Islamic Terrorism
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Islamic Terrorism

Islamic terrorism (also Islamist terrorism or radical Islamic terrorism) refers to terrorist acts against civilians committed by violent Islamists who have a religious motivation.[1][2]

Incidents and fatalities from Islamic terrorism have tended to be concentrated in a few Muslim majority countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, and Syria),[3] and committed by one of just a few Islamic extremist groups. ISIS, Boko Haram, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda were responsible for 74% of all deaths from Islamic terrorism in 2015.[4] The annual number of fatalities from terrorist attacks grew sharply from 2011 to 2014 when it reached a peak of over 32,000, before declining to less than 14,000 in 2019.[5]

Since approximately 2000, these terrorist incidents have occurred on a global scale, affecting not only Muslim-majority states in Africa and Asia, but also Russia, Australia, Canada, Israel, India, the United States and countries within the European Union.[Note 1] Such attacks have targeted both Muslims and non-Muslims,[7] with one study finding 80% of terrorist victims to be Muslims.[8][9] In a number of the worst-affected Muslim-majority regions, these terrorists have been met by armed, independent resistance groups,[10] state actors and their proxies, and elsewhere by condemnation by prominent Islamic figures.[11][12][13]

Justifications given for attacks on civilians by Islamic extremist groups come from extreme interpretations of the Quran, the Hadith[14][15] and Sharia law. These include retribution by armed jihad for the perceived injustices of unbelievers against Muslims (especially by al-Qaeda);[16] the belief that the killing of many self-proclaimed Muslims is required because they have violated Islamic law and are disbelievers (takfir); the overriding necessity of restoring and purifying Islam by establishing sharia law, especially by restoring the Caliphate as a pan-Islamic state (especially ISIS);[17] the glory and heavenly rewards of martyrdom;[15] the supremacy of Islam over all other religions.[Note 2]

The use of the phrase "Islamic terrorism" is disputed. In Western political speech, it has variously been called "counter-productive", "highly politicized, intellectually contestable" and "damaging to community relations", by those who disapprove of including the word Islamic.[20] Others (John Fund, Megan Oprea, Daily Telegraph) have condemned the refusal to use the term as an act of "self-deception", "full-blown censorship" and "intellectual dishonesty".[21][22][23][24]

Terminology

George W. Bush and Tony Blair (US president and UK Prime Minister respectively at the time of the September 11 attacks) repeatedly stated that the war against terrorism has nothing to do with Islam.[25] Others inside and out of the Islamic world who oppose its use on the grounds there is no connection between Islam and terrorism include Imran Khan, the prime minister of Pakistan, and academic Bruce Lawrence.[26][27] Former US president Barack Obama explained why he used the term "terrorism" rather than "Islamic terrorism" in a 2016 townhall meeting saying,

"There is no doubt, ... terrorist organizations like al Qaeda or ISIL - They have perverted and distorted and tried to claim the mantle of Islam for an excuse for basically barbarism and death ... But what I have been careful about when I describe these issues is to make sure that we do not lump these murderers into the billion Muslims that exist around the world ..."[28]

Replacing the term with "Islamist Terrorism" has been suggested as a way of distancing terrorism from Islam.[29]

History

The number of people who died from terrorist activity has increased ninefold from 2000 to 2014, but then dropped by half over the next five years.

Some Muslim scholars assert that extremism within Islam goes back to the Kharijites who existed in the 7th century. From their essentially political position, Kharijites developed extreme doctrines that set them apart from both mainstream Sunni and Shi'a Muslims. The group was particularly noted for adopting a radical approach to takfir, whereby they declared Muslims opponents to be unbelievers and therefore worthy of death.[30][31]

1960s-1970s

After failed attempts at state formation and the creation of Israel in the post-colonial era, a series of Marxist and anti-Western transformations and movements swept throughout the Arab and Islamic world. These movements were nationalist and revolutionary not Islamic, but their view that terrorism could be effective in reaching their political goals generated the first phase of modern international terrorism. In the late 1960s, Palestinian secular movements such as Al Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) began to target civilians outside the immediate arena of conflict. Following Israel's 1967 defeat of Arab forces, Palestinian leaders began to see that the Arab world was unable to militarily confront Israel. During the same time, lessons drawn from revolutionary movements in Latin America, North Africa, Southeast Asia as well as during the Jewish struggle against Britain in Palestine, saw the Palestinians turn away from guerrilla warfare towards urban terrorism. These movements were secular in nature but their international organization served to spread terrorist tactics worldwide.[32]

After the decisive defeat by Israel of Arab armies led by Arab nationalist regimes in the Six-Day War, religiously motivated/Islamic movements grew in the Middle East and came into conflict with secular nationalism. Islamic groups were supported by Saudi Arabia, to counter nationalist ideology.[32]

According to Bruce Hoffman of RAND, in 1980 two out of 64 terrorist groups were categorized as having religious motivation, in 1995 almost half (26 out of 56) were religiously motivated with the majority having Islam as their guiding force.[33][32]

1980s-1990s

The Soviet-Afghan War and the subsequent anti-Soviet mujahedin war, lasting from 1979 to 1989, started the rise and expansion of terrorist groups. Since their beginning in 1994, the Pakistani-supported Taliban militia in Afghanistan has gained several characteristics traditionally associated with state-sponsors of terrorism, providing logistical support, travel documentation, and training facilities. Since 1989 the increasing willingness of religious extremists to strike targets outside immediate country or regional areas highlights the global nature of contemporary terrorism. The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, are representative of this trend.[32]

2000s-2010s

According to research by the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, between 11 September 2001 and 21 April 2019, there were 31,221 Islamist terrorism attacks, in which at least 146,811 people were killed. Many of the victims were Muslims, including most of the victims who were killed in attacks involving 12 or more deaths.[34][35][36]

2010-2020

According to the Global Terrorism Index, deaths from terrorism peaked in 2014 and have fallen each year since then until 2019 (the last year the study had numbers for), making a decline of more than half (59% or 13,826 deaths) from their peak. The five countries "hardest hit" by terrorism continue to be Muslims countries -- Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Syria and Somalia. [Note 3]

Motives and characteristics

The motivation of Islamic terrorists has been hotly disputed. Many (such as James L. Payne and Michael Scheuer) attributing it to a struggle against "U.S./Western/Jewish aggression, oppression, and exploitation of Muslim lands and peoples";[38] others (Mehdi Hasan) to some combination of political grievance and social-psychological maladjustment;[39] and still others (such as Maajid Nawaz and Graeme Wood) to extremist interpretations of Islam.[40][41]

Religious motivation

Arguing that Islamic terrorist attacks are fundamentally religious are Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, in their book, The Age of Sacred Terror. Attackers (Benjamin and Simon believe) see each act as "a sacrament ... intended to restore to the universe a moral order that had been corrupted by the enemies of Islam." It is neither political or strategic but an "act of redemption" meant to "humiliate and slaughter those who defied the hegemony of God".[42]

One of the Kouachi brothers responsible for the Charlie Hebdo shooting called a French journalist to inform him, "we are the defenders of Prophet Mohammed."[43]

According to Indonesian Islamic leader Yahya Cholil Staquf (interviewed in Time magazine in 2017), the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims, in the classical Islamic tradition, is assumed to be one of segregation and enmity. In his view extremism and terrorism are linked with orthodox Islam and that radical Islamic movements are nothing new. He also added that Western politicians should stop pretending that extremism is not linked to Islam.[44][45]

However, two studies of the background of Muslim terrorists in Europe--one of the UK and one of France--found little connection between religious piety and terrorism. The "restricted" UK report of hundreds of case studies by the domestic counter-intelligence agency MI5 found that

[f]ar from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practise their faith regularly. Many lack religious literacy and could actually be regarded as religious novices. Very few have been brought up in strongly religious households, and there is a higher than average proportion of converts. Some are involved in drug-taking, drinking alcohol and visiting prostitutes. MI5 says there is evidence that a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalisation.[46]

A 2015 "general portrait" of "the conditions and circumstances" under which people living in France become "Islamic radicals" (terrorists or would-be terrorists) by Olivier Roy (see above) found radicalisation was not an "uprising of a Muslim community that is victim to poverty and racism: only young people join, including converts".[47]

Roy believes terrorism/radicalism is "expressed in religious terms" because

  1. most of the radicals have a Muslim background, which makes them open to a process of re-Islamisation ("almost none of them having been pious before entering the process of radicalisation"), and[47]
  2. jihad is "the only cause on the global market". If you kill in silence, it will be reported by the local newspaper; "if you kill yelling 'Allahu Akbar', you are sure to make the national headlines". Other extreme causes--ultra-left or radical ecology are "too bourgeois and intellectual" for the radicals.[47]

David Scharia, counterterrorism official of the United Nations Security Council believes religiously-motivated terrorism (like Islamic terrorism) works by creating an extremist ideological milieu which "legitimizes violence in the name of that ideology". This motivates not only those who are trained, funded, and/or coordinated by terror groups, but also so-called "lone wolf" attackers.[6]

David Shariatmadari has argued against Islam being the cause of Islamic terrorism on the grounds that if this were the case the history of jihadi terrorism should go back to the seventh century CE. Instead it is a late 20th and early 21st-century phenomenon, implying (according to Shariatmadari) that the cause of Islamic terrorism is more political than religious.[48]

Interpretations of the Qur'an and Hadith

Some analysists complain terrorists cherry-pick scripture in defense of their attacks. Donald Holbrook, a Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, analyzed a sample of 30 works by jihadist propagandists for references to Islamic scripture that justify the objectives of violent jihad.[14] An-Nisa (4:74-75) is quoted most frequently; other popular surah are At-Taubah (9:13-15, 38-39, 111) and Al-Baqarah (2:190-191, 216). The Sword Verse (Q.9:5) states:

But when these months, prohibited (for fighting), are over, slay the idolaters wheresoever you find them, and take them captive or besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every likely place. But if they repent and fulfill their devotional obligations and pay the zakat, then let them go their way, for God is forgiving and kind.

Holbrook notes the first part -- "slay the idolaters" -- is quoted but not the limiting factors at the end of the ayat: "but if they repent ..." This, Holbrook argues, is how violent jihadists are "shamelessly selective in order to serve their propaganda objectives."[14] Peter Bergen notes that bin Laden cited this verse in 1998 when making a formal declaration of war.[49]

Supporters of bin Laden have also pointed to reports according to which the Islamic prophet Muhammad attacked towns at night or with catapults, and argued that he must have condoned incidental harm to noncombatants, since it would have been impossible to distinguish them from combatants during such attacks.[16][50] These arguments have not been widely accepted by Muslims.[50]

The Pakistani theologian Javed Ahmad Ghamidi blames Muslim madrasas that indoctrinate children with Islamic supremacist views, such as that Muslims are legally superior to unbelievers (particularly former Muslims), and that jihad will eventually bring about a single caliphate to rule the world.[51]

Jihad and Islamic jurisprudence

Techniques of war are restricted by classical Islamic jurisprudence, but its scope is not. Bernard Lewis states that ultimately jihad ends when the entire world is brought under Islamic rule and law.[52] According to Lewis, classical Islamic jurisprudence imposes, without limit of time or space, the duty to subjugate non-Muslims.[53] Wael Hallaq writes that some radical Islamists go beyond the classical theory to insist that the purpose of jihad is to overthrow regimes oppressing Muslims and bring Non-Muslims to convert to Islam; by contrast, Islamic modernists-who Islamists despise-view jihad as defensive and compatible with modern standards of warfare.[54]

Al-Qaeda

While Islamic opponents of attacks on civilians have quoted numerous prophetic hadith and hadith by Muhammad's first successor Abu Bakr,[55] Al-Qaeda believes its attacks are religiously justified. After its first attack on a US target that killed civilians instead (a 1992 bombing of a hotel in Aden Yemen, Al Qaeda justified the killing of civilian bystanders through a interpretation (by one Abu Hajer) of a famous fatwa issued in 1303 CE by the strict medieval jurist Ibn Taymiyyah. He had ruled that fighting and killing of the Mongol invaders who were invading Syria was not only permitted but obligatory according to Sharia. This was because the Mongols did not follow sharia law, and so even though they had converted to Islam (Ibn Taymiyyah argued) they were not really Muslims.[56]

In a post-9/11 work, "A Statement from Qaidat al-Jihad Regarding the Mandates of the Heroes and the Legality of the Operations in New York and Washington", Al-Qaeda provided a more systematic justification -- one that provided "ample theological justification for killing civilians in almost any imaginable situation."[16] Among these justifications are that America is leading the countries of the West in waging war on Islam, which (al-Qaeda alleges) targets "Muslim women, children and elderly". This means any attacks on America are a defense of Islam, and any treaties and agreements between Muslim majority states and Western countries that would be violated by attacks are null and void. Other justifications for killing and situations were killings is allowed based on precidents in early Islamic history include: killing non-combatants when it is too difficult to distinguish between them and combatants when attacking an enemy "stronghold" (hist), and/or non-combatants remain in enemy territory; killing those who assist the enemy "in deed, word, mind", this includes civilians since they can vote in elections that bring enemies of Islam to power; necessity of killing in the war to protect Islam and Muslims; when the prophet was asked whether Muslim fighters could use the catapult against the village of Taif, even though the enemy fighters were mixed with a civilian population, he indicated in the affirmative; killing women, children and other protected groups is allowed when they serve as human shields for the enemy; killing of civilians is permitted if the enemy has broken a treaty. [16]

