Skip to main content

Reading jihad: Mapping the shifting themes of Inspire magazine


Terrorism and Political ViolenceJournal abstract
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s Inspire magazine has received attention within Western academia and media for its role in inspiring and instructing a series of homegrown terrorist attacks. Reporting on the magazine often characterises it as a Western-centric instrument of jihadi discourse. This characterisation, while broadly accurate, is in need of refinement. Using a modified version of Jennifer Attride-Stirling’s method of thematic network analysis, this research visualises and analyses the narrative themes contained within fourteen issues of Inspire magazine. It demonstrates that the magazine’s narrative extends well beyond the Western world. In reality, Inspire’s themes centre not only on the West and its Muslim populations, but on local politics and broader religious issues. The magazine’s thematic focus has also shifted over time—particularly in response to (a) political volatility in the Middle East and North Africa, (b) the killing of prominent jihadists, and (c) the execution of successful individual jihad operations. Throughout these periods of change, Inspire struggled to maintain focus on its anti-Western narrative and
proved easily distracted by local issues and the “martyrdom” of Al Qaeda leaders. Understanding Inspire’s thematic landscape and its shifting character prove important in understanding and responding effectively to its jihadi discourse.

You might also like: