The al-Qaeda job application form

This undated file picture shows Saudi dissident Osama bin Ladin speaking at an undisclosed place inside Afghanistan. Image copyright Getty Images

Fed up with your current job? Feel you're not properly challenged? Bored of the 9-5 routine? Al-Qaeda has a job vacancy for you.

Admittedly you will have to fill in a rigorous application form that looks like it has been written by someone who has spent too long working for Deloitte or Accenture, but bureaucracy exists in every walk of life - so why not on the path to violent jihad?

Among the cornucopia of material found at Osama Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad declassified on Wednesday is this priceless document - a job application form for becoming a member of al-Qaeda.

Image copyright Getty Images

Points 1-3 are fairly unremarkable - please write clearly and answer truthfully - pretty much what you would expect to find were you applying for a clerk's job at the local water company

You then fill in all the personal details - including name, date of birth, father's name, grandfather's name, profession etc etc

That is page one. Page two is where it starts to part company with the average job application form.

Amid the quite ordinary and prosaic questions like "What foreign languages do you speak?" "What education level have you attained?", there are the more unusual - "Date of your arrival in the land of jihad", "Which Shaykhs do you listen to or read often?", "Do you know anyone who travels to Western countries?"

On page three, the form gets down to the nitty gritty.

Have you ever been convicted by any court? Have you ever been in jail or prison?

Image caption The documents were translated into English by US officials

In normal circumstances, the preferred - likely required - answer to those two questions is a big NO. I am going to guess that this form is really looking for a YES.

And then these two questions -

Do you wish to execute a suicide operation? What objectives would you like to accomplish on your jihad path?

And at the end of the form, a return to the - almost - banal.

Do you have any chronic or hereditary diseases? Who should we contact in case you became a martyr?

Followed by lines for an address and phone number of the person who will be informed of your not-so-accidental death.

Image caption The bureaucracy of murder

It is hard not to read this without a slight sense of disbelief. But then I remembered my undergraduate studies of the German sociologist and philosopher, Max Weber.

His great piece of work was to identify the depersonalising effects of bureaucracy, and how it marked out a modern organisation.

Bureaucracies are organised according to rational principles. Offices are ranked in a hierarchical order and their operations are characterised by impersonal rules.

But who knew that in the dusty, arid mountains around Tora Bora, there was a cave devoted to al-Qaeda's HR, codifying the skill-sets of every applicant?

Related Topics