I've found Shiraz Maher's book on the history of Salafi-Jihadism to be a brilliant study on contemporary Islamic extremism. I recently picked it up from a bookstore after finishing research on In Our Mad and Furious City last year. Call it residual curiosity. Usually I tend to read around the subject matter for projects I'm working on at the time. A method of immersion I suppose, loose research I'd call it. Loose, since these things have a tendency to swim around in the subconscious. I try not to be too directed or forceful with it, but find the reading vital.
Maher's book is comprehensive so far, setting up how we may define Salafism and the evolution of Jihadism, key scholars in its study, typologies and terminology. Cited so far are the likes of Quintan Wiktorowicz, Muhammad Hafez, Thomas Hegghammer. If I'm ever to do further study, I can start here.
Interesting to note is Maher's categorisation of Salafi political preference, where 'methods for change' may be split into categories such as: Violence, Activism or Quietism. The attitudes toward the state or institutional order may be defined under these categories as the rejection of, challenge to, or advisory respectively. This is interesting given the current protests in Iran and the recent policy changes in Saudi Arabia which seems to have been instigated internally.
Maher concentrates on the violent-rejectionists Salafis for the purposes of the book, detailing the history of the ideology. The five essential categories of Salafi-Jihadism according to Maher are concerned with protection and promotion of Salafism (a purist or conservative form of Islam that seeks to revive the practices of the first three generations of Muslims - the al-salaf al-sālihīn or 'pious predecessors').
The five categories are as follows:
al-walā wa-l-barā - lines of loyalty and disavowal for the sake of Allah.
takfīr - delineates Islam against everything else and protects it against insidious corruption from within. e.g excommunication, banishment from the faith.
tawhīd and hākimiyya - which explain what legitimate authority should look like and who it should serve. e.g how God's sovereignty is established within a political system.
jihad - the method of revolution. Literally means to exert of effort or struggle but also has a legal definition of combat or fighting.
I will be looking to read this as in relation to so called 'lone-wolf' terrorism. Those who have no discernible contact with direct networks but are sufficiently inspired by the cause. I think about the young men who killed Lee Rigby, the Manchester Arena bomber or the 7/7 attackers. It is one of many concerns at the heart of In Our Mad and Furious City, how young minds can be so taken with their own violent compulsions and what it means for our own proximity to all forms of extremism within society.