Defining and Distinguishing Secular and Religious Terrorism

Defining and Distinguishing Secular and Religious Terrorism

by Heather S. Gregg



Religious terrorism is typically characterised as acts of unrestrained, irrational and indiscriminant violence, thus offering few if any policy options for counterterrorism measures. This assumption about religious terrorism stems from two challenges in the literature: disproportionate attention to apocalyptic terrorism, and a lack of distinction between religious terrorism and its secular counterpart. This article, therefore, aims to do four things: define and differentiate religiously motivated terrorism from traditional terrorism; investigate three goals of religious terrorism (fomenting the apocalypse, creating a religious government, and establishing a religiously pure state); consider the role of leadership and target selection of religious terrorists; and, finally, suggest a range of counterterrorism strategies based on these observations.

Keywords: Religion, apocalyptic, counterterrorism



A conventional wisdom has emerged that the current wave of religiously motivated terrorism propagates acts of unrestrained, indiscriminant violence, and that it is irrational, thus offering few, if any, policy options for counterterrorism measures. Jean-Francois Mayer asserts, for example: “When religious beliefs are used for justifying violence, violent actions tend to become endowed with cosmic dimensions, and there is nothing left to restrain them.”[1] Similarly, Bruce Hoffman argues: “For the religious terrorist, violence first and foremost is a sacramental act or divine duty executed in direct response to some theological demand or imperative. Terrorism assumes a transcendental dimension, and its perpetrators are thereby unconstrained by the political, moral, or practical constraints that seem to affect other terrorists.”[2]

These assertions about religion’s role in terrorism stem from two challenges in the literature. First, scholarship on religious terrorism tends to focus on one particular motivation—apocalyptic, millennial, or messianic terrorism, in which groups use violence to hasten the end of times and usher in an anticipated new world. Religious terrorists, however, have other goals, some of which are earthly in their aims; these goals are often categorised as political, not religious.[3] Second, religious terrorism has not been clearly distinguished from its traditional more secular counterpart with a definition of what makes it unique from other forms of terrorism, if it is unique at all.

In order to better understand religiously motivated terrorism, this article will do four things. First it aims to define and differentiate religiously motivated terrorism from traditional terrorism, including leftist groups, right wing groups, and ethnic-separatist terrorists. Second, it will provide a range of goals for religious groups and how terrorism serves these goals. In particular, the article investigates three objectives: fomenting the apocalypse, creating a religious government, and establishing a religiously pure state. Third, within these goals, the article will consider the role of leadership and target selection of religious terrorists for their uniqueness and commonality with traditional terrorism. Finally, the article concludes by offering suggestions for mitigating religiously motivated terrorism.

Defining Traditional and Religious Terrorism

Before distinguishing traditional and religious terrorism from one another, terrorism needs to be defined in its own right. There is little consensus on the definition of terrorism, both within academic and policy circles.[4] Walter Laqueur argues that this lack of consensus is largely due to the fact that there is not one type of terrorism and that terrorism, as a tactic, is constantly changing its means, motives and actors.[5] Drawing primarily from Bruce Hoffman, this article defines the tactic of terrorism as a) the use or threat of violence; b) the targeting of civilians, property, or government; c) the intent of creating fear aimed at altering the status quo; and d) a group activity.[6]

This definition stresses that terrorism, first and foremost, is a tactic. As such, non-state and state actors can employ terrorist tactics. This article, however, will focus specifically on non-state actors. Second, this definition stresses the corporate nature of terrorists and their tactical use of violence with the goal of changing the existing political, social, military, or religious order. To be sure, individuals or “lone wolves” can employ terrorist tactics to achieve similar goals, but this article will concentrate on groups that use terrorism to achieve a stated goal. Finally, this definition is particularly useful for exploring religiously motivated terrorism because it considers goals that may not be strictly political, such as changing the social and religious order of a state or region. As will be described, religious groups that use terrorism have political goals, but they also have social and religious goals that are distinct from political objectives.


Traditional Terrorism: Left, Right and Ethnic-Separatist

Traditional terrorism is typically divided into three sub-categories: left, right and ethnic-separatist.[7] Terrorism of the left refers primarily to Anarchist, Marxist and socialist oriented ideologies. This type of terrorism was most active in the 20th century, particularly in Western and Eastern Europe, Latin America and, to a lesser extent, the Middle East. Anarchist groups were most popular in Europe around the turn of the 20th century, particularly in Russia, where movements emerged with the aim of destroying the monarchy and the state.[8] Examples of left-wing Marxist groups include the Argentinian Montoneros and ERP, the Italian Red Brigades, the German Red Army Faction (also known as the Baader Meinhof group), and the Palestinian Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). All of these groups were inspired by Marxist or socialist ideologies.[9] This sub-category of traditional terrorism, although active during the Cold War, has declined since the 1980’s.[10] Religious terrorism, by-and-large, has not been associated with this branch of terrorism.[11]

Right-winged terrorism refers to groups with racist, fascist, or nationalistic motives and goals. This type of terrorism was strong between the World Wars and reasserted itself beginning in the 1980’s and continues to the present. Early examples include the Ku Klux Klan in the United States, and fascist-inspired movements like the Rumanian Iron Guard of the 1930’s.[12] Resurgent right-wing terrorism includes groups like the neo-Nazis in Europe and the United States, and violent anti-immigration groups.[13] Religious terrorism has often been categorized as a new breed of right-winged terrorism.[14] However, as will be argued below, religious terrorism has traits that look like right-winged racism but also contains elements that do not fit into this category.

Ethnic-separatist terrorism [15] consists of groups that use terrorism to strive for autonomy or independence from a state or military force. Examples of ethnic-separatist terrorists include groups seeking independence from an occupying force, such as the Jewish Irgun in Palestine under the British Mandate, the PLO under Israeli occupation, and the IRA under British occupation.[16] Another example within this subset is groups that seek separation from an existing state such as the ETA in the Basque province of Spain.[17] Academic research also associates religious terrorism with this branch of traditional terrorism.[18] However, it is important to distinguish ethnic-separatist terrorists that contain religious elements but whose primary goals are non-religious from terrorist groups that have religious goals. An example of a religious-ethnic group with non-religious goals is the IRA. Although its constituency is primarily Catholic, the IRA’s aim is to expel British forces in the region and reunite Northern Ireland with the Republic, not to create a religious government or state. By contrast, an example of a religious/ethnic group with religious goals is the Palestinian Hamas, which is pushing for the expulsion of Israeli forces from the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the creation of an Islamic state in Palestine.[19] Table 1.1 summarizes traditional terrorism.

