Al-Qaida is now an idea, not an organisation

So another blast and, a month or so later, another tape. This time it is Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian militant who has been the professional partner of Osama bin Laden for the best part of 15 years, who has surfaced on our screens.

The iconography is relatively easy to decode. The gun to his right is a more potent looking weapon than usual, with a grenade launcher fixed to its barrel, indicating a desire to reinforce the threat of violence. The black turban like that worn by the Taliban suggests a concern to show solidarity with the rump of the movement still fighting, just about, in Afghanistan. The white robes are fairly standard but, combined with the long white beard and the military props, indicate a warrior-statesman or a fighting cleric, an archetype familiar to anyone with an interest in Islamic political history.Full Story

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