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Anwar al-Awlaki and the face of Western Jihad

October 5, 2011

How Anwar al-Awlaki Became the Face of Western Jihad

by Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens


An interesting study of al-Qaeda propaganda efforts within Western nations. Some points:


  • Awlaki represents the most effective and refined version of his English speaking Salafi-jihadi predecessors, who has adapted more effectively to Western political and social culture. However, unlike his forebears, he was also long considered a leading moderate Muslim and critic of al-Qaeda, having cultivated this image in the years both before and immediately following 9/11. The ideological and intellectual journey that is evident within his public discourse makes him a useful and pertinent case study for the radicalisation of Western Muslims.
  • Despite some reports to the contrary, Awlaki was well known as a popular preacher long before the recent media interest in him. According to some sources, by 2000 he was one of the most well known English speaking Islamic preachers in the United States.
  • Although there is a clear shift towards violence in his later work, a close analysis of the corpus of Awlaki’s sermons and articles shows a surprising level of consistency throughout. Little has changed from his earlier years in both his discourse and ideological worldview. Rather, the only significant change has been in the prescriptions for solving the perceived problems faced by the ummah (global Muslim community).
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