Management of Savagery

Al-Qaeda's splinter group and competitor, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, is thought to have been heavily influenced[57][58][59] by a 2004 work on jihad entitled Management of Savagery[60] (Idarat at-Tawahhush) intended to provide a strategy to create a new Islamic caliphate by first destroying "vital economic and strategic targets" and terrifying the enemy with cruelty to break its will.[61] Victims should not only be beheaded, shot, burn alive in cages or gradually submerged until drowned, but these events should be publicized with videos and photographs.[62]

Management of Savagery asserts that "one who previously engaged in jihad knows that it is naught but violence, crudeness, terrorism, deterrence and massacring."[63] The tract argues that even "the most abominable of the levels of savagery" of jihad are better "than stability under the order of unbelief" -- those orders being any regime other than ISIS.[57] [64]

The afterlife as a religious justification

Another justification for the killing of civilians (bystanders) employed by Al-Qaeda based on a fatwa by Ibn Taymiyyah was described by author Lawrence Wright,

Ibn Taymiyyah had issued a historic fatwa: Anyone who aided the Mongols, who bought goods from them or sold to them or was merely standing near them, might be killed as well. If he is a good Muslim, he will go to Paradise; if he is bad, he will go to hell, and good riddance. Thus the dead tourist and the hotel worker [killed by Al-Qaeda] would find their proper reward.[65]

The influential tract Management of Savagery, also mentioned above, explains away mass killing in part by the fact that even "if the whole umma [community of Muslims] perishes they would all be martyrs".[66][67] Similarly, author Ali A. Rizvi has described the chat room reaction of a Taliban supporter to his (Rizvi's) condemnation of the 2014 Peshawar school massacre -- that the school children the Taliban slaughtered were "not dead" because they had been killed "in the way of God ... Don't call them dead. They are alive, but we don't perceive it" (citing Quran 3:169. "And never think of those who have been killed in the cause of Allah as dead. Rather, they are alive with their Lord, receiving provision"), and also maintaining that those whose Islamic faith is "pure" would not be upset with the Taliban's murder of 132 children.[68]

The Jurisprudence of Blood
The Houthi flag, with the top saying "God is the greatest", the next line saying "Death to America", followed by "Death to Israel", followed by "A curse upon the Jews", and the bottom saying "Victory to Islam".

Some observers[69][70] have noted the evolution in the rules of jihad--from the original "classical" doctrine to that of 21st century Salafi jihadism. According to the legal historian Sadarat Kadri,[69] during the last couple of centuries, incremental changes in Islamic legal doctrine (developed by Islamists who otherwise condemn any bid'ah (innovation) in religion), have "normalized" what was once "unthinkable".[69] "The very idea that Muslims might blow themselves up for God was unheard of before 1983, and it was not until the early 1990s that anyone anywhere had tried to justify killing innocent Muslims who were not on a battlefield."[69]

The first or the "classical" doctrine of jihad which was developed towards the end of the 8th century, emphasized the "jihad of the sword" (jihad bil-saif) rather than the "jihad of the heart",[71] but it contained many legal restrictions which were developed from interpretations of both the Quran and the Hadith, such as detailed rules involving "the initiation, the conduct, the termination" of jihad, the treatment of prisoners, the distribution of booty, etc. Unless there was a sudden attack on the Muslim community, jihad was not a "personal obligation" (fard 'ayn); instead it was a "collective one" (fard al-kifaya),[72] which had to be discharged "in the way of God" (fi sabil Allah),[73] and it could only be directed by the caliph, "whose discretion over its conduct was all but absolute."[73] (This was designed in part to avoid incidents like the Kharijia's jihad against and killing of Caliph Ali, since they deemed that he was no longer a Muslim). Martyrdom resulting from an attack on the enemy with no concern for your own safety was praiseworthy, but dying by your own hand (as opposed to the enemy's) merited a special place in Hell.[74] The category of jihad which is considered to be a collective obligation is sometimes simplified as "offensive jihad" in Western texts.[75]

Based on the 20th-century interpretations of Sayyid Qutb, Abdullah Azzam, Ruhollah Khomeini, al-Qaeda and others, many if not all of those self-proclaimed jihad fighters believe that defensive global jihad is a personal obligation, which means that no caliph or Muslim head of state needs to declare it. Killing yourself in the process of killing the enemy is an act of martyrdom and it brings you a special place in Heaven, not a special place in Hell; and the killing of Muslim bystanders (nevermind Non-Muslims), should not impede acts of jihad. Military and intelligent analyst Sebastian Gorka described the new interpretation of jihad as the "willful targeting of civilians by a non-state actor through unconventional means."[70]

Islamic theologian Abu Abdullah al-Muhajir has been identified as the key theorist and ideologue behind modern jihadist violence.[76] His theological and legal justifications influenced Abu Musab al-Zarqawi of al-Qaeda as well as several jihadi terrorist groups, including ISIS.[76] Zarqawi used a manuscript of al-Muhajir's ideas at AQI training camps that were later deployed by ISIS, referred to as The Jurisprudence of Jihad or The Jurisprudence of Blood.[76][77][78]

The book has been described as rationalising "the murder of non-combatants" by The Guardians Mark Towsend, citing Salah al-Ansari of Quilliam, who notes: "There is a startling lack of study and concern regarding this abhorrent and dangerous text [The Jurisprudence of Blood] in almost all Western and Arab scholarship".[77] Charlie Winter of The Atlantic describes it as a "theological playbook used to justify the group's abhorrent acts".[76] He states:

Ranging from ruminations on the merits of beheading, torturing, or burning prisoners to thoughts on assassination, siege warfare, and the use of biological weapons, Muhajir's intellectual legacy is a crucial component of the literary corpus of ISIS--and, indeed, whatever comes after it--a way to render practically anything permissible, provided, that is, it can be spun as beneficial to the jihad. [...] According to Muhajir, committing suicide to kill people is not only a theologically sound act, but a commendable one, too, something to be cherished and celebrated regardless of its outcome. [...] neither Zarqawi nor his inheritors have looked back, liberally using Muhajir's work to normalize the use of suicide tactics in the time since, such that they have become the single most important military and terrorist method--defensive or offensive--used by ISIS today. The way that Muhajir theorized it was simple--he offered up a theological fix that allows any who desire it to sidestep the Koranic injunctions against suicide.[76]

Clinical psychologist Chris E. Stout also discusses the al Muhajir-inspired text in his book, Terrorism, Political Violence, and Extremism. He assesses that jihadists regard their actions as being "for the greater good"; that they are in a "weakened in the earth" situation that renders Islamic terrorism a valid means of solution.[78]

Denominations/Ideologies

Most schools/sects/movements/denominations of Islam are not associated with terrorism. Shia Muslims have been involved in violence primarily at the state level[79] (Hezbollah attacks on Israeli targets and Iran's use of shaheeds against Saddam Hussien's Iraq for example); and the small Quranist (Muslims who follow only Quran) and Ahmadi groups (who believe jihad should be peaceful) have "zero history of violence". According to Mir Faizal, only three Islamic groups -- the Sunni sects of Salafi, Deobandi, and Barelvi -- have been associated with violence against civilians.[79] Of the three only Salafi Islam -- specifically Salafi Jihadi Islam -- can be called involved in global terrorism, as it is connected with Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram and other groups. (Terrorism among some members of the Barelvi sect is limited to attacks on alleged blasphemers in Pakistan, and the terrorism among Deobandi groups has "almost no" influence beyond Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indian.)

One ideology that plays a role in terrorism and uses the name of Islam, is Wahabism.[80][81][82][83][84] The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, al-Qaeda, Al-Shabaab (militant group), Boko Haram, Indonesian Mujahedeen Council, Taliban, Sipah Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Hizbul Mujahideen follow Wahabi or Salafi ideology which is opposed by some other Muslims.[84][85] Non-Muslims, Sufis, and Shias are attacked by hard-core Wahhabis, Deobandis, and jamaatis in the same way that "kulak", intellectual, Jewish, "Menshevik", and "Trotskyist" dissenters were assaulted by Stalinists.[86] In India, Wahabism was spread in the name of Deobandi movement.[87]

War against Islam

Transnational Islamist ideology, specifically of the militant Islamists, asserts that Western policies and society are not only at odds with Islamic values and beliefs but actively anti-Islamic, or as it is sometimes described, waging a "war against Islam". Islamists often identify what they see as a historical struggle between Christianity and Islam, dating back as far as the Crusades, among other historical conflicts between practitioners of the two respective religions.

In 2006, Britain's then head of MI5 Eliza Manningham-Buller said of Al-Qaeda that it

has developed an ideology which claims that Islam is under attack, and needs to be defended ... This is a powerful narrative that weaves together conflicts from across the globe, presenting the West's response to varied and complex issues, from long-standing disputes such as Israel/Palestine and Kashmir to more recent events as evidence of an across-the-board determination to undermine and humiliate Islam worldwide.[88]

Examination of the video wills of British suicide bombers made it clear that they were motivated by "perceived worldwide and long-standing injustices against Muslims; an extreme and minority interpretation of Islam promoted by some preachers and people of influence; their interpretation as anti-Muslim of UK foreign policy, in particular the UK's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan."[88]

Osama bin Laden almost invariably described his enemies as aggressive and his call for action against them as defensive.[89] Defensive jihad differs from offensive jihad by being "fard al-ayn", or a personal obligation of all Muslims, rather than "fard al-kifaya", a communal obligation, (that is, an obligation for the community, but not one required of all adult Muslims). Thus, Al-Qaeda's portrayal of jihad as defensive has the advantage of both tapping into sympathy for victims, and giving the struggle the very highest religious legal priority for all good Muslims.[Note 4]

Qutbism

According to U.S. Army Colonel Dale C. Eikmeier, "ideology", rather than any individual or group, is the "center of gravity" of al-Qaeda and related movements, and that ideology is a "collection of violent Islamic thought called Qutbism"[40] named after Sayyid Qutb. He is thought to be a major influence on Al-Qaeda #2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri.[91]

In his smuggled-out-of-prison manifesto Milestones, Qutb preached that enforcement of sharia law was "even more necessary than the establishment of the Islamic belief",[92] and that the Muslim community had "been extinct for a few centuries" because of lack of sharia.[93] Qutb's antipathy for "the West" -- a "rubbish heap ... filth ... hollow and worthless" was profound[94] -- and he blames it for pursuing a "well-thought-out scheme" to "demolish the structure of Muslim society".[95] Making this conspiracy even worse is the fact that (according to Qutb), Western civilization knows it is inferior to Islam. It "knows that it does not possess anything which will satisfy its own conscience and justify its existence";[96] and when confronted with the "logic, beauty, humanity and happiness" of Islam, "the American people blush".[97] Also a menace to Islam are Jews -- "world Jewry, whose purpose is to eliminate all limitations, especially the limitations imposed by faith and religion, so that Jews may penetrate into body politics of the whole world and then may be free to perpetuate their evil designs. At the top of the list of these activities is usury, the aim of which is that all the wealth of mankind end up in the hands of Jewish financial institutions which run on interest."[98] Jihad should be offensive as well as defensive. "Those who say that Islamic Jihad was merely for the defense of the 'homeland of Islam' diminish the greatness of the Islamic way of life".[99] They have been "defeated by the attacks of the treacherous Orientalists!"[100] Just as early Muslims did not refrain from attacking and invading "the Roman and Persian powers" simply because they were "satisfied" that these powers had no aggressive intentions and "were not going to attack the Arabian peninsula," so Muslims should not let lack of aggression stop it from waging Jihad to spread sharia law.[101] To bring sharia law and spread Islam, Qutb calls for both religious preaching and a vanguard "movement" using "physical power and Jihad",[102] to remove "material obstacles".[103] He warns his followers of a "life until death in poverty, difficulty, frustration, torment and sacrifice..."[104]

Eikmeier summarizes the tenets of Qutbism as being:

  • A belief that Muslims have deviated from true Islam and must return to "pure Islam" as originally practiced during the time of Muhammad.
  • The path to "pure Islam" found only through a literal and strict interpretation of the Quran and Hadith, with an implementation of Muhammad's commands.
  • Muslims should interpret the original sources individually without being bound to follow the interpretations of Islamic scholars.
  • That any interpretation of the Quran from a historical, contextual perspective is a corruption, and that the majority of Islamic history and the classical jurisprudential tradition is mere sophistry.[40]

In addition, Islamist militants, scholars, and leaders opposed Western society for what they see as immoral secularism. Islamists have claimed that such unrestricted free speech has led to the proliferation of pornography, immorality, secularism, homosexuality, feminism, and many other ideas that Islamists often oppose. Although bin Laden almost always emphasized the alleged oppression of Muslims by America and Jews and not their societies, when talking about the need for jihad in his messages, in his "Letter to America", he answered the question, "What are we calling you to, and what do we want from you?" with:

We call you to be a people of manners, principles, honour, and purity; to reject the immoral acts of fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling's, and trading with interest (...) You separate religion from your policies, (...) You are the nation that permits Usury, which has been forbidden by all the religions (...) You are a nation that permits the production, trading and usage of intoxicants (...) You are a nation that permits acts of immorality (...) You are a nation that permits gambling in its all forms. (...) You use women to serve passengers, visitors, and strangers to increase your profit margins. You then rant that you support the liberation of women.[105]

Takfir

While Sayyid Qutb preached that all of the Muslim world had become apostate or jahiliyah, he did not specifically takfir or call for the execution of those governing non-sharia governments (he wrote Milestones in prison). (While today not all Muslims agree that apostacy is punishable by death, the punishment is agreed on by all the schools of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) both Sunni and Shia,[106] and has traditionally been undisputed.)[107] Qutb did however emphasize that "the organizations and authorities" of the putatively Muslim countries were irredeemably corrupt and evil[108] and would have to be abolished by "physical power and Jihad",[108] by a "vanguard"[109] movement of true Muslims.[110]

Starting in the mid to late 20th-century, some insurgent Islamist movements (Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya of Egypt, and later GIA, the Taliban, and (ISIL) are thought to have begun to apply takfir and its capital punishment against not just stray deviant and lapsed Muslims, but Muslim governments and society, killing thousands in total. Takfir of insurgents has applied not only to government authorities who failed to apply sharia or Shia who differ from Sunni, but also to ordinary Sunni who disagree with/disobeyed insurgent policies such as reinstituting slavery.

