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Terror and Religious Belief System

Terror attacks such as the bombing of Oklahoma City, the Sarin Nerve Gas Attack on the Tokyo Subway system and the use of suicide bombers by both Islamic and Jewish Terrorist groups provide clear indications that contemporary fourth wave terrorists justify their use of violence through the theological and moral teachings taken from their chosen religious belief system. This paper discusses the latter statement with cross-reference to the Islamic Jihadist movement.

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Diversity among religions is a dominant belief among Muslims across the globe. As a matter of fact, the origin of Islam is remarkably embedded in the teachings of both Christianity and Judaism (Dingley & Kirk-Smith 2002, p.110). Hence, the common faith heritage has made Islam display a lot of respect for the aforementioned religions. Moreover, it is fundamental teaching among Muslims for people to be moral because it is the desire of the creator. The Quran asserts “those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians…any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord” (2:62) [Ali, 1997:33-34]. Although Islam has been associated with the rising cases of terrorism, any deviation from Islamic teachings and belief systems is considered to be utterly wrong and can be grossly punishable (Pape 2005, p.63).

Peace and reconciliation are given top priority in the Quran especially in regards to seeking peaceful co-existence between Muslims and other religions. On the same note, both enemies and opponents of Islam should be accorded the much-needed respect. In other words, offensive war is strictly prohibited by the Quran. Therefore, Islamic faithful who initiate aggression against other groups is clearly on the wrong path.

Nonetheless, various interpretations of the Quran by individual Muslims may have given rise to the emergence of Islamic fundamentalism and consequent fourth-wave acts of terror across the globe. The Islamic religion has been linked to key terror incidents both in the past and present. For instance, the September 11 twin terror attack of the United States targeted ‘those who had offended the Islamic world”. Quran notes “those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged” (22:39). “O Prophet! Strive hard against the unbelievers and hypocrites and be firm against them” (66:9). From these assertions, it is evident that Islamic Jihadist is highly propagated by the teachings of the Quran. It is vital to mention that jihad is a holy war in Islam that is considered to be genuine. As a result, individual Muslim adherents who die in the course of jihad are treated as martyrs in Allah’s (God’s) presence. Besides, it is the duty of all Muslim faithful to protect the religion from enemies or opponents who may be willing to distort the essence and teachings of Islam. Those who are slain for the sake of Allah are not considered to be dead. In fact, they are alive because they are sustained by the power of God.

The term Jihad has been extensively used by the media and most western governments for a considerably long time. For instance, the September 11 terror attack in the US was associated with Islamic Jihad. This was the same case during Iran’s Islamic revolution in the 1970s that led to the emergence of the Islamic republic that was put in place under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini. All these past violent terror attacks were masterminded by Islamic jihadists who were keen on restoring the pride and faith of Islam as documented in the Quran.

Jihad has also been described as an intense striving, total endeavoring or an effort aimed at safeguarding the teachings of Mohammed who was the last and most influential prophet sent by Allah. The latter definition of jihad is common among Islamic jurists. As a matter of fact, the fourth-wave Islamic jihadist movement has been given top priority, and that is why it has been classified into four main categories. The four classifications of jihad include the passionate endeavor by the sword, the hand, the tongue and the heart (Cromartie 2005, p.153).

The mention of the word “sword” in the above categories indeed elicits some negative reactions. It implies that jihad can be fought by all the available artificial and physical means. The sword implies the use of all forms of weapons to fight the genuine war against opponents and enemies of Islam. Hence, what is known to the rest of the world as terrorism remains to be a holy war (jihad) among strict adherents of Islam.