Table 1. 1 Traditional Terrorism


Religiously Motivated Terrorism

Religiously motivated terrorism, although containing elements of all three branches of traditional terrorism, needs to be distinguished analytically from traditional terrorism in order to better understand its workings. However, similar to discussions on terrorism in general, current literature on religiously motivated terrorism lacks consensus on a definition and how it differs from traditional terrorism, if at all. David Tucker even argues that the term “religious terrorism” is not of much use because of confusion over its definition.[20] Mark Juergensmeyer suggests that religiously motivated terrorism came to the foreground in the 1980s and is marked by extreme brutality and seemingly irrational motivations and goals.[21] Bruce Hoffman argues that religion serves to uniquely legitimate and justify violence in religious terrorism but does not explain how religious ideology differs from Marxist or Fascist ideology in inspiring terrorist acts.[22] Walter Laqueur argues that religious terrorism is the “new terrorism of the right” and that it has more to do with nationalism than religion. But this definition fails to explain movements like Aum Shinrikyo, who desire to destroy the world, not assert their nationalist claims, or Al-Qaeda, which has transnational goals.[23]

Religious terrorism scholar David C. Rapoport offers another argument for what differentiates religious from secular terrorism. He posits that the justification and precedents of religious terrorism differ from traditional forms; religious terrorists use sacred texts and historic examples that are not present in secular terrorism. Secular terrorism, in contrast, develops a culture of actions and boundaries that restrains the scope of violent acts.[24] This argument relies on the internal aspects of religion—its scriptures and traditions—without explaining why these internal traits justify and mandate violence by some groups at sometime and not others. In other words, his argument does not include factors external to a religious group and how these factors may bear on explaining the variation of peace and violence within religions.

Finally, Mark Sedgwick suggests that religious terrorism is best understood by considering its immediate and ultimate objectives. He proposes  that “while the ultimate aims will be religiously formulated, the immediate objectives will often be found to be almost purely political.”[25] Sedgewick’s observation is useful for realizing that religious terrorists’ goals are not purely religious. However, this article will challenge his dichotomy between short and long term, and non-religious and religious goals, proposing that certain terrorist can have immediate goals that are religious, specifically apocalyptic terrorists, while others can have long-term objectives that are political, such as creating a religious government.

Finally, these debates within the literature and lack of consensus on what makes religiously motivated terrorism unique from traditional terrorism can be clarified by looking not just at the presence of scripture, religious symbols or adherents, but by focusing on uniquely religious goals for which these groups are fighting. In other words, the use of scripture or presence of religious symbols is not enough to distinguish a group and its use of terrorism as uniquely religious. As previously noted, there are examples of groups that use religion as a form of identity or draw from scriptures and symbols to motivate followers, but their goals fall within the confines of traditional terrorism. Furthermore, non-religious factors may cause groups to use terrorism for religiously salient goals. For example, groups may use terrorism with the aim of overthrowing governments that they believe are not upholding the tenets of a particular religion and installing a religious government in its place. The cause of the terrorist act is something outside of the faith, but the goal is uniquely religious.

Therefore, this article proposes that religiously motivated terrorism can be defined as: the threat or use of force with the purpose of influencing or coercing governments and/or populations towards saliently religious goals. The discussion below will elaborate on three goals in particular: fomenting the apocalypse, creating a religious government, and religiously cleansing a state or area.


Religious Terrorism’s Goals: Apocalypse, Theocracy, and Religious Cleansing

In order to better understand religiously motivated terrorism and distinguish it from its traditional counterpart, it is useful to identify specific examples of uniquely religious goals for which groups may be striving. This article highlights three goals in particular: fomenting the apocalypse, creating a religious government, and religiously cleansing a state. These goals are not exhaustive, but do cover the majority of religiously motivated violence seen today.


Apocalyptic Terrorism

Some groups have apocalyptic goals; their primary aim is to cause cataclysmic destruction to people, property, and the environment with the hope of fomenting the end of time and ushering in religious promises of a new world. This pursuit is uniquely religious and is perhaps the most common stereotype of religiously motivated terrorism. Apocalyptic terrorism exists both within traditional religions and “cults” or New Religious Movements (NRM). For example, Rapoport argues that apocalyptic terrorist groups—what he calls millennialist groups—are inspired by longings for the coming of the messiah, which will coincide with the end of the world.[26] Mayer argues that apocalyptic imagining is a cause of terrorism in cults and NRM but, by itself, does not usually result in violence. Rather, groups that turn to terrorism are responding to a mix of millennialism, real world threats, and internal disputes.[27]

An example of an apocalyptic group within an existing religious tradition is the Gush Emunim in Israel. In 1984 members hatched a plot to blow up the Muslim Dome of the Rock Shrine in Jerusalem, the third most holy site in Islam, in order to spark a nuclear and chemical confrontation between Israel and Muslim countries. The goal was to create “catastrophic messianism,” disastrous circumstances that would hasten the coming of the messiah.[28] The most common example of a NRM group that used terrorism with apocalyptic aims is the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo, which deployed Sarin gas in a Tokyo subway in 1995. Its overarching goals was instigating World War III and ultimately “destroying the world to save it.”[29] The attacks killed 13 and injured more than 700 people.

Of the three religious goals outlined here, apocalyptic terrorism is the most dangerous for two reasons. First, the paradox of ‘destroying the world’—causing catastrophic death and destruction—to create a new and better world seems the furthest removed from rational thought and negotiation. This makes counterterrorism measures especially difficult; it appears that there is little the U.S. government, or anyone else, can give these groups to alter their aims.

Second, the goal of destroying the world is particularly ripe for the use of WMD as a means of achieving such ends, which makes apocalyptic groups particularly dangerous. However, it is also important to note that many apocalyptic terrorists have turned their violence inward in order to foment the apocalypse, as opposed to attacking those outside the group. Some examples of inwardly violent groups include the apocalyptic cult The People’s Temple, headed by Jim Jones, in which over 900 members committed suicide en masse in anticipation of an apocalyptic standoff with the U.S. government. Another example is Heaven’s Gate, which believed that suicide would free the members’ souls.[30] The standoff between U.S. Federal agents and the Branch Davidians at the Mount Carmel compound in Waco, Texas, also fulfilled apocalyptic expectations of the cult group, and resulted in the death of 76 men, women and children.[31] Mayer notes that examples like these, while apocalyptic and violent, may not fall under the definition of terrorism per se, because their goals do not extend beyond the confines of their immediate group.[32] Nevertheless, they offer important clues about the conditions under which apocalyptic thinking emerges and results in mass violence.


