Islam and terrorism

23 Mar 2015

This essay has been written and submitted by students and is not an example of our work. Please click this link to view samples of our professional work witten by our professional essay writers. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of EssayCompany.


When the terrorists attacked the United States on the morning of September 11, 2001, they set in motion a sequence of events that demonstrated unequivocally the power and influence ofterrorism. Less than two hours of unimaginable violence by nineteen terrorists led to repercussions felt around the world. "Beyond the death and destruction that the terrorists caused more than 3,000 people were killed in the suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. They also inflicted a deep psychological wound upon United States and the rest of the world".[1]

Although the United States had experienced major terrorist attacks on its soil in the past, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the September 11 attacks were beyond most people's worst nightmare. Hijacked planes crashing into U.S. landmarks and live television coverage of the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsing images that will likely be etched in one's mind forever.

The tragedy of September 11, 2001, has revealed the roots of deep planetary contradictions that threaten the world community and indeed life itself on planet Earth. This act of unprecedented terror against thousands of innocent people ought, at last, to start humanity thinking about the stark incompatibility of modern achievements in the areas of scientific knowledge, human rights, and the establishment of human moral standards with ideological, nationalistic, or religiousfanaticism in any form.

Lately, most of the terrorismseems to be about Islam, and it all seems to be the same. By all accounts the specter of jihadism looms large. Even if we suspend the belief for a moment and simply cast aside all those terrorist groups that clearly have nothing at all to do with the Islamic religion--the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, the FARC in Colombia and the IRA in Ireland (to name but a few)--we are still left with a slew of seemingly similar groups all motivated by and distorting Islam to suit their own ends[2].

The anatomy of propaganda

The document found in a suitcase belonging to leading September 11, 2001, terrorist Muhammed Atta further strengthens this belief. The suitcase document is reproduced below and analysed in the ensuing paragraph: -

"Pray during the previous night. Remember God frequently and with complete serenity. Visualize how you will respond if you get into trouble. Read verses of the Quran into your hands and rub them over your luggage, knife, and all your papers. Check your weapons, perform ablution before you leave your apartment, and remember God constantly while riding to the airport. Take courage and remember the rewards which God has promised for the martyrs". [3]

The "suitcase document" is remarkable for four reasons. First, it embodies a classic ascetical strategy for applying formulaic principles to intended actions. Second, it shares much in common with repetitive techniques for self-hypnosis. Third, it bears a striking resemblance to mainstream traditions such as Catholicism in ascetical manuals like The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola or The Rule of St. Benedict that says, "keep death daily before one's eyes." Whether or not such manuals threaten human freedom depends, of course, on the various contexts in which they have been presented. If in the wrong hands they can function as formulas and meditations both for indoctrination and for fighting "holy" wars. Fourth, the document from the suitcase directly connectsreligiousformulas and meditations with intentions to perpetrate mass murder. Practical checklists of objectives, terrifying in magnitude, are interwoven withreligiousstatements and then repeated and applied as mantras of self-indoctrination.

Religion - The Terrorists' Best Weapon

Whileterrorism even in the form of suicide attacks is not an Islamic phenomenon by definition, it cannot be ignored that the lion's share of terrorist acts and the most devastating of them in recent years have been perpetrated in the name of Islam. This fact has sparked a fundamental debate both in the West and within the Muslim world regarding the link between these acts and the teachings of Islam. Most Western analysts are hesitant to identify such acts with the bona fide teachings of one of the world's great religions and prefer to view them as a perversion of a religion that is essentially peace-loving and tolerant. Western leaders such as George W. Bush and Tony Blair have reiterated time and again that the war againstterrorismhas nothing to do with Islam. It is a war against evil[4].

Modern International Islamistterrorismis a natural offshoot of twentieth-century Islamic fundamentalism. The "Islamic Movement" emerged in the Arab world and British-ruled India as a response to the dismal state of Muslim society in those countries: social injustice, rejection of traditional mores, acceptance of foreign domination and culture. It perceives the malaise of modern Muslim societies as having strayed from the "straight path" (as-sirat al-mustaqim) and the solution to all ills in a return to the original mores of Islam. The problems addressed may be social or political: inequality, corruption, and oppression. But in traditional Islam--and certainly in the worldview of the Islamic fundamentalist--there is no separation between the political and thereligious. Islam is, in essence, both religion and regime (din wa-dawla) and no area of human activity is outside its remit. Be the nature of the problem as it may, "Islam is the solution."[5]

The role of religion of Islam needs closer examination since the majority of terrorists of contemporary times are practising the religion of Islam. One of the enduring questions is what religion of Islam has to do with this. Put simply, does religion of Islam cause terrorism? Could these violent acts be the fault of religion-the result of a dark strain of religious thinking that leads to absolutism and violence?

Is religion the problem or the victim?

When one looks outside one's faith it is easier to blame religion. In the current climate of Muslim political violence, a significant sector of the American and European public assumes that Islam is part of the problem. The implication of this point of view is the unfortunate notion that the whole of Islam has supported acts of terrorism.

Most Muslims refused to believe that fellow members of their faith could have been responsible for anything as atrocious as they September 11 attacks-and hence the popular conspiracy theory in the Muslim world that somehow Israeli secret police had plotted the terrible deed.

Recently, however, "Islam" and "fundamentalism" are tied together so frequently in public conversation that the term has become a way of condemning all of Islam as a deviant branch of religion. But even in this case the use of the term "fundamentalism" allows for the defenders of other religions to take comfort in the notion that their kind of non-fundamentalist religion is exempt from violence or other extreme forms of public behaviour.[6]



Statement of Problem

Terrorism has been a persistent feature of warfare and the international security environment for centuries. The magnitude and impact of terrorism has not remained consistent but rather has ebbed and flowed over the course of time. Today terrorism has emerged as one of the most significant international and regional security issues.

