Is Motivation for Terrorism Primarily Due to Identity or Economic Grievances?

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Name: Zachary Pearlstein
Student Number: 250569821
TA: Andy Chatter
Essay Question: Is terrorist political violence primarily due to identity (culture, ethnicity, religion, etc.) or economic (poverty, unemployment, etc.) grievances?

There are two main motivations, which cause a person or group to perform a political terrorist action. These people are motivated to perform these actions because their identity or culture is different than their opponents, or they have economic grievances such as poverty or unemployment, which they want to resolve. Certainly, some terrorists are uneducated, live in countries with corrupt governments and learn from a young age that violence and terrorism are an acceptable way of life. In some cases this is true, but in more cases than not, it is culture, which is the main motivation for some forms of terrorism. Some terrorist groups perform and defend their actions as religious actions where they see violence as sacramental acts. Although local poverty and government corruption provide additional reasons for this group of terrorists to perform their acts, this essay argues that identity, religion, and culture are the main basis for their actions. Al-Qaeda is one of the most well known terrorist groups in the world and was responsible for the terrorist attacks on September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. A fatwa is a legal opinion issued by a Muslim scholar and one had a passage, which was issued in turn by 5 leaders of Al-Qaeda that stated that group’s position on God and terrorism. (Hellmich, 45.) In this passage, it states that, “Every Muslim who believes in God and hopes for reward to obey God’s command to kill the Americans and to plunder their possessions wherever he finds them and wherever he can.” (Hellmich, 45.) This passage shows how a powerful individual or group of individuals within the Muslim community is trying to influence some of their more fanatical brethren by proving them with religious reasons to perform terrorist attacks. Al-Qaeda was started by one of the most wanted men in the world today, Osama Bin Laden. Bin Laden in the past had sent tapes or videos to the United States which described either his plans for the future or his opinion on his or his group’s recent actions. In a tape sent by his terrorist group in 2009, Bin Laden, whose face was covered in the video, expressed the reasoning for the September 11th attacks was due to the American support for Israel. (Gedalyahu, Tzvi B. "Al-Qaeda Blames 9/11 on US Support for Israel.") According to the Fatwa, not only was it the support for Israel, which caused the terrorist attacks against the United States, but also the Americans were occupying holy Islamic land, and therefore were making, “a clear declaration of war on God, his messengers, and Muslims.” (Lehrer, Jim. "Al Qaeda's Fatwa."). Not only does Al-Qaeda in this instance say that the entire United States is making a clear war on God, it explains that it is an individual duty for every Muslim who believes in God, and wishes to be rewarded from his God, that he must kill any American and “comply with God’s order.” As a terrorist organization, Al-Qaeda clearly uses God not only as its basis for its attacks, but uses God as a motivation to corrupt more people in their society to attack Americans. Although this is but one example of terrorism, this outlines the motivations and reasoning for why some radical Muslims would want to perform harmful terrorist actions towards innocent people. Al-Qaeda is a very good example of how religion influences people to perform terrorist activities against other people. Although religion is a main aspect of motivation for terrorism, it is not the only factor in terms of identity, which causes one group of people to attack another group. Culture and ethnicity is an equally large part of identity motivation as is religion. If one group of people who feel that they are being invaded or occupied by another diverse group of...
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