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  • Cited by 3
  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: September 2012

16 - “Jihadism” as a new religious movement

from Part III - New religious movements



“Jihadism” is a term that has been constructed in Western languages to describe militant Islamic movements that are perceived as existentially threatening to the West. Western media have tended to refer to Jihadism as a military movement rooted in political Islam. Some Muslims have claimed that there is nothing authentically Islamic in these movements. Others have claimed that they represent true Islam. The question that will be addressed in this chapter is the extent to which radically violent Islamist movements might be identified as a kind of new sect formation within Islam or perhaps the emergence of a trend that may result in new religious movements. Criteria for examination will include belief structures, rituals, material culture, scriptural interpretation, and iconography in relation to traditional Islam and other religious and political traditions. Whereas NRM studies are usually confined to religious and sociological innovations in the West, the approach adopted here is somewhat different. In the context of the present volume the intention is to challenge this geographical demarcation and suggest a broader understanding of religious innovation.


“Jihadism,” like the word jihad out of which it is constructed, is a difficult term to define precisely. The meaning of Jihadism is a virtual moving target because it remains a recent neologism and no single, generally accepted meaning has been developed for it. would require too much space to parse out the full range of meanings and nuances associated with Jihadism and its root in jihad even in recent history, but it is important to articulate a working definition for the purposes of this discussion.

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