The Creation of a Religious Government

Groups also use terrorism as a means of creating a religious government. This goal is most commonly associated with militant Islamic groups and their desire to establish a government run by Shari’a law. For example, the Lebanese Twelver Shia organization Hezbollah has used terrorism against the state of Israel and against its own government with the ultimate goal of creating a religious government in Lebanon, inspired by the theocracy in Iran. Somewhat similarly, the Sunni Palestinian Hamas has used terrorism against Israel with the immediate aim of ending its occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and potentially all of Israel, but with the ultimate aim of creating a religious government in Palestine.[33]

The desire to create a religious government also exists in other traditions. “Reconstruction Theology” is one interpretation of Christian scriptures that calls for the creation of a Christian theocratic government in the United States. Reconstruction Theology has inspired groups such as the Christian Identity Movement, which is linked to the paramilitary training camp the Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord (CSA). This movement aims to use terrorism as a means of compelling change within the U.S. government. Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh had ties to both Christian Identity and CSA.[34]

Terrorists vying for the creation of a religious government are often confined within a state’s borders, such as the Christian Identity Movement in the United States. These groups, however, can also have transnational ties and goals through sponsorship from likeminded groups outside their borders and from other states. This is true of the Lebanese Hizbollah, which receives financial and material support from the government of Iran, which is also Twelver Shia.[35] Transnational ties are also evident in Kach and its successor organizations, which receives considerable support from likeminded Jews in the United States.[36] Hamas is also reported to receive money from Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Iran.[37]

Transnational ties of religious terrorism groups also appear to stem from leaders that have ties to groups in other countries. This is true of Kach/JDL, whose leader, Meir Kahane, was born in the United States and co-founded the JDL there but then immigrated to Israel and formed Kach, which is made up primarily of American-born Jews who have moved to Israel.[38] Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbollah, has personal ties to Iran and Iraq, especially through his seminary training in both countries.[39]

In addition to the goal of creating a religious government within a state, there are groups vying to create religious regions or super-states. Currently, some groups are working to establish a pan-Islamic entity that will transcend state borders. Perhaps the best example of this type of transnational religious terrorism is Al-Qaeda. Following the end of the Soviet-Afghan War in 1989, Al-Qaeda spread its ideology of jihad through leadership ties and training centers to Muslim countries around the globe. After September 11th, bin Laden called for the restoration of the Caliphate as a necessary objective to unite and protect the worldwide Muslim community.[40] Like-minded groups, such as Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula share these goals. Likewise, groups like Jemiyyah Islamia in Southeast Asia have named the creation of a regional Caliphate as one of their stated objectives.[41]

It is worth noting that non-violent pan-Islamic movements exist, which attempt to achieve their ends by means other than terrorism. The most notable example is the Muslim Brotherhood, which exists in over 70 countries, and is strongest in Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. Although initially a movement that used violence and terrorism, the Brotherhood has called for the creation of a pan-Islamic government by the “da’wa”, or calling Muslims back to the faith, and through political reform, education and service to Muslims, generally not by means of terrorism and violence.[42] Another organization that eschews violence, Hizb ut-Tahrir, has made the restoration of the Caliphate one of its stated goals.[43] Both of these groups, despite their official claims to non-violence, have been implicated in spreading intolerant ideologies that inspire acts of violence within cells or individuals acting on their own. For these reasons, both the Muslim Brotherhood and Hizb ut-Tahrir are regarding with caution by countries in which they are active.[44]

The creation of religious governments, through violent or peaceful means, presents important domestic and international security concerns to the United States and the international community. The treatment of religious minorities and secular groups is a problem under governments that embrace and promote a particular interpretation of a religion, and could lead to basic human rights violations and spark internal instability. Regionally, the creation of theocracies could prompt refugees to flee an ideology they do not espouse. Theocracies could also stir up religious fervor in like-minded religious adherents beyond its borders, causing regional instability. The creation of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979 is a case-in-point for both domestic and international security concerns sparked by the creation of a religious government. Iran’s theocracy has been notoriously intolerant towards religious minorities, particularly the Baha’i, as well as to secular opposition groups. Regionally, Iran has caused instability by spreading religious fervour to countries with Shia populations, especially Iraq, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon, in addition to an all-out war with Iraq from 1980 to 1988.

Lastly, it is useful to note that groups agitating for the creation of a religious government often disagree among themselves as to the nature and scope of religion’s involvement in the state. For example, religious political parties exist in countries ranging from Israel (Jewish) to India (Hindu) to Pakistan (Islamic and Christian) to Sri Lanka (Buddhist), but within each of these countries, there is a wide variance of opinions on how a religious state should work. Sri Lanka presents an interesting example. In 1956, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) ran on a platform that promised to give Buddhism a preferential place in the country, along with other allowances to the Sinhalese majority, which is primarily Buddhist. When the government failed to deliver on these promises, a Buddhist Monk assassinated the prime minster in 1959. Buddhist discontent later led to the creation of a Buddhist revolutionary movement that used terrorism to agitate for a Buddhist theocracy in Sri Lanka.[45] Somewhat similarly, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by the Israeli Yigal Amir because he believed that Rabin was compromising the true integrity of the Jewish state by negotiating with the Palestinians.[46] Therefore, efforts aimed at creating a religious state are destabilizing because they throw into question what the state should look like and who speaks for the religion.


Terrorism and Religious Cleansing

Religious terrorists also aim to eradicate “infidels”—the unfaithful within their tradition or in other religions—in order to create a religiously pure state.[47] This goal differs from the creation of a religious government in that groups aim to make all the citizens within a state’s border or region conform to their interpretation of the faith; it is religious cleansing, which includes battles with other religious groups as well as those within a religion whose interpretation of the faith differs from the group’s.