In 1977, the group Jama'at al-Muslimin (known to the public as Takfir wal-Hijra), kidnapped and later killed an Islamic scholar and former Egyptian government minister Muhammad al-Dhahabi. The founder of Jama'at al-Muslimin, Shukri Mustaf had been imprisoned with Sayyid Qutb, and was now one of Qutb's "most radical" disciples.[111] He believed that not only was the Egyptian government apostate, but so was "Egyptian society as a whole" because it was "not fighting the Egyptian government and had thus accepted rule by non-Muslims".[112] While police broke up the group, it reorganized with thousands of members,[113] some of whom went on to help assassinate the Egyptian president Anwar Sadat,[114] and join the Algerian Civil War and Al-Qaeda.[115] During the 1990s, a violent Islamic insurgency in Egypt, primarily perpetrated by Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, targeted not only police and government officials but also civilians, killing or wounding 1106 persons in one particularly bloody year (1993).[116]

In the brutal 1991-2002 Algerian Civil War, takfir of the general Algerian public was known to have been declared by the hardline Islamist GIA (Armed Islamic Group of Algeria). The GIA amir, Antar Zouabri claimed credit for two massacres of civilians (Rais and Bentalha massacres), calling the killings an "offering to God" and declaring impious the victims and all Algerians who had not joined its ranks.[117] He declared that "except for those who are with us, all others are apostates and deserving of death,"[118] (Tens, and sometimes hundreds, of civilians were killed in each of the massacres that started in April 1998.[119] However, the government had infiltrated the insurgents and it is thought by many that security forces were also involved in massacres.)[120][121]

In August 1998 the Taliban insurgents slaughtered 8000 mostly Shia Hazara non-combatants in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. Comments by Mullah Niazi, the Taliban commander of the attack and newly installed governor, declared in a number of post-slaughter speeches from Mosques in Mazar-i-Sharif: "Hazaras are not Muslim, they are Shi'a. They are kofr [infidels]. The Hazaras killed our force here, and now we have to kill Hazaras. ... You either accept to be Muslims or leave Afghanistan. ...",[122] indicated that along with revenge, and/or ethnic hatred, takfir was a motive for the slaughter.

From its inception in 2013 to 2021, directly or through affiliated groups, ISIS (also Daesh or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), "has been responsible for 27,947 terrorist deaths", the majority of these have been Muslims,[Note 5] "because it has regarded them as kafir".[123]

One example is found in the 13th issue of the ISIS magazine Dabiq, which dedicated "dozens of pages ... to attacking and explaining the necessity of killing Shia", who the group refers to by the label Rafidah

Initiated by a sly Jew, [the Shia] are an apostate sect drowning in worship of the dead, cursing the best companions and wives of the Prophet, spreading doubt on the very basis of the religion (the Qur'?n and the Sunnah), defaming the very honor of the Prophet, and preferring their "twelve" im?ms to the prophets and even to Allah! ...Thus, the R?fidah are mushrik [polytheist] apostates who must be killed wherever they are to be found, until no R?fid? walks on the face of earth, even if the jih?d claimants despise such...[124]

Takfir was not limited to Shia, however. In 2017, when a group even more extreme than ISIS accused ISIS of considering the citizens of (Sunni) Islamic countries Muslims, a memo was released by the ruling ISIS "Delegated Committee" denounced the claim as a "lie" and "slander" against ISIS, leading readers of the memo to conclude that ISIS views the Sunni citizens of Islamic countries as apostates or infidels.[125]

ISIL not only called for the revival of slavery of non-Muslims (specifically of the Yazidi minority group), but takfired any Muslim who disagreed with their policy.

Yazidi women and children [are to be] divided according to the Shariah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations ... Enslaving the families of the kuffar and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shariah that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Koran and the narrations of the Prophet ... and thereby apostatizing from Islam.[17]

Starting in 2013, the ISIL began "encouraging takfir of Muslims deemed insufficiently pure in regard of tawhid (monotheism)". The Taliban were found "to be "a 'nationalist' movement, all too tolerant" of Shia.[126] In 2015 ISIL "pronounced Jabhat al-Nusrat -- then al-Qaida's affiliate in Syria -- an apostate group."[126]

Economic motivation

Following the 9/11 attack many commentators "noted the poverty of Afghanistan and concluded that herein lay the problem";[127] blaming, at least in part, a lack of a "higher priority to health, education, and economic development" funding by richer ones;[128] "stagnant economies and a paucity of jobs" in poorer countries.[129]

Among the acts of oppression against Muslims by the United States and its allies alleged by the head of Al-Qaeda, are economic exploitation. In a Oct. 6, 2002 message by Osama bin Laden 'Letter to America', he alleges

You steal our wealth and oil at paltry prices because of your international influence and military threats. This theft is indeed the biggest theft ever witnessed by mankind in the history of the world. ... If people steal our wealth, then we have the right to destroy their economy.[130][131]

In a 1997 interview he claimed that "since 1973, the price of petrol has increased only $8/barrel while the prices of other items have gone up three times. The oil prices should also have gone up three times but this did not happen",[132] (This claim seems to be based on incorrect facts -- the price of wheat did not increase three fold from 1973-1997 -- and the questionable assumption that the demand and price for oil would continue to rise at a steady rate after the Arab Oil Embargo raised it by 4x.)[131]

In 2002, academics Alan B. Krueger and Jitka Maleckova found "a careful review of the evidence provides little reason for optimism that a reduction in poverty or an increase in educational attainment would by themselves, meaningfully reduce international terrorism."[133] Alberto Abadie found "the risk of terrorism is not significantly higher for poorer countries, once other country-specific characteristics are considered" but instead seems to correlate with a country's "level of political freedom".[134] In a 2002 survey of studies of terrorist operative backgrounds within countries, Daniel Pipes found very few if any were from the lower economic strata and concluded, "like fascism and Marxism-Leninism in their heydays, militant Islam attracts highly competent, motivated and ambitious individuals. Far from being the laggards of society, they are its leaders."[127]

Martin Kramer has argued that while terrorist organizers are seldom poor, their "foot-soldiers" often are.[135] Andrew Whitehead states that "poverty creates opportunity" for terrorists, who have hired desperate poor children to do grunt work in Iraq and won the loyalty of poor in Lebanon by providing social services. [136]

Many believe that religious beliefs are overstated if not irrelevant in the motivation of groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS which are reacting to aggression by non-Muslim (especially US) powers. According to a graph by U.S. State Department, terrorist attacks escalated worldwide following the United States' 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and 2003 invasion of Iraq.[137][unreliable source?] Dame Eliza Manningham Buller, the former head of MI5, told the Iraq inquiry, the security services warned Tony Blair launching the War on Terror would increase the threat of terrorism.[137][better source needed] Robert Pape has argued that at least terrorists utilizing suicide attacks--a particularly effective[138] form of terrorist attack--are driven not by Islamism but by "a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland".[139] However, Martin Kramer, who debated Pape on origins of suicide bombing, stated that the motivation for suicide attacks is not just strategic logic but also an interpretation of Islam to provide a moral logic. For example, Hezbollah initiated suicide bombings after a complex reworking of the concept of martyrdom. Kramer explains that the Israeli occupation of the South Lebanon Security Zone raised the temperature necessary for this reinterpretation of Islam, but occupation alone would not have been sufficient for suicide terrorism.[140] "The only way to apply a brake to suicide terrorism," Kramer argues, "is to undermine its moral logic, by encouraging Muslims to see its incompatibility with their own values."[140]

Breaking down the content of Osama bin Laden's statements and interviews collected in Bruce Lawrence's Messages to the World (Lawrence shares Payne's belief in US imperialism and aggression as the cause of Islamic terrorism), James L. Payne found that 72% of the content was on the theme of "criticism of U.S./Western/Jewish aggression, oppression, and exploitation of Muslim lands and peoples" while only 1% of bin Laden's statements focused on criticizing "American society and culture".[38]

Former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer argues that terrorist attacks (specifically al-Qaeda attacks on targets in the United States) are not motivated by a religiously inspired hatred of American culture or religion, but by the belief that U.S. foreign policy has oppressed, killed, or otherwise harmed Muslims in the Middle East,[141] condensed in the phrase "They hate us for what we do, not who we are." U.S. foreign policy actions Scheuer believes are fueling Islamic terror include: the US-led intervention in Afghanistan and invasion of Iraq; Israel-United States relations, namely, financial, military, and political support for Israel;[142][143][144][145] U.S. support for "apostate" police states in Muslim nations such as Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, and Kuwait;[146] U.S. support for the creation of an independent East Timor from territory previously held by Muslim Indonesia; perceived U.S. approval or support of actions against Muslim insurgents in India, the Philippines, Chechnya, and Palestine.[147]

Maajid Nawaz and Sam Harris argue that many acts of Islamic extremism can not be connected in any way with the Western intervention in Muslim lands.

Nawaz: ... What does killing the Yazidi population on Mount Sinjar have to do with US foreign policy? What does enforcing headscarves (tents in fact) on women in Waziristan and Afghanistan, and lashing them, forcing men to grow beards under threat of a whip, chopping off hands, and so forth, have to do with US foreign policy?
Harris: This catalogue of irrelevancy could be extended indefinitely. What does the Sunni bombing of Shia and Ahmadi mosques in Pakistan have to with Israel or US foreign policy?[148]

Nawaz also argues that suicide bombers in non-Muslim majority countries such as the 7 July 2005 bombers can be said to motivated by ideology not by any desire to compel UK military to withdraw from "their homeland", as they were born and raised in Yorkshire and have never set foot in Iraq, do not speak its language.[149]

Socio-psychological motivations

Simon Cottee in the New York Times suggested that sexual frustration is a major motivating factor in Islamist suicide bombing.[150]

Socio-psychological development

A motivator of violent radicalism (not just found in Al-Qaeda and ISIS) is psychological development during adolescence.[151] Cally O'Brien found many terrorists were "not exposed to the West in a positive context, whether by simple isolation or conservative family influence, until well after they had established a personal and social identity." Looking at theories of psychological personal identity Seth Schwartz, Curitis Dunkel and Alan Waterman found two types of "personal identities" susceptible to radicalization leading to terrorism:

  • "identity-foreclosed (who are often taught by their family and communities from early childhood to not deviate from a strict path and to hate or consider inferior outside groups), and who when exposed to western culture perceived the right order of society as well as "their identities and mental health to be at risk".[152][153][151]
  • "identity diffuse" - who whose lives are characterized by "aimlessness, uncertainty and indecisiveness" and who have neither explored different identities or committed to personal identity. Such people are "willing to go to their deaths for ideas that they have appropriated from others" -- such as jihadism -- that give their lives purpose and certainty.[153][151]

Characteristics of terrorists

Empirical study of the backgrounds of individual terrorists, rather than their writings and statements, also reveals motivation (or at least characteristics).

In 2004 a forensic psychiatrist and former foreign service officer, Marc Sageman, made an "intensive study of biographical data on 172 participants in the jihad", in his book Understanding Terror Networks.[154] He concluded social networks, the "tight bonds of family and friendship", rather than emotional and behavioral disorders of "poverty, trauma, madness, [or] ignorance", inspired alienated young Muslims to join the jihad and kill.[155]

According to Scott Atran, a NATO researcher studying suicide terrorism, as of 2005 the available evidence contradicts a number of simplistic explanations for the motivations of terrorists, including mental instability, poverty, and feelings of humiliation.[156] The greatest predictors of one common type of terror tactic used by Islamic terrorists -- suicide bombings -- turns out to be not religion but group dynamics. While personal humiliation does not turn out to be a motivation for those attempting to kill civilians, the perception that others with whom one feels a common bond are being humiliated can be a powerful driver for action. "Small-group dynamics involving friends and family that form the diaspora cell of brotherhood and camaraderie on which the rising tide of martyrdom actions is based".[157] Terrorists, according to Atran, are social beings influenced by social connections and values. Rather than dying "for a cause", they might be said to have died "for each other".[156]

In 2007, scholar Olivier Roy described the background of the hundreds of global (as opposed to local) terrorists who were incarcerated or killed and for whom authorities have records, as being surprising in a number of ways: The subjects frequently had a Westernized background; there were few Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghans "coming to avenge what is going on in their country"; their was a lack of religiosity before radicalization through being "born again" in a foreign country; a high percentage of subjects had converted to Islam; their backgrounds were "de-territorialized "--meaning, for example, they were "born in a country, then educated in another country, then go to fight in a third country and take refuge in a fourth country"; their beliefs about jihad differed from traditional ones -- i.e. they believed jihad to be permanent, global, and "not linked with a specific territory."[158]

Roy believes terrorism/radicalism is "expressed in religious terms" among the terrorists studied because

