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Thursday, 17 November 2011

Why is Terrorism So Hard to Define?

There were many debates concerning extremism prior to 9/11, but it was those watershed attacks that propelled terrorism into the forefront of contemporary consciousness. However, despite such public spotlight there is no concrete, universally accepted definition of terrorism, and they vary from state to state and between law enforcement departments. In a world where national security is of paramount significance, the political and legal need for an agreed upon definition is pressing, for effective counter-terrorism strategies cannot be implemented, guidelines for the prosecution of terror suspects cannot be reached, and international cooperation cannot be strengthened without one.

Monday, 17 October 2011

1.9 – Conclusion: Is Religion Really to Blame?

Drawing conclusions relating to religion per se is a complex process due to its very nature and the bold interpretation and reworking of texts and tradition that often accompanies it. Theories concerning human belief systems and levels of faith and religion are difficult to prove – ‘religion can never be fully explained, in part because there is no essence of religion that can finally be reified’[1] – and no religious conclusion is so clearly defensible or demonstrable that it could be presented as the only sufficient perspective. Achieving total neutrality can also be problematic as religion is a very personal concept, and the deep religiosity that forms the platform for terrorist action cannot usually be fully understood or related to unless one adheres to the same belief system – in most instances, a lack of unwavering faith precipitates a lack of belief in the viability of religion as the root cause of terrorism.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

1.8 – Can Islamic Extremism ever be Religiously Justified?

There are no verses in the Qur’an, Sunna, or Hadiths that explicitly justify terrorism, but radical Islamists invoke religion when attempting to justify or legitimise their actions. They define Islamic fundamentalism as ‘a method for the search of the religious truth…a religious method’,[1] and claim faith is the root cause of their campaigns of violent behaviour. The Islamic scriptures are considered literal guidelines for all aspects of life, and extremists  propose that every (violent) action has a religious foundation and legitimacy. ‘It is to religion – however misused and abused – that the jihadis regularly appeal when talking about their beliefs or explaining their actions…they claim to have chosen every strategy, tactic, and target…based on religious principles.’[2] 'Islamic terrorists' claim their actions are physical embodiments of Allah’s will, and obtain clerical sanctioning for violence to make it acceptable.

1.7 – A Short Introduction to Militant Islamism

Contrary to popular stereotypes and depictions in Western media that equate terrorism and radical Islamist groups as being synonymous, ‘there is, of course, no Muslim or Arab monopoly in the field of religious fanaticism; it exists and leads to acts of violence in the United States, India, Israel, and many other countries, but the frequency of Muslim- and Arab-inspired terrorism is still striking…’[1]

Thursday, 6 October 2011

1.6 – Politics or Religion. Which is the Driving Force Behind ‘Christian terrorism’?

The militant Christian Right is generally considered a religious movement as adherents cast their ideology and actions in incontrovertibly religious terms. However, their goals also contain secular elements; namely political and territorial issues, (although they are always presented in overtly religious tones).  For example, whilst Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma-bomber, outlined his plan in terms of religious faith, he claimed to primarily be fighting against undue interference from the national American government in the lives of ordinary Americans. Do such secular goals eclipse religious faith as the root cause of the violence perpetrated by the radical Christian Right groups: are politics and creating social chaos the primary motivation for ‘religious terrorism’?

1.5 – The Religious Justifications Provided by Christian Extremists: Do They Stand Up to Scrutiny?

Although Christianity does not sanction terrorism per se, several Christian principles do justify aggression in certain circumstances, and it is these that terrorists frequently cite as theological justification for their actions. The following principles of self-defence, just war, and double effect, are often invoked, although terrorist groups often employ only a narrow reading of them, which presents a somewhat distorted understanding. This article will address each concept and explore whether it is actually religious faith that lies at the epicenter of radical violence, or if religion has been purposefully distorted to provide legitimacy for actions that are secular in essence and bring about social chaos.