Religious cleansing can be expressed in specific terms, such as the eradication of another group, or in broad terms, such as the cleansing of a culture, ideas or norms that do not conform to the group’s worldviews. For example, Jewish settlers associated with the JDL/Kach movement in the West Bank, particularly in Hebron, have named as one of their goals the expulsion of non-Jews from land that they believe is divinely theirs.[48] This is a battle against other religions. In addition, however, the movement is battling Jews who do not conform to their interpretation of the faith along with the Israeli government, which it believes is not upholding the tenets of the faith. Rabbi Meir Kahane, the co-founder of the JDL and the founder of Kach stated in an interview in the 1980s that it is the requirement of Israel, as a Jewish state, to create a government based on the Torah, and that those who do not see this, are not truly Jewish. “A Jewish state means that, at a minimum, there must be a majority of Jews; a Jewish sovereignty with the power to make our own laws…My hope as a religious Jew, which is the hope of every sincere and religious Jew, is to have a state governed by the Torah.”[49] As previously noted, Kahane and his organisations inspired violent actions aimed at achieving these goals, including assassination, murder, and attempted destruction of religious sites.

Terrorism aimed at religious cleansing appears similar to non-religious terrorism aimed at ethnic cleansing. However, religious cleansing is different for the important reason that religion, not ethnicity, is the salient defining characteristic of both the terrorist group and the target. This means that religious terrorist groups can be multi-ethnic, such as Al-Qaeda, which is made up of Muslims from all over the worldwide community, but not multi-religious; they are all Muslim. Furthermore, terrorism aimed at religious cleansing may also look like religious fratricide, where violence is intra-religious. In these cases, groups use terrorism to rid an area or country of co-religionists that they believe are corrupting or not upholding the true tenets of the faith. In both cases, the salient characteristic between these groups is faith, not differing ethnicities. Table 1.2 summarises the goals of religious terrorism.


Table 1.2 Religious Terrorism


Leadership and Targets of Religious Terrorists

In addition to the goals for which groups are fighting, religious terrorism has additional attributes that distinguish it from its traditional counterparts, including unique sources of leadership and some of its targets. A common perception is that religious groups that use terrorism are led by a cleric, or a similar religious leader, such as an imam, ‘alim, rabbi, or swami. However, not all leaders of terrorist groups have such bona fide leaders; rather the origin of the religious leader’s authority comes from several key sources. For example, religious authority can be self-appointed, such as Shoko Asahara, the spiritual leader and founder of Aum Shinrikyo.[50] Religious authorities can also be charismatic figures from outside the clergy of a traditional religion, such as Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, the key leaders of Al-Qaeda.[51] Religious authorities within terrorist groups can also be individuals who are trained as religious clerics or scholars. Examples of this type of authority are Sheikh Fadlallah, the spiritual leader of the Lebanese Hizbollah, who was trained as a Shia cleric in Najaf, Iraq, and Qum, Iran, and Meir Kahane of the JDL and Kach, who was trained as a Rabbi in the United States.

These different types of leadership in religiously motivated terrorism may seem puzzling at a glance, but they emphasise that religious power has more than one source and its legitimacy resides with the followers. In the case of bin Laden, his influence was derived from a combination of charisma and admiration for his purported success as a warrior in the Afghan-Soviet war and with various terrorist operations. With others, such as Nasrallah and Kahane, it was religious training. Still, with some it is self-proclaimed divine connections, as will Asahara and Koresh. Nevertheless, despite the source of their religious authority, the presence of a religious leader who is recognised as legitimate and who is given the authority to speak on behalf of the faith by his or her followers is typical to most religious terrorist movements. Religious authority, in other words, rests with group’s followers.

Similarly, religious terrorists have an array of different targets, which reveals important clues about their goals. Broadly speaking, religious terrorists tend to have two types of targets: tactical targets that serve specific, earthly goals and are no different from other forms of terrorism; and symbolic targets.

Tactical targets are means to a bigger, earthly campaign. For example, terrorists seeking to create a religious government target the workings of the state, including attacks on heads of state and government officials. Examples of these types of targets include the Egyptian Gamaat’s assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981 andYigal Amir’s assassination of Yitzak Rabin in 1994.[52] These types of attacks also include targeting a government’s infrastructure and sources of power, such as the attack on the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma in 1995, believed to be inspired in part by the Christian Identity Movement.[53]

Religious terrorists also target the presence of foreign governments within their borders or region, including military forces, such as Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights. Palestinian Islamic militants have targeted Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) as part of their aim of liberating the land from foreign occupiers. Likewise, the Lebanese Hizbollah targeted IDF soldiers occupying southern Lebanon with the aim of their expulsion.[54] Religious terrorists also targeted U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden named the presence of U.S. troops on Saudi soil, the home of Islam’s holiest cities, as threatening and humiliating to Islam. In 1996 and again in1998, he declared that attacks against “Satan’s U.S. troops” were necessary for the protection of Muslims and for cleansing infidel forces “out of all the lands of Islam.”[55] Another example of these targets is religious terrorist groups who have attacked foreign embassies, including Egyptian Islamic extremists’ bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan in 1995 and Al-Qaeda’s 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

In addition to specific domestic targets, religious terrorists often have targets that extend beyond the borders of the state in which they reside. Religious terrorists have targeted third party states that support domestic regimes. For example, radical Islamic militants in Egypt named the United States as one of its targets for its support of Sadat’s and Mubarak’s regimes, which they saw as oppressive and un-Islamic.[56] Likewise, Islamic militants in Pakistan have named the United States as a target for its support of the Pakistani regime, which is mainly secular in its outlook and goals.[57]

These tactical targets look no different than secular, Marxist, anarchist or ethnic-separatist terrorists bent on political change or revolution.[58] For example, Anti-U.S. sentiment is strong within the non-religious Colombian FARC terrorist group, particularly for U.S. aid to the current Columbian government.[59] This sentiment could potentially translate into attacks on U.S. civilians and property.[60] Likewise, British troops in Northern Ireland have been the target of republican terrorist groups with the end-goal of expelling these forces and reuniting Northern Ireland with the Republic, which is not a uniquely religious goal.[61] What makes terrorism towards these targets ultimately religious is that they are stepping-stones to greater religious goals—the creation of a religious government.[62]

In addition to tactical targets aimed at changing regimes or compelling the withdrawal of foreign influences, religious groups also use terrorist tactics to attack individuals and groups that they believe are threatening their interpretation of the faith. For example, religious terrorists target citizens and property that represent the religious “other.” Examples include attacks on Christian churches in Indonesia in December of 2000, believed to be the work of Islamic terrorists in the region, and more recent attacks on Christians in Pakistan.[63] Other examples include the Indian Hindu militant group  Shiv Sena, which aims to promote Maharashtria Hindus in Mumbai and drive Muslims from India. Bal Thackeray, Shiv Sena’s founder, called for the creation of Hindu suicide bombers to target Muslims in 2002 and 2008.[64] Religious terrorists can also target other groups’ religious sites. Examples include the above-mentioned church bombings, and the plot by Jewish extremists in Israel to blow up the Muslim Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem. These targets tend to be unique to religious terrorists and support the aim of cleansing the land of the religious “other.”

