not legal scholars. Therefore, they are not authorized to declare or promote violent jihad. Terrorism - that is, the act of extreme violence against people and institutions - is under no circumstances compatible with Islamic norms.

Terrorism is in no way compatible with Islamic norms. Jihadist propaganda is un-Islamic.

Jihadist propaganda and the justification of terrorist attacks are un-Islamic. They abuse religion for the purpose of gaining political power. Terrorists deliberately misinterpret religious terms. They want to influence young people and win them over to their goals.

Jihadist propaganda is un-Islamic. And their followers?

Young people who join the jihadist worldview in search of meaning, order and the goal of their life do not convert to true Islam, but to jihadist Salafism. Salafist groups encourage them to do so; they drive them further into isolation from their family and friends and thus support the path to violence.

Young people who join the jihadist worldview do not convert to true Islam - but to jihadist Salafism.

Cyber ​​jihad and cyber army

In recent years, Islamists have also repeatedly attacked websites and computer networks. IS-affiliated groups have touted cyber attacks as a suitable tool in the fight against the West. The terrorist organization Islamic State (IS) is setting up a jihadist “cyber army” and trying to recruit people with IT skills. This also included people with ties to Germany.

Tinker with world views with "copy-and-paste"

A large number of supposedly authorized legal opinions, writings, excerpts from sermons or explanations that justify terrorism can be found on the Internet. They have been translated into different languages ​​and are easy to understand. As a result, a “copy-and-paste” jihadism can be observed: people with no or only little knowledge of Arabic and without a solid religious background copy their “own” jihad together.

Why do Salafists travel to jihad?

The peaks of Salafist radicalization are perceived above all as emigration to Syria and, in some cases, onward travel to Iraq to participate in the local conflicts. The bloody conflicts provide an important justification for the jihadists - that is, the militant, violent Salafists - in Europe. However, the influx into the combat areas had decreased significantly from 2017. In the meantime, there are practically no trips from Germany to Syria and Iraq. Parallel to this development, jihadists residing in Europe began to consider carrying out attacks in their home countries or states of residence as an alternative to traveling to the combat zone.
Current figures on cases of departure from Bavaria can be found on the website of the Bavarian State Office for the Protection of the Constitution: Statistics on cases of departure.

Although with the territorial decline of IS in Syria and Iraq, the number of emigrants declined considerably, it must be expected that future jihad arenas will also generate emigration dynamics. The reasons for emigrating to Jihad are varied and in some cases very individual. Personal circumstances as well as religious and political arguments come together. Possible reasons can be:

  • Need for community experience, group membership and recognition
  • Thirst for adventure
  • Need to be a “hero” or “real man”
  • Escape from everyday problems at home
  • Desire to live in a purely “Islamic environment”. It seems to exist in the eyes of those wishing to leave the jihadist-controlled areas
  • Conviction that the combat mission fulfills a duty of faith
  • Expectation of a reward in the hereafter
  • Violent fantasies
  • Alleged support from fellow believers in distress

A joint analysis by the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) and the Hessian Information and Competence Center against Extremism (HKE) provides information on the background and course of radicalization of people who traveled from Germany to Syria or Iraq for Islamist reasons are.

Returnees - and also people whose departure to a jihad area has failed or was prevented - pose an incalculable risk.

What danger do returnees from jihad pose?

A particular threat to internal security in Germany comes from combat-experienced and possibly traumatized returnees from Syria and Iraq. One has to assume that

  • they have been involved in combat and have been trained in the use of weapons and explosives,
  • Experiences in the war zone can deepen their radicalization and / or traumatization (emotional injury),
  • their inhibition threshold for the use of force has fallen significantly.

In the Islamist scene, returnees are generally held in high regard and can encourage further radicalization of previously non-violence-oriented Islamists. They are particularly attractive to young people.

Background: “Islamic State” (IS) and al-Qaida

How did the so-called “Islamic State” and the al-Qaida network come about? What ideology are they spreading? Are they in competition with each other? Here you will find answers and interesting background information.

What is the "Islamic State" (IS)?

The Salafist-jihadist terrorist organization IS has its roots in Iraq. After the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, an al-Qaida cell was formed there under the leadership of the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, which initially referred to itself as "al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia" and took its name several times in the following years changed. The terrorist organization repeatedly carried out attacks in Iraq. A few years after the death of al-Zarqawi, the recently killed Iraqi Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took control. Against the background of the Syrian civil war, the organization has also been active in Syria since 2012. In the years that followed, IS established so-called provinces in numerous other Islamic countries, including outside the Arab world. In Libya, for example, this also went hand in hand with obtaining temporary territorial control.

  • Origin and development

In 2013 the terrorist organization changed its name again against the background of far-reaching military successes, initially to Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIG). In doing so, the terrorist organization expressed its supraregional claim to leadership. In mid-2014 the “Islamic Caliphate” was proclaimed and the organization appeared under the name Islamic State (IS). IS is therefore in direct competition with al-Qaeda in this region.

