Sounding Out Al-Qu’ida

Flagg Miller
Religious Studies
UC Davis

Drawing primarily upon evidence from Bin Laden’s former audiotape collection in Kandahar, Afghanistan, this project explores the figuration of al-Qa`ida under Bin Laden’s leadership. It focuses, in particular, on the ways Western intelligence and terrorism experts collaborated with global media networks in managing Bin Laden’s growing reputation in ways that were exploited by Osama and those who supported his militant vision. By attending to Islamic cultural, legal, theological and linguistic vocabularies that shaped militants’ understandings of al-Qa`ida, the project contests the idea that al-Qa`ida’s primary enemy was, in fact, America and the West. It shows how militants and their largely Arabic-speaking audiences sought to situate Bin Laden’s increasing pitch toward attacking the United States, one much amplified by global media agencies, in relation to more familiar struggles at home.