Religion and Terrorism
Terrorism has long plagued the existence of peace and security in society, where secular groups have resorted to violence against non-combatant targets in order to influence the policies of a governmental or nongovernmental organisation.The concept of terrorism, whilst elusive and vague in definition has been categorised into various forms of terrorism, these being dissident, state-sponsored, and religious terrorism to name a few.
This paper will argue that the most dangerous form of terrorism is religious terrorism.To deliver an effective argument this paper has been divided into three sections; the first will argue that the most dangerous form of terrorism is religious terrorism by examining what it is, how it is dangerous, and why it is more dangerous than other forms of terrorism.
Secondly, this paper will argue that the most dangerous proponent of religious terrorism is the organisation of the Taliban, to support this claim; an analysis of the group will be given, including background information, information on the Taliban’s policies and recent activities, and the threat this groups poses on the international community.
Lastly, this paper will analyse and critique the current governmental policies combating terrorism, and will then provide policy recommendations which could be implemented by governments, militaries or NGO’s.
The justification for this paper is simply that the validation of religious terrorism as the most dangerous form of terrorism will allow for effective international coordination towards combating terrorism. Various parameters of study were encountered in the process of this paper as there is much contention on which is the most dangerous form of terrorism, which gave way to biased opinions and misleading quotations regarding factual information on various organisations implementing terrorist tactics, namely the Taliban.
Although the concept of terrorism has no definition which is universally agreed upon, the notion of religious terrorism has been defined by Bruce Hoffman (1999), where religious terrorism must have three factors; “the perpetrators must use religious scripture to justify their violent acts or gains recruits; clerical figures must be involved in leadership roles; and apocalyptic images of destruction are seen by the perpetrators as necessary”.
Religious terrorism has arguably been an ongoing occurrence in contentious religious areas for centuries, where religious groups have resorted to violence against non-combatants in order to combat real or perceived threats to their own ideology (Alexander, 1994). Debate on the original terrorist aside, terrorism is quite a modern concept stemming from the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror prompted by Maxmilien Robespierre who targeted the “enemies of liberty” indiscriminately in the ideology of the “greater good” (Cooper, 2004).
Religious terrorism is thought to be caused by the misinterpretation (or fundamentalist belief) of religious scripture, however the belief in religious scripture is not the problem; it is only when these fundamentalist individuals act on their beliefs through violent means and justify their actions using religious scripture that we encounter the potential threat of terrorist tactics (Mendelsohn, 2009). Furthermore, this fundamentalist behaviour is only worsened when a threat to the religious ideology is perceived (Mendelsohn, 2009).
Religious terrorism is reasonably widespread throughout the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, predictably this may be due to the religious zeal in these regions (Alexander, 1994). A United Nations report (August, 2010) showed that 76% of all casualties (in the first six months) in Afghanistan and Pakistan were attributed to the actions of the Taliban and their associate organisations, showing the danger associated with religious terrorism.
Although religious terrorism has “become the predominant model for political violence in the modern world” (Martin, p 171, 2010) it is still not the only medium for extremist violence, as nationalism and ideology still remain strong motivators for radical violence (Martin, 2010). However, religious terrorism still remains a more dangerous form of terrorism when compared to other forms, such as state-sponsored or dissident terrorism. The factors which make this form of terrorism dangerous is the potentially apocalyptic ideology of religion, and furthermore the promise of an ethereal paradise awaiting those who follow this faith completely.
This factor seems to provide a motivation arguably more influential towards violent behaviour then other forms of terrorism. Bruce Hoffman (p 92, 1998) stated that “it is perhaps not surprising that religion should become a far more popular motivation for terrorism in the post-Cold War era as old ideologies lie discredited by the collapse of the Soviet Union and communist ideology, while the promise of munificent benefits from the liberal-democratic, capitalist state… fails to materialise in many countries throughout the world”. A stronger motivation for terrorism signifies that more violent activity, and at a higher requency, is to be expected from religious terrorism than state-sponsored or dissident terrorism. In recent times, the frequency, scale of violence, and global reach of religious terrorism has been increasing, while at the same time a decrease in secular, non-religious terrorism has been occurring (Martin, 2010). The fact that religious terrorism provides a stronger motivation is more widespread, causes more casualties than any other form of terrorism, and is increasing in frequency, scale of violence, and global reach, is reason enough to argue that religious terrorism is the most dangerous form of terrorism.
