Faculty Mentor

Vincent Cornell

Faculty Affiliation

Emory University


Since the 9/11 attacks, Islam has remained at the center of the global terrorism debate. In order to weaken Islamist terrorist groups, it is crucial to understand nuance differences in their ideologies and goals. This research focuses on two such groups, Boko Haram and al-Qaeda, and argues that despite the two groups’ Salafi-jihadist roots, the groups harbor sharply different ideologies and goals—and thus, different outcomes. The research finds that al-Qaeda adheres to a rigid organizational and goal-oriented structure, while Boko Haram’s bureaucracy is less clear and less organized. While al-Qaeda has a number of stated goals, Boko Haram has very few. As the research shows, it is evident that these factors have influenced the success and global reach of each group. This is merely an introductory analysis; further research should compile data on a wider variety of groups.