Jihadism on the Long-Wave Clock

Jihadism on the Long-Wave Clock
Authors: Berry, Brian J. L.; Dean, Denis J.; Elliott, Euel
Almanac: Kondratieff waves:The Spectrum of Opinions

The thesis of this paper is that as Islam was freed from Ottoman control after World War I, as Muslim states achieved their independence after World War II, and as massive Muslim migration to the West occurred, long-wave crises replaced colonial expansion as the trigger for jihad. The surges of new jihadist organizations emerged in two clusters, the first in the crisis years during and after the 1980–1981 long-wave peak and the second during the 2007–2011 long-wave trough. Such long-wave crises now are perceived by jihadists to be the onset of the Tribulation, the period when hardships and disaster afflict the world, signaling the imminent second coming of the Mahdi (Messiah) who will cleanse the world. The surges of jihadism thus now have to be understood to be newly-acquired manifestations of the global long-wave dynamic.

Keywords: Jihadism, Islam, terrorism, long-waves.


The monotheistic Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) share an apocalyptic worldview that comes in two forms, eschatology and millennialism. Eschatologists believe the world is about to end either by the hand of God or at the hands of God's agents, and therefore in apocalypticism. Millennialists are utopians who believe that the world as it is will be succeeded by a thousand-year peaceful kingdom (hence the Millennium) in which a redeemer will cast down evil and raise up the righteous. Premillennialists believe that humankind needs to be rescued from a worsening world, the Tribulation, by a heaven-sent savior. Postmillennialists believe that human action is necessary. Particular varieties of postmillennialism are messianism, which focuses on the role of a charismatic earth-born leader, and millenarianism, which believes that revolutionary movements are needed to remove the old order and hasten the coming of the Millennium (Hughes 2008).

Islamic belief is messianic, including the conviction that jihad is necessary to create a global caliphate in preparation for the coming of the mahdi (messiah). Traditionally this conviction centered on the idea of the mujaddid (renewal) – that every 100 years a leader will appear, such as the Sudanese Muhammed Ahmed bin Abd Allah who was claimed to be the mahdi in the 1800s, and Iran's Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, claimed by his followers to be the mahdi in the 1980s. This contrasts with a secular millenarian construct, Marxism, that had its origins in the abysmal conditions of the working classes in nineteenth-century Europe and the belief that revolutionary socialists could engineer the final collapse of capitalism and its replacement by a new world order. Despite their differences Islamic messianism and Marxist millenarianism have come to share a common trigger. Beginning in the 1840s successive waves of Marxist agitation responded to the economic crises that accompanied long-wave peaks (stagflation crises) and long-wave troughs (deflationary depressions). Later, as Islam was freed from the shackles of the Ottomans, as Muslim states achieved their independence, and as massive Muslim migration to the West occurred, long-wave crises also became the triggers for jihad. Jihad is now part of the global long-wave dynamic.

Jihad takes many forms. During Islam's expansionary years after the death of Muhammed Muslim scholars divided the world into the Dar al-Islam, the ‘abode of peace’, under the rule of Islam and with its population subject to sharia, and the Dar al-Harab, the ‘house of war’ where Muslims do not have the protection of sharia but are commanded in Sura 9:5 (the verse of the sword) that if threatened they should practice jihad and slay the idolaters wherever they find them. The resulting jihadism has involved outright violence where civilizations clash, or demopathy where open violence would bring a crushing reaction and where therefore there are attempts to undermine the host society from within.

