Religious terrorism

Religious terrorism is terrorism carried out based on motivations and goals that may have a predominantly religious character or influence.

In the modern age, after the decline of ideas such as the divine right of kings and with the rise of nationalism, terrorism has more often been based on anarchism, and revolutionary politics. Since 1980, however, there has been an increase in terrorist activity motivated by religion.[1]:2[2]:185–99

Former United States Secretary of State Warren Christopher has said that terrorist acts in the name of religion and ethnic identity have become "one of the most important security challenges we face in the wake of the Cold War."[3]:6 However, the political scientists Robert Pape and Terry Nardin,[4] the social psychologists M. Brooke Rogers and colleagues,[5] and the sociologist and religious studies scholar Mark Juergensmeyer have all argued that religion should only be considered one incidental factor and that such terrorism is primarily geopolitical.

Definition

According to Juergensmeyer, religion and violence have had a symbiotic relationship since before the Crusades and even since before the Bible.[3] He defines religious terrorism as consisting of acts that terrify, the definition of which is provided by the witnesses – the ones terrified – and not by the party committing the act; accompanied by either a religious motivation, justification, organization, or world view.[3]:4–10 Religion is sometimes used in combination with other factors, and sometimes as the primary motivation. Religious terrorism is intimately connected to current forces of geopolitics.

Bruce Hoffman has characterized modern religious terrorism as having three traits:

  • The perpetrators must use religious scriptures to justify or explain their violent acts or to gain recruits.[6]
  • Clerical figures must be involved in leadership roles.[2]:90
  • Perpetrators use apocalyptic images of destruction to justify the acts.[7]:19–20