These types of attacks also include intra-religious attacks on those believe to be apostates within the faith. An example of this type of targeting is takfir violence in Islam, where militant groups draw from religious sources to justify killing Muslims that they believe are not upholding the true practice of the faith. Al-Qaeda in Iraq, for example, has attacked Iraqi Shia, claiming that they are apostates to Islam.[65] These attacks look similar to ethnic-separatist attacks on minorities in regions they believe to be their own, but are unique in that the targets are focused on cleansing an area of perceived religious impurities.

Religious terrorists also have symbolic targets, which mostly operate on an abstract level and tend to be specific to religious goals and objectives. Most notably, religious terrorists can attempt to attack “culture,” values and norms that do not conform to the religious ideals of the terrorist group. Examples of this include attacks on movie theaters, discos, bars and other social gathering points. For example, Muslim extremists set fire to a hotel in Turkey in 1993, targeting “leftist writers and intellectuals,” killing over 40 people.[66] Warring fundamentalist groups in Algeria violently suppressed Rai music in the 1990s for its mix of Western and Mediterranean styles, including attacking and then eventually exiling the singer Khaled.[67] In India, Hindu militants have destroyed numerous paintings of Muslim artist Maqbool Fida Husain, particularly works depicting Hindu deities.[68] In the United States, Christian Identity activists bombed a lesbian bar, targeting what they perceive as symbols of the secular, immoral state.[69]

These targets are abstract because the definition of culture is largely amorphous; it is difficult if not impossible to find the source of culture and remove it fully. Therefore, unlike the state, the source of culture cannot be targeted specifically and abstract targets become the only real choice. Abstract targets, however, require a certain degree of decoding by counterterrorism forces and often the meaning and significance behind certain attacks may be missed.

Finally, apocalyptic groups aim to maximize violence and mass casualties; the goal is chaos with the hope of ushering in a new era, either in this world or the next. Aum Shinrikyo, for example, sought total destruction, which knows no bounds between domestic and international and names no specific targets. For groups such as these, the end-goal, at least on an earthly plane, is mass violence and destruction. The cataclysmic nature of apocalyptic terrorism is an additional reason why this specific type of religious terrorists needs to be considered as a distinct and unique category. Its use of violence to achieve transcendent goals is different from other forms of religious terrorism with more limited goals.[70] Table 1.3 summarizes religious terrorisms domestic and international targets.

Table 1.3 Religious Terrorism’s Targets



This article has argued that religious terrorism has characteristics that make it uniquely different from traditional  secular left-wing and right-wing terrorism, specifically in the goals for which religious terrorists are striving. Three salient religious goals were presented: the apocalyptic aim of destroying the world, the creation of a religious government, and the creation of a religiously pure state. Of these three goals, apocalyptic actions aimed at ‘destroying the world to save it’ are the most threatening because they suggest the use of WMD with mass casualties and damage to property. In addition to goals, religious terrorism is also differentiated by the presence of religious leaders, which do not derive their authority from one source, but rather are given legitimacy by their followers. Finally, religious terrorists tend to have two types of targets, specific and abstract. Specific, tactical targets include the state or adversarial groups; as such, they look similar to targets of left and right wing terrorists. However, religious terrorists also have symbolic targets that represent secular or other religious cultures and values, both within states and internationally  targets that are unique. Apocalyptic terrorists make no distinction between domestic and international, specific and abstract. Instead, they are concerned with the one pursuit of cataclysmic destruction.

These arguments suggest several counterterrorism measures aimed at mitigating or eradicating terrorism performed in the name of religion. All of these courses of action require a basic understanding of the group, its leadership, and the goals for which the group is fighting. Furthermore, none of these types of religiously motivated terrorism can be countered by the use of force alone.

First, apocalyptic terrorism presents unique counterterrorism challenges. Groups that believe that causing mass casualties and chaos will hasten the end of times are operating on a rationale that does not conform to earthly logic. Their acute worldview and goals suggest that they are not open to negotiation or compromise. With this in mind, a strategy of containment combined with targeting leadership is the best path to undermining these groups. Specifically, counterterrorism strategies should first focus on preventing the spread of the group’s apocalyptic worldview. An important means to this end is to avoid fulfilling the group’s prophecies. If the group is anticipating persecution or a fiery confrontation with the  alleged ‘forces of evil’, a state’s excessive use of force could make this dream come true. Rather than targeting the group, a better counterterrorism approach would be to understand the role that leadership plays in generating the apocalyptic worldview and, if the group is driven by one or a few key leaders, target those individuals. Research and empirical examples suggest that apocalyptic groups are highly leadership driven, especially in New Religious Movements; therefore targeting the leaders may cause the group to fall apart.[71] The goal with this approach is to change the group’s worldview by taking out its propagator or, at a minimum, render the group unable to carry out its apocalyptic dreams.

Groups that use terrorism with the goal of creating a religious government have several counterterrorism options. As previously described, groups vying for the creation of a theocracy often disagree on how the state should look and who should speak for the faith. These fissures offer important opportunities for creating in-fighting within and amongst groups and weakening the overall movement. In particular, if governments can help foster a culture of debate and create public opportunities for airing groups’ plans for creating a religious government, these disagreements could build. The overall goal with this strategy is to cause the movement to implode. Using force against these groups and their leaders may be counterproductive, especially if the groups have a base of support, active or passive, and the population is not supportive of the state. In these cases, force would most likely validate the group’s criticisms of the state and could possibly turn popular support in the group’s favour.