1.4 – Christian extremism in the USA: The Christian Identity Movement and Dominionism. The roots of hatred?

There are many radical Christian groups active in the United States but the most extreme schools of thought operating under the banner of the Christian Right are the Christian Identity Movement and the followers of Dominion Theology, whose philosophies provide the theological justification for violence committed by right-wing extremist groups. This article will address each in turn to provide a generalised understanding of the radical ideologies that are defined as the motivation behind outbursts of Christian-inspired terrorist violence.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

1.3 – Is Jewish Extremism Actually a Political Smokescreen?

Adherents to Zionism and Millennialism define their aims in purely religious terms, and present their actions as the embodiment of God’s will. However, politics and nationalism are often perceived as playing major roles in Zionist terrorism, due to the desire for a new Jewish State in Eretz Yisrael, which is a key principle in contemporary Jewish extremist dogma. However, the perception that Jewish terrorists are involved in a secular war is fiercely contested by Jewish extremists. Goldstein and Amir for example, perceived secular political processes as interfering with the Messianic course, and their elimination was considered imperative if the Messianic process was to succeed. ‘Western democracy as we know it is incompatible with Zionism... The idea of a democratic Jewish state is nonsense.’[2] Jewish terrorists instead set their territorial aims against a backdrop of religiosity, and claim that nationalism is an intrinsic element of their religious creed. Eretz Yisrael comprises the essence of Judaism, and there can be no Jewish life without the Homeland. They also employ Biblical passages to demonstrate Jerusalem’s (Zion) status as the symbol of the Holy Land and its messianic significance to the Jewish people. Their return to Zion as promised by God in various Biblical prophecies is used as evidence of the Jewish claim to the land.

1.2 – The Religious Justifications Provided by Jewish Extremists: Do They Stand up to Scrutiny?

This article provides an overview of the religious concepts that are most frequently referred to by Jewish extremists as the driving force and justification for their actions. They are remarkably similar to those verbalised by Islamic and Christian terrorists (articles to follow), and provide the key characteristics of radical Jewish ideology.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

1.1 – Introduction to Jewish Extremism: Millennialism and Zionism

This chapter forms the introduction to terrorism perpetrated in the name of Judaism, the oldest of the Abrahamic faiths. It will address the theological aims and justifications for violence provided by two key strands of Jewish extremism, Millennialism and Zionism, and will oppose Bymen’s theory that, ‘Jews operate far more as an ethnic group than as a community motivated by and organized according to religious doctrine’.[1] It suggests that religion in fact provides a strong Jewish identity, and certainly plays a central role in Jewish extremist ideology.

1.0 – What is Religious Extremism?

Theological references and rhetoric are verbalised by world leaders and terrorists alike. George Bush, a born-again Christian, referenced his deep faith and the role it played in his political decision-making when in 2003 he claimed he was on a mission from God, saying, 'God would tell me, “George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan.” And I did. And then God would tell me, “George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq.” And I did.'[1]

Monday, 3 October 2011

Suicide Bombing: How it is 'Religiously Justified'?

The concept of suicide bombing is one of the most disputed concepts within the field of religious terrorism, and forms the cornerstone of the argument that faith cannot be the root cause of religious terrorism. However, Islamic suicide terrorists justify their behaviour in terms of their religion, and employ scriptural reference and the concept of jihad to justify their actions: 

What was the Role of Palestinian Women in the First Intifada?

The volume of discussion of the Arab Spring has inspired me to take a look back at a key uprising - the first Palestinian intifada - and discuss the role women played during it. The Intifadas were key periods in modern Palestinian (and Israeli) history. They were socio-political movements that physically expressed Palestinian frustration and anger at the oppressive and colonialist policies of the Occupation, from a grassroots level. Intifada is the Arabic term for “Civil Uprising”, and literally means ‘shaking off’. The Uprisings were named thus, to represent throwing off the Israeli regime; the feeling of national desolation, related to pre-existing weakness, was also to be discarded. Although the first and second (Al-Aqsa), Intifadas were similar in their root causes, they differed enormously in their characteristics. One of the primary discrepancies was the role women played, particularly how they were greatly more active in the first Uprising than in the second. Resultantly, the main body of this paper will focus on the roles women played before, during and after the first Intifada, and whether any social changes that were implemented, became permanent.  However, some reference will be made to their role in the Al-Aqsa Intifada, to highlight the vast difference between the two. 

