Jihadi Salafism – Term Paper


Jihadi Salafism is an Islamic school of thought that asserts Muslims should strive to be more spiritual by protecting Islam from unbelievers by use of force. Jihadi Salafism is widely spread in Arabic countries and it has started to make a footing in the Western world. Jihadi Salafism originated in the 18th century and it was initiated by Sunni Muslims who were against European colonialism. Jihadi Salafism ideologies encourage terrorism and formation of terrorist organizations. Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS) is the most active and powerful Jihadi Salafism terrorist organization. United States policies may have reinforced Jihadi Salafism. The paper covers definition of Jihadi Salafism, its history, United States that policies may reinforced Jihadi Salafism and beliefs about what the West would have done differently to ensure Jihadi terrorism ceases to exist. 

Salafi Jihadi ideology


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Jihadi Salafism asserts that Muslims should be highly devoted to Allah. Jihadi Salafism ideology has proved tenacious; it has been in existence for almost a century. Jihadi Salafism is associated with terrorism, exploitation of women and criminal activities. Islamic extremism subscribes to Jihadi Salafism ideals. International terrorism networks have been linked to Jihadi Salafism. Western media has created an impression to the general public that Jihadi Salafism is a contributor to religiously motivated criminal activities. The paper critically examines Jihadi Salafism, its history, modern day activities and United States policies that may have reinforced it. 

Jihadi Definition

Jihad means striving to improve one’s spirituality. According to Prophet Mohammed, Jihad is about making oneself a better Muslim by practicing self- control, being more spiritual and displaying virtues. However Islamic extremists claim that Jihad is a holy war meant to defend and protect Islam from unbelievers, with force if necessary (Cottee, 2010). Salafism is a term derived from Salafist movement; Salafi movement is a reform movement that originated in Saudi Arabia among Sunni Muslims during the 18th century with a goal of fighting European colonialism. The Salafi movement advocated for Muslims to stay true to traditional Islamic beliefs and not to contaminate their faith by embracing Christian and European values. Jihadi Salafism is associated with military action and is meant to protect Islam from perceived negative influences of Euro- Western culture as well as influences from non- believers. Jihadi Salafists view politics as un-Islamic (Armborst, 2014).

Jihadi History

Jihadi dates back to the crusades when Christians and Muslims were embroiled in religious fights. During the crusades, there were ferocious battles between Muslims and Christians with the aim of securing their holy places. Muslims and Christians perpetually disparaged each other’s religious beliefs during the crusades. The First crusade was victorious to Christians when after a long battle with Muslims, Jerusalem was returned to the hands of Christians. After defeat in the first crusade, Muslims vowed that they would pursue a holy war that would ensure they regain control of the whole region, present Middle East, North Africa, Israel, Turkey and Palestine. Muslims defeated Christians during the second crusade. During the third crusade, Muslims and Christians came into an agreement that peace should be allowed to prevail, ending the crusade. Christians and Muslims continued to fight in three subsequent crusades (Remman, 2014).

Jihadi Salafism origin is Saudi Arabia and its initiators were Sunni Muslim who were distasteful of European colonialism during 18th century. The ideology believes that Muslims should return to authentic Islamic ways that were exhibited by Muslims of the first three generations. If a need arises to use force to protect their beliefs and ideologies, Jihadi Salafis should be ready to do so. Jihadi Salafism gained popularity in 1990’s. Al- Qaeda terrorist group is an organization that embodied Jihadi Salafism during 1990’s to early 21st century. Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS) is the modern day leader of Jihadi Salafism.  ISIS has continued to assert its power and influence in the world. ISIS is well known for using military force to assert its influence. More and more young people are joining ISIS by being converted to subscribe to Jihadi Salafism. New adherents to Jihadi Salafism are not only coming from the Arab world, young people from western countries are increasingly subscribing to Jihadi Salafism. Modern day version of Jihadi Salafism is different from its earlier version. In present days, extreme force, slaughter and slavery of non- adherents is being used by Jihadi Salafists. Fellow Muslims have called present day Jihadi Salafists eccentric and renegades. Modern day Jihhadi Salafism ideology states that Muslims should only associate with ‘true’ Muslims and distance themselves from any person who is not a ‘true’ Muslim. This had made present day Jihadi Salafists very hostile to non- believers and fellow Muslims who do not subscribe to Jihadi Salafism (Emmanuel, 2014).