Groups that use terrorism bent on religiously cleansing an area within a state are best countered by treating these groups as criminals and by using law enforcement to monitor and punish their actions. This approach serves two important counterterrorism functions. First, treating these groups and their acts as criminal and illegitimate undermines their ideology and authority. Second, using law enforcement, as opposed to greater, more kinetic approaches, minimises national and international exposure of the group and makes them appear like any other criminal group, as opposed to a world-changing religious movement. In other words, deploying greater force against these groups could send a message that they are a big threat and raise awareness of their cause and seeming success. The goal, rather, is to minimise the group’s publicity and de-legitimate their actions. The challenge with this approach is that states may not have the law enforcement capacity to monitor, arrest, and prevent these groups from taking action. Anti-Christian terrorism in Nigeria is a case-in-point.

Within these three types of religious terrorism, paying attention to leadership is critical. As argued, religious groups that use terrorism have leaders that are recognised as legitimate by their followers, but do not necessarily possess bona fide qualities such as religious education or clerical training. A useful path for undermining these religious leaders is through other religious leaders that also have legitimacy. For example, beginning in 2002, key leadership of the Egyptian Gamaat have written treaties and spoken out against Al-Qaeda’s leadership and interpretations of Islam, especially Jihad.[72] One of the leaders of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Dr. Fadl, followed suit in 2008 with his own denunciation of Al-Qaeda’s ideology.[73] These debates suggest that scriptures, beliefs and tenets are open to debate and that no single leader can corner the market on truth.

Finally, it is important for counterterrorism forces to pay attention to what religious terrorists attack, because these targets offer important clues for the groups’ goals, which in turn affect the type of countermeasures employed. Groups that are focused on state targets are more likely to be vying for political control, whereas targeting other groups within the faith or other religions suggest a goal of religious cleansing. Mass casualties and damage that seem indiscriminate, illogical and excessive suggest apocalyptic aims.

Just as there is more than one type of religious terrorism, there is more than one countermeasure to undermine a group’s goals. Better understanding of such groups, their leadership and goals, will allow for a more nuanced approach and, hopefully, lead to greater success in undermining their message and their use of terrorism in the name of religion.

 About the Author: Heather S. Gregg is an Associate Professor at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Department of Defense Analysis, where she works primarily with Special Operations Forces. Prior to joining NPS, she was an associate political scientist at the RAND Corporation. She is the author of the ‘The Path to Salvation: From the Crusades to Jihad’ (Potomac 2014) and is co-editor of ‘The Three Circles of War: Understanding the Dynamics of Conflict in Iraq’ (Potomac 2010).


[1] Jean-Francois Mayer, “Cults, Violence and Religious Terrorism,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Vol. 24 (2001), pp. 361-376. Quote taken from p. 369.
[2] Bruce Hoffman, “Holy Terror: The Implications of Terrorism Motivated by a Religious Imperative,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Vol. 18, No. 4 (1995), pp. 271-284. Quote taken from p. 272.
[3] Mark Sedgwick, “Al-Qaeda and the Nature of Religious Terrorism,” Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 15, No. 4 (2004), pp. 795-814.
[4] Laqueur claims that the term “has been used in so many different senses as to become almost meaningless, covering almost any, and not necessarily political, act of violence.” See: Walter Laqueur, The Age of Terrorism (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1987), p. 11. Bruce Hoffman includes a large-n summary of 109 definitions of terrorism and the frequency of certain words used to describe the phenomenon. In addition, Hoffman notes that the U.S. government has a number of definitions of terrorism. For example, the State Department, the FBI and the Department of Defense all have different definitions of terrorism that demonstrates the disagreement on what defines the act. See: Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), pp. 37-39.
[5] Walter Laqueur, The New Terrorism: Fanaticism and the Arms of Mass Destruction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 6.
[6] Bruce Hoffman defines terrorism as “the deliberate creation and exploitation of fear through violence or the threat of violence in the pursuit of political change.” Hoffman further lists five criteria that define terrorism: political aims and motives; violence or threat of violence; generation of fear beyond the initial act of violence; conducted by an organisation with a chain of command; and a non-state group. See: Hoffman, Inside Terrorism, p. 43.
[7] David C. Rapoport calls this last category “anti-colonial terrorism,” which he identifies as the third of four waves of terrorism. However, ethnic-separatist covers anti-colonial as well as other movements that aim to create autonomous regions, independence, or self-determination but are not under colonial rule, such as Basque Spain or the Kurds in Turkey. See: David C. Rapoport, “The Four Waves of Modern Terrorism,” in Audry Kurth-Cronin and James M. Ludes (eds.), Attacking Terrorism: Elements of a Grand Strategy, Washington, DC, Georgetown University Press, 2004, pp. 46-73.
[8] Rapoport, “The Four Waves of Modern Terrorism;” Hoffman, Inside Terrorism, pp. 17-18; and Laqueur, Age of Terrorism, p. 15. For a discussion on social and personal motivations of these different types of terrorism, see: Martha Crenshaw, “The Causese of Terrorism” Comparative Politics, Vol.13, No. 4 (July 1981), pp. 379-399.
[9] For a further discussion on these groups, see: Rapoport, “The Four Waves of Modern Terrorism,” Laqueur, The New Terrorism, pp. 24-32; and Hoffman, Inside Terrorism, pp. 80-84.See also: Marco Rimanelli, “Italian terrorism and society, 1940s–1980s: Roots, ideologies, evolution, and international connections,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Vol. 12, No. 4, (1989), pp. 249-296.
[10] Laqueur, The New Terrorism, p. 80; Rapoport, “The Four Waves of Modern Terrorism.” See also Alison Jamieson. “Identity and Morality in the Italian Red Brigades,” Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 2, No. 4 (Dec 2007), pp. 508-520.
[11] It is interesting to note that Orsini argues that Marxist-based terrorist, including particularly the Italian Red Brigades, had eschatological goals that made it not unlike a religion and, therefore, their acts could be understood as religiously motivated terrorism. See: Alessandro Orsini, Anatomy of the Red Brigades: The Religious Mindset of Modern Terrorists (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011).
[12] Laqueur, Age of Terrorism, p. 14; and Laqueur, The New Terrorism, p. 22, respectively.
[13] For a further discussion on right-wing terrorism, see: Laqueur, The New Terrorism, chapter 5: “Terrorism and the Far Right,” pp. 105-126.
[14] Bruce Hoffman, Recent Trends and Future Prospects of Terrorism in the United States (Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 1988); Laqueur, The New Terrorism, p. 31.
[15] Laqueur’s term. He also calls this sub-category “nationalist extremist” and “nationalism and separatism terrorism,” The New Terrorism, p. 127; and The Age of Terrorism, chapter 6, respectively. Hoffman calls this sub-category “Ethno-Nationalist Separatist Terrorism,” Inside Terrorism, p. 85.
[16] For more details on the IRA, see: Mark Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003), pp. 36-43. For a discussion on the Irgun, see: Hoffman, Inside Terrorism, pp. 48-56. For more details on the PLO, see: Hoffman, Inside Terrorism, pp. 69-75.
[17] For further details on these groups, see: Laqueur, The New Terrorism, pp. 32-36.
[18] Laqueur, The New Terrorism, p. 148.
[19] Shaul Mishal and Avraham Sela, The Palestinian Hamas: Vision, Violence and Coexistence (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000).
[20] David Tucker, “What Is New About the New Terrorism and How Dangerous Is It?” Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 13, No. 3 (2001), pp. 1-14, especially p. 8.
[21] Mark Juergensmeyer, “Understanding the New Terrorism,” Current History, Vol. 99, No. 636 (2000), pp. 158-163. See also, Mark Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God.
[22] Hoffman, Inside Terrorism, p. 88.
[23] Laqueur, The New Terrorism, pp. 127, 148.
[24] David C. Rapoport, “Sacred Terror: A Contemporary Example from Islam,” in Walter Reich (ed.), Origins of Terrorism: Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, States of Mind (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990), pp. 103-130.
[25] Sedgewick, p. 795.
[26] David C. Rapoport, “Why Does Religious Messianism Produce Terror?” in Paul Wilkinson and Alasdair M. Stewart (eds.), Contemporary Research on Terrorism (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1987).
[27] Mayer, pp. 361-376.
[28] Juergensmeyer, quoting a term from Ehud Sprinzak, Terror in the Mind of God, p. 54; Hoffman, Inside Terrorism, pp. 100-105; and Hoffman, “Holy Terror,” p. 278.
[29] For more details on Aum Shinrikyo, see: Juergensmeyer, chapter 6: “Armageddon in a Tokyo Subway,” Terror in the Mind of God, pp. 102-111; Hoffman, Inside Terrorism, pp. 121-127; and Ian Reader, A Poisonous Cocktail? Aum Shinrikyo’s Path to Violence (Copenhagen: NIAS Books, 1996). See also: Robert Jay Lifton, Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence and the New Global Terrorism (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1999); Angus M. Muir, “Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Case of Aum Shinrikyo,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Vol. 22, No. 1 (1991), pp. 79-91; David E. Kaplan and Andrew Marshall, The Cult at the End of the World: The Incredible Story of Aum (London: Hutchinson, 1996); D. W. Brackett, Holy Terror: Armageddon in Tokyo (New York: Weatherhill, 1996); Gavin Cameron, “Multi-track Microproliferation: Lessons from Aum Shinrikyo and Al Qaida,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Vol. 22, No. 4, (1999), pp. 277-309; William Rosenau, “Aum Shinrikyo's Biological Weapons Program: Why Did it Fail?,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism,” Vol. 24, No. 4, (2001), pp. 289-301; Ian Reader, “Spectres and Shadows: Aum Shinrikyo and the Road to Megiddo,” Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 14, No.1, (2002), pp. 145-186.
[30] Laqueur includes these cults in his list of millennialist terrorists, noting that not all millennialists are violent. However he does not offer an explanation for why some of these groups turn violent and others do not. More work needs to be done on apocalyptic groups to understand why some turn their destruction inward, and why some turn their destruction outward to the world around them. See: Lacqueur, The New Terrorism, pp. 83-88. For more on apocalyptic and violent cults, see: Lorne L. Dawson, Comprehending Cults: The Sociology of New Religious Movements (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998); Philip Jenkins, Mystics and Messiahs: Cults and New Religions in American History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000); Lorne L. Dawson, “The Study of New Religious Movements and the Radicalization of Home Grown Terrorists: Opening a Dialogue,” Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 22, No. 1 (2009), pp. 1-21.