The terror attacks of Sep 11 have brought about a lasting change in the way contemporary society perceives the religion of Islam. The perception of the people all across the globe has been that Islam is source of violence.


Islam is a vast religion and consists of various facets. The dissertation would aim to study the historical perspective of terrorism, conceptualise terrorism and then determine how religion is used as a motivator for terrorism before studying the Quranic interpretations associated with the violence and finally aim to answer the question "Is there a link between Terrorism and Islam".

The scope does not cover the causes and motivators of terrorism like cultural conflict, globalisation, and economic disparity e.t.c. but is limited to investigate the general belief that Islam is associated with the terrorism.

Methods of Data Collection

Data for this research has been collected from the following sources: -

  1. Books, journals, periodicals and studies on the subject.
  2. Authenticated information from selected web sites.

A bibliography of the books, periodicals and web sites referred to is appended at the end of text.

Organisation Of The Dissertation

Topic is intended to be dealt in the sequence enumerated below: -

  1. Introduction
  2. Methodology
  3. The Genesis of Terrorism - A historical perspective.
  4. Conceptualising terrorism - Definitions.
  5. How religion is used as a motivator for terrorism.
  6. Interpretations of Quran and Terrorism.
  7. Conclusion - Is there a link between Islam and terrorism?




The terrorism is as old as the human civilization. Although the use of violence has been integral to the human beings in the entire process of evolution.

Zealots of Judea. The earliest known organization that exhibited aspects of a modern terrorist organization was the Zealots of Judea. Known to the Romans as sicarii, or dagger-men, they carried on an underground campaign of assassination of Roman occupation forces, as well as any Jews they felt had collaborated with the Romans. Eventually, the Zealot revolt became open, and they were finally besieged and committed mass suicide at Masada fortress.

The Assassins. The Assassins were the next group to show recognisable characteristics of terrorism, as we know it today. A breakaway faction of Shia Islam called the Nizari Ismalis adopted the tactic of assassination of enemy leaders because the cult's limited manpower prevented open combat. Their leader, Hassam-I Sabbah, based the cult in the mountains of Northern Iran. Their tactic of sending a lone assassin to successfully kill a key enemy leader at the certain sacrifice of his own life (the killers waited next to their victims to be killed or captured) inspired fearful awe in their enemies.

The Zealots of Judea and the Assassins were forerunners of modern terrorists in aspects of motivation, organisation, targeting, and goals. Although both were ultimate failures, the fact that they are remembered hundreds of years later, demonstrates the deep psychological impact they caused.

The period between 14th and 18th century was of relative calm. From the time of the Assassins (late 13th century) to the1700s, terror and barbarism were widely used in warfare and conflict, but key ingredients for terrorism were lacking. Until the rise of the modern nation state after the Treaty of Westphalia[8] in 1648, the sort of central authority and cohesive society that terrorism attempts to influence barely existed.

Communications were inadequate and controlled, and the causes that might inspire terrorism (religious schism, insurrection, ethnic strife) typically led to open warfare. By the time kingdoms and principalities became nations, they had sufficient means to enforce their authority and suppress activities such as terrorism.

The French Revolution. The French Revolution provided the first uses of the words "Terrorist" and "Terrorism". Use of the word "terrorism" began in 1795 in reference to the Reign of Terror initiated by the Revolutionary government. The agents of the Committee of Public Safety and the National Convention that enforced the policies of "The Terror" were referred to as 'Terrorists". The French Revolution provided an example to future states in oppressing their populations. It also inspired a reaction by royalists and other opponents of the Revolution who employed terrorist tactics such as assassination and intimidation in resistance to the Revolutionary agents. The Parisian mobs played a critical role at key points before, during, and after the Revolution. Such extra-legal activities as killing prominent officials and aristocrats in gruesome spectacles started long before the guillotine was first used.

The 19th Century

Narodnya Volya. The terrorist group from this period that serves as a model in many ways for what was to come was the Russian Narodnya Volya (Peoples Will). They differed in some ways from modern terrorists, especially in that they would sometimes call off attacks that might endanger individuals other than their intended target. Other than this, they showed many of the traits of terrorism for the first time. These traits included clandestine tactics, cellular organisation, impatience and inability for the task of organising the constituents they claim to represent and a tendency to increase the level of violence as pressures on the group mount.

Internationalisation of Terrorism

Modern Terrorism. The age of modern terrorism might be said to have begun in 1968 when the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) hijacked an El Al airliner en route from Tel Aviv to Rome. While hijackings of airliners had occurred before, this was the first time that the nationality of the carrier (Israeli) and its symbolic value was a specific operational aim. Also a first was the deliberate use of the passengers as hostages for demands made publicly against the Israeli government. The combination of these unique events, added to the international scope of the operation, gained significant media attention. The founder of PFLP, Dr. George Habash observed that the level of coverage was tremendously greater than battles with Israeli soldiers in their previous area of operations. "At least the world is talking about us now."[9]

Cooperation. Another aspect of this internationalisation is the cooperation between extremist organizations in conducting terrorist operations. Cooperative training between Palestinian groups and European radicals started as early as 1970, and joint operations between the PFLP and the Japanese Red Army (JRA) began in 1974. Since then international terrorist cooperation in training, operations, and support has continued to grow, and continues to this day. Motives range from the ideological, such as the 1980s alliance of the Western European Marxist-oriented groups, to financial, as when the IRA exported its expertise in bomb making as far afield as Colombia.

Current State of Terrorism

The roots of today's terrorism began to grow in 1990s. The largest act of international terrorism occurred on September 11, 2001 in set of coordinated attacks on the United States of America where Islamic terrorists hijacked civilian airliners and used them to attack the World Trade Center towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. After September 11, it is very easy to be nostalgic about the 1990s. In fact, the post Cold War decade was a very chaotic period. Americans were absorbed by domestic issues and lulled by the fact that the Cold War was over[10].