Evidence of religious terrorism may be seen in the various attacks conducted on non-combatants throughout 2011. For example, on the 13th of May 2011, two suicide bombers were responsible for 80 deaths in Shabqadar, Pakistan, the attacks were claimed by the Taliban and were labelled a response to the death of Osama bin Laden on the 3rd of May 2011 (The Guardian, 13/5/11). Another example may be seen in the terrorist attacks in Somalia on the 4th of October 2011, claiming over 70 lives and injuring many more, the Islamic militant terrorist group Al-Shabaab soon claimed responsibility for the attack.
The attacks categorised as religious terrorism predominately occur throughout the Middle-East and Southeast Asia, with the most contentious areas being Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India (Mendelsohn, 2009). To examine Pakistan individually, this region has become a trouble-spot for terrorism resulting in a largely contentious area.The terrorism occurring in Pakistan is predominately religious, resulting in over 350000 Pakistani civilians killed as of 2010 (New York Review of Books, 2011).
Pakistan has a long history involving religious conflict, and although many attempts have been made by the Pakistani government to resolve these conflicts, there is no sign of the conflict coming to an end. The fact that Pakistan is not an overly wealthy nation has contributed to the effectiveness of religious terrorist recruiting, as when individuals have nothing to lose they invest in religious ideology (Mendelsohn, 2009). Although there are many religiously based terrorist organisations, the Taliban is arguably the most dangerous proponent of religious terrorism.
It is important to understand the origins, policies, methods, and other information on the organisation before effective policies can be implemented to combat the Taliban’s terrorist tactics. The Taliban is an Islamist militant organisation which has had rule of the majority of Afghanistan from September 1996, however the Taliban-formed state called the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ only gained political recognition as a state from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE (Mockaitis, 2007).
However, the attacks on the USA on the 11th of September 2001 saw the Taliban overthrown during the conflict in Afghanistan. The Taliban regrouped and drafted an insurgency movement to oppose the newly formed ‘Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’, and to achieve their motives the use of guerrilla and terrorist tactics were applied (Mockaitis, 2007). Whilst in power the Taliban enforced an extremely strict interpretation of their holy scripture, becoming notorious in the international community for the poor treatment of women (Mockaitis, 2007).
This fundamental following of Holy Scripture and Islam law has seen the Taliban use Holy Scripture to justify their violent actions. Whilst not much is known about the leader of the Taliban, Mohammed Omar, a 25 million dollar reward has been issued by the US department of defence for his capture. The policies of the Taliban were initially to disarm Afghanistan, end the lawlessness and heavily enforce the Islamic or Sharia law on the entirety of Afghanistan (Mendelsohn, 2009).
The Taliban have been relatively successful in bringing law and order to around 85% of the country in their control, mainly by disarming or conscripting the tribes of Afghanistan (Mockaitis, 2007). Some of the Taliban’s relentless policies and unyielding nature on issues such as the treatment of Osama bin Laden have isolated them internationally resulting in non-recognition by the United Nations regarding their legitimacy, and the imposition of political sanctions aimed at denying the Taliban any funding or aid (Mendelsohn, 2009).
As of yet, the Taliban have failed to develop any plan or policy to revive the state of Afghanistan should they retake political control. The methods or tactics utilised by Taliban forces has predominately been a guerrilla struggle against Western forces, however the use of terrorism has brought much notoriety to the organisation itself. However the question of funding is important, how does the Taliban receive its funding? Twelve percent of Afghanistan lives off the opium trade, which constitutes 30 percent of its gross domestic product (Schmidt, 2010).
Whilst the Taliban gain finance through the sale of opium and poppy, the decrease in production of poppy would not work against the Taliban, through simple economics this organisation is able to manipulate opium prices which have seen a downward spiral over the past 5 years due to an over-supply of poppy and opium (Schmidt, 2010). Estimations show that the Taliban has stockpiled over eight thousand tonnes of opium in the event poppy production is eradicated by the US government.
However the eradication of poppy in Afghanistan would for a short term aid the Taliban as prices would increase exponentially in the face of low supplies, simple economics being exploited by the Taliban (Schmidt, 2010), (UN World Drug Report, 2009). A report given in 2006 analysing the Taliban likened the organisation to a starfish (decentralised organisation) as opposed to a spider organisation (centralised) (Brafman, Beckstrom, 2006). “The spider and the starfish both appear to have a number of legs coming out of one body, but that is where the similarity ends.