[31] Dick J. Reavis, The Ashes of Waco: An Investigation (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995), p. 13; Michael Barkun, “Appropriated Martyrs: The Branch Davidians and the Radical Right,” Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 19, No. 1 (2007), pp. 117-124; and Jayne Seminare Docherty, Learning Lessons from Waco: When the Parties Bring Their Gods to the Negotiating Table, (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2001).
[32] Mayer, pp. 362-363.
[33] Islam is divided between two major branches, the Sunni (the majority) and the Shia. There are further subdivisions within each of these branches, including the Twelver and Ismaili Shias. For more details on the Hizbollah, see: Magnus Ranstorp, Hizb’allah in Lebanon: The Politics of the Western Hostage Crisis (London: St. Martin’s Press, 1997); for Hamas, see Mishal and Sela.
[34] For more details, see Juergensmeyer, pp. 27-35, Terror in the Mind of God. See also Bruce Hoffman, Recent Trends and Future Prospects of Terrorism in the United States (Santa Monica, RAND, 1988), chapter four: “The Increase in Terrorist Activity of Other Groups: Right-Wing Terrorism,” pp. 25-41.
[35] Ranstorp, p. 36; and Hilal Khashan, “The New World Order and the Tempo of Militant Islam,” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 24, No. 1 (1997), pp. 5-24, especially p. 15.
[36] Kach and other Kahane-inspired groups were designated “foreign terrorists” by the U.S. State Department in 1997, making U.S. domestic fund-raising for the groups illegal. However, these groups continue to raise money, especially for the Kahane Memorial Fund, which supports the cleansing of Arabs from what is believed to be Israeli land. See: Steven Erlanger, “US Labels 30 Groups as Terrorists: Omits IRA,” New York Times, October 9, 1997; and Dean E. Murphy, “Terror Label No Hindrance to Anti-Arab Jewish Group,” New York Times, December 19, 2000, respectively.
[37] Two further hypotheses on Iranian and Saudi funding of these groups deserve mention. First, Khashan argues that Iranian funding was more an attempt of Iran to assert itself in regional politics, and particular to counter U.S. containment, than to spread the revolution abroad. This explains why Iran funded Shias and Sunnis alike. See: Khashan, pp. 15-16. Gilles Kepel argues that Iran and Saudi Arabia have been embroiled in a form of religious spiraling, trying to counter each other’s influence by both funding the same radical Islamic groups, preventing one or the other’s ideology from taking hold. See: Gilles Kepel, Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam, translated by Anthony F. Roberts, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002), pp. 5-6. This latter hypothesis is also argued by Guilain Denoeux, “The Forgotten Swamp: Navigating Political Islam,” Middle East Policy, Vol. 9, No. 2 (June 2002), pp. 56-81.
[38] Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God, pp. 53-54.
[39] Ranstorp, pp. 27-30.
[40] Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden, (ed.) Bruce Lawrence (New York: Verso Press, 2005), p. 121.
[41] Elana Pavlova, “From a Counter Society to a Counter-State Movement: Jemaah Islamiyah According to PUPJ,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Vol. 30, No. 9 (2007), pp. 777-800, especially, p. 783.
[42] It is important to note that the Brotherhood engaged in violent and terrorist activities in the early years of the movement in Egypt, including the assassination of a judge and an assassination attempt on President Nasser. The movement also acknowledges that violent movements, such as Hamas, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and the Islamic Group, have emerged from within the ranks of the Brotherhood. See Sana Abed-Kotob, “The Accommodationists Speak: Goals and Strategies of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt,” International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 27 (1995), pp. 321-339; and Yvonne Y. Haddad, “Sayyid Qutb: Ideologue of Islamic Revival,” in John E. Esposito (ed.), Voices of Resurgent Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), pp. 67-99.
[43] Timothy R. Furnish, “The Man Who Would Be Mahdi,” Middle East Quarterly, Vol. 9, No. 2 (2002), pp. 53-59.
[44] Regarding the Muslim Brotherhood, see: Daniel L. Byman and Tamara Cofman Wittes, “Muslim Brotherhood Radicalizes,” The Brookings Institution, January 23, 2014,, downloaded on February 1, 2014. Hizb-ut-Tahrir has been banned throughout Central Asia over concerns that it is inciting violence and instability in this region, see: “Radical Islam in Central Asia: Responding to Hizb-ut-Tahrir, International Crisis Group, Asia Report No. 58, June 30, 2013,, as of February 1,2014.
[45] David Little, Sri Lanka: The Invention of Enmity (Washington, DC: US Institute of Peace, 1994); Stanley Tambiah, Buddhism Betrayed? Religion, Politics and Violence in Sri Lanka (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).
[46] Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God, pp. 46-48; and Hoffman, Inside Terrorism, pp. 104-105.
[47] Hoffman, “Holy Terror,” p. 275.
[48] Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God, p. 55.
[49] Raphael Mergui and Philippe Simonnot, Israel’s Ayatollah: Meir Kahane and the Far Right in Israel (Worchester: Saqi Books, 1987), pp. 29-37. Quote taken from pp. 30-31.
[50] Reader, pp. 18-23; Hoffman, Inside Terrorism, pp. 120-123; Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God, pp. 107, 114-116.
[51] Bin Laden holds a degree in business administration, but has no formal clerical training. However, it is worth noting that Islamic Studies is compulsory in Saudi Arabian Universities. See: “A Biography of Osama Bin Laden,” Frontline,, downloaded on 6/27/02.
[52] For a detailed account of Sadat’s assassination, see: Gilles Kepel, The Pharaoh and the Prophet, translated by Jon Rothschild, (London: Al Saqi Books, 1985). For details on Rabin’s assassination, see: Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God, pp. 46-48; and Hoffman, Inside Terrorism, pp. 104-105.
[53] Hoffman, Inside Terrorism, pp. 105-130.
[54] Ranstorp, pp. 53-55. IDF forces withdrew from the “security zone” in southern Lebanon in May of 2000, but have remained in the disputed Shebba Farms area.
[55] “World Islamic Front Statement,” February 23, 1998,, downloaded on 6/27/02. The1996 statement by Osama Bin Laden, quoted by Kepel, Jihad, p. 13.
[56] John L. Esposito, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp.93-97.
[57] This is one of the believed goals of the April 2002 attack on a Protestant church in Pakistan, see: Paul Watson, “Bomber Died in Church Blast, Pakistini Authorities Conclude,” Los Angeles Times, March 30, 2002.
[58] Sedgwick refers to these acts of terrorism within religious groups as immediate, and “almost purely political,” p. 795.
[59] See, for example, Rafael Pardo, “Columbia’s Two Front War,” Foreign Affairs (July/August 2000), pp. 64-70.
[60] The FARC has been named as the only non-Islamic terrorist group with both capabilities and motivation to target the United States, see: “Coding Terrorist Groups, Project Air Force Counter Terrorism Threat Team (Santa Monica: RAND, May, 2002 briefing).
[61] Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God, pp. 36-43.
[62] This observation mirrors Mark Sedgwick’s argument. See: Sedgewick, pp. 789-814.
[63] “Indonesian Leader Condemns Church Bombings that Killed 15,” New York Times, December 26, 2000; and Alissa J. Robin, “Church Killings Deal New Blow to Pakistan Chief,” Los Angeles Times, October 29, 2001, respectively.
[64] BBC News, “Bal Thackeray: Hindu Leader and Shiv Sena Founder, Dies,” BBC News, November 17, 2012,, downloaded 1/8/13.
[65] Mohammed M. Hafez, Suicide Bombers in Iraq: The Strategy and Ideology of Martyrdom (Washington, DC: US Institute of Peace, 2007), p. 70.
[66] “News Summary,” New York Times, July 3, 1993.
[67] Jon Pareles, “Lively Exports From Algeria and Egypt,” New York Times, February 12, 2002.
[68] Somini Sengupta, “A Muslim Artist and Hindu Images: It’s a Volatile Mix,” New York Times, June 16, 1998.
[69] Hoffman, Inside Terrorism, p. 30.
[70] Tucker, p. 4.
[71] Empirical examples include Aum Shinrikyo, Branch Davidians, and The People’s Temple. See: Robert S. Robins and Jerrold M. Post, Chapter 5: “From the Individual to the Collective Apocalypse,” Political Paranoia: The Psychopolitics of Hatred (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), pp. 113-140.
[72] Heather S. Gregg, “Fighting Cosmic Warriors: Lessons Learned from the First Seven Years in the Global War on Terror,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Vol. 32 (2009), pp. 188-208, especially p. 204.
[73] Lawrence Right, “The Rebellion Within: An Al-Qaeda Mastermind Questions Terrorism,” New Yorker, June 2, 2008.




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