There were two great forces at work through the 1990s. First, there were the forces of integration, including global economic growth, cross-border development, the communications revolution and the spreading of democracy. The power of these forces was captured in the popular phrase, "The End of History." That's what seemed to be happening after the fall of the Berlin Wall and all of the other great events that were affecting world history. But there was also a second set of equally powerful forces-the forces of disintegration-including religious and ethnic conflict, an ever-widening North-South gap, religious fundamentalism (Islamic and otherwise) and terrorism. The power of these forces was captured in the phrase, the "Clash of Civilizations." While I disagree with the ultimate conclusion of Samuel Huntington, the author of that phrase, that the clash is inevitable, Huntington's words nonetheless capture the import of the forces that were producing post-Cold War conflicts.



A few terms that are important to the study of violence in Islam are: terrorism, religious terrorism and Islamic terrorism. A discussion of these terms will permit a comprehensive analysis on the way in which the use of violence sanctioned by the Quran and its interpretations amounts to Islamic terrorism.


Terrorism is a non-political act of aggression in which the extent of violence used is "outside the realm of normative behavior[11]". Terrorists use or threaten to use this violence against combatants and non-combatants to achieve political, social, economical or religious change within a given community. These reforms appeal to the terrorists and do not represent popular opinion of the society from which terrorism arises and "terrorists are no respecters of borders[12]".

Thus Omar Abdullah, the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir says that "there are no well defined or internationally accepted criteria to designate organization as 'terrorist'. However the UN Security Council has, on occasion, adopted resolutions putting in place specific sanctions and measures against individual countries or...certain terrorist organizations[13]".

According to Kofi Annan the Ex - Secretary General of the United Nations, the manifestations of terrorism are limitless. The "only common denominator among different variants of terrorism is the calculated use of deadly violence against civilians[14]".

Terrorists are those who violate the "right to life, liberty and security[15]" vested in each civilian by the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights - Resolution: 217 A (III). Thus the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of the United Kingdom defines terrorism as a movement in which terrorists "directly challenge the authority of democratically elected governments to manage their country's affairs peacefully, according to the rule of law and internationally accepted fundamentals of human rights[16]", to satisfy their own liking.

Religious Terrorism

Religious terrorism occurs when the use of terrorism is systematized by an ideological and fanatical interpretation of a religious text. Religious terrorist groups functioning in the absence of this pretext, create "junk terrorism[17]".

According to Charles Kimball, religious terrorism functions on the basis of five essential principles. These are: means justify the end, holy war, blind obedience, absolute truth claims and the ideal times. Kimball explains that 'truth claims' are essential points in a religion "at which divergent interpretations arise[18]". Extreme interpretations of 'truth claims' provoke the ideology upon which religious terrorism is based. However the "authentic religious truth claims are never as inflexible and exclusive as zealous adherents insist[19]". The staunch 'truth claims' professed by religious terrorists, allow them to use "religious structures and doctrines...almost like weapons[20]" for their movement.

In the process, "religious convictions that become locked into absolute truths can easily lead people to see themselves as God's agents. People so emboldened are capable of violent and destructive behaviour in the name of religion[21]". This conviction creates fanatical interpretations and ideologies that give rise to religious terrorism. Nancy Connors Biggo's[22], states that foreign observers are unfamiliar with the extreme interpretations of religious terrorists. Thus scholars often dismiss the rhetoric of religious terrorism as one that is devoid of any strategic motivation. This creates a dearth of quantifiable data that can be used to assess religious terrorism. However Biggo explains that the lack of understanding or data cannot dismiss the fact that religious terrorism is systematized by extreme interpretations of a religious text. Therefore Wener Ruf, states, "where God was pronounced dead all notions of morality have been turned into nihilism[23]".

Islamic Terrorism

Islamic terrorism is a movement in which the violence caused by terrorism is derived from and used to preserve extreme interpretations of the Quran, in an Islamic community. An in-depth discussion of the how Islamic terrorism is invoked from the Quran, will be discussed in a separate chapter. However, preliminarily speaking Islamic terrorism exists where there is "a controversy over sacred space[24]"or a Kuranic tenet has been violated. Participants of this movement call for "unquestioned devotion ... and blind obedience[25]" to the word of God in order to ameliorate un-Islamic conditions.

"Islamic terrorism" is itself a controversial phrase, although its usage is widespread throughout the English-speaking world. Ordinary Muslims who have nothing to do with terrorism find it reprehensible because it forces upon them a label simply because they, too, are believers of Islam. In fact, the common Muslim believes that you are making him a racial hate target by using the word 'Islam' with 'terrorism.' Bernard Lewisbelieves that the phrase "Islamic terrorism" is apt, because although "Islam, as a religion" is not "particularly conducive to terrorism or even tolerant of terrorism". In his own words:

"Islam has had an essentially political character ... from its very foundation ... to the present day. An intimate association between religion and politics, between power and cult, marks a principal distinction between Islam and other religions. ... In traditional Islam and therefore also in resurgent fundamentalist Islam, God is the sole source of sovereignty. God is the head of the state. The state is God's state. The army is God's army. The treasury is God's treasury, and the enemy, of course, is God's enemy."



The overwhelming problem in the world today, everyone knows, is terrorism, where people in the name of religion kill each other, kill others just to go to heaven, and thinking only they will go to heaven." .......

Introduction. The dynamics whereby religion becomes a motivator for terrorism is complex but highly understandable. What terrorists groups using this dynamic have begun to understand is that most ordinary citizens are not highly interested in politics nor dedicated to working for social change. Many ordinary citizens are however interested in religion as it relates to their personal lives and morals and because of this they can be emotionally manipulated when they learn of social injustices particularly if they view them through the lens of religious rhetoric. This is specifically true in today's world of instantaneous news coverage where it is possible to whip up political and religious outrage over events that are seen to be bordering on religious threshold. This is certainly true in the case of al Qaeda and its loosely affiliated groups within what is now commonly referred to as the global salafi jihadist movement[26].

