Religion and Terrorism

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Terrorism has long plagued the existence of peace and security in society, where secular groups have resorted to violence against non-combatant targets in order to influence the policies of a governmental or nongovernmental organisation. The concept of terrorism, whilst elusive and vague in definition has been categorised into various forms of terrorism, these being dissident, state-sponsored, and religious terrorism to name a few. This paper will argue that the most dangerous form of terrorism is religious terrorism. To deliver an effective argument this paper has been divided into three sections; the first will argue that the most dangerous form of terrorism is religious terrorism by examining what it is, how it is dangerous, and why it is more dangerous than other forms of terrorism. Secondly, this paper will argue that the most dangerous proponent of religious terrorism is the organisation of the Taliban, to support this claim; an analysis of the group will be given, including background information, information on the Taliban’s policies and recent activities, and the threat this groups poses on the international community. Lastly, this paper will analyse and critique the current governmental policies combating terrorism, and will then provide policy recommendations which could be implemented by governments, militaries or NGO’s. The justification for this paper is simply that the validation of religious terrorism as the most dangerous form of terrorism will allow for effective international coordination towards combating terrorism. Various parameters of study were encountered in the process of this paper as there is much contention on which is the most dangerous form of terrorism, which gave way to biased opinions and misleading quotations regarding factual information on various organisations implementing terrorist tactics, namely the Taliban. Although the concept of terrorism has no definition which is universally agreed upon, the notion of religious terrorism has been defined by Bruce Hoffman (1999), where religious terrorism must have three factors; “the perpetrators must use religious scripture to justify their violent acts or gains recruits; clerical figures must be involved in leadership roles; and apocalyptic images of destruction are seen by the perpetrators as necessary”. Religious terrorism has arguably been an ongoing occurrence in contentious religious areas for centuries, where religious groups have resorted to violence against non-combatants in order to combat real or perceived threats to their own ideology (Alexander, 1994). Debate on the original terrorist aside, terrorism is quite a modern concept stemming from the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror prompted by Maxmilien Robespierre who targeted the “enemies of liberty” indiscriminately in the ideology of the “greater good” (Cooper, 2004). Religious terrorism is thought to be caused by the misinterpretation (or fundamentalist belief) of religious scripture, however the belief in religious scripture is not the problem; it is only when these fundamentalist individuals act on their beliefs through violent means and justify their actions using religious scripture that we encounter the potential threat of terrorist tactics (Mendelsohn, 2009). Furthermore, this fundamentalist behaviour is only worsened when a threat to the religious ideology is perceived (Mendelsohn, 2009). Religious terrorism is reasonably widespread throughout the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, predictably this may be due to the religious zeal in these regions (Alexander, 1994). A United Nations report (August, 2010) showed that 76% of all casualties (in the first six months) in Afghanistan and Pakistan were attributed to the actions of the Taliban and their associate organisations, showing the danger associated with religious terrorism. Although religious terrorism has “become the predominant model for political violence in the modern world” (Martin, p 171, 2010) it is still...
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