ASTK15738U COURSE: Explaining Transnational Jihad: Al-Qaeda, Islamic State and Jihadism Studies

Volume 2017/2018

Master students: 7.5 ECTS

Bachelor students: 10 ECTS


Elective course for Security Risk Management


Transnational jihadist movements, namely the Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qaeda (AQ), appear to be one of the greatest challenges on the international agenda for peace and security today.  Jihadist movements with transnational ambitions are responsible for a significantly high share of casualties stemming from organized violence. Spectacular terrorist attacks on European soil within the past few years had linkages to transnational jihadi movements or ideologies. In various regions of the world, we continue to see a rapid spillover of jihadist violence from one country to a neighboring country, often attracting foreign fighters from different parts of the world. These contemporary trends point at the urgent need to understand the dynamics of transnational jihad, and the reasons why IS and AQ can mobilize to global jihad. 

The study of transnational jihadism is emerging as a multi-disciplinary field, where the scholarly interest covers everything between religion and ideology, organization, individual and collective psychology, communication and social networks, and most recently also collective emotions and culture. This course will introduce the students to various approaches to understanding transnational jihadism, and critically review their explanatory capacities. During the course, the students will also be introduced to different cases of transnational jihadist actors (particularly AQ and IS related actors) across Asia, The Middle East, Europe and North Africa.

The course aims at providing the student with different analytical perspectives on transnational jihadism, and an awareness of the limitations of dominant approaches in the field of jihadism studies. The course will also provide an empirical understanding of the ideology, organization, and contemporary history of AQ and IS. 

Cook, David (2005): Understanding Jihad. University of California Press.

Finnbogason, Daniel & Isak Svensson (2017): ‘The missing jihad. Why have there been no jihadist civil wars in South Asia’. The Pacific Review, pp.1-20.

Hegghammer, Thomas (2011): ‘The Rise of Muslim Foreign Fighters. Islam and the Globalization of Jihad’. International Security, vol. 35, no. 3, pp. 53–94.

Hegghammer, Thomas (2017): Jihadi Culture: The Art and Social Practices of Militant Islamists. Cambridge University Press.

Kepel, Gilles and Jean-Pierre Milelli (2010): Al Qaeda in Its Own Words. Bellkanp Press.

Lia, Brynjar (2016): ‘Jihadism in the Arab World after 2011: Explaining its Expansion’. Middle East Policy, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 74-91.

McCants, William (2015): The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State. Macmillan.

Neumann, Peter (2013): ‘The trouble with radicalization’. International Affairs, vol. 89, no. 4, pp. 873-893.

Ranstorp, Magnus (ed.) Understanding Violent Radicalization: Terrorist and Jihadist Movements in Europe. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 87-114.

Ranstorp, Magnus (2007): Mapping Terrorism Research: State of the Art, Gaps and Future Direction. London: Routledge.

Roy, Olivier (2017): Jihad and Death - The Global Appeal of Islamic State. Hurst.

Sageman, Marc (2008): Leaderless Jihad: The Face of Modern Terror. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Sheikh, Mona Kanwal (ed.) (2017): Expanding Jihad – How Islamic State and Al-Qaeda find New Battlefields. Copenhagen: Danish Institute for International Studies.

Sheikh, Mona Kanwal (2016): Guardians of God – Inside the Religious Mind of the Pakistani Taliban. Oxford University Press.

Toft, Monica Duffy, Daniel Philpott and Timothy Samuel Shah (2011): God's century: resurgent religion and global politics. WW Norton & Company.

Wiktorowicz, Quintan (2005): ‘A Genealogy of Radical Islam’. Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, 28, no. 2 (March-April), pp. 75-97.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Fri opgave
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assesment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner