The Roots and Origins of Islamic Terrorism

Topics: Terrorism, Islam, Al-Qaeda Pages: 10 (3350 words) Published: January 21, 2013
Since the 1970s terrorism against the US has been growing and on September 11th it became apparent that terrorism will be a major problem the US will face in the years ahead. The question this essay seeks to explore is: what is terrorism and what are some the causes of this anti-US terrorism? In order to find the causes of anti-US terrorism, this essay will research various academic works in an effort to find some explanations of what causes anti-US terrorism. I will examine a couple different hypothesis that try to explain the causes of terrorism, but my research I plan to argue that anti-US terrorism is rooted in political and social movements by angry Islamic fundamentalists who believe using non-conventional tactics are the most rational way to fight the US and the western powers. Terrorist groups, such as Al-Qaeda, do not see diplomacy with the US as an option to voice their demands because they see the US as a superpower that is unwilling to listen to their demands and also because most of the Arab governments are friends with the US. Because diplomacy is not an available option and there is an inability to formally fight the west militarily, terrorists groups have chosen to use non-traditional tactics to fight the west. Research into this issue is very important for political research because terrorism has become a major security issue for the US and other countries around the world. Also, research into the causes of terrorism is important because it is a tactic that non-state actors can and will be using the years ahead as a form of leverage against the US and the West. In my conclusion I will present some possible solutions how terrorism can hopefully be stopped in the future. Defining terrorism as one definite thing is not an easy task, but generally terrorism is considered to be non-conventional form of warfare that individuals or groups can use to fight for their agenda, whether it is a political, social, religious and/or economic cause. Terrorists use many non-conventional ways of fighting such as car bombs, keeping people hostage, and in some cases hijacking air planes. As a ‘weapon of the weak’, terrorism is deployed by groups to gain media attention and visibility as the first step in gaining ‘name recognition’ within the international community. (Nacos 1994). Through the publicity generated by their violence, terrorists seek to obtain the leverage, influence and power they otherwise lack to create political change on either a local or an international scale. The traditional laws of war do not apply to terrorism, partly because terrorist groups do not abide to treaties on war, and also because terrorist groups use fear as their form of leverage, which is why it is okay for them to kill innocent people. In cases of groups such as Al-Qaeda killing innocent people is not considered a bad thing because to them there is a religious justification. Power has always played a crucial role in the international system and based on this principle we can believe that the struggle for power has a major influence on the decision of terrorist groups to commit acts of terrorism. (Sobeck & Braithwaite 2005) In a study by David Sobek and Alex Braithwaite the two researchers hypothesize that as political, military, and diplomatic capabilities become concentrated into American and allied hands, the amount of terrorism directed against America's interests will increase as a way to counter balance this power. Because terrorists are non-state actors they do not have access to conventional forms of fighting or the diplomatic channels that states use to resolve their disputes, they must use non-conventional forms of fighting. The choice to employ terrorist activities arises rationally from the environmental context within which these groups find themselves in, in that terrorism is the most cost-effective way for the terrorists to accomplish their goals. (Ajami 2001) The United States’ predominant position in the...
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