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Al Qaeda Counterculture

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 989 words Published: 15th Sep 2017

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Timothy Murray

A counterculture is a subculture that rejects the major values of the large society replaces them with a new set of cultural patterns (Thomas). Al Qaeda is an extremist group that believed in killing civilians to fill sacrificial religious reasons to their God. Al Qaeda is considered a counterculture because the views they have on life do not fit the norms that many other societies share. In other words, they reject the views of the common society and think that they are superior to all. Al Qaeda’s views on “man-made law” or what are commonly known as just laws, are they need to be replaced with Sharia laws which are much more strict.

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The term Al Qaeda can be translated into common English as “the base” (The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica). Al Qaeda was founded by Osama bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam in 1988. The members of Al Qaeda strongly believe that a Christian-Jewish conspiracy is trying be the demise of Islam. In the early 1990’s Al Qaeda operated out of the country of Yemen (Hull). They have come forward and claimed responsibility for the 1998 U.S Embassy bombings, the

September 11th attacks on the world trade center, the 2002 Bali bombings and many others. In May of 2011 the leader of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden was assassinated by U.S militant forces after finding him hiding out in a secure compound (The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica). Al Qaeda has also been found in plotting to assassinate many of the world’s leaders and bombing many of the world’s most well-known locations just to try and affect the lives of thousands.

The sociological perspective can be defined as viewing of the behavior of groups in a systematic way and sociological imagination is the ability to see the connection between the larger world and our personal lives (Thomas R18). A good example of how Al Qaeda demonstrated the sociological perspective is how well they planned and acted out the attacks on the World Trade Centers in New York City on September 11th, 2001. Members of Al Qaeda were training on how to fly our commercial airlines and had a very detailed list of all the actions they needed to do in order to successfully act out the attack. The way the government went through and viewed everything after this event was painstaking because they had to go through and put an explanation on everything they came across. The sociological imagination is demonstrated by thinking about how Al Qaeda has effected thousands of lives after the 9/11 attacks. When you dig down deep and think about the way the view life, in their eyes maybe we are the counterculture. By looking at Al Qaeda through a sociological imagination you can see how many may say that they will not be affected by Al Qaeda but in all reality it may not affect them it may affect their children or their grandchildren.

Ethnocentrism is the tendency to view one’s own culture and group as superior to all other cultures and groups (Thomas R12). The larger society views Al Qaeda as a counterculture because to them they are an extremist group that murders innocent people and themselves as a sacrifice to their God. When Al Qaeda attacked the United States on September 11th in many psychologists and sociologists viewed this as an act of ethnocentrism because they think that they are far superior than we were. The way that the United States has gone about trying to resolve the issues behind that attacks makes it seem as though we think that we are far superior than any other country or culture.

Cultural relativism is the believe that a culture should be judged by their own standards (Thomas R11). By understanding why Al Qaeda militants act out their attacks and why they may become a suicide bomber you will find that thy believe that in the eyes of their God they are doing the right thing to get to the next level of power and respect. In 1994 Al Qaeda plotted to assassinate Pope John Paul II during a trip to Manila (Global Security Editors). By knowing that Al Qaeda believes that a Christian-Jewish will be the demise of Islam, it make sense as to why they would want to assassinate the Pope that being that they believe the Christian-Jewish views will be the demise of Islam.

In my own opinion I do not agree with Al Qaeda’s philosophy. I do not agree with their philosophy because I feel as though they are too extreme in the way that they combat their opposing views. There are so many other ways that you can go about things rather than simply trying to kill someone or trying to blow things up simply because they do not share the same views that you do. Someone on the cultural relativism side of an argument would say that you cannot judge simply because you do not understand their views; where someone arguing ethnocentrism would say that it does not matter their views they should not be killing themselves to show their God they are worthy and their religion is far superior then any other. You need to look at Al Qaeda through a sociological imagination because you will see how they connect the larger world to your own life. To view Al Qaeda in a systematic way you would be using the sociological perspective which is used in many of Al Qaeda’s attacks.


Global Security Editors. Globalsecurity.org. 2 March 2017. Webpage. 10 March 2017.

Hull, Edmund J. Al Qaeda’s Shadowland. New York: The New York Times, 2010. Newspaper.

The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Al Qaeda .” Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc, 2016.

Thomas, W. LaVerne. “Sociology- The Study of Human Relationships.” Austin : Holt, Rinehart, Winston , 2003. 39. Textbook .


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