Religious Brainwash. Following the Afghan war in which Islamic peoples from many nations came together to successfully throw out the Russian "infidel", Osama bin Laden and similar groups have successfully managed to continue to widen their global appeal by showcasing social injustices against Muslims. This helps to create within a wide group of otherwise less connected Muslim ethnic groups identification with the victims and with each other as a caring and responsive community for their "Muslim brothers." Typically, these groups make use of the human rights abuses occurring within the Israeli/Palestinian and Russian/Chechen conflicts and now also include the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The making of a Terrorist. While instantaneous and repetitive satellite coverage of worldwide events is enough to show injustices and to even create identification with victims sharing similar ethnic or religious backgrounds it is not sufficiently enough to fuel terrorism. However, with the addition of religious rhetoric it is transformed into a potent mix. This transformation is achieved via the following means:-

  1. Great Moral Wrong. First the event is presented as a great moral wrong, a threat to religious morality or purity and as one that must be corrected. The message, which is crafted for unhappy persons, social outcasts or those who are already suffering from religious guilt, is framed as one of good and evil and the listener is admonished to be on the side of good.
  2. Mind of God. The second tactic in which religion is used to motivate terrorism is convincing the person that it is possible to know the mind of God. For this purpose scriptures are used, and misused, to clearly identify the social wrongs as evil, immoral or impure. Once identified as threats to morality, this tactic is used to take it a step further with additional scriptures that are used to justify violence in order to destroy the evil. In this way religion is co-opted as the means to morally justify violence in the pursuit of social change. While the world debated about the first strike in the Iraq War (to be carried out by the U.S., Great Britain and their coalition forces), moralists all over the world debated about the doctrine of "just wars", thereby holding forth about the "mind of God" on these matters.
  3. Overcoming Guilt. Thirdly, because nearly all religions hold human life as sacred and forbid murder the scriptures are used to break down these prohibitions against taking innocent human lives. Islamic rhetoric for example refers to the infidels, nonbelievers, defiled, impure, outsiders, and sinners. In this manner the intended terrorist act in ways that take innocent human lives without suffering guilt for having done so.
  4. Common Cause Fourthly, by using religion as a motivator the terrorist group creates a sense of cohesion and belonging to a higher cause. They prey upon individuals who are alienated and disenfranchised. When these individuals find a cause to belong to, especially when it espouses religious rhetoric of brotherhood, love and hope for the future life they can become powerfully motivated to act in behalf of the group simply for the sense of identity.[27]
  5. Heroic Martyrdom. The One of the ultimate uses of religion to motivate terrorism is to hold forth a view of the afterlife, promising rewards in the hereafter for sacrificing oneself in the here and now. This is a particularly potent tactic used with those who feel guilty about their actions in this life and uncertain of their standing with God, and with those marginal members of society who suddenly find themselves centered in a group with a purpose. The Muslim interpretation of afterlife while dying for jihad states that the "Prophet will be waiting to welcome the martyr with thousands of virgins lined up for his pleasure". Referring to afterlife one martyr also states, "I will have God welcome me with open arms. I will be a true hero in the sky."[28]

Between the two recent wars in Chechnya (1994-96 and 1999) similar means were used to convince vulnerable Chechen individuals to sign on the "new Chechen jihad" which began making use of suicide terrorism in 2000. During this time period terrorist sponsored schools used were opened in the capital Grozny which recruited young boys and girls who lost their fathers in the Russian/Chechen conflicts promising their widowed mothers a good education for their sons and daughters. Unknown to their families these vulnerable young students were indoctrinated into militant Islamic ideas foreign to Chechen experiences of Sufi Islam and some became convinced that the price of belonging to higher glory is to be willing to sacrifice oneself for the group. In the words of a hostage who conversed with one of the Chechen terrorists :-

"He explained to me that while his greatest dream was to continue his education and go to university and that while he wished to live, even more important for him was to die a martyr. He had become totally convinced that martyrdom was his highest calling in life".[29]

Conclusion. Religion has always been used as a means of constructing social justice, expiating wrongdoing or "sins", and of modulating emotional states. These means however can also be used to manipulate vulnerable individuals into taking social actions that they might otherwise never have considered or consented to take part in. For instance a colleague in Chechnya reports that the children who attended terrorist based schools were taught to rock and chant repeating Koranic verses that invoke jihad, ideas that their masters consider important to instil. This practice can easily make use of inducing a suggestive hypnotic state; a light trance in which susceptible children who have already reason to want to avenge a murdered parent might be induced to do so. People interacting with such persons mentioned that "these young terrorists were "brainwashed", rocking, singing and praying often, and readily embracing death".[30]



Approximately fourteen hundred years ago, Prophet Muhammad, the last in the line of the prophets of Islam, received revelation from God known as the Qur'an, which is the Final Testament. He came with a message of peace and reconciliation, mercy and compassion. Yet, ever since the beginning of the call of Islam, its image and that of Muslims has been subject to distortion, misconceptions, and misinterpretations. This chapter aims at establishing the link between Quran and the distortions in its interpretation which has manifested itself in the form of jihad or the holy-war.

Quran and Sanction of Violence

The Quran permits violence as an act of defence waged to protect the Shariat in an Islamic community. The Shariat can be explained as a system of ordinances outlined in the Quran and Hadis[31] through which "God lays down for mankind the rules of conduct[32]". The Shariat is the "guidance for all walks of life - individual and social, material and moral, economic and political, legal and cultural, national and international[33]".

Muslims are advised to closely follow the Shariat to acquire the well being that God has envisioned for the Islamic community. Preservation of the Shariat is an "obligation of every able-bodied individual[34]". "Oppression, despotism, injustice and criminal abuse of power[35]" of the Shariat by Muslims or non-Muslims[36], must be punished.