Hammond (2010) argues that the critical variable determining the form taken by jihad is the proportion of a population that is Muslim. Beneath a population share of 2 % (the Dar al-Dawa or ‘house of invitation’) the image of a peace-loving minority is fostered, as in the United States, although the image is frequently challenged by the actions of foreign jihadists. Between 2 % and 5 % proselytizing begins (the ‘jihad of words’), particularly among minorities and the disaffected, as in England or Canada. Above 5 % there is increasing belligerence, together with pressure for halal (‘clean’) food stuffs, food preparation jobs that are restricted to Muslims, the emergence of segregated ‘no-go’ neighborhoods and communities, and demands for local autonomy under sharia. Much of Western Europe is now in this category. By 10 % there is direct action against individuals and groups to secure Islamic goals (the ‘jihad of the sword’), accompanied beyond 20 % by both rioting and formation of militias, sporadic killing, and church and synagogue bombings, as in many parts of Subsaharan Africa adjacent to the Sahel. At 40 % there is chronic religious conflict, attacks on non-believers, militia warfare and frequent massacres, typical of the Balkans. Beyond 60 % there is persecution of all non-believers as well as of non-conforming Muslims: ethnic cleansing, use of sharia as a weapon, and the forcing of non-believers to convert and pay a tax (the jizya) or otherwise to be killed, as in parts of South-East Asia. At 80 % there is genocide: state-run ethnic cleansing to eliminate the infidels and to achieve the Dar al-Islam in a society freed of non-believers. Such was the case in Taliban Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan, in Brotherhood Egypt, Shiite Iran, ISIS[1] in Iraq and Syria, the Sudan, etc. Rapid increases in the Muslim population throughout the West are thus, in Hammond's view, the determinants of the form of jihad that is now being experienced, when triggered by periodic long-wave crises that worsen welfare and are perceived as the coming of the Tribulation. One should add a new variable, however, the globalizing effect of the revolution in communications technology (Akaev et al. 2016), to be discussed later.


It was Berry (1992) who, in a previous work, demonstrated that over the last 250 years utopian surges, embedded within upwellings of millenarian excitation, were triggered in America by the long-wave crises that periodically have afflicted the course of economic development. The utopias that were built were critical reactions to the moving target of capitalism at times when the capitalist machine faltered. We argue that in lockstep with this rhythm, as Islam broke free of both the Ottomans and of Western colonial controls in the 20th century the same long-wave crises that triggered America's utopian surges also began to trigger Islamic responses, not only in their Islamic homelands but also in the western nations to which many Muslims had migrated, just as they also had triggered Marxist responses.

The idea that transition, change or uncertainty triggers postmillennial movements is not new (Eisenstadt 1995). What we reveal is the association that emerged between the hardships and uncertainty that flare up during long-wave crises and Islamic response in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. This response looks to a final destructive struggle in which the West will be overcome. First led by the Taliban and later by ISIL the idea has quickly spread that Islam is on the verge of a global victory, a product of cataclysmic apocalyptic events in which the West is defeated and the Kaabah brought from Mecca to Jerusalem. Shared features of Muslim apocalyptic discourse include: the appearance of a Mahdi to lead the final jihad in which corrupt governments will be destroyed, the world will be conquered, submit to sharia, and will return to the pristine Islam of the time of the prophet. Along this path an evil Dajjal will appear to lead the forces of darkness but will be eliminated at the end of time, at which time the Jews will have been exterminated, there will be a global world of unity, harmony, and lawfulness, prosperity and peace. Every Muslim who has killed a Jew or a Christian will be guaranteed a place in Paradise because those he has killed will substitute for him in hell (Cook 2002; Landes 2011).


Our evidence for the emergence of the long-wave lockstep is presented in Fig. 1, which plots the establishment of clustering of jihadist organizations against the backdrop of the long wave fluctuations that have been documented in the global economy since the long-wave trough of the 1840s. Prior to this there had been a fundamentalist revival in the Sunni Islam that has played a major role in contemporary jihadism. An activist preacher from the remote Arabian desert, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, sought to rid Islam of religious practices that had emerged over the centuries, such as the veneration of saints, and thus to return Islam to the purity of the time of the prophet (al-Salef al-Salih). In 1744 al-Wahhab formed an alliance with a tribal leader Muhammad bin Saud, and in 1766 Wahhab's doctrinal views won recognition among scholars in Mecca. After the Saudi Kingdom was proclaimed in 1932, Wahhabism became the official Saudi form of Sunni Islam, a harsh version of the broader puritanical movement in Sunni Islam known as Salafism. After Persian Gulf oil was discovered and oil revenues began to flow, Wahhabism grew in strength, becoming a leading force in Sunni outreach and in the encouragement of jihad.