  1. most of the radicals have a Muslim background, which makes them open to a process of re-Islamisation ("almost none of them having been pious before entering the process of radicalisation"), and[47]
  2. jihad is "the only cause on the global market". If you kill in silence, it will be reported by the local newspaper; "if you kill yelling 'Allahu Akbar', you are sure to make the national headlines". Other extreme causes--ultra-left or radical ecology are "too bourgeois and intellectual" for the radicals.[47]

Author Lawrence Wright described the characteristic of "displacement" of members of the most famous Islamic terrorist group, al-Qaeda:

What the recruits tended to have in common--besides their urbanity, their cosmopolitan backgrounds, their education, their facility with languages, and their computer skills--was displacement. Most who joined the jihad did so in a country other than the one in which they were reared. They were Algerians living in expatriate enclaves in France, Moroccans in Spain, or Yemenis in Saudi Arabia. Despite their accomplishments, they had little standing in the host societies where they lived.[159]

This profile of global Jihadists differs from that found among more recent local Islamist suicide bombers in Afghanistan. According to a 2007 study of 110 suicide bombers by Afghan pathologist Dr. Yusef Yadgari, 80% of the attackers studied had some kind of physical or mental disability. The bombers were also "not celebrated like their counterparts in other Muslim nations. Afghan bombers are not featured on posters or in videos as martyrs."[160] Daniel Byman, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution, and Christine Fair, an assistant professor in peace and security studies at Georgetown University, argue that many of the Islamic terrorists are foolish and untrained, perhaps even untrainable, with one in two Taliban suicide bombers killing only themselves.[161]

Studying 300 cases of people charged with jihadist terrorism in the United States since September 11, 2001, author Peter Bergen found the perpetrators were "generally motivated by a mix of factors", including "militant Islamist ideology;" opposition to "American foreign policy in the Muslim world; a need to attach themselves to an ideology or organization that gave them a sense of purpose"; and a "cognitive opening" to militant Islam that often was "precipitated by personal disappointment, like the death of a parent".[162]

However, two studies of the background of Muslim terrorists in Europe--one of the UK and one of France--found little connection between religious piety and terrorism among the terrorist rank and file. A "restricted" report of hundreds of case studies by UK the domestic counter-intelligence agency MI5 found that

[f]ar from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practise their faith regularly. Many lack religious literacy and could actually be regarded as religious novices. Very few have been brought up in strongly religious households, and there is a higher than average proportion of converts. Some are involved in drug-taking, drinking alcohol and visiting prostitutes. MI5 says there is evidence that a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalisation.[46]

A 2015 "general portrait" of "the conditions and circumstances" under which people living in France become "Islamic radicals" (terrorists or would-be terrorists) by Olivier Roy (see above) found radicalisation was not an "uprising of a Muslim community that is victim to poverty and racism: only young people join, including converts".[47]

Refuting, criticism and explaining decline

Refuting Islamic terrorists

Along with explaining Islamic terrorism, many observers have attempted to point out their inconsistencies and the flaws in their arguments, often suggesting means of de-motivating potential terrorists.

Princeton University Middle Eastern scholar Bernard Lewis argues that although bin Laden and other radical Islamists claim they are fighting to restore shariah law to the Muslim world, their attacks on civilians violate the classical form of that Islamic jurisprudence. The "classical jurists of Islam never remotely considered [jihad] the kind of unprovoked, unannounced mass slaughter of uninvolved civil populations".[163] In regard to the September 11 attacks Lewis noted,

Being a religious obligation, jihad is elaborately regulated in sharia law, which discusses in minute detail such matters as the opening, conduct, interruption and cessation of hostilities, the treatment of prisoners and noncombatants, the use of weapons, etc.[164]... Similarly, the laws of Jihad categorically preclude wanton and indiscriminate slaughter.[165] The warriors in the holy war are urged not to harm non-combatants, women and children, "unless they attack you first". ... A point on which they insist is the need for a clear declaration of war before beginning hostilities, and for proper warning before resuming hostilities after a truce. What the classical jurists of Islam never remotely considered is the kind of unprovoked, unannounced mass slaughter of uninvolved civil populations that we saw in New York two weeks ago. For this there is no precedent and no authority in Islam.[166]

Similarly, Timothy Winter writes that the proclamations of bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri "ignore 14 centuries of Muslim scholarship", and that if they "followed the norms of their religion, they would have had to acknowledge that no school of mainstream Islam allows the targeting of civilians."[167]

Researcher Donald Holbrook notes that while many jihadists quote the famous sword verse:

But when these months, prohibited (for fighting), are over, slay the idolaters wheresoever you find them, and take them captive or besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every likely place. But if they repent and fulfill their devotional obligations and pay the zakat, then let them go their way, for God is forgiving and kind.

... they fail to quote and discuss limiting factors at the end of the ayat, "but if they repent ..." showing how they are (Holbrook argues) "shamelessly selective in order to serve their propaganda objectives."[14] Peter Bergen notes that bin Laden cited this verse in 1998 when making a formal declaration of war.[49]

The scholarly credentials of the ideologues of extremism are also "questionable".[40] Dale C. Eikmeier notes

With the exception of Abul Ala Maududi and Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, none of Qutbism's main theoreticians trained at Islam's recognized centers of learning. Although a devout Muslim, Hassan al-Banna was a teacher and community activist. Sayyid Qutb was a literary critic. Mohammed Abdul-Salam Farag was an electrician. Ayman al-Zawahiri is a physician. Osama bin Laden trained to be a businessman.[40]

Michael Sells and Jane I. Smith (a Professor of Islamic Studies) write that barring some extremists like al-Qaeda, most Muslims do not interpret Qur'anic verses as promoting warfare today but rather as reflecting historical contexts.[168][169] According to Sells, "[Most Muslims] no more expect to apply [the verses at issue] to their contemporary non-Muslim friends and neighbors than most Christians and Jews consider themselves commanded by God, like the Biblical Joshua, to exterminate the infidels."[168]

In his book No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, Iranian-American academic Reza Aslan argues that there is an internal battle currently taking place within Islam between individualistic reform ideals and the traditional authority of Muslim clerics.[170] The struggle is similar to that of the 16th-century reformation in Christianity, and in fact is happening when the religion of Islam is as "old" as Christianity was at the time of its reformation.[171] Aslan argues that "the notion that historical context should play no role in the interpretation of the Koran--that what applied to Muhammad's community applies to all Muslim communities for all time--is simply an untenable position in every sense."[172]

The Times (London) newspaper has pointed out that Jihadists were discovered by one source to have sought anonymity through some of the same dark networks used to distribute child pornography -- quite ironic given their proclaimed piety.[173] Similarly, Reuters news agency reported that pornography was found among the materials seized from Osama bin Laden's Abbottabad compound that was raided by U.S. Navy SEALs.[174]

Takfir

Despite the fact that a founding principle of modern violent jihad is the defense of Islam and Muslims, most victims of attacks by Islamic terrorism ("the vast majority" according to one source)[6] are self-proclaimed Muslims. Many if not all Salafi-Jihadi groups practice takfir -- i.e. proclaim that some self-proclaimed Muslims (especially government officials and security personnel) are actually apostates deserving of death.

Furthermore, the more learned salafi-jihadi thinkers and leaders are and were, the more reluctance they are/were to embrace takfir (according to a study by Shane Drennan).[175] The late Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, "the godfather of the Afghan jihad", for example, was an Islamic scholar and university professor who avoided takfir and preached unity in the ummah (Muslim community). The Islamic education of Al-Qaeda's number two leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was early and much more informal -- he was not a trained scholar -- and al-Zawahiri expanded the definition of kafir to include many self-proclaimed Muslims. He has maintained that civilian government employees of Muslim states, security forces and any persons collaborating or engaging with these groups are apostates, for example.[175]

Two extreme takfiris -- Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Sunni jihadist leader in Iraq, and Djamel Zitouni, leader of the Algerian Armed Islamic Group of Algeria (GIA) during the Algerian civil war -- had even broader definitions of apostasy and less religious knowledge. Al-Zarqawi was a petty criminal who had no religious training until he was 22 and limited training thereafter. Famous for bombing targets other jihadis thought off limits,[176] his definition of apostates included all Shia Muslims and "anyone violating his organization's interpretation of Shari'a".[175] Djamel Zitouni was the son of a chicken farmer with little Islamic education. He famously expanded the GIA's definition of apostate until he concluded the whole of Algerian society outside of the GIA "had left Islam". His attacks led to the deaths of thousands of Algerian civilians.[175]

De-radicalization

Evidence that more religious training may lead to less extremism has been found in Egypt. That country's largest radical Islamic group, al-Jama'a al-Islamiyya -- which killed at least 796 Egyptian policemen and soldiers from 1992 to 1998 -- renounced bloodshed in 2003 in a deal with the Egyptian government where a series of high-ranking members were released (as of 2009 "the group has perpetrated no new terrorist acts"). A second group Egyptian Islamic Jihad made a similar agreement in 2007. Preceding the agreements was program where Muslim scholars debated with imprisoned group leaders arguing that true Islam did not support terrorism.[177]


Muslim attitudes toward terrorism

Muslim popular opinion on the subject of attacks on civilians by Islamist groups varies. Fred Halliday, a British academic specialist on the Middle East, argues that most Muslims consider these acts to be egregious violations of Islam's laws.[178] Muslims living in the West denounce the September 11th attacks against United States, while Hezbollah contends that their rocket attacks against Israeli targets are defensive Jihad by a legitimate resistance movement rather than terrorism.[179][180]

Views of modern Islamic scholars

In reference to suicide attacks, Hannah Stuart notes there is a "significant debate among contemporary clerics over which circumstance permit such attacks." Qatar-based theologian, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, criticized the 9/11 attacks but previously justified suicide bombings in Israel on the grounds of necessity and justified such attacks in 2004 against American military and civilian personnel in Iraq. According to Stuart, 61 contemporary Islamic leaders have issued fatawa permitting suicide attacks, 32 with respect to Israel. Stuart points out that all of these contemporary rulings are contrary to classical Islamic jurisprudence.[181]

Charles Kurzman and other authors have collected statements by prominent Muslim figures and organizations condemning terrorism.[11] In September 2014, an open letter to ISIS by "over 120 prominent Muslim scholars" denounced that group for "numerous religious transgressions and abominable crimes".[182][183]

Although Islamic terrorism is commonly associated with the Salafis (or "Wahhabis"), government-affiliated scholars of the group have constantly denied any connection and attributed claims that there is to ignorance, misunderstanding and sometimes insincere research and deliberate misleading by rival groups.[184] Following the September 11 attacks, Abdul-Azeez ibn Abdullaah Aal ash-Shaikh, the Grand Mufti of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, made an official statement that "the Islamic Sharee'ah (legislation) does not sanction" such actions.[185] A Salafi "Committee of Major Scholars" in Saudi Arabia has declared that "Islamic" terrorism, such as the May 2003 bombing in Riyadh, are in violation of Sharia law and aiding the enemies of Islam.[186]

Fethullah Gülen, a prominent Turkish Islamic scholar, has claimed that "a real Muslim", who understood Islam in every aspect, could not be a terrorist.[187][188][189] Other people with similar points of view[190] include Ahmet Akgunduz,[191] Harun Yahya[192] and Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri.[193] Huston Smith, an author on comparative religion, argued that extremists have hijacked Islam, just as has occurred periodically in Christianity, Hinduism and other religions throughout history. He added that the real problem is that extremists do not know their own faith.[194]

Ali Gomaa, former Grand Mufti of Egypt, stated not only for Islam but in general: "Terrorism cannot be born of religion. Terrorism is the product of corrupt minds, hardened hearts, and arrogant egos, and corruption, destruction, and arrogance are unknown to the heart attached to the divine."[195]

A 600-page legal opinion (fatwa) by Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri condemned suicide bombings and other forms of terrorism as kufr (unbelief),[196] stating that it "has no place in Islamic teaching and no justification can be provided for it, or any kind of excuses or ifs or buts."[197] Iranian Ayatollah Ozma Seyyed Yousef Sanei has preached against suicide attacks and stated in an interview: "Terror in Islam, and especially Shiite, is forbidden."[198][199]

A group of Pakistani clerics of Jamaat Ahl-e-Sunnah (Barelvi movement) who were gathered for a convention denounced suicide attacks and beheadings as un-Islamic in a unanimous resolution.[200] On July 2, 2013 in Lahore, 50 Muslim scholars of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) issued a collective fatwa against suicide bombings, the killing of innocent people, bomb attacks, and targeted killings. It considers them to be forbidden.[201]

According to Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, the only purposes of Islamic jihad are putting an end to persecution--even that of the non-Muslims--and making the religion of Islam reign supreme in the Arabian peninsula, the latter type being specific to Muhammad and no longer operative;[202] it can only be waged under a sovereign state;[203] there are strict[204] ethical limits for jihad which do not allow fighting non-combatants; acts of terrorism including suicide bombing are prohibited.[205]