Quran and Jihad

The Quran identifies three main kinds of Jihad that can be used for the punishment of oppression and injustice. These are: internal[37], external[38] and inter-communal[39]. The Quran permits the use of violence as an optional method for all three forms of Jihad but it limits the use of violence in 'internal[40]' and 'external' Jihad. It expands on its doctrine of Jihad and violence, mainly in the context of 'inter-communal' conflicts. In these cases, Muslims can individually determine the nature and extent of Jihad based on the 'freedom of interpretations', and the geopolitical conditions in which the conflict arises. However the most essential prerequisite in the Quran's discourse on violence is that, force should be used only when the Shariat has been violated and needs to be persevered as the "very work of God Himself'[41]".

In Inter communal Jihad, Martial Jihad[42] should be used to protect and to promote the integrity of Islam and to defend the umma [community] against hostile unbelievers whether they are invading armies or un-Islamic internal despots[43]". The use of forces in all other instances is "forbidden by God[44]". Once cause for violent Jihad has been established on the basis of geopolitical circumstances and religious understandings of the same, the Quran advises Muslims to:-

"Fight for the sake of God those that fight against you but do not attack them first. God does not love aggressors. Slay them wherever you find them[45]". It encourages violent Jihadis to muster "all the men and cavalry at your disposal... [and]...strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies[46]until God's religion[47] reigns supreme[48]". Jihadis should use violence to "ward of external aggression, maintain internal orde and establish absolute justice for all citizens[49]". Jihadis should "employ all means and media for the establishment of 'all that is right' and the elimination of 'all that is wrong'[50]". If they do so then they will "dwell amidst garden and fountains and shall receive what their Lord will give them...for they have done good works[51]".

Thus as seen above, through its affirmative discourse on the use of violence and its association with the Divine and martyrdom, the Quran encourages the popularity of violent Jihad as a legitimate tool for Muslims to overpower their adversaries. Through this association the Quran also projects the use of violence as a religious duty that demonstrates the utmost submission to God and deserves the highest rewards. This becomes more compelling because the Quran permits violence, in any instance where the Shariat has been violated.

A Muslim who foresees this violation as important is allowed by the Quran to adopt violent Jihad. The manner in which this process applies to each Muslim depends on individual interpretations of the Quran which extend themselves to the social realm as well. If adopted on the basis of individual will and sense of religious duty, then violent Jihad can be considered as an act of great patriotism in Islam. Conversely an act of violence that is not directed towards preserving the Shariat and the will of God is categorized as 'terrorism' in Islam. Such acts are a deviation from the path of God and the Quran states that "those that deny God's revelations shall be sternly punished; God is mighty and capable of revenge. Nothing on earth or in heaven is hidden from God[52]". The Quran is extremely categorical in outlining the premise and course for Islamic violence so that it can deter nonreligious violence from occurring.

Quran implies that Muslims can apply their Quranic understandings to geopolitical conditions and present religious premise for violent Jihad. Once this is done, the intent and act of violence meets Quranic requirements consequently making violent Jihad a legitimate religious reaction. Most often, acts categorized as 'terrorism' in the non-Muslim world represent religious rather than non-religious violence executed within the Quran's discourse on violence. This is because the non-Muslim world's categorization of violence is not related to the Quran. In the non-Muslim world, the use of legitimate violence is defined as a state-oriented concept which must find just cause in domestic or international precepts.[53] However, in the Islamic world the Quran itself determines political, economic and social perceptions.

Violence in Islamic nations almost always has an essential religious rather than a purely political bias. The Quran states that any Muslim can be a 'warrior of God' rather than the 'state' based on his religious interpretations. The extent to which violence can be used in Islam for this purpose remains unstipulated by the Quran. It simply states that Jihadis should engage all means required to ensure that the enemy is defeated or accepts defeat. Thus even though violent Jihad can create aggression that amounts to 'terrorism' in the non-Muslim world, in Islam this is not perceived as such as long as it occurs within the guidelines on the use of violence, stipulated in the Quran. Contrary perceptions of violent Jihad persist in the non-Muslim world mainly because of the divergent perspectives from which the use of violence is defined.

Bin-Laden and some other extremists in the Islamic world contend that the 11 September 2001 attacks were a reaction to the hegemonic status that the United States (US) has established in the Middle-East, especially after the Afghan-Soviet War. This had political and economic implications that often violate the Shariat on governance and trade. These Muslims oppose power-politics played by the US in countries such as Iraq, Iran and Libya. They contend that these politics mainly further US economic interests in the Middle-East. The Quran states that Islamic resources should be used mainly for Islamic benefits and can be exchanged with non-Muslims through negotiations and agreements. However, it strongly condemns unsolicited involvement of non-Muslims in Muslim affairs. Thus, some Muslims also emphasize US oil-trade in the Middle East from this perspective. They also condemn power hungry leaders in the Islamic world who facilitate such economics and politics and prevent the downward filtration effects of these engagements, as recommended by the Quran. Thus, Bin-Laden and these Muslims believe that, despite their intensity, the 11 September 2001 attacks were a legitimate Quranic reaction to preserve the sanctity of Islamic values in the Middle East.

Extreme interpretations of the Quran's discourse on violence would legitimize this belief. Contrarily, perceptions of state oriented violence and war in the non-Muslim world would reject it. However, it is important to remember that in Islam, extreme as they maybe, acts of violence are legitimized by the Quran, as long as they are enacted to reserve the Shariat and executed within its discourse on violence.

