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Dr Elisabeth Kendall new book: Twenty-First Century Jihad

14th April 2015

Dr Elisabeth Kendall (Senior Research Fellow in Arabic and Islamic Studies) has co-produced Twenty-First Century Jihad with Ewan Stein (University of Edinburgh). This new book challenges current popular perceptions and interpretations of the term jihad by exploring its historical, political and cultural context.

Explaining how the concept of jihad has changed in meaning over time and from place to place, the book sets out “to present, in as neutral a way as possible, some of the academic, as well as non-academic, perspectives and attitudes concerning both the practice and representation of jihad”.

The assembled chapters include contributions from active researchers as well as from the leader of the Tunisian Islamist al-Nahda Party, from the UK Ministry of Defence’s Senior Advisor to the Middle East and from a convicted terrorist who has subsequently recanted militant jihad.

Dr Kendall’s own chapter outlines her research into the widespread use of poetry by contemporary jihadists in Yemen to legitimise their acts and spread their ideas. Forming part of the regional tradition of oral transmission, the use of poetry in Yemen allows jihadists to inspire a broad audience at a deeply emotional level. Dr Kendall argues that “in the quest to understand both the hearts and minds of those who actively practise or tacitly support militant jihad in Yemen, interrogation of the poetry that speaks to both must be acknowledged as a rich and critical resource”.

Dr Kendall's work was the subject of an opinion piece in The Times newspaper on 14th April: click here to read in full, and her own comment piece for BBC World News online was published on 4th May.