Opinion surveys

  • Gallup conducted tens of thousands of hour-long, face-to-face interviews with residents of more than 35 predominantly Muslim countries between 2001 and 2007. It found that more than 90% of respondents condemned the killing of non-combatants on religious and humanitarian grounds.[12] John Esposito, using poll data from Gallup, wrote in 2008 that Muslims and Americans were equally likely to reject violence against civilians. He also found that those Muslims who support violence against civilians are no more religious than Muslims who do not.[206]
  • An earlier poll, conducted in 2005 by the Fafo Foundation in the Palestinian Authority, found that 65% of respondents supported the September 11 attacks.[207]
  • A subsequent Gallup poll released in 2011 suggested "that one's religious identity and level of devotion have little to do with one's views about targeting civilians... it is human development and governance--not piety or culture--that are the strongest factors in explaining differences in how the public perceives this type of violence." The same poll concluded that populations of countries in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference were slightly more likely to reject attacks on civilians in all cases, both military and individual, than those in non-member countries.[208]
  • Pew Research surveys in 2008, show that in a range of countries--Jordan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Lebanon, and Bangladesh--there have been substantial declines in the percentages saying suicide-bombings and other forms of violence against civilian targets can be justified to defend Islam against its enemies. Wide majorities say such attacks are, at most, rarely acceptable. The shift of attitudes against terror has been especially dramatic in Jordan, where 29% of Jordanians were recorded as viewing suicide-attacks as often or sometimes justified (down from 57% in May 2005). In the largest majority-Muslim nation, Indonesia, 74% of respondents agree that terrorist attacks are "never justified" (a substantial increase from the 41% level to which support had risen in March 2004); in Pakistan, that figure is 86%; in Bangladesh, 81%; and in Iran, 80%.[12]
    • In Pakistan, despite the recent rise in the Taliban's influence, a poll conducted by Terror Free Tomorrow in Pakistan in January 2008 tested support for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, other militant Islamist groups and Osama bin Laden himself, and found a recent drop by half. In August 2007, 33% of Pakistanis expressed support for al-Qaeda; 38% supported the Taliban. By January 2008, al-Qaeda's support had dropped to 18%, the Taliban's to 19%. When asked if they would vote for al-Qaeda, just 1% of Pakistanis polled answered in the affirmative. The Taliban had the support of 3% of those polled.[12]
  • A December 2008 poll conducted in Osama bin Laden's home country of Saudi Arabia showed that his compatriots have dramatically turned against him, his organisation, Saudi volunteers in Iraq, and terrorism in general. Indeed, confidence in bin Laden has fallen in most Muslim countries in recent years.[12]

Tactics

Suicide attacks

Hezbollah were the first to use suicide bombers in the Middle East.[32] An increasingly popular tactic used by terrorists is suicide bombing.[209] This tactic is used against civilians, soldiers, and government officials of the regimes the terrorists oppose. A recent clerical ruling declares terrorism and suicide bombing as forbidden by Islam.[210] However, groups who support its use often refer to such attacks as "martyrdom operations" and the suicide-bombers who commit them as "martyrs" (Arabic: shuhada, plural of "shahid"). The bombers, and their sympathizers often believe that suicide bombers, as martyrs (shaheed) to the cause of jihad against the enemy, will receive the rewards of paradise for their actions.

Hijackings

Islamic terrorism sometimes employs the hijacking of passenger vehicles. The most infamous were the "9/11" attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people on a single day in 2001, effectively ending the era of aircraft hijacking.

Hostage taking, kidnappings and executions

Along with bombings and hijackings, Islamic terrorists have made extensive use of highly publicised kidnappings and executions (i.e. ritualized murders), often circulating videos of the acts for use as propaganda. A frequent form of execution by these groups is decapitation, another is shooting. In the 1980s, a series of abductions of American citizens by Hezbollah during the Lebanese Civil War resulted in the 1986 Iran-Contra affair. During the chaos of the Iraq War, more than 200 kidnappings foreign hostages (for various reasons and by various groups, including purely criminal) gained great international notoriety, even as the great majority (thousands) of victims were Iraqis. In 2007, the kidnapping of Alan Johnston by Army of Islam resulted in the British government meeting a Hamas member for the first time.

Motivations

Islamist militants, including Boko Haram, Hamas, al-Qaeda and the ISIS, have used kidnapping as a method of fundraising, as a means of bargaining for political concessions, and as a way of intimidating potential opponents.[211]

Michael Rubin argued in 2005 that hostage-taking became popular among terrorist groups as a tactic that can hold the attention of a public that had become inured to mass death techniques such as suicide bombing, and that it can garner significant "political and diplomatic" payoff. Rubin writes that Islamist kidnappers have the additional, "ideological goals": to shock "the outside world", to "appeal to their own constituency", to publicly humiliate the hostages, to making governments appear weak and so cow a population and inspire fear of opposing the Islamists.[212]

In his 2007 book, Islamic Terror Abductions in the Middle East,[213] military historian Shaul Shay argued that Islamists consider hostage taking as a strategic tool that can effectively gain concessions from targeted governments.[214]

As political tactic

An example of political kidnapping occurred in September 2014, in the Phillipines. The German Foreign Ministry reported that the Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf had kidnapped two German nationals and was threatening to kill them unless the German government withdraw its support for the war against ISIS and also pay a large ransom.[215] In September 2014 an Islamist militant group kidnapped a French national in Algeria and threatened to kill the hostage unless the government of France withdrew its support for the war against ISIS.[216]

Islamist self-justifications

According to the International Business Times, in October, 2014 the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) released a five-point justification of its right to take non-Muslims hostage, and decapitate, ransom or enslave them.[217] British Muslim cleric Anjem Choudary told The Clarion Project that kidnapping and even beheading hostages is justified by Islam.[218]

ISIL also published an article entitled, 'The revival (of) slavery before the Hour (of Judgement Day)', in its online magazine, "Dabiq", justifying its kidnapping of Yazidi women and forcing them to become sex slaves or concubines: "One should remember that enslaving the families of the kuffar--the infidels--and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shariah, or Islamic law."[219]

Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram, said in a 2014 interview claiming responsibility for the 2014 Chibok kidnapping of 270+ schoolgirls, "Slavery is allowed in my religion, and I shall capture people and make them slaves".[220]

Kidnapping as revenue

Nasir al-Wuhayshi leader of the Islamist militant group Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula describes kidnapped hostages as "an easy spoil... which I may describe as a profitable trade and a precious treasure."[221]

A 2014 investigation, by journalist Rukmini Maria Callimachi published in The New York Times demonstrated that between 2008 and 2014, Al Qaeda and groups directly affiliated with al-Qaeda took in over US$125 million from kidnapping, with $66 million of that total paid in 2013 alone. The article showed that from a somewhat haphazard beginning in 2003, kidnapping grew into the group's main fundraising strategy, with targeted, professional kidnapping of civilians from wealthy European countries--principally France, Spain and Switzerland--willing to pay huge ransoms. US and UK nationals are less commonly targeted since these governments have shown an unwillingness to pay ransom.[221]

Boko Haram kidnapped Europeans for the Ransom their governments would pay in the early 2010s.[222][223][224] For example, in the spring of 2013, Boko Haram kidnapped and within 2 months released a French family of 7 and 9 other hostages in exchange for a payment by the French government of $3.15 million.[225]

According to Yochi Dreazen writing in Foreign Policy, although ISIS received funding from Qatar, Kuwait and other Gulf oil states, "traditional criminal techniques like kidnapping", are a key funding source for ISIS.[226] Armin Rosen writing in Business Insider, kidnapping was a "crucial early source" of funds as ISIS expanded rapidly in 2013.[227] In March, upon receiving payment from the government of Spain, ISIS released 2 Spanish hostages working for the newspaper El Mundo, correspondent Javier Espinosa and photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova, who had been held since September, 2013.[228] Philip Balboni, CEO of GlobalPost told the press that he had spent "millions" in efforts to ransom journalist James Foley, and an American official told the Associated Press that demand from ISIS was for 100 million ($132.5).[229] In September 2014, following the release of ISIS Beheading videos of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, British Prime Minister David Cameron appealed to members of the G7 to abide by their pledges not to pay ransom "in the case of terrorist kidnap".[230]

Holding foreign journalists as hostages is so valuable to ISIS that Rami Jarrah, a Syrian who has acted as go-between in efforts to ransom foreign hostages, told the Wall Street Journal that ISIS had "made it known" to other militant groups that they "would pay" for kidnapped journalists.[231] ISIS has also kidnapped foreign-aid workers and Syrians who work for foreign-funded groups and reconstruction projects in Syria.[231] By mid-2014, ISIS was holding assets valued at US$2 billion,[232] which made it the world's wealthiest Islamist group.[233]

Kidnapping as psychological warfare

Boko Haram has been described as using kidnapping as a means of intimidating the civilian population into non-resistance.[234][235]

According to psychologist Irwin Mansdorf, Hamas demonstrated effectiveness of kidnapping as a form of psychological warfare in the 2006 capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit when public pressure forced the government of Israel to release 1027 prisoners, including 280 convicted of terrorism by Israel, in exchange for his release.[236] According to The New York Times, "Hamas has recognized the pull such incidents have over the Israeli psyche and clearly has moved to grab hostages in incidents such as the death and ransoming of Oron Shaul."[237]

Internet recruiting

In the beginning of the 21st century, emerged a worldwide network of hundreds of web sites that inspire, train, educate and recruit young Muslims to engage in jihad against the United States and other Western countries, taking less prominent roles in mosques and community centers that are under scrutiny. According to The Washington Post, "Online recruiting has exponentially increased, with Facebook, YouTube and the increasing sophistication of people online".[238]

Examples of organizations and acts

The "black flag of Jihad", used by various Islamist organisations since the late 1990s, consists of a white-on-black shahada.

Some prominent Islamic terror groups and incidents include the following:

Africa

In the 1990s, a distinct pattern of jihadist attacks in East Africa emerged. In 2006, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) defeated Somali warlords which resulted in an armed jihadist movement controlling a territory of their own. The ICU was later militarily defeated and al-Shabaab was formed from its remnants. Al-Shabaab would later ally itself with al-Qaeda. In 2017, the EUISS noted an increased frequency of jihadist violence in an arc extending across borders from the Red Sea to the Gulf of Guinea.[239]

Algeria

The Armed Islamic Group, active in Algeria between 1992 and 1998, was one of the most violent Islamic terrorist groups, and is thought to have takfired the Muslim population of Algeria. Its campaign to overthrow the Algerian government included civilian massacres, sometimes wiping out entire villages in its area of operation. It also targeted foreigners living in Algeria, killing more than 100 expatriates in the country. In recent years it has been eclipsed by a splinter group, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), now called Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb.[240][241]

Burkina Faso

In January 2016, terrorists from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) shot and killed 30 people at the Splendid Hotel in Ougadougou.[242]

The terrorist organisation Ansar ul Islam is active in Burkina Faso and has conducted assassinations, looting, attacks on police and has closed hundreds of schools.[242]

Egypt

Egypt has faced Islamist violence in repeated attacks since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising.[243]

On 17 November 1997, a splinter group of the al-Jama'a al-Islamiyya, an Egyptian Islamist organization, carried out the Luxor massacre where 62 people were killed. Most of the killed were tourists.[244]

On 29 December 2017 in Cairo, a gunman opened fire at the Coptic Orthodox Church of Saint Menas and a nearby shop owned by a Coptic man. Ten citizens and a police officer were killed around ten people were injured in the attack which was claimed by the Islamic state.[245][246]

Kenya

During the 1990s Muslims in Kenya received religious radical instruction from Al-Qaeda and Somali group l-Itihad al-Islami (AIAI). AIAI sought to create an Islamic government over Somalia and the Ogaden region in Ethiopia. In Kenya, it recruited among Somalis in Kenya living in the North Eastern Province and the Eastleigh district in Nairobi.[247]

On 7 August 1998, Al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi in an attack that claimed 213 lives.[247]

On 28 November 2002, Al-Qaeda militants attacked an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa where 15 were killed. Militants also fired shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles at an airliner which escaped unharmed.[247]

On Saturday 21 September 2013, four Al-Shabaab militants attacked a shopping mall in Nairobi, shooting and throwing grenades at shoppers. The civilian death toll was 61, along with six soldiers and five of the attackers.[248]

In 2015, 147 people were killed by Al-Shabaab militants during the Garissa University College attack.[249]

After Al-Shabaab abducted foreign aid workers and tourists in Kenya, Kenyan troops were sent to Somalia in October 2011 to pursue al-Shabab militants. In the wake of the intervention, Kenya has suffered a number of attacks carried out both by al-Shabaab militants as well as Kenyan Muslim recruited by radical clerics in North-Eastern and Coast provinces.[247]

Mauritius

During the night of Sunday 29 May 2016 and the following morning, several gunshots were fired at the French Embassy located in the capital city Port Louis. Graffiti was also painted by the attackers on the front fence of the compound which referred to Islamic State and claims that their prophet Abu Bakr Baghdadi had been insulted.[250][251]

Morocco

The majority of the perpetrators directly and indirectly involved in the 2004 Madrid train bombings were Moroccans. In the aftermath of that attack, Morocco became a focus of attention for anti-terrorist authorities in Spain.[252]

While Morocco is generally seen as a secure destination for tourists as the last terrorist attack happened in 2011 where 17 people were killed by bomb at a restaurant in Marrakesh, over 1600 people have travelled from Morocco to join the Islamic State in the Syrian Civil War. Moroccan authorities initially ignored the people who joined ISIS but later on realised they could return to commit terrorist offences in Morocco. As a result, the Bureau Central d'Investigations Judiciaires (BCIJ) was formed.[253]

In the 2013-2017 period anti-terrorist authorities in Morocco, in cooperation with their counterparts in Spain, conducted up to eleven joint operations against jihadist cells and networks.[252]

In 2016, the government developed a strategy to further adherence to the Maliki Islamic school of thought. The authorities removed Quranic passages that were deemed too violent from religious education textbooks. As a result, the textbooks were reduced to 24 lessons from the 50 lessons they had before.[252][254]

In 2017 it was estimated that Moroccans and 2000 Moroccan-Europeans had travelled to join the Islamic State caliphate in the Syrian Civil War, which along with other fighters from MENA countries contributed a significant force to ISIS.[252]