US terrorism policies that may have reinforced Jihadi Salafism

U.S war on terror policy may have reinforced the concept of Jihadi Salafism. Studies have revealed that for the last 12 years that the policy has been in operation, incidents of terror attacks orchestrated by Jihadi Salafism adherents have increased. Prior to 2001 when U.S policy on terror took effect, incidents of Jihadi Salafism terror attacks were very few, immediately the policy came into effect, the number of terror attacks ‘took off’, grew exponentially. Terrorism activities in Iraq led by Jihadi Salafists have increased steadily since the U.S war on terror policy came into effect. Terrorism activities in Afghanistan increased exponentially between 2001 and 2010. Terrorism activities orchestrated by Jihadi Salafists have increased in Asia since 2001. Terrorism activities orchestrated by Jihadi Salafistsn have increased in Africa since 2001 (Ramsay & Marsden, 2015).

United States Foreign policy may have reinforced the concept of Jihadi Salafism. U.S foreign policy of being the world’s watchman or commonly known as ‘big brother’ has created many terrorists as never before. Toppling of Saddam Hussein’s government and bringing down an Afghanistan government led by the Taliban movement has been said to have contributed to an increase in terrorism activities in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Al Qaeda, Al Shabab and Islamic State of Iraq and Levant are terrorism organizations that were formed as a rebellion against the U.S Foreign policy. The United States foreign policy is committed to spreading democracy and liberty all over the world. Jihadi Salafism ideologies are against liberal ideas perpetuated by the United States. Jihadi Salafism advocates for conservatism and traditional Islamic beliefs; this is contrary to liberal ideas that are supported by the United States. The friction with regard to ideological differences between Jihadi Salafists and the United States has made Jihadi Salafism more active in the world. Al Qaeda, Al Shabab and Islamic State of Iraq and Levant are all Jihadi Salafism adherents (McGlinchey, 2016).

United States imperialistic policies are likely to have reinforced the concept of Jihadi Salafism. Given that the Salafism movement was originally formed to fight European Colonialism in Arabia, modern day Salafism movements may have been formed to fight United States imperialism. The United States is very influential in the world from economic, military and cultural perspectives. U.S imperialistic policies are meant to reinforce its dominance in the world. Jihadi Salafism ideologies assert that Muslims should not allow foreign forces to have any influence on their way of life. U.S imperialistic policies also support Christianity and its spread. There is a chance that the United States imperialistic policies may have reinforced the concept of Jihadi Salafism and contributed to emergence of terrorism groups such as Boko Haram and Abu Sayyaf (Badar, 2016).

Had the West done things differently, Jihadi terrorism as we know of it today would probably not be in existence. Had the West not continued with imposition of its ideas on non- Western societies, Jihadi terrorism would probably not be in existence. Imposition of foreign ideas on Muslims is against Jihadi Salafism ideologies. Had the West not continued to perpetuate its influence in the Arabic world, Jihadi Salafism would probably not be in existence. Jihadi Salafism is against influence from foreigners (unbelievers). Had the United States not introduced its policy on terror, Jihadi terrorism would probably not be in existence. Given that studies have revealed that Jihadi terrorism activities have increased since the war on terror policy came into effect; if the policy had not been introduced, things would have probably been different. Had the West stopped its behaviour of being involved in internal affairs of sovereign states in the Arab world, Jihadi terrorism would probably not be in existence. The West has developed a habit of being involved in internal affairs of sovereign Arab States such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Somali. As a matter Jihadi terrorism organization are only in existence in countries where the West has had a prior influence on their internal affairs. 

In conclusion, Jihadi Salafism is a growing global problem that has roots in the 18th century. It advocates for ensuring that Islam is protected from foreign influences and unbelievers. Most of the terrorism organizations from Islamic countries subscribe to Jihadi Salafism ideologies. Past and present U.S policies may have reinforced Jihadi Salafism. Some of the past and present policies that may have reinforced Salafism include U.S war on terror policy, U.S foreign policies and U.S imperialistic forces. Had the West done things differently, Jihadi terrorism as we know of it today would probably not be in existence. Had the West stopped to interfere with internal affairs of sovereign states and assert its influence in the world, Jihadi terrorism would probably not be in existence. 


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