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Psychology of Extremism – Are Terrorists Crazy?

When an act of terrorism is reported, the question of what kind of person would do such a thing usually follows. People question what kind of psychological make-up must a person have to even contemplate causing the devastation concurrent with a terrorist attack. Are extremists '

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Christian Terrorism: An Uncomfortable Reality?

Although much of the world’s understanding of contemporary religious violence is focused on Islamist activity in the Middle East, religious terrorism is not confined to either.  Militant Christian organisations termed the Christian Right have been active in the West since the mid 1980s, and ‘for years leftist extremists have been saying the worst terrorists are Christians’.[1] Anders Breivik has become the newest poster boy to represent the evils of Christian militancy,[2] and currently, ‘most right-wing terrorism in the United States has a religious (Christian) component’.[3] (There is debate concerning Breivik’s status but Juergensmeyer affirms:  ‘if bin Laden was a Muslim terrorist, Breivik is a Christian terrorist.’)

Sunday, 25 September 2011

What are the Psychological Issues Encountered by Women in the Armed Forces, and How Might they be Resolved?

At present women make up nine percent of the UK’s total military strength, and the number looks set to rise further.[1] Physical injuries are the most obvious effects of warfare, although the number of psychiatric battle casualties is far greater than those killed or physically disabled, and the effects can be equally as devastating. Both men and women in the Forces face the possibility of psychological issues, although recent statistics from the Ministry of Defence show that women in the three main service branches are more than twice as likely to suffer than their male counterparts. Seven in every thousand servicewomen experience symptoms, compared with only three in every thousand males.[2] These findings parallel similar studies on civilian personnel, where women consistently demonstrate higher rates of psychological disturbance than men.

What were the Psychological Symptoms of Combat Experienced by British Soldiers in World War One?

Like every war, World War One (WW1) produced heavy physical and psychological casualties. However, 1914-1918 became known as a watershed period during which, surprisingly ‘vast numbers of psychiatric casualties were observed’,[1] and the number of men needing medical treatment for such problems rose significantly. Medical records reveal that, ‘in the crisis year of 1916, neurasthenia accounted for 40% of causalities in combat zones’[2], and by 1917 it was recognised that sufferers of combat neuroses comprised one seventh of all personnel discharged from the British Army. By armistice this figure had risen to encompass one third of all dismissals,  and the army had dealt with 80,000 cases of shell shock alone.

‘The Real Root Cause of the Threat of Global Salafi-Jihadism is Religious Fundamentalism.’ Is this Statement True?

Salafism is an austere Islamic ideology centred on the belief that a sinful departure from Islam’s rigid roots has occurred, as the religion has been diluted and corrupted by Western ‘immorality’ and concepts including, liberalism, democracy, and nationalism. Salafis strive to live in accordance with literal interpretations of the Qur’an, sunnah and hadiths, and attempt to emulate the piety and ‘perfection’ of the Salaf al-Salih (the first three generations of devout Muslims).[1] They desire a return to the perceived purity of early Islam, and believe that only the recreation of a global umma and Islamic Caliphate, and total implementation of Shari’a law, can ‘counteract the subversion of Islamic values’.[2] Salafi-jihadis attempt to resolve the problems within the Muslim world and establish an Islamic state by implementing a volatile ideological mix of violence, faith, and fanaticism. They see the world ‘in the light of religious doctrine and armed violence’,[3] and use active jihad as their primary method of initiating change.