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Keywords:

  • al-Qa'ida;
  • environmental perception;
  • sacred space;
  • terrorism.

ABSTRACT. This article examines the geographical ideology of al-Qa'ida. The central questions are to what extent al-Qa'ida terrorism is motivated by a desire to control geographical space, and how the organization defines that space as place in its communiqués. The study also asks whether al-Qa'ida's geographical rhetoric reveals the nature or locations of future attacks. Principal sources are statements and interviews by and with al-Qa'ida leaders. al-Qa'ida classifies distinctive geographical realms of legitimization, preparation, and action. Its geographical concerns and ambitions are hierarchical and based principally on perceptions of sacred space. The holy places of Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem are the cornerstones of a greater Islamic holy land that al-Qa'ida seeks to rid of non-Islamic-especially U.S. and “Zionist”-elements and replace with a new caliphate. Terrorism directed principally against American civilians in the United States is one of the main tactics by which al-Qa'ida says it hopes to achieve its goals in geographical space.