Beginning in the 1840s, three complete long waves have run their course. Starting in the deflationary depression of the 1840s, rising to an inflationary peak and stagflation crisis in the 1860s, falling to another depression in the 1890s, rising to another peak after World War I, to a trough in the aftermath of World War II, another peak at the end of the 1970s, the long wave descended into the most recent deflationary trough in 2007–2011. The first half of this period saw European colonization of the Muslim world, a gradual reduction of Ottoman powers, sporadic anti-colonial warfare including the Sepoy Revolt in India, together with Shiite millennialist uprisings in Persia as Moharram 1260 (AD 1844), the 1000th anniversary of the occultation of the 12th Imam approached. In the second half of the period the Ottoman caliphate was abolished, the colonial powers retreated, Muslim states achieved their independence, and new Islamic organizations emerged to fight the new state of Israel and the western nations supporting it and to create Dar al-Islam.

The 1840s: A Decade of Saviors

The deflationary depression of the 1840s was a period when the first wave of industrial urbanization in the West sagged. The potato famine devastated Ireland and set in motion mass migration to North America. In 1848 popular revolution spread across Europe, centering on the dissatisfactions of the new urban working class, and spurred by the spread of socialist and Marxist ideologies. The depression was a time of hardship and unhappiness among the working classes, a happy hunting ground for self-proclaimed saviors, and the breeding ground for socialist movements and communist uprisings. Amidst the worsening times, in the United States a lay preacher, the apocalypticist William Miller, proclaimed that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (the Advent) was imminent. A mass movement developed that was crushed in a ‘Great Disappointment’ when Christ did not return on the expected date of October 22, 1844, but the Millerites left in place a number of apocalyptic religious movements.

There was similar excitement among Shia Muslims in Persia. The year 1844 was the 1,000th anniversary of the occultation of the ‘Hidden Imam’, the 12th in line of succession after Muhammed, a leader believed by Shiites to have disappeared into a supernatural realm from which he would return to prepare the world for the return of the savior (Cole 2002). A Shirazi merchant, Siyyid Ali-Muhammed, proclaimed himself to be the Bab (the Gate), the returning Hidden Imam. Quickly attracting a large following, he proclaimed the abolition of Quranic sharia, but immediately ran afoul of Persia's Qajar rulers. Babist revolts were suppressed, and the Bab was executed in 1850. One of his followers, Mirza Husayn-Ali Nuri, who had joined the Bab in 1845, was exiled to Baghdad in 1853 and there in 1863, amidst the next long wave crisis, proclaimed the Bahai Faith and himself Baha'u'llah (Glory of God), the Babi Mahdi, creating what is now a global religion with more than six million adherents. He died in 1892 under Ottoman detention.

The 1890s: Anti-Colonial Revolt

That there was an emergent association between long-wave crisis and jihad became clearer as the world slid into the next deflationary depression, that of the 1890s. Resistance to colonization took the form of popular movements led by religious leaders who marshalled tribal support and called for jihad against the colonizers and against Islam's own new westernized urban elites. There were many revolts in Czarist Russia, for example the Andican uprising of Muslim tribes in the Ferghana Valley of Turkestan.

In year 1300 of the Hajj (1881–1882) Mohammed Ahmad bin Abd Allah had proclaimed himself the Mahdi in the Sudan. Another claimant, Mirza Ghulam Ahmed, declared himself Mahdi in the Punjab, setting in motion the creation of the large Ahmadiyya sect. Earlier, in the wake of the failed Sepoy Revolt (the ‘Indian Mutiny’), the British had reacted by persecuting Muslims. In an attempt to prevent suspected Muslim disloyalty from getting out of hand, the British destroyed Muslim holy sites in Delhi. The persecution, in turn, led Muslim ulama (theologians) to found private madrasas (colleges) over which the British would have no control. The first such school was located in the town of Deobandi, northeast of Delhi. The Deobandi schools taught adherence to strict interpretations of Islamic law, based on the Quran and the hadith. Via publications and debates, the Deobandi scholars sought to establish Islam as the one true faith, rejecting the Islamic mysticism (Sufism) which had developed in the 9th century as Islam sought to accommodate the faiths of conquered lands. In the place of mysticism, the Deobandis taught careful personal adherence to morality and piety as spelled out in the Quran and hadith. The Deobandi tradition spread across Northern India from its base in Delhi via a Salafist movement, Ahl i Hadith, and achieved particular importance after World War II, when the number of registered madrasas rose from 137 in 1947 to 3906 in 1995 and Pakistan emerged as an independent Islamic state.

