The Radicalization of Sunni Jihadist Groups and Their Development of a Total War Doctrine

ABSTRACT The essay presents this jihadi ideological evolution in four parts. Firstly, it provides an overview of jihadism’s three major adversaries the near (Muslim apostate), far (Western and other non-Muslim civilizations) and sectarian (Shi’ite and other heterodox Muslims) enemies. Secondly, the paper examines why jihadi groups prioritized attacks against the near enemy during the Cold War only to see most Islamist insurgencies beaten back by Muslim apostate regimes. Thirdly, the paper analyses how these failures invited debate within the jihadist movement leading to a refocus on fighting the non-Muslim far enemy. Fourthly, having failed to weaken near and far enemies, the paper argues that the global jihadi movement has radicalized further by resorting to conspiratorial and eschatological arguments that link near, far and sectarian enemies. Keywords: Jihad, Radicalization, Terrorism, Religious Warfare, and Extremism