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Jean E. Rosenfeld, Ph.D.

UCLA Center for the Study of Religion

    "Religion is, among other things, a construction of ultimate

    reality by means of an elaborate, self-consistent system

    of interpretation that is regarded as absolute truth."1

Introduction

As a historian, I prefer to work with documents gathered in tranquility about events that have already happened and people that are already off the scene, but as a student of new religious movements I am seldom allowed that luxury. When religion goes bad, so to speak, hell really can break loose, and one must scramble to gather as much data as possible from any available source about the phenomenon. Since September 11, 2001, when nineteen hijackers, assumed to be related to Usamah bin Ladin's Al Qa'ida movement, drove three commercial jetliners into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the side of the Pentagon, I have gathered data from television, the Internet, and a number of helpful colleagues, as well as from more traditional sources. Some of the most relevant data may not yet be accessible or may be prohibited from the public domain. Material snatched from the web one week may be gone the next. Needless to say, I regard this paper as a work-in-progress.

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Sandra Campbell, a scholar of Islam, for her advice regarding Arabic terms, and Jean-Francois Mayer and Louis J. Vandenberg for their collegiality and data-sharing.

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