According to a researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies, Moroccan authorities appear to have a good grip on the jihadist situation and cooperates with European and US authorities. Moroccans are overrepresented in "diaspora terrorism", that is terrorism which takes place outside the borders of Morocco. For example, two Moroccans were behind the 2017 London Bridge attack and a Moroccan killed people by driving his van into pedestrians in La Rambla in the 2017 Barcelona terrorist attacks.[253]

Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon insurgency by Boko Haram

Boko Haram is an Islamic extremist group based in northeastern Nigeria which began violent attacks in 2009, also active in Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon. In the 2009-2018 period, more than 27 000 people have been killed in the fighting in the countries around Lake Chad.[255][256] Boko Haram consists of two factions, one is led by Abubakar Shekau and it uses suicide bombings and kill civilians indiscriminately. The other is named Islamic State West Africa Province and it generally attacks military and government installations.[256]

Somalia and the Horn of Africa

Al-Shabaab is a militant jihadist terrorist group based in East Africa, which emerged in 2006 as the youth wing of the Islamic Courts Union. A number of foreign jihadists[who?] have gone to Somalia to support al-Shabaab. In 2012, it pledged allegiance to the militant Islamist organization Al-Qaeda. It is a participant in the Somali Civil War, and is reportedly being used by Egypt to destabilize Ethiopia, and attracting converts from predominantly Christian Kenya.[255]

In 2010, the group killed 76 people watching the 2010 World Cup in Uganda.[257]

In 2017, al-Shabaab was estimated to have about 7000-9000 fighters. It has imposed a strict Sharia law in areas it controls, such as stoning adulterers and amputating hands of thieves.[255]

Tunisia

On 11 April 2002, a Tunisian Al-Qaeda operative used a truck bomb to attack the El Ghriba synagogue on Djerba island. The attack killed 19 people and injured 30 and was planned by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and financed by a Pakistani resident of Spain.[258][259]

On 18 March 2015, three militants attacked the Bardo National Museum in the Tunisian capital city of Tunis, and took hostages. Twenty-one people, mostly European tourists, were killed at the scene, and an additional victim died ten days later. Around fifty others were injured.[260][261][262] Two of the gunmen, Tunisian citizens Yassine Labidi and Saber Khachnaoui were killed by police. Police treated the event as a terrorist attack.[263][264]

In June 2015, a mass shooting claimed by the Islamic State was carried out at a hotel by Seifeddine Rezgui. Thirty-eight people were killed, the majority of whom were tourists from the United Kingdom.[265]

Central Asia

Afghanistan

According to Human Rights Watch, Taliban and Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin forces have "sharply escalated bombing and other attacks" against civilians since 2006. In 2006, "at least 669 Afghan civilians were killed in at least 350 armed attacks, most of which appear to have been intentionally launched at civilians or civilian objects".[266]

Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyz-American brothers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing.

Tajikistan

The government blamed the IMU (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan) for training those responsible for carrying out a suicide car bombing of a police station in Khujand on 3 September 2010. Two policemen were killed and 25 injured.[267]

Uzbekistan

On 16 February 1999, six car bombs exploded in Tashkent, killing 16 and injuring more than 100, in what may have been an attempt to assassinate President Islam Karimov. The IMU was blamed.[268]

The IMU launched a series of attacks in Tashkent and Bukhara in March and April 2004. Gunmen and female suicide bombers took part in the attacks, which mainly targeted police. The violence killed 33 militants, 10 policemen, and four civilians.[269] The government blamed Hizb ut-Tahrir,[270] though the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) claimed responsibility.[271]

Furkat Kasimovich Yusupov was arrested in the first half of 2004, and charged as the leader of a group that had carried out the March 28 bombing on behalf of Hizb ut-Tahrir.[272]

On 30 July 2004, suicide bombers struck the entrances of the US and Israeli embassies in Tashkent. Two Uzbek security guards were killed in both bombings.[273] The IJU again claimed responsibility.[271]

Foreign commentators on Uzbek affairs speculated that the 2004 violence could have been the work of the IMU, Al-Qaeda, Hizb ut-Tahrir, or some other radical Islamic organization.[274][275]

East Asia

China

South Asia

Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, the group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh was formed sometime in 1998, and gained prominence in 2001.[276] The organization was officially banned in February 2005 after attacks on NGOs, but struck back in August when 300 bombs were detonated almost simultaneously throughout Bangladesh, targeting Shahjalal International Airport, government buildings and major hotels.[277][278]

The Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), also called Ansar Bangla is an Islamic extremist organization in Bangladesh, implicated in crimes including some brutal attacks and murders of atheist bloggers from 2013 to 2015 and a bank heist in April 2015.[279]

Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (Arabic: ? ‎, ?arkat al-Jih?d al-Isl?miyah, meaning "Islamic Jihad Movement", HuJI) is an Islamic fundamentalist organisation most active in South Asian countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and India since the early 1990s. It was banned in Bangladesh in 2005.

India

Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Al Badr & Hizbul Mujahideen are militant groups seeking accession of Kashmir to Pakistan from India.[280] The Lashkar leadership describes Indian and Israel regimes as the main enemies of Islam and Pakistan.[281] Lashkar-e-Toiba, along with Jaish-e-Mohammed, another militant group active in Kashmir are on the United States' foreign terrorist organizations list, and are also designated as terrorist groups by the United Kingdom,[282] India, Australia[283] and Pakistan.[284] Jaish-e-Mohammed was formed in 1994 and has carried out a series of attacks all over India.[285][286] The group was formed after the supporters of Maulana Masood Azhar split from another Islamic militant organization, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. Jaish-e-Mohammed is viewed by some as the "deadliest" and "the principal terrorist organization in Jammu and Kashmir".[287] The group was also implicated in the kidnapping and murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl.[287] All these groups coordinate under leadership of Syed Salahuddin's United Jihad Council.

Some major bomb blasts and attacks in India were perpetrated by Islamic militants from Pakistan, e.g. the 2008 Mumbai attacks and 2001 Indian Parliament attack.[288][circular reference]

2006 Mumbai train bombings killed 209 people and injured 700 more. It was carried out by banned Students Islamic Movement of India terrorist groups.[289]

Pakistan

Sri Lanka

The 2019 Sri Lanka Easter bombings, orchestrated by the National Thowheeth Jama'ath,[290] were the deadliest terrorist attack in the country since its civil war ended on May 16, 2009.

Southeast Asia

Indonesia

Philippines

The Abu Sayyaf Group, also known as al-Harakat al-Islamiyya, is one of several militant Islamic-separatist groups based in and around the southern islands of the Philippines, in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Jolo, Basilan, and Mindanao) where for almost 30 years various Muslim groups have been engaged in an insurgency for a state, independent of the predominantly Christian Philippines. The name of the group is derived from the Arabic , abu ("father of") and sayyaf ("Swordsmith").[291] Since its inception in the early 1990s, the group has carried out bombings, assassinations, kidnappings and extortion in their fight for an independent Islamic state in western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago with the stated goal of creating a pan-Islamic superstate across southeast Asia, spanning from east to west; the island of Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago, the island of Borneo (Malaysia, Indonesia), the South China Sea, and the Malay Peninsula (Peninsular Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar).[292] The U.S. Department of State has branded the group a terrorist entity by adding it to the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.[292]

Thailand

Most of the terrorist incidents in Thailand are related to the South Thailand insurgency.

Europe

Lethal attacks on civilians in Europe which have been credited to Islamist terrorism include the 2004 bombings of commuter trains in Madrid, where 191 people were killed, the 7 July 2005 London bombings, also of public transport, which killed 52 commuters, and the 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting, in Paris, where 12 people were killed in response to the satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo depicting cartoons of Muhammad. On November 13, 2015 the French capital suffered a series of coordinated attacks, claimed by ISIS, that killed 129 people in restaurants, the Bataclan theatre and the Stade de France.[294]

Out of 1,009 arrests for terrorism in 2008, 187 were in relation to Islamist terrorism. The report showed that the majority of Islamist terror suspects were second or third generation immigrants.[295]

In 2009, a Europol report showed that more than 99% of terrorist attacks in Europe over the last three years were, carried out by non-Muslims.[295][page needed] Swedish economist Tino Sanandaji has criticised the use of statistics where the number of attacks are counted instead of the number of killed, since 79% of terrorist deaths 2001-2011 in Europe were due to Islamic terrorism. Therefore, statistics focusing on the number of attacks instead of the number killed are exploited by those who wish to trivialise the phenomenon.[296] The great difference in the number of attacks versus the number of killed is that separatist attacks in Spain, typically involve vandalism and not killing. So in statistics, the global terrorist plot leading to the 9/11 attack and a party headquarters being vandalised and painted with slogans by domestic terrorists each count as one terrorist attack.[296] According to a report by Europol on terrorism in the European Union, in 2016 "nearly all reported fatalities and most of the casualties were the result of jihadist terrorist attacks." A majority of about two-thirds of all terrorist-related arrests in the EU were also jihadist-related.[297]

The majority of deaths by terrorism in Europe from 2001 to 2014 were caused by Islamic terrorism, not including Islamic terrorist attacks in European Russia.[298]

According to the British think tank[299] ICSR, up to 40% of terrorist plots in Europe are part-financed through petty crime such as drug-dealing, theft, robberies, loan fraud and burglaries. Jihadists use ordinary crime as a way to finance their activity and have also argued this to be the "ideologically correct" way to wage jihad in non-Muslim lands.[300]

The pattern of jihadist attacks in 2017 led Europol to conclude that terrorists preferred to attack people rather than causing property damage or loss of capital.[301]

According to Europol, the jihadist attacks in 2017 had three patterns:[302]

The agency's report also noted that jihadist attacks had caused more deaths and casualties than any other type of terrorist attack, that such attacks had become more frequent, and that there had been a decrease in the sophistication and preparation of the attacks.[303]

According to Susanne Schröter, the 2017 attacks in European countries showed that the military defeat of the Islamic State did not mean the end of Islamist violence. Schröter also wrote that the events in Europe looked like a delayed implementation of jihadist strategy formulated by Abu Musab al-Suri in 2005, where an intensification of terror should destabilise societies and encourage Muslim youth to revolt. The expected civil war never materialised Europe, but did occur in other regions such as North Africa and the Philippines.[304]

In April 2018, EU anti-terror coordinator estimated there to be 50,000 radicalized Muslims living in Europe.[305]

Belgium

In the 1990s Belgium was a transit country for Islamist terrorist groups like the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria (GIA) and the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM).[306]

Belgium has a population of 11 million including large numbers of immigrants from Muslim countries. 100,000 Moroccan citizens live in Belgium, often descended from Moroccans recruited to work in the mining industry in the 1960s; a small fraction of the children and grandchildren of the immigrant generation have been attracted to Militant Islamism and jihad. A tiny fraction of this large Muslim population has participated in terrorist attacks.[307] In a report by the Combating Terrorism Center, of the 135 individuals surveyed in connection with terrorism, there were 12 different nationalities. Of those 65% had Belgian citizenship and 33% were either Moroccan citizens or had ancestral roots there.[308]

In 2016, Belgian researcher estimated that about 562 individuals had travelled to become foreign fighters in the Syrian and Iraqi Civil Wars, the majority of whom joined the Islamic State with others joining the al-Qaida-affiliated group Al-Nusra Front.[309] The majority of those who went to the Syria in the 2012-2016 time span were of Moroccan descent according to U.S. and Belgian authorities.[310]

Belgium has been the base of operations for a number of terrorist attacks in the 2010s, including the November 2015 Paris attacks.[307] It has also been the place where some Islamist militants developed militant views before going to the Middle East to fight with ISIS.[307]

In June 2016, with 451 fighters having travelled to join the Syrian Civil War, Belgium had the highest number of foreign fighters per capita.[306]

The November 2015 Paris attacks in France were coordinated and planned from Belgium. The overall leader of that terrorist cell was believed to be Mohamed Belkaid, an Islamic State operative from Algeria who previously had lived in Sweden. Belkaid was killed in a shootout in the Foret district of Brussels, during which Belkaid was firing on police to allow Salah Abdeslam to escape. Salah Abdeslam was arrested a few days later and the surviving members of the cell, including brothers Najim Laachraoui and Khalid and Ibrahim Bakraoui (previously armed robbers) launched the 2016 Brussels bombings targeting Brussels airport and metro killing 32.[306]

Terrorism experts regard ISIS activities in Europe's Francophone area as a single, French-Belgian nexus of Islamic State activity and attacks.[311]


Finland

The first Islamist terrorist attack in Finland was the 2017 Turku attack where Abderrahman Bouanane, a failed asylum seeker from Morocco, stabbed two women to death and wounded eight other people in his stabbing attack.[312]

Islamic militants constituted the majority of those under surveillance by the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (SUPO) in 2020 and Finland is portrayed as an enemy state in Islamic State propaganda. The militant Islamist networks in Finland are multiethnic and span across generations, where the third generation of a number of Muslim immigrant families are radicalised. This leads to Muslim children growing up in a radicalized environment. The Foreign fighters in the Syrian and Iraqi Civil Wars movement has amplified transnational contacts for the Islamist movements in Finland. A number of militants have arrived from the conflict zone in Syria and the Al-Hawl refugee camp and constitute both a short and long term security threat.[313][314]

France

France had its first occurrences with religious extremism in the 1980s due to French involvement in the Lebanese civil war. In the 1990s, a series of attacks on French soil were executed by the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria (GIA).

