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Martyrdom Mythology in Iraq: How Jihadists Frame Suicide Terrorism in Videos and Biographies

by Mohammed M. Hafez, Department of Political Science, University of Missouri, Kansas City, Missouri, USA

The jihadists in Iraq strategically deploy emotional narratives to construct the myth of heroic martyrdom, demonize their intended targets, and appeal to potential recruits from around the Muslim world. These culturally astute jihadists know well the themes that resonate with the wider Muslim public, and have done an extraordinary job in harnessing three narratives to mobilize for martyrdom: humiliation of Muslims at the hands of foreigners, impotence of official Muslim governments in the face of hegemonic powers, and redemption through faithful sacrifice. This study explores how jihadists weave together these three narratives to suggest a deleterious condition that requires an immediate action, offer an explanation of the causes of this persistent condition, and present the necessary solution to overcome the problem.

Keywords: Al Qaeda, insurgency, Iraq, jihadists, suicide bombers, terrorism

From the journal Terrorism and Political Violence is edited by UCLA Professor Emeritus of Political Science David C. Rapoport.

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