Role of Quranic Interpretations in Justifying and Integrating Terrorism

Even though the various terrorists groups intone various ideologies of the Islamic religion, there are no set universal agendas for these groups. In the contemporary world the goal for groups like Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Chechen rebels is "a nation of their own" with tactics reminiscent of the ethnic violence erupting after abandoned colonialism. On the other end of the spectrum are groups like Jemaah Islamiya (JI) and Al-Qaeda with its various offshoots, who indeed are looking to rearrange the global order, instigate the now-infamous clash of civilizations and create a Muslim caliphate that spans continents, all the while bringing the West to its knees. Their goals are vast and global. Somewhere in the middle of all this are groups at risk, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET) in Pakistan and the separatist movements in the Philippines and Thailand. These groups are primarily motivated by state-centric goals, but all rest on the cusp of pan-territorial and far more dangerous agendas. Terrorist groups can largely be conceived as having two working parts: an identity and an ideology. When it comes to Islamicterrorism, that identity is based in religion, but sometimes the ideology is based in nationalism, while at other times in a more transient, pan-territorial agenda. This difference is most stark between more traditional "ethno-terrorist" movements and the far more globally oriented groups like Al-Qaeda[54].

Since nationalist movements are focused on creating a state or political freedoms for one group, their strategies are focused on the nation-state from which they hope to gain concessions. Their violence is directed at those inside the state. Whether or not Islam provides the identity, their goals are not apocalyptic. In contrast,religiousterrorist groups like Al-Qaeda engage in almost no domestic targeting. Their goals cross continents. They want to destroy corrupt regimes in the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, purge the Western presence in their lands and change the global power order[55].

After having seen how the terrorists interpret the Quran in justifying their actions, we can surmise that the popularity of this kind of radical reaction in the Muslim world can be explained as areligiouscounter reaction to the rapid progress of modernization, which has often included a move away from traditionalreligiousbeliefs in societies. In some parts of the less-developed world, fundamentalists are counterattacking against the perceived threats to their societies posed by secularism and modernity, and some are blaming their societies' failures on the "godless West." Political Islam calls for a renewal of Islamic values in the personal and public life of Muslims. Its manifestations include strictreligiousobservances, the rapid growth ofreligiouspublications and readings from the Koran on radio and in television programming, and demands for the implementation of Islamic law. Political Islam often includes growing numbers of Islamic schools, organizations, and activist movements and expressions of resentment against the Western world for exporting a secular "Coca-Cola" culture to the Islamic world[56]. Throughout the Arab world, Muslim militants and terrorists are often recruited from the legions of unemployed and dispirited young men in both urban and rural settings in seriously underdeveloped countries. In many nations in the Middle East, there is never a shortage of those who are willing to find attractive the idea of launching a holy war against the enemy.



"With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things - that takes religion."

Nobel Prize winner Steven Weinberg

At first glance, the link between religious extremism and terrorism seems obvious. Religious extremists are willing to murder because they embrace theologies that sanction violence in the service of God. They have no sympathy for their victims, because they view those victims as enemies of God. And they readily sacrifice their own lives because they expect huge and immediate afterlife rewards in return for "martyrdom."

But upon closer examination, theological explanations raise more questions than they answer. If theology is so important, why are most terrorist organizations not religious? And if after life rewards is the key, then why has a nonreligious group - the LTTE "Tamil Tigers" - been responsible for more suicide attacks than any other organization? Why is suicide bombing associated with all sorts of theologies but just one style of religious organization (best described as "sectarian")? And why do most militant sects devote much of their energy to benign and noble activities, such as running schools, health clinics, and social services agencies?

Blaming the texts themselves is useless as long as they are held sacred by large groups of people. It is wiser to look for the reasons the texts are used and the reasons that they appeal to wide segments of society as well as to individuals who join in support of terrorism.

However as long as real injustices exists that terrorist groups can use to ignite religious passion for their cause we are in danger of battling terrorists rather than addressing root causes. Unless we begin to understand and address the concerns of the new religious terrorist, we will find the consequences of our inaction like the numb shock of 9-11, simply overwhelming.

The presence of charismatic ideological leaders able to transform widespread grievances and frustrations into a political agenda for violent struggle is a decisive factor behind the emergence of a terrorist movement

Terrorists very frequently claim religious mission as their "holy" motivation. The most common teaching referred to legitimate terrorism and violence is jihad. In the Quran, the word jihad is mentioned more than 30 times. It is an important teaching of Islam and one of indicators for the quality and degree of faith. In this sense, there are possible relationships between religion, radicalism and terrorism.

The radicals argue that Islam and Muslims are under threat. Munkarat (evildoers) are everywhere. It is the time for Muslims to wage a war against enemies of Islam. For them, the West is evil that cause all damages for Islam. Whereas the moderates believe that Islam is not the only religion of God. They view religions other than Islam such as Christian and Jewish are equally true. This does mean however that the moderates believe in syncretism. They believe in Islam but they also believe that there are shared- truth among religions. Due to this, the moderates are mostly tolerance to other religions or faiths. The moderates have a contextual or progressive understanding of Islam and very positive toward modernity. For them violence is strictly permitted in a very measurable manner and they view that Islam is not under threat.

There are challenges that Islam has to deal with. But, these challenges are not exclusively caused by the West. To some extents, they might be deep rooted from Muslims themselves.

In brief, terrorism has no direct relations with Islam as a religion. Terrorism is driven by Muslims understanding of Islam and their perception of the West and modernity in the global contexts. It is this understanding and perception that determine the extent of terrorism.

Terrorism is not exclusively related to Muslims and the Muslim world. While terrorism is more visually pronounced among the Muslims, it is also evident among followers of other faiths, including Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Religious "radicalism" or "fundamentalism" is by no means limited to Muslims. Across history, terrorism in form of killings, kidnappings, suicide bombings and other kind of violence are performed by adherents of religions other than Islam such as Hindu, Buddha, Christian, Jewish and so on.