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The innate moral and spiritual tussle is represented by the effort of the heart. This struggle is meant to accomplish victory instead of being ego-centric. The tongue is meant to deliver Islamic teachings that address issues of morality and overall good conduct. On the other hand, the hand is meant to act as the lead towards advancing ideals of Islam as documented in the Quran. Hence, Muslims should be front runners in defending Islamic ideals. Finally, the armed conflict with a bid to defend the Islamic faith is symbolized by the passion of the sword. This last effort as stipulated in the jihadis also meant to protect Islamic believers whose freedoms have been shortchanged (Hoffman 1997, p.5). The Islamic community who are oppressed should be protected by the effort of the sword.

The effort of the sword has equally been subdivided further in order to underscore the significance of jihad. For example, the sword should be directed against the enemies of Allah. The frontiers should also be defended using the sword in order to safeguard the interests of Islam. In addition, secessionists and apostates should be attacked with the sword whenever it was deemed to be necessary. On the same note, groups or individuals who interfere with the security of the public should be faced off with the effort of the sword. Finally, monotheists are also opponents of Islam especially when they decline to remit capitation tax. Hence, the latter group should also be tamed with the sword. Although all the categories mentioned above are applicable in jihad, the intensity of damage and violence meted on the property and individuals should be as minimal as possible. However, it is vital to mention that such a condition does not rule out sporadic acts of aggression and terrorism (Juergensmeyer 2005, p.32).

The September 11 attacks were largely blamed on Osama Bin laden as the key personality who masterminded the terror attack. In the same breath, a certain terror group in Saudi Arabia was also pointed out as a key player in the bombing of the twin towers. In any case, Osama Bin Laden was alleged to be the financier of the attack. The Wahhabiya (Ahl-al-tawhid) movement of Saudi Arabia was the actual perpetrator of the terror attack.

It is vital to mention that foreign terrorists were believed to be the key insurgents in the 9/11 attacks. The same terrorists were also attached to the Islamic fundamentalism of Jihad. The Jihadist movement was accused of having launched the 2003 terror attacks against U.S occupation although there were mixed reactions on the actual financiers of the attack and that was why the entire Arab world was labeled as key perpetrators and supports of terrorism.

The lessons derived from the belief systems of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab gave rise to the Arabic movement mentioned above (Nardin 2001, p.683). The teachings were extremely inspirational since they agitated for massive attacks against all opponents of Islam across the globe. This personality also argued out that the earliest teachings of Islam were the best in fighting for the rights of Muslims. Therefore, it was necessary for the Islamic world to go back and start embracing the Islamic faith as was originally documented in the Quran. Although some of his teachings were not well received across the Muslim community as a whole, he had significant support among some sections of the Islamic supporters. Later on, the teachings were adopted and embraced by Muslims. It consequently led to extreme acts of aggression and fundamentalism that have spurred terrorism in the contemporary world.

From the above analysis, it is definite that Islam may not be necessarily a religion pursuing peace mainly because of the jihadist attributes of the Islamic faith and teachings (Arquilla et al. 1999, p. 65). Nonetheless, there are several organizations attached to Islam as well as individual Muslims who assert that jihad is supposed to correct a human error that is prevalent in society. Hence, jihad is aimed at enhancing peace and mutual co-existence of people across the world. The impact of the jihad movement has been mapped out as acts of terrorism that are enshrined in religious beliefs.


Arquilla, J et al 1999, Countering the New Terrorism, CA, RAND, Santa Monica.

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Cromartie, M 2005, Religion, Culture, And International Conflict: A Conversation, Rowman & Littlefield, New York.

Dingley, J & Kirk-Smith, M 2002, “Symbolism and Sacrifice in Terrorism”. Small Wars & Insurgencies vol. 13 no. 1, pp. 102–128.

Hoffman, B 1997, “The Confluence of International and Domestic Trends in Terrorism”. Terrorism and Political Violence vol. 9 no. 2, pp. 1–15.

Juergensmeyer, M 2004, Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence, University of California Press, New York.

Nardin, T 2001, “Review: Terror in the Mind of God”. The Journal of Politics vol. 63 no. 2, pp. 683–684.

Pape, RA 2005, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, Random House, New York City.

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