After World War I: Replacing the Ottomans

The crisis years during and following World War I experienced the next surge of Islamic activation, and the beginning of a systemic linkage between long wave crisis and jihadist upswing. The 1917 Balfour Declaration set the stage for intensified Jewish-Arab conflict in Palestine while the Ottoman Empire was collapsing. The caliphate was abolished in 1924, and despite uprisings in North Africa, Iraq and Syria the European powers completed their takeover of the former Ottoman territories in Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, while the Pahlavis pushed aside the Qajar dynasty in Shiite Persia. After suppressing the Ikhwan rebellion against Ibn Saud, Saudi Arabia became independent in 1930 and Wahhabism became the Sunni state's official religion. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1929 by Hasan al-Banna, a Sufi spiritualist, Islamic scholar and activist who tapped into unrest against British rule and popular turmoil focused on the corrupting influence of the West. The Brotherhood translated doctrine into action at a time when Egypt was in social unrest. Initially espousing non-violence, the Brotherhood quickly became one of Egypt's most powerful activist organizations. However, Banna's efforts to use politics to enact Islamic law led to state persecution of the group by the late 1940s, which in turn led to the assassination of the Egyptian monarch by a Muslim Brother, for which Banna was assassinated in reprisal.

After World War II: New States and Wahhabi Outreach

A parallel transition to political fundamentalism had taken place in South Asia via the Jama'at-i Islami (Islamic Party), founded by the Deobandi-trained Sayyid Abu'l-A'la Mawdudi in 1941. Concerned with the decline of Muslim power in India in the early 20th century, Mawdudi determined that interfaith mixing and a growing liberalization of Muslim faith had weakened Islam. The answer was to sever social and political ties with Hindus and other non-Muslims and take up arms against non-Muslims. This led to the failure of Britain's attempt to leave behind a unified India and the division of the subcontinent into separate Muslim and Hindu states.

Amidst the long wave trough that followed World War II and on the heels of a four-year Jewish insurgency Israel was founded in 1948 and the first round of Muslim states became independent. The Algerian War of Independence against France lasted from 1954 to 1962. In the Iraqi Revolution of 1958 the British-backed monarchy was abolished. Palestinians in the refugee diaspora that accompanied the battle for Palestine established Fatah in 1959 to fight the Jewish state. In Egypt the Brotherhood led opposition to the Egyptian-British coalition in Cairo and also to Israel. There were bombings and assassinations, including al-Banna in 1949, followed by a military coup in 1952 and continued conflict. Egyptian general Gamal Abdul Nasser was committed to a form of secular nationalism that was spreading across Islam, but his thrust was opposed by the Brotherhood. It was a Brotherhood member, writer and ideologue Sayyid Qutb, who reintroduced emergent Islamic movements to the concept of jihad, to be used to create Dar al-Islam by ridding Islam of polytheism, capitalism, communism and democracy and by cleaning Palestine of the Jews (Kenney 2011).

Wahhabi missionary outreach became part of Saudi foreign policy. The Saudis helped create the World Muslim League in 1962, the year in which there were uprisings in Yemen and Oman. To propagate Islam and repel inimical trends and dogmas, the Muslim League opened branch offices around the globe. It developed closer association between Wahhabis and leading Salafis, and made common cause with the Muslim Brotherhood, Ahl-i Hadith and the Jama'at-i Islami to combat Sufism, eliminate innovative religious practices, and to reject the west and western ways. League-funded schools distributed religious literature and gave scholarships to attend Saudi religious universities.

Islamic Revival in the 1980s

The pieces were being put into place for a new Islamic revival, precipitated by the Arab defeat in the 1967 Six-Day War, which highlighted the lagging economic performance of the new Islamic states and was said by Islamic fundamentalists to have resulted from a lack of religious faith that could only be corrected by imposition of sharia throughout Islam.

In Egypt Anwar Sadat sought to coopt the fundamentalists through the 1971 establishment of Islam as the official religion of the Egyptian state and sharia as a source of legislation, but his openness to the West and the 1979 Camp David Accord that resulted in peace with Israel was scorned by the fundamentalists. In September 1981, Sadat took direct control of all mosques and arrested thousands of militants. One month later he was dead, assassinated by members of the fundamentalist group Tanzim al-Jihad.