The caliphate designates both an office and a territory. The term goes back to the Arabic "khalifa" and means successor of the Prophet Muhammad. The title is synonymous with the rightful leader of the Sunni believers. The Ottoman Empire provided the last caliph. The title was abolished in 1924 by Kemal Ataturk. The pursuit of the reintroduction of the caliphate is an essential feature of Islamist ideology.

In terms of ideology and goals, ISIS does not differ fundamentally from other jihadist-Salafist groups. However, there are differences in the ideological focus and in the strategic approach. The justification of the caliphate plays a special role. The caliphate is also a goal for al-Qaeda, but for al-Qaida the caliphate can only stand at the end of a multi-stage process. Al-Qaeda's strategy is to first ideologize recruits, combat Western influences in Arab countries, gain land gains and finally overthrow pro-Western governments in the Middle East. Only then is the “decisive battle” between the “orthodox” and the “unbeliever” sought, at the end of which the caliphate stands. The IS, however, sees this decisive battle imminent and calls on Muslims around the world to take part.
IS has now been almost completely expelled from the areas it had previously conquered in Syria and Iraq. With the recapture of the Iraqi city of Mosul by Iraqi security forces and the capture of the Syrian city of Raqqa, used by IS as the “capital”, by Kurdish-Arab militias, IS has lost its two most important organizational centers.
Despite the territorial losses, it can be assumed that IS will continue its propaganda and increasingly radicalize individuals or small groups on the Internet and, in individual cases, steer their attacks. Offenders inspired by IS but not directly belonging to the group can also dedicate their attacks “posthumously” to IS. This “virtual” caliphate should by no means be underestimated in terms of its dangerousness and scope.

  • Appearance in Germany and Bavaria

The IS still has sympathizers within the Salafist spectrum in Germany and Bavaria - not least because of its high propaganda effectiveness. Video messages from German IS fighters promoting jihad were also distributed on the Internet.

  • IS ban in Germany

On September 12, 2014, the Federal Minister of the Interior banned the activities of the IS association and the public use and distribution of its writings and symbols.

What is the al-Qaeda network?

In contrast to many other Islamist terrorist networks or organizations, al-Qaeda is pursuing the long-term and transnational goal of establishing a global caliphate. Al-Qaeda is responsible for a wide variety of terrorist attacks worldwide - e.g. B. the attacks on September 11, 2001 in the USA - with thousands dead and injured.

  • Origin and development

The origins of the al-Qaeda network can be traced back to the conflict over the Soviet-occupied Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989. Since 1984 the Palestinian jihad ideologue Abdullah Azzam and the Saudi Usama bin Ladin have held a prominent position.

After the death of Abdullah Azzam, bin Ladin's aim was to support jihad in other conflict areas such as Kashmir, Indonesia, Chechnya, Bosnia and Somalia. When the Taliban came to power in 1996, bin Laden and his entourage returned to Afghanistan, and from there acted under the protection of the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, until he fled in 2001.

Since the mid-1990s, a network of Afghanistan veterans has emerged who in turn founded or supported organizations in their home countries, such as B. Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines, al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Somali al-Shabab militia or al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAH).

Attacks are often planned and carried out by autonomous cells or “freelancers”. Attackers often receive the “blessing” for their attacks retrospectively (for example via audio or video messages that are distributed over the Internet). While the development of the al-Qaida network is dynamic in countries such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, a relatively stable structure has emerged in North Africa alongside the Afghan-Pakistani border area.

  • The ideology of the al-Qaeda network

The Salafist ideology of the al-Qaeda network, mainly established by Bin Ladin and Abdullah Azzam, is strongly influenced by the writings of Sayyed Qutb and his worldview, the jihad thought and takfir (“declare disbelief”). According to this worldview, there is only Islam in its orientation towards the pious ancestors (al-salaf al-salih), a constructed, idyllic early Islamic period, which was shaped by the chief ideologues Bin Ladin, al-Zawahiri and Azzam.
This contrasts with Jahiliyya, unbelief and ignorance of the “right path” mediated by Prophet Muhammad. It was consequently a central concern of bin Laden to keep Islam free from all un-Islamic "attacks" such as socialism and democracy. The stationing of American troops in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan or in other Islamic states was unacceptable from his point of view.

The killing of Usama bin Laden in May 2011 and the arrest or killing of numerous members of the old leadership did weaken the core of al-Qaeda, but in no way rendered the flexible network unable to act. Increasingly, al-Qaeda under the leadership of Ayman al-Zawahiri is trying to take on the character of a movement.

Internet announcements and jihadist online magazines are aimed specifically at people outside the existing al-Qaida structures and networks with the aim of winning this group of people over to attacks. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAH) continues to play a leading role. Numerous attack plans are based on her.
Both al-Qaeda and IS are trying to present themselves to the public as leading jihadist organizations, not least by carrying out terrorist attacks. They are thus in a competitive relationship with one another. With the proclamation of the caliphate, ISIS succeeded in significantly increasing its influence on the jihadist scene.

On the 17th anniversary of the 11.In September 2001, "al-Qaida" published a message from its current leader al-Zawahiri. In it he called for a global jihad against the USA and also referred to the relocation of the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As early as 2017, Usama bin Ladin's son Hamza threatened the USA with acts of revenge in an audio message.

Parts of this text are based on publications by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

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