In the 1990-2010 time span, France experienced repeated attacks linked to international jihadist movements.[252] Le Monde reported on 26 July 2016 that "Islamist Terrorism" had caused 236 dead in France in the preceding 18-month period.[315]

In the 2015-2018 timespan in France, 249 people been killed in terrorist attacks and 928 wounded in a total of 22 terrorist attacks.[316]

The deadly attacks in 2015 in France changed the issue of Islamist radicalization from a security threat to also constitute a social problem. Prime minister François Hollande and prime minister Manuel Valls saw the fundamental values of the French republic being challenged and called them attacks against secular, enlightenment and democratic values along with "what makes us who we are".[252]

Although jihadists in the 2015-onward timeframe legitimized their attacks with a narrative of reprisal for France's participation in the international coalition fighting the Islamic State, Islamic terrorism in France has other, deeper and older causes. The main reasons France suffers frequent attacks are, in no particular order:[317]

  • France's secular domestic policies (Laïcité) which jihadists perceive to be hostile towards Islam. Also, France's status as an officially secular nation and jihadists label France as "the flagship of disbelief".[317]
  • France has a strong cultural tradition in comics, which in the context Muhammad cartoons is a question of freedom of expression.[318]
  • France has a large Muslim minority[318]
  • France's foreign policy towards Muslim countries and jihadist fronts. France is seen as the spearhead directed against jihadist groups in Africa, just as the United States is seen as the main force opposing jihadist groups elsewhere. France's former foreign policies such as that as its colonization of Muslim countries is also brought up in jihadist propaganda, for example, that the influence of French education, culture and political institutions had served to erase the Muslim identity of those colonies and their inhabitants.[319]
  • Jihadists consider France as a strong proponent of disbelief. For instance, Marianne, the national emblem of France, is considered as "a false idol" by jihadists and the French to be "idol worshippers". France also has no law against blasphemy and an anticlerical satirical press which is less respectful towards religion than that of the US or the United Kingdom. The French nation state is also perceived as an obstacle towards establishing a caliphate.[319]

In 2020 two Islamic terrorist attacks were foiled by authorities, bringing the total to 33 since 2017 according to Laurent Nuñez, the director of CNRLT, who declared that Sunni Islamist terrorism was a prioritised threat. Nuñez drew parallels between the three attacks of 2020 which all were attacks on "blasphemy and the will to avenge their prophet".[320]

Germany

In the 2015-2020 time span, there were 9 Islamic terrorist attacks and thwarted terrorist plots where at least one of the perpetrators had entered Germany as an asylum seeker during the European migrant crisis. The Islamic terrorists entered Germany either without identity documents or with falsified documents. The number of discovered plots began to decline in 2017. In 2020 German authorities noted that the majority of the asylum seekers entered Germany without identification papers during the crisis and security agencies considered unregulated immigration as problematic from a security aspect.[321]

Italy

Despite its proximity to the Middle East and North Africa, relatively porous borders, and a large influx of migrants from Muslim majority countries, Italy has not experienced the same surge in radicalization as other European countries. Just 125 individuals with ties to Italy left to join jihadist groups, compared with Belgium's 470 and Sweden's 300 such individuals in the same period from their much smaller populations. Since the September 11 attacks in 2001, there have been a small number of plots either thwarted or failed. Two individuals born in Italy have been involved in terrorist attacks, Youssef Zaghba one of the trio of attackers in the June 2017 London Bridge attack while ISIS sympathizer Tomasso Hosni attacked soldiers at Milan's Central station in May 2017.[252]

Deportation (expulsion) of suspects who are foreign nationals has been the cornerstone of Italy's preventive counter-terrorism strategy against jihadists.[322] Deportees are prohibited from re-entering Italy and the entire Schengen Area for at least five years. This measure is particularly effective because in Italy, unlike in other Western European countries, many radicalized Muslims are first-generation immigrants without Italian citizenship. As elsewhere in Europe, prison inmates show signs of radicalization while incarcerated. In 2018, 41 individuals were deported upon release.[322] Of the 147 people deported from 2015 to 2017, all were related to Islamist radicalization and 12 were imams.[323] From January 2015 to April 2018, 300 individuals were expelled from Italian soil.[252] The vast majority of the deportees come from North Africa, with most of the deportees come from Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt. A noted group came from the Balkans, with 13 individuals from Albania, 14 from Kosovo and 12 from Macedonia. A smaller group were from Asia, with Pakistanis constituting the largest group.[323]

Netherlands

Jihadists oppose Dutch society and the Dutch government[324] and hold intolerant and anti-democratic views.[325]

In 2009, the AIVD reported that armed Islamic extremists in Somalia received support from individuals in the Netherlands. In the years leading up to 2006, there was an increase in radical activity which among other events manifested itself in the assassination of Theo van Gogh in 2004 by the Hofstad Network. In the years after 2006 radical activities diminished despite continued military presence by Dutch forces in Afghanistan and material deemed provocative by Muslims, such as Geert Wilder's film Fitna. While Islamist networks earlier had a strong local base of support centered around charismatic leaders, several of those leaders were arrested and deported by Dutch authorities or they left the country voluntarily. This led to reduced recruiting to those networks.[326]

According to the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) in 2018, there are about 500 active supporters and thousands of sympathisers in the Netherlands.[327]

In 2015 the AIVD reported that jihadists exploited the boundaries in the Dutch legal framework, by testing the limits of civil rights such as freedom of speech.[325]

In 2017 AIVD approximated the number of female jihadists in the Netherlands to be about 100 and at least 80 women had left the Netherlands to join the conflict, the majority of whom joined ISIS.[328] Jihadist women in the Netherlands encourage both men and women to believe in their ideology by entering into discussions online and offline as well as spreading jihadist propaganda. Jihadist women also help travellers to conflict zones by providing material support or putting them in touch with facilitators. They also help by hiding the fact that someone has left to join a conflict zone.[324]

In the 2012 - November 2018 period, above 310 individuals had travelled from the Netherlands to the conflict in Syria and Iraq. Of those 85 had been killed and 55 returned to the Netherlands. Of the surviving Dutch foreign fighters in the region, 135 are fighters in the conflict zone and three quarters are members of ISIS. The remaining quarter have joined Al-Qaeda affiliated groups such as Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham or Tanzim Hurras al-Deen.[329]


Attacks in the Netherlands

Norway

In 2012, two men were sentenced in Oslo to seven and a half years in jail for an attack against Mohammad-cartoonist Kurt Westergaard. This was the first sentence under the new anti-terror legislation. A third man was freed from the accusation of terrorism, but was sentenced for helping with explosives and he received a fourth-month prison sentence.[335]

Poland

In 2015, the terrorist threat level was zero, on its scale which has four levels plus the "zero level". About 20-40 Polish nationals had travelled to the conflict zone in Syria-Iraq.[336]

Russia

Beslan school victim photos

Politically and religiously motivated attacks on civilians in Russia have been traced to separatist sentiment among the largely Muslim population of its North Caucasus region, particularly in Chechnya, where the central government of the Russian Federation has waged two bloody wars against the local secular separatist government since 1994. In the Moscow theater hostage crisis in October 2002, three Chechen separatist groups took an estimated 850 people hostage in the Russian capital; at least 129 hostages died during the storming by Russian special forces, all but one killed by the chemicals used to subdue the attackers (whether this attack would more properly be called a nationalist rather than an Islamist attack is in question). In the September 2004 Beslan school hostage crisis more than 1,000 people were taken hostage after a school in the Russian republic of North Ossetia-Alania was seized by a pro-Chechen multi-ethnic group aligned to Riyad-us Saliheen Brigade of Martyrs; hundreds of people died during the storming by Russian forces.[337]

Since 2000, Russia has also experienced a string of suicide bombings that killed hundreds of people in the Caucasian republics of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, as well as in Russia proper including Moscow. Responsibility for most of these attacks was claimed by either Shamil Basayev's Islamic-nationalist rebel faction or, later, by Dokka Umarov's pan-Islamist movement Caucasus Emirate which is aiming to unite most of Russia's North Caucasus as an emirate since its creation in 2007.[338] Since the creation of the Caucasus Emirate, the group has abandoned its secular nationalist goals and fully adopted the ideology of Salafist-takfiri Jihadism[339] which seeks to advance the cause of Allah on the earth by waging war against the Russian government and non-Muslims in the North Caucasus, such as the local Sufi Muslim population, whom they view as mushrikeen (polytheists) who do not adhere to true Islamic teachings. In 2011, the U.S. Department of State included the Caucasus Emirate on its list of terrorist organisations.[340]

Spain


Jihadists were present in Spain from 1994, when an al-Qaeda cell was established.[341] In 1996, the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria (GIA), an organisation affiliated with al-Qaeda, founded a cell in the province of Valencia.[342] In the 1995-2003 period, slightly over 100 people were arrested for offences releated to militant salafism, an average of 12 per year.[341]

In 2004, Madrid commuters suffered the 2004 Madrid train bombings, which were perpetrated by remnants of the first al-Qaeda cell, members of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM) plus a gang of criminals turned into jihadists.[341]

In the period 2004-2012, there were 470 arrests, an average of 52 per year and four times the pre-Madrid bombings average which indicated that the jihadist threat persisted after the Madrid attack. In the years after the Madrid attack, 90% of all jihadists convicted in Spain were foreigners, mainly from Morocco, Pakistan and Algeria, while 7 out of 10 resided in the metropolitan areas of Madrid or Barcelona. The vast majority were involved in cells linked to organisations such as al-Qaeda, the GICM, the Algerian Salafist group Group for Preaching and Combat which had replaced the GIA, and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.[341]

In the period 2013, jihadism in Spain transformed to be less overwhelmingly associated with foreigners. Arrests 2013-2017 show that 4 out of 10 arrested were Spanish nationals and 3 out of 10 were born in Spain. Most others had Morocco as a country of nationality or birth with its main focus among Moroccan descendants residing in the North African cities of Ceuta and Melilla. The most prominent jihadist presence was the province of Barcelona.[341] In 2013 and 2014 there were cells associated with Al-Nusra Front, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[341]

In 2017, a terrorist cell based in the province of Barcelona carried out the vehicle-ramming 2017 Barcelona attacks, even if their original plans were on a larger scale.[341]


Sweden

According to the Swedish Defence University, since the 1970s, a number of residents of Sweden have been implicated in providing logistical and financial support to or joining various foreign-based transnational Islamic militant groups. Among these organizations are Hezbollah, Hamas, the GIA, Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, Al-Shabaab, Ansar al-Sunna and Ansar al-Islam.[343]

In the 2000s, Islamists in Sweden were not primarily seeking to commit attacks in Sweden, but were rather using Sweden as a base of operations against other countries and for providing logistical support for groups abroad.[344]

In 2010, the Swedish Security Service estimated that a total of 200 individuals were involved in the Swedish violent Islamist extremist milieu. According to the Swedish Defence University, most of these militants were affiliated with the Islamic State, with around 300 people traveling to Syria and Iraq to join the group and Al-Qaeda associated outfits like Jabhat al-nusra in the 2012-2017 period[343] and some have financed their activities with funds from the Swedish state welfare systems.[345] In 2017, Swedish Security Service director Anders Thornberg stated that the number of violent Islamic extremists residing in Sweden to number was estimated to be "thousands".[346] The Danish Security and Intelligence Service judged the number of jihadis in Sweden to be a threat against Denmark since two terrorists arriving from Sweden had already been sentenced in the 2010 Copenhagen terror plot.[347] Security expert Magnus Ranstorp has argued that efforts to improve anti-terror legislation has been hampered by human rights activists such as Ywonne Ruwaida, Mehmet Kaplan and the organisation Charta 2008 [sv]. A change in the activism occurred in the 2013/14 time frame due to the number of Swedish citizens travelling to join the Islamic State. He also stated that some of the loudest activists have withdrawn from public debate after being exposed for harassing women in the metoo campaign.[348]


Islamic terror attacks in Sweden

In 2010, Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, an Iraqi-born Swedish citizen, attempted to kill Christmas shoppers in Stockholm in the 2010 Stockholm bombings. According to investigations by FBI, the bombing would likely have killed between 30 and 40 people had it succeeded, and it is thought that al-Abdaly operated with a network.[349]

In April 2017 Rakhmat Akilov, a 39-year-old rejected asylum seeker born in the Soviet Union and a citizen of Uzbekistan, drove a truck down a pedestrian area in Stockholm and killed five people and injured dozens of others in the 2017 Stockholm truck attack. He has expressed sympathy with extremist organizations, among them the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL),[350]

Balkans

Middle East/West Asia

Turkey

Historians have said that militant Islamism first gained ground among Kurds before its appeal grew among ethnic Turks and that the two most important radical Islamist organizsations have been an outgrowth of Kurdish Islamism rather than Turkish Islamism.[351] The Turkish or Kurdish Hizbullah is a primarily Kurdish group has its roots in the predominantly Kurdish southeast of Turkey and among Kurds who migrated to the cities in Western Turkey.[351] The members of the ?BDA-C were predominantly Kurds, most members if not all are ethnic Kurds like its founder, as in the Hizbullah. The ?BDA-C stressed its Kurdish roots, and is fighting Turkish secularism, and is also anti-Christian. The Hizbula reestablished in 2003 in southeastern Turkey and "today its ideology might be more widespread than ever among Kurds there".[351] The influence of these groups confirms "the continuing Kurdish domination of Turkish islamism". Notable Kurdish Islamists include also[352](an Iraqi Kurd born in Sudan) co-founder of the Islamist terrorist network al-Qaeda. There is a strong Kurdish element in Turkish radical Islamism.[351] Kurdish and Turkish Islamists have also co-operated together, one example being the 2003 Istanbul bombings, and this co-operation has also been observed in Germany, as in the case of the Sauerland terror cell. Political scientist Guido Steinberg stated that many top leaders of Islamist organizations in Turkey fled to Germany in the 2000s, and that the Turkish Hizbullah has also "left an imprint on Turkish Kurds in Germany".[351] Also many Kurds from Iraq (there are about 50,000 to 80,000 Iraqi Kurds in Germany) financially supported Kurdish-Islamist groups like Ansar al Islam.[351] Many Islamists in Germany are ethnic Kurds (Iraqi and Turkish Kurds) or Turks. Before 2006, the German Islamist scene was dominated by Iraqi Kurds and Palestinians, but since 2006 Kurds and Turks from Turkey are dominant.[351]

