Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 April 2020
Jihad, a heavily loaded word in the post-9/11 discourse, has in fact many layers, in theological and historical terms. This chapter investigates how the anti-Soviet resistance to the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s turned this Central Asian country into a receptacle of religiously oriented ideologues and militants from all over the world. The social and political transformations of the 1960s and 70s, the conflation of local self-determination, radicalization of refugees, absorption of foreign militants, the charisma of a Palestinian Muslim Brother, and the wealth of a well-connected Saudi man all come together in shaping the Afghan jihad as a symbolic and imagined site of resistance to outside forces for the global umma. If in the 1980s jihad had carried a positive connotation of liberation, in the aftermath to the 9/11 attacks labeling a movement as “jihadist” has become a convenient way for governments to tackle unrest in Muslim areas, even where struggles had been taking place for decades without much connection to Islamist aspirations, as seen in the cases of Southern Philippines, Indonesia, Southern Thailand, Kashmir, and Western China.