Al-Qaeda and Sacrifice

Al-Qaeda and Sacrifice

Contemporary Muslim World

Al-Qaeda and Sacrifice
Martyrdom, War and Politics

Author(s): Melissa Finn

Reviewed by: Tamim Dari, Dubai, United Arab Emirates



The question of violence in the name of religion, its foundations, aims and validity plague the minds of many religious and non-religious observers of the world today. How do we understand this seemingly growing phenomenon of sometimes nonsensical, but always brutally destructive, violence? Melissa Finn a lecturer at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada has produced a ground-breaking new study of Al-Qaeda based, in a novel manner, upon its language and public discourse in an attempt to make sense of their intentions and goals. Starting off by introducing Al-Qaeda and related groups as amorphous and linked more by idea than arm, Finn explains that current Western political means of tackling Islamic terrorism are useless because they do not focus on the terrorist in a serious manner, rather he is viewed as an evil that must be forcibly removed. Then, placing special focus on the theme of sacrifice, she analyses martyrdom operations taking the text of the terrorists’ statements and opening-up their meanings, first through lexical analyses of the Arabic, then through their supposed Islamic context, and finally through a comparative analysis with pre and post-modern western theories of sacrifice and war. Finn thereby tackles the logic of their discourse and attempts to debunk their flawed inductions. This all adds up to produce a work packed with dense analysis.

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