The fortunes of the Gulf States, in particular Saudi Arabia, were dependent upon the price of oil. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) had been formed in 1960, but did little to affect oil prices until Israel defeated the Arab States in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In reaction OPEC cut oil exports to the West, precipitating an energy crisis and the quadrupling of oil prices. The oil producing states saw significant increases in income, which enabled them to significantly increase their support of Islamic causes, but the jump in prices also contributed to the final upward spiral of the most recent long wave, culminating in the stagflation crisis at the long-wave peak of 1980–1981.

This long-wave crisis brought a variety of Islamic reactions. To Shiites the year 1979–1980 coincided with the year 1300 of the Hajj, and at this auspicious time Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini overthrew the Pahlevi regime, which had been accelerating its program of westernization, and took control of Iran. Iran succumbed to theocratic political rule by Islamic jurists and soon became a further source of jihadist outreach. Khomeini was hailed as a messianic figure, argued by some to do for Muslims what Lenin had done for Communists. After Khomeini apocalyptic Muslims could begin to imagine that Islam would eventually take over the whole world. By the 1980s the legacy of Islamic revivalism as expressed in Wahabbi Islam, the Deobandi madrasa tradition, and Shiite Iran had found firm fruition in a milieu of political fundamentalist organizations that were actively seeking to impose sharia law in states throughout the Arab world and beyond. In Pakistan the Jama'at-i Islami was formed as a political movement to transform society via strict Islamic ideology, considering itself the vanguard of an Islamic revolution. The Salafist Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) played a major role in the Algerian civil war, considering jihad to be an obligation for all adult male Muslims. They sought to purge Algeria of the ungodly, pursuing wholesale massacres that targeted French-speaking intellectuals and foreigners, as well as Islamists deemed too moderate. At the same time there was a violent messianic outbreak in northern Nigeria, and in 1981 Islamic Jihad and the Al-Qaeda brigades were founded, followed by Hezbollah and Hamas in 1982. Sudan followed, making sharia the law of the land in 1983.

Sunni Islam was also activated by the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In response Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, a member of the Brotherhood with ties to Saudi clerics issued a fatwa calling for a defensive jihad against the Soviets. During the war a hybrid Islamist ideology developed among the international Islamist volunteers. Called Salafi jihadism, it found expansion in the establishment of Al-Qaeda[2] in Peshawar, Pakistan by Osama bin Laden and Abdullah Yusuf Azzam in 1988, at a time when the mujahideen were calling for expansion of their operations to include Islamic struggles in other parts of the world.

However, Al-Qaeda was not the only offshoot of the Afghan War. During this period more than 90,000 Afghans were trained to fight the Soviets by the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence Agency (ISI) with international support. Civil war broke out when the Soviets left. Amidst this war, one of the ISI trainees, Kandahari Mullah Mohammad Omar, formed a group that became the Taliban. Within months, 15,000 students, mostly Afghan refugees, joined the group from madrasas in Pakistan. These early Taliban were motivated by suffering among the Afghan people, which they believed resulted from power struggles between Afghan groups not adhering to the moral code of Islam. They quickly became a conquering military force and in 1996 they entered Kabul and announced the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, ruling the country with an ideology that allied radical Deobandi interpretations of Islam, a combination of sharia and Pashtun tribal codes, and extreme militant jihadism. Ousted in 2001, they since have waged a civil war that has placed them in control of many parts of the country. They also left behind Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (the Pakistani Taliban).

ISIL and the Arab Spring: Technology Feeds Transformation

As the international system descended into the 2007–2011 long-wave trough jihadist activity surged again to new levels that quickly had both global reach and unprecedented immediacy. This was made possible by new communication technologies, an outcome of the IT Revolution of the 1980s that has been argued to have produced ‘a global phase transition’ (Akaev et al. 2016). Two manifestations stand out, ISIL and the movement known as the Arab Spring.