It is true that the deadliest terrorist strikes to date, the September 11 attacks (2001), was said to be done by suicide terrorist associated with al-Qaeda, and other striking terrorist strikes were said to be also carried out by Muslims, but this should not hide the fact that this phenomenon is not only related to the Muslim world.

Terrorism, therefore, might be a universal phenomenon. It develops not only within specific religious groups but also non-religious groups as well. Terrorism is carried out as a means of political war or bargaining to gain an independent or political autonomy. In line with this, radicalism also develops as a form of solidarity of the oppressed. For example, the invasion of US allies troops to Iraq, trigger not only a global demonstration among Muslim across the globe but also among non-Muslim people who are against USA. Anti-Americanism is on the increases in many part of the world, especially among Muslims. USA and West government policies that hardly condemn Israel are indicators of their back up to the Zionism, a religious movement against by majority Muslims.

Economic insecurity might also relate to radicalism and terrorism. A widening economic gap between the developed and developing countries is a fertile ground of terrorism. There is perception prolongation of poverty in developing countries is caused by so-called neo-colonialism. Hegemony of rich countries to dictate and somehow exploit natural resources of the developing countries also creates economic radicalism.

In the future, therefore, radicalism and terrorism remain a challenge. If countries unable to create a more secure and safer world, radicalism tends to increase and brought about unpredictable terrorism. In this sense, it is important to rethink the use of military power to fight against terrorism. The use of military forces might be effective to reduce terrorism from its external factors and for temporary time. It might be valuable if fighting against terrorism more emphasize on soft power through cultural ways: developing pluralism and multiculturalism, inculcating the culture of democracy and creating a more just economy. This cultural way could also be strengthened by empowering and facilitating the moderates through education, economic advocate, leadership exchanges and regional or international networking.

It also emerges in the present world order that religious diversity seems to discourage terrorism, while ethnic fractionalisation appears to raises domestic terrorism. On the other hand, poverty or lack of education does not seem to be directly linked to its incidence.

The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religion or a clash of civilisations, it is a clash between two oppositions, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the middle ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilisation and backwardness, between the civilised and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality. It is a clash between freedom and oppression, between democracy and dictatorship. It is a clash between human rights on one hand and the violation of these rights on the other hand.


