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The Al Qaeda 9/11 instructions: A study in the construction of religious martyrdom


ReligionJournal abstract

A growing global concern about suicide attacks has led to attempts from various disciplines to understand the psychological profiles of persons willing to commit suicide terrorist attacks. Recent reports have suggested that more powerful explanatory models might be discovered using social psychological concepts, with a shift of focus from the individual to the group within which the individual acts and by which the individual is influenced. This paper attempts to do so by presenting an analysis of the Al Qaeda ‘final instructions’ document, which sheds light on the way members of this group were mobilised towards conducting one of the most devastating assaults in modern history. We discuss the use of religious doctrine and rhetorical devices as a psychological strategy employed by this group to inspire, control and mobilise its members before and during the September 11, 2001, attacks.

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