ISIL, The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Daesh) was founded in 1999 by Jordanian Salafi jihadist Abu Musab al Zarqawi under the name Jamā'at al-Tawhīd wa-al-Jihād (‘The Organisation of Monotheism and Jihad’). Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq by Western forces the organization achieved notoriety for its suicide attacks on Shia mosques, civilians, Iraqi government institutions and soldiers of the US-led ‘Multi-National Force’. In October 2004, when al-Zarqawi swore loyalty to Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, he renamed the group Tanzīn Qā'idat al-Jihād fī Bilād al Rāfidayn (‘The Organisation of Jihad's Base in Mesopotamia’), commonly known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and developed a four-stage plan to expand the Iraq War. The plan included expelling US forces, establishing an Islamic caliphate, spreading the conflict to Iraq's neighbors, and moving against Israel. In 2006, MSC united with smaller groups and Sunni tribes to form the Mutayinbeen Coalition, pledging ‘To rid Sunnis from the oppression of the rejectionists (Shi'ite Muslims) and the crusader occupiers… to restore rights even at the price of our own lives… to make Allah's word supreme in the world, and to restore the glory of Islam’. A day later, MSC declared the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), comprising Iraq's six mostly Sunni Arab governorates, with Abu Omar al-Baghadi its emir. The leadership was composed largely of former Iraqi Ba'athist military and intelligence officers. The fundamental goal was to establish a caliphate led by a group of religious authorities under a supreme leader – the caliph – and in 2014, ISIL claimed to have traced lineage of its leader al-Baghdadi back to Muhammad. As caliph, he demanded the allegiance of all Muslims worldwide.

As a Salafist jihadist group ISIL followed fundamentalist Wahhabi doctrine but combined it with apocalyptic beliefs: that the army of Rome will soon be defeated at Dabiq and that this will be followed by the final day of judgement by God. Kaplan and Costa (2015), typifying this belief set as ‘malign aspirational tribalism writ large’, likening it to the Ikhwan, the violent union of tribes that united behind Abd al-Wahhab in opposition to the Ottomans.

Battling against rival Sunnis, Shiites, Syrians, Kurds and the ‘Great Satan’ (the US), ISIL made extensive and sophisticated use of modern communication media to proclaim the arrival of the End Times and to encourage believers to commit jihad, eliciting a global response. Open warfare in Iraq and Syria was combined with high-profile attacks throughout North Africa, the Middle East and the West, and extended by pledges of allegiance by such leaders as Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram in West Africa, and Isnilon Totonie Hapilon in the Philippines. In areas under ISIL control sharia was strictly imposed and jihad involved ethnic cleansing, such as the genocide of the Christian Yazidis in Iraq. But the caliphate has been short-lived. By late 2017 the combined assaults of Iraqi Shiite and Kurdish forces and both the Russian and Western militaries had reclaimed most territory captured by ISIL and significantly reduced the number of jihadists committed to its cause. These efforts have been hard-pressed to stem Internet-enabled communication and widespread acts of violence, frequently by self-radicalized ‘caliphate soldiers’, however.

While ISIL was still expanding the ‘Arab Spring’ occurred further west, with its roots in the December 2010 Tunisian Revolution that led to the overthrow of the government one month later. Rallying behind the slogan ash-sha'b yurīd isqāt an-nizān (‘the people want to bring down the regime’) success in Tunisia quickly produced uprisings in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain, where either the regime was toppled or violence occurred, including civil wars or insurgencies. There also were sustained demonstrations elsewhere across Islam that were met with violent responses from governments, but and much of the protest activity had waned by 2012. What was left behind were several major conflicts: the Syrian civil war, the Iraqi war and the Yemeni civil war together with spreading jihadist activity along the margins of the Sahel in Africa. Power vacuums opened across the Arab world and what evolved in many places was a battle between a consolidation of power by religious elites and a growing support for democracy. Underlying causes were many and familiar – poverty made worse by the descent into a deflationary depression, unemployment (particularly of the young), political corruption, etc. What was new was the use of the new social media to organize the collective intelligence of the young, encouraging what has been called ‘digital democracy’ and a new ability to quickly promote and support collective action and to provide online training to new generations of would-be jihadists. Facebook, Twitter and other major social media systems played a key role in the organization and movement of Egyptian and Tunisian activists. In the countries with the lowest Internet penetration such as Yemen and Libya, the role of mainstream electronic media devices such as cell phones, emails, and video clips cast light on the situation in the country and spread the word about the protests in the outside world.

Again, the aftermath has been problematic, however. The Arab Spring has been followed by an ‘Arab Winter’ of further violence and instability, further repression of the Brotherhood, and increased sectarianism between Sunni, Shiite, and Kurds that runs counter to the pan-Arabism thought by some to be the most productive path to establish the global status of Islam. Far from Dar al-Islam, most Muslims live in Dar al-Harab. After the jihadist surge during the deflationary depression the hoped-for caliphate did not emerge, although with global electronic reach jihadists remain capable of frequent and widespread terrorist acts.


