Terrorism and Jihad: Differences and Similarities

Philipp Holtmann


What many Westerners call criminal terrorism is, in the eyes of many Islamists, legitimate jihad. They say they are opposed to terrorism but by this they mean certain uses of force against one target but not again another. Are we talking about different phenomena when we talk about terrorism and jihad or are these basically the same? Jihad is sometimes translated as holy war, i.e. religiously sanctioned warfare. In Islam, jihad has been around for more than 1300 years. Terrorism as we know it is, as a doctrine, little more than 200 years old when we take the Terreur phase of the French revolution (1793-1974) as point of departure, or little more than 140 years old when we look at non-state propaganda-by-the-deed type terrorism of the anarchist sort. In the meantime, both terrorism and jihad have evolved, at least to some extent.

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Perspectives on Terrorism is  a journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

ISSN  2334-3745 (Online)

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