Hezbollah in Turkey (unrelated to the Shia Hezbollah in Lebanon) is a Sunni terrorist group[353] accused of a series of attacks, including the November 2003 bombings of two synagogues, the British consulate in Istanbul and HSBC bank headquarters that killed 58.[354] Hizbullah's leader, Hüseyin Velio?lu, was killed in action by Turkish police in Beykoz on 17 January 2000. Besides Hizbullah, other Islamic groups listed as a terrorist organization by Turkish police counter-terrorism include Great Eastern Islamic Raiders' Front, al-Qaeda in Turkey, Tevhid-Selam (also known as al-Quds Army), and Kalifatstaat ("Caliphate State", Hilafet Devleti). Islamic Party of Kurdistan and Hereketa ?slamiya Kurdistan are also Islamist groups active against Turkey, however unlike Hizbullah they're yet to be listed as active terrorist organizations in Turkey by Turkish police counter-terrorism.[355]

Iraq

The area that has seen some of the worst terror attacks in modern history has been Iraq as part of the Iraq War. In 2005, there were more than 400 incidents of suicide bombing attacks, killing more than 2,000 people.[356] In 2006, almost half of all reported terrorist attacks in the world (6,600), and more than half of all terrorist fatalities (13,000), occurred in Iraq, according to the National Counterterrorism Center of the United States.[357] Along with nationalist groups and criminal, non-political attacks, the Iraqi insurgency includes Islamist insurgent groups, such as Al-Qaeda in Iraq, who favor suicide attacks far more than non-Islamist groups. At least some of the terrorism has a transnational character in that some foreign Islamic jihadists have joined the insurgency.[358]

Israel and the Palestinian territories

Hamas ("zeal" in Arabic and an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya) grew in power and began attacks on military and civilian targets in Israel at the beginning of the First Intifada in 1987.[359] The 1988 charter of Hamas calls for the destruction of Israel.[360] Hamas's armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was established in mid 1991[361] and claimed responsibility for numerous attacks against Israelis, principally suicide bombings and rocket attacks. Hamas has been accused of sabotaging the Israeli-Palestine peace process by launching attacks on civilians during Israeli elections to anger Israeli voters and facilitate the election of harder-line Israeli candidates.[362] Hamas has been designated as a terrorist group by Canada, the United States, Israel, Australia, Japan, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and Human Rights Watch. It is banned in Jordan. Russia does not consider Hamas a terrorist group as it was "democratically elected".[363] During the Second Intifada (September 2000 through August 2005) 39.9 percent of the suicide attacks were carried out by Hamas.[364] The first Hamas suicide attack was the Mehola Junction bombing in 1993.[365] Hamas claims its aims are "To contribute in the effort of liberating Palestine and restoring the rights of the Palestinian people under the sacred Islamic teachings of the Holy Quran, the Sunna (traditions) of Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the traditions of Muslims rulers and scholars noted for their piety and dedication."[361]

Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine is a Palestinian Islamist group based in the Syrian capital, Damascus, and dedicated to waging jihad to eliminate the state of Israel. It was formed by Palestinian Fathi Shaqaqi in the Gaza Strip following the Iranian Revolution which inspired its members. From 1983 onward, it engaged in "a succession of violent, high-profile attacks" on Israeli targets. The Intifada which "it eventually sparked" was quickly taken over by the much larger Palestine Liberation Organization and Hamas.[366] Beginning in September 2000, it started a campaign of suicide bombing attacks against Israeli civilians. The PIJ's armed wing, the Al-Quds brigades, has claimed responsibility for numerous terrorist attacks in Israel, including suicide bombings. The group has been designated as a terrorist organization by several Western countries.

Popular Resistance Committees is a coalition of a number of armed Palestinian groups opposed to what they regard as the conciliatory approach of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah towards Israel. The PRC is especially active in the Gaza Strip, through its military wing, the Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades.[367] The PRC is said to have an extreme Islamic worldview and operates with Hamas and the Islamic Jihad movement. The PRC has carried out several attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers including hundreds of shooting attacks and other rocket and bombing attacks.[368]

Other groups linked with Al-Qaeda operate in the Gaza Strip including: Army of Islam, Abdullah Azzam Brigades, Jund Ansar Allah, Jaljalat and Tawhid al-Jihad.

Lebanon

Hezbollah first emerged in 1982, as a militia during the 1982 Lebanon War.[369][370] Its leaders were inspired by the Ayatollah Khomeini, and its forces were trained and organized by a contingent of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.[371] Hezbollah's 1985 manifesto listed its three main goals as "putting an end to any colonialist entity" in Lebanon, bringing the Phalangists to justice for "the crimes they [had] perpetrated", and the establishment of an Islamic regime in Lebanon.[372][373] Hezbollah leaders have also made numerous statements calling for the destruction of Israel, which they refer to as a "Zionist entity... built on lands wrested from their owners."[372][373]

Hezbollah, which started with only a small militia, has grown to an organization with seats in the Lebanese government, a radio and a satellite television-station, and programs for social development.[374] They maintain strong support among Lebanon's Shi'a population, and gained a surge of support from Lebanon's broader population (Sunni, Christian, Druze) immediately following the 2006 Lebanon War,[375] and are able to mobilize demonstrations of hundreds of thousands.[376] Hezbollah along with some other groups began the 2006-2008 Lebanese political protests in opposition to the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.[377] A later dispute over Hezbollah preservation of its telecoms network led to clashes and Hezbollah-led opposition fighters seized control of several West Beirut neighborhoods from Future Movement militiamen loyal to Fouad Siniora. These areas were then handed over to the Lebanese Army.[378]

A national unity government was formed in 2008, in Lebanon, giving Hezbollah and its opposition allies control of 11 of 30 cabinets seats; effectively veto power.[379] Hezbollah receives its financial support from the governments of Iran and Syria, as well as donations from Lebanese people and foreign Shi'as.[380][381] It has also gained significantly in military strength in the 2000s.[382] Despite a June 2008 certification by the United Nations that Israel had withdrawn from all Lebanese territory,[383] in August, Lebanon's new Cabinet unanimously approved a draft policy statement which secures Hezbollah's existence as an armed organization and guarantees its right to "liberate or recover occupied lands". Since 1992, the organization has been headed by Hassan Nasrallah, its Secretary-General. The United States, Canada, Israel, Bahrain,[384][385][386] France,[387] Gulf Cooperation Council,[388] and the Netherlands regard Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, while the United Kingdom, the European Union[389] and Australia consider only Hezbollah's military wing or its external security organization to be a terrorist organization. Many consider it, or a part of it, to be a terrorist group[390][391] responsible for blowing up the American embassy[392] and later its annex, as well as the barracks of American and French peacekeeping troops and dozens of kidnappings of foreigners in Beirut.[393][394] It is also accused of being the recipient of massive aid from Iran,[395] and of serving "Iranian foreign policy calculations and interests",[393] or serving as a "subcontractor of Iranian initiatives"[394] Hezbollah denies any involvement or dependence on Iran.[396] In the Arab and Muslim worlds, on the other hand, Hezbollah is regarded as a legitimate and successful resistance movement that drove both Western powers and Israel out of Lebanon.[397] In 2005, the Lebanese Prime Minister said of Hezbollah, it "is not a militia. It's a resistance."[398]

Fatah al-Islam is an Islamist group operating out of the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon. It was formed in November 2006, by fighters who broke off from the pro-Syrian Fatah al-Intifada, itself a splinter group of the Palestinian Fatah movement, and is led by a Palestinian fugitive militant named Shaker al-Abssi.[399] The group's members have been described as militant jihadists,[400] and the group itself has been described as a terrorist movement that draws inspiration from al-Qaeda.[399][400][401] Its stated goal is to reform the Palestinian refugee camps under Islamic sharia law,[402] and its primary targets are the Lebanese authorities, Israel and the United States.[399]

Saudi Arabia

Syria

Yemen

North America

Canada

According to recent government statements Islamic terrorism is the biggest threat to Canada.[403] The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) reported that terrorist radicalization at home is now the chief preoccupation of Canada's spy agency.[404] The most notorious arrest in Canada's fight on terrorism, was the 2006 Ontario terrorism plot in which 18 Al-Qaeda-inspired cell members were arrested for planning a mass bombing, shooting, and hostage taking terror plot throughout Southern Ontario. There have also been other arrests mostly in Ontario involving terror plots.[405]

United States

Between 1993 and 2001, the major attacks or attempts against U.S. interests stemmed from militant Islamic jihad extremism except for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.[406] On September 11, 2001, nearly 3,000 people were killed in New York City, Washington, DC, and Stonycreek Township near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, during the September 11 attacks organized by 19 al-Qaeda members and largely perpetrated by Saudi nationals, sparking the War on Terror. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden considers homegrown terrorism to be the most dangerous threat and concern faced by American citizens today.[407] As of July 2011, there have been 52 homegrown jihadist extremist plots or attacks in the United States since the September 11 attacks.[408]

One of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history was committed by a Muslim against LGBT people. Omar Mateen, in an act motivated by the terrorist group Islamic State, shot and murdered 49 people and wounded more than 50 in a gay nightclub, Pulse, in Orlando, Florida.[409]

Oceania

Australia

South America

Argentina

The 1992 attack on Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, was a suicide bombing attack on the building of the Israeli embassy of Argentina, located in Buenos Aires, which was carried out on 17 March 1992. Twenty-nine civilians were killed in the attack and 242 additional civilians were injured. A group called Islamic Jihad Organization, which has been linked to Iran and possibly Hezbollah,[410] claimed responsibility.

An incident from 1994, known as the AMIA bombing, was an attack on the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (Argentine Israelite Mutual Association) building in Buenos Aires. It occurred on July 18 and killed 85 people and injured hundreds more.[411] A suicide bomber drove a Renault Trafic van bomb loaded with about 275 kilograms (606 lb) of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and fuel oil explosive mixture,[412][413] into the Jewish Community Center building located in a densely constructed commercial area of Buenos Aires. Prosecutors Alberto Nisman and Marcelo Martínez Burgos formally accused the government of Iran of directing the bombing, and the Hezbollah militia of carrying it out.[414][415] The prosecution claimed that Argentina had been targeted by Iran after Buenos Aires' decision to suspend a nuclear technology transfer contract to Tehran.[416]

On 18 January 2015, Nisman was found dead at his home in Buenos Aires,[417][418] one day before he was scheduled to report on his findings, with supposedly incriminating evidence against high-ranking officials of the then-current Argentinian government including former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.[419][420][421]

Transnational

Al-Qaeda's stated aim is the use of jihad to defend and protect Islam against Zionism, Christianity, Hinduism, the secular West, and Muslim governments such as Saudi Arabia, which it sees as insufficiently Islamic and too closely tied to the United States.[422][423][424][425] Formed by Osama bin Laden and Muhammad Atef in the aftermath of the Soviet-Afghan War in the late 1980s, al-Qaeda called for the use of violence against civilians and military of the United States and any countries that are allied with it.[]

Organizations

See also

Notes

  1. ^ According to J.J. Goldberg, editor-at-large of The Forward, "During the 1970s a majority of the world's terror attacks were driven by revolutionary leftism or ethnic separatism. In the 21st century, though, the overwhelming majority of incidents are driven by a radical version of Islam."[6]
  2. ^ which is encapsulated in the formula "Islam is exalted and nothing is exalted above it".[18] Also World Assembly of Muslim Youth "which has publicly stated that one of its educational goals is to arm the Muslim youth with full confidence in the supremacy of the Islamic system over other systems."[19]
  3. ^ An indication that Islamic terrorism has at least paced the general decline in deaths from terror is that "one of the more worrying trends" in terrorism over the five year period from 2014-2019, is (non-Islamic) far-right terrorism.[37]
  4. ^ For example in the fatwa "DEFENSE OF THE MUSLIM LANDS, The First Obligation After Iman" by Abdullah Azzam, it is stated "That if a piece of Muslim land the size of a hand span is infringed upon, then jihad becomes Fard Ayn (global obligation of Muslims)".[90] But offensive Jihad is described as a Fard Kifaya, which is fulfilled if just some Muslims participate. Azzam writes, "Offensive Jihad (where the enemy is attacked in his own territory). Where the Kuffar are not gathering to fight the Muslims. The fighting becomes Fard Kifaya with the minimum requirement of appointing believers to guard borders, and the sending of an army at least once a year to terrorize the enemies of Allah. It is a duty of upon the Imam to assemble and send out an army unit into the land of war once or twice every year. Moreover, it is the responsibility of the Muslim population to assist him, and if he does not send an army he is in sin.[90]
  5. ^ according to Jamileh Kadivar based on estimates from Global Terrorism Database, 2020; Herrera, 2019; Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights & United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) Human Rights Office, 2014; Ibrahim, 2017; Obeidallah, 2014; 2015[123]

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