Students of terrorism in all its forms believe that it has come in waves in the last two centuries, with a variety of different causes – Czarist reforms in the 1890s, the Vietcong insurgency, etc. (Rapoport 2001). We propose, in contrast, that jihadic terrorism now displays systematic clustering and rhythmic repetition because it is triggered by long-wave crises. What began as sporadic tribal outbreaks in the colonial era fell into lockstep with the long wave and its recurrent periods of instability in the 20th and 21st centuries (Berry 2006). The convergence of jihadism with the long wave began with the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood after World War I, continued with the cluster of new state formations in the trough following World War II, and assumed global importance during the stagflation crises surrounding the most recent peak and trough. However, Islam did not become part of the global system until the colonial era ended, Muslim states gained their independence, and some gained a major source of wealth from a raw material whose fortunes were at the center of global economic life. Only then did global rhythms begin to drive fluctuations in the welfare of the new states and their populations. Economic downturns were soon associated with the malevolence of the Great Satan – a Tribulation caused by the West and particularly by the United States – which increased the likelihood of frontal clashes between Western and Islamic societies more generally (Huntington 1993, 1996). The drive of jihadists to impose sharia in their newly-independent homelands became allied with their drive to free themselves of western influence. Islam, in becoming part of the new international system, became subject to its long-wave rhythms, and jihadism began a new pattern of surge during long wave crises and retreat during the upwaves and downwaves separating these crises. Such intervening periods are when states' successes in crushing new jihadist groups have been most apparent. Driven by the new technological innovations at the core of the most recent long wave, new jihadist surges have been steeper and have reached broader global audiences as modern media have been adopted and used with a previously-unknown creativity. Like the long wave itself, jihadism has undergone a phase shift, driven by technological change. It also has elicited global response, making the life of most jihadist terrorist groups brutal and short.


Akaev A., Korotayev A., Issaev L., and Zinkina J. 2016. Technological Development and Protest Waves: Arab Spring as a Trigger of the Global Phase Transition. Technological Forecasting and Social Change 116: 316–321.

Berry B. J. L. 1992. America's Utopian Experiments. Communal Havens from Long-Wave Crises. Hanover N.H.: University Press of New England.

Berry B. J. L. 2006. Recurrent Instabilities in K-wave Macrohistory. Kondratieff Waves, Warfare and World Security / Ed. by T. Devezas, et al., pp. 22–29. Amsterdam: IOS Press.

Cole Juan R. I. 2002. Millennialism in Modern Iranian History. Imagining the End: Vision of Apocalypse from the Ancient Middle East to Modern America / Ed. by
A. Amant, and M. Bernhardsson, pp. 282–311. London: I. B. Tauris.

Cook D. 2002. Studies in Muslim Apocalyptic. Princeton NJ: Darwin Press.

Eisenstadt S. N. 1995. Fundamentalism Phenomenology, and Comparative Dimensions. Fundamentalisms Comprehended / Ed. by M. E. Marty, and R. S. Appleby, pp. 259–276. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Hammond P. 2010. Slavery, Terrorism and Islam. Cape Town: Frontline Fellowship.

Hughes J. J. 2008. Millennial Tendencies in Responses to Apocalyptic Threats. Global Catastrophic Risks / Ed. by N. Bostrom, and M. M. Cirkovic, pp. 72–89. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Huntington S. P. 1993. The Clash of Civilizations? Foreign Affairs 72: 22–49.

Huntington S. P. 1996. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Kaplan J., and Costa Ch. P. 2015. The Islamic State and the New Tribalism. Terrorism and Political Violence 27: 926–969.

Kenney J. T. 2011. Millennialism and Radical Islamic Movements. The Oxford Handbook of Millennialism / Ed. by C. Wessinger. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Landes R. 2011. Heaven and Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rapoport D. C. 2001. The Fourth Wave: September 11 in the History of Terrorism. Current History 100(650): 419–424.

[1] A terrorist organization banned in Russia.

[2] Al-Qaeda is a terrorist organization banned in Russia.