  1. Tribal Guerillas: The Santals of West Bengal and the Naxalite Movement by Edward Duyker, Published by R. Dayal, Oxford University Press.
  2. The Naxalites and their Ideology by Rabindra Ray, Published by R. Dayal, Oxford University Press.
  3. Revolutionary Violence: A study of the Maoist Movement in India by Manoranjan Mohanty.
  4. Articles in Liberation: A Few Words to the Revolutionary Students and Youth, by Charu Mazumdar, March 1970.
  5. All India Congress Committee (Opposition). Election 1971.Life and property in Danger: Save It Now or Never.
  6. Naxal Violence: A Socio-Political Study by Sachchidanand Pandey, Published by Chanakya Publications, Delhi.
  7. The Naxalite Movement: A Maoist Expremient by Sankar Ghosh, Published by Firma K.L. Mukhopadhyay Calcutta.
  8. Terrorism - The Untold Story by P.M.Das, Abhishek, Publications Chandigarh 2002.
  9. Terrorism and Guerilla Warfare by Richard Clutterbuck, Published by Routledge London and New York 1990.
  10. Protest in Democratic India Authority's Response to Challenge by Leslie J.Calman.
  11. Counter Terrorism for Emergency Responders by Robert Burke, Published by Lewis Publishers 2001.
  12. Terrorism in India by Shaileshwar Nath, National Publishing House.
  13. Research Papers &Lectures At DSSC
  14. Joint Research project at DSSC in 2006.
  15. Lecture By Brig DN Asija ,DDG,MI DTE, on 19 Sep 2007.
  16. World Wide Web
  21. Annual Report 2006 - 2007
  22. Annual Report 2007- 2008.
  29. http://
  1. <>
  2. Justin A Rosenthel. Jigsaw jihadism. National Interest Jan-Feb 2007. <>
  3. Bob Woodward., In Hijacker's bag, a call to planning, prayer and death. The Washington Post September 28,2001.<>
  4. Shmuel Bar.The religious source of Islamic terrorism. Policy Review, June 2004. Shamuel Bar is the senior research fellow at the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Centre Herzliya in Israel and a veteran of the Israeli intelligence community. <>
  5. Ibid
  6. Mark Juergensmeeyer. Does Religion Cause Terrorism? National Policy Forum on terrorism, Security and America's Purpose-Washington DC, September 6-7 2005. Mark Juergensmeeyer is a professor of sociology and religious studies and director of the Orfalea Center of Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is author or editor of twenty books, including Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. <>
  7. Terrorism Research. History of Terroris. Terrorism-Research<> (20 Nov 2009)
  8. The Treaty of Westphalia ended the 30 year war.
  9. John Shattuck.Religion, Rights, and Terrorism. Harvard Human Rights Journal. <>
  10. Professor Robert Adams. The Changing Face of Terrorism. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).<>. (Dec 5 2009)
  11. Biggo, Nancy C. The Rationality of the use of Terrorism by Secular and Religious Groups,, p. 18.
  12. Speech given by Tony Blair to UN General Assembly on September 21, 1998 Britain and the Fight against International Terrorism, An FCO Network Feature,, p. 2.
  13. Criteria to Declare a country and organization as terrorist ,Unstarred Question, No 1982, Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs.
  14. Security Council Foreign Ministers Discuss Counter-terrorism, US Department of State, International Information Programs,
  15. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, p. 1.
  16. Britain and the Fight against International Terrorism, p.1
  17. Schwartz Stephen, "The Two Faces of Islam - The House of Sa'ud from Tradition to Terror", Doubleday - Random House, New York 2002, p. 250.
  18. Kimball Charles, "When Religion Becomes Evil", Harper San Francisco, New York 2003, p. 46
  19. Kimball Charles, "When Religion Becomes Evil, p. 41.
  20. Kimball Charles, "When Religion Becomes Evil, p. 32.
  21. Kimball Charles, "When Religion Becomes Evil, p. 70.
  22. The author of the article "The Rationality of the use of Terrorism by Secular and Religious Groups"
  23. Ruf Werner, "Islam and the West- Judgments, Prejudices, Political Perspectives", Verlag GmbH&Co.Kg, Munster:2002, p. 21.
  24. Kimball Charles, "When Religion Becomes Evil, p. 127.
  25. Kimball Charles, "When Religion Becomes Evil, p. 72.
  26. For an excellent discussion and definition of the global Salafi jihad see Marc Sageman, Understanding Terror Networks University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004
  27. See Post, Jerrold, Sprinzak, Ehud and Denny, Laurita (2003) The terrorists in Their Own Words: Interviews with 35 Incarcerated Middle Eastern Terrorists. Terrorism and Political Violence, volume 15, number 1, pp. 171-184.
  28. Speckhard, Anne Unpublished Belgian interviews Spring and Fall 2005.
  29. For a further discussion of how Chechen terrorists take on the religious terrorist ideology see Anne Speckhard & Khapta Ahkmedova (2006) The Making of a Martyr: Chechen Suicide Terrorism, Journal of Studies in Conflict and Terrorism Volume 29, Issue 5;
  30. Speckhard, Anne & Ahkmedova, Khapta (2006) The New Chechen Jihad, Security and Democracy, Spring;. Speckhard, Anne & Akhmedova, Khapta (2006) "Black Widows: The Chechen Female Suicide Terrorists, in Yoram Schweitzer ed. Female Suicide Terrorists Jaffe Center Publication, Tel Aviv, Israel;
  31. Speckhard, A., Tarabrina, N; Krasnov, V. & Mufel, N (2005). "Stockholm Effects and Psychological Responses to Captivity in Hostages Held by Suicidal Terrorists" Traumatology: Vol. 11, Issue 2.
  32. Speckhard, A.,Tarabrina, N. Krasnov, V. & Mufel. N. Posttraumatic and Acute Stress Responses in Hostages Held by Suicidal Terrorists in the Takeover of a Moscow Theater Traumatology, Vol. 11, Issue 1 2005.;
  33. Speckhard, A. & Ahkmedova, K. Mechanisms of Generating Suicide Terrorism: Trauma and Bereavement as Psychological Vulnerabilities in Human Security - The Chechen Case, in Jill Donnelly Ed. NATO Science Series, 2005.;
  34. Speckhard, A Soldiers for God: A Study of the Suicide Terrorists in the Moscow Hostage Taking Siege "The Roots of Terrorism: Contemporary Trends and Traditional Analysis" Edited by Oliver McTernan, NATO Science Series, Brussels, 2004.
  35. Ibid, also Speckhard, Anne unpublished Beslan interviews August 2005.
  36. The Hadis (or Hadith) is the collection of biographic reports about the sayings, customs and doings of Mohammed and his companions; they also reflect on what Mohammed enjoined and tolerated in his presence or forbade.(
  37. Translated by N.J. Dawood, "The Koran", Penguin Group, England 1999, p. 357 (47:3).
  38. Ahmad Khurshid, "Islam ~ its meaning and message", The Islamic Foundation, Leicester: 1975, p. 37.
  39. Lewis Bernard, "The Crisis of Islam- Holy War and Unholy Terror", p. 31.
  40. Sadar Ziauddin, "Islam, Postmodernism and other Futures", Pluto Press, Virginia 2003, p. 64.
  41. The refers to people who do not follow Islam and to those societies, states or communities in which the dominant population is not Muslim.
  42. Internal Jihad is that which is declared by a Muslim on himself to improve his adherence to the Quranic revelations.
  43. External Jihad declared by an individual against the Islamic community to attain Quranic justice.
  44. Inter-communal Jihad that declared between communities to attain Quranic objectives.
  45. Violence is more rarely advocated in the case of internal as compared to external Jihad.
  46. Taher Mohamed, "Encyclopedic Survey of Islamic Culture- Vol. 11", Anmol Publications Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi 1997, p. 25.
  47. Refers to a method of Jihad which can be used for internal, external or inter-communal purposes
  48. Husain Mir Zohar, "Global Islamic Politics", Harper Collins College Publishers, New York 1995, p. 37-38.
  49. "The Koran", p. 107 (6:151).
  50. "The Koran", p. 29, (2.912 and 2.913).
  51. Mohammad Nazar, "Commandments by God in the Quran", The Message Publications, New York 1991, p. 733 (8:25).
  52. According to the Quran, Islam is God's true and only religion.
  53. "The Koran", p. 29, (2.912 and 2.913).
  54. Choudhry Goulam W, "Pakistan - Transition from Civilian to Military Rule", Scorpion Publishing, Essex 1998, p. 92.
  55. Choudhry Goulam W, "Pakistan - Transition from Civilian to Military Rule", p. 93.
  56. "The Koran", p. 367 (51:17).
  57. "The Koran", p.43, (3:5).
  58. Walzer, Micheal. Just and Unjust Wars. Basic Books - Perseus Books Group, New York: 2000.
  59. Justice A Rosenthal, " Jigsaw Jihadism", The National Interest, 01 Jan 2007.
  60. Justice A Rosenthal, Op Cit.
  61. Robert. M. Jenkins, The Islamic connection, Religious Fundamentalism and Terrorism.

Request Removal

If you are the real writer of this essay and no longer want to have the essay published on the our website then please click on the link below to send us request removal:

Request the removal of this essay
Get in Touch With us

Get in touch with our dedicated team to discuss about your requirements in detail. We are here to help you our best in any way. If you are unsure about what you exactly need, please complete the short enquiry form below and we will get back to you with quote as soon as possible.