In the case of the spider, what you see is a clear “head’s head and a leg’s leg. ” However, a starfish is entirely different from a spider because the head is not even in charge of anything. In fact, a starfish does not even have a head. If a starfish is cut in half, it does not die. Instead, what you get are two starfish. The long-armed Linckia starfish can even replicate itself from just one piece of an arm. Unlike the spider, having no brain to give the affirmative on anything, the starfish functions as a decentralized network. (Schmidt, p 72, 2010). A table from this report gives a description of the comparison: (See below) The events which occurred on the 8th of August 1998 are evidence to show the danger and lethality of the Taliban and its policies. On the 24th of May 1997 the Taliban occupied the northern town of Mazar-i-Sharif and on the 8th of August 1998 were responsible for an attack which killed over 8000 people of different nationalities including Uzbekistani, and Shiite Iranian (Kelling, Saludin, Von-Feigenblatt, Alis, Shuib, 2010).
In this attack the Taliban also attacked the consulate of Iran killing 10 Iranian diplomats, which incidentally generated Iran’s opposition on the political legitimacy of the Taliban (Kelling, Saludin, Von-Feigenblatt, Alis, Shuib, 2010). The Taliban has taken responsibility for countless attacks on both combatant and non-combatant targets, with no signs of a decrease in the frequency of attacks; the Taliban is an extremely dangerous advocate of religious terrorism.
The failure of allied forces to subdue the Taliban as of yet has left Afghanistan coloured with destruction, death and poverty. An article in the International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences accused the US of “ignoring the hope and prospect of Afghanistan”, by being oblivious and promoting victory over the Taliban in order to justify the war on Afghanistan (Kelling, Saludin, Von-Feigenblatt, Alis, Shuib, 2010).
The US policy to use military power against the Taliban and other terror organisations has made it more difficult to find a conclusive solution to the violence in Afghanistan; additionally the weakness of the United States’ new government in Afghanistan failed to bring stability and therefore enhanced the terrorism from the Taliban (Kelling, Saludin, Von-Feigenblatt, Alis, Shuib, 2010). The question left is how we stop the terrorism?
Through government, military and NGO policy development, political, management, financial and administrative “mechanisms” arranged to reach explicit goals. This paper will therefore examine various responses to terrorism, and the policies put in place by major international actors. After September 2001, the member of the Security Council (UN) adopted a set of comprehensive measures to combat terrorism; they did so under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, thereby making all decisions compulsory for all members (Boulden, Weiss, 2004).
Two resolutions were particularly important, these being “Resolution 1368 of September 12”, which legitimised all military action against a terrorist organisation; and “Resolution 1373 of September 28 2001” which broadened the scope of international responses (Boulden, Weiss, 2004). Resolution 1373 stated that “all states should prevent and suppress the financing of terrorism, as well as criminalize the willful provision or collection of funds for such acts”.
The purpose of this resolution was to minimize the financing of terrorism and to encourage member states to deny safe haven to known terrorists, assist states in need of anti-terrorism measures, and to accelerate the exchange of information regarding terrorist activity; in other words this resolution deeply encouraged international cooperation in combating terrorism. While the resolve of the Security Council (UN) is to be commended, four problems are still to be addressed.
First, although member states of the UN agree on the importance of combating terrorism, member states continue to have different views on the precise nature of these threats, and different opinions on the appropriate responses to these threats (Boulden, Weiss, 2004). The US should take responsibility and forge a consensus on the nature of the terrorist threat and what an appropriate response would be.
If the US takes consideration of other states and develops a genuine international response effort, then this should convince other states that the US is not only concerned for itself but for the international community as a whole (Boulden, Weiss, 2004). Secondly, the long term implications for the Security Council’s resolution regarding the legitimization of force against terrorist organizations are problematic. Permission to use military force without a proper criteria for reason has been seen as handing a “blank check” to the USA.
Although the US argues preemptive action and covert military action is necessary to combat terrorism, the absence of an international agreement on a definition for terrorism can lead to the possibility of abuse of this “blank check” (Boulden, Weiss, 2004). To solve this issue, the UN should engage member states in a discussion to answer the important questions, “when are terrorist acts the equivalent of armed attacks? ”, “Do imminent threats of attack always justify a military response? ” (Boulden, Weiss, 2004).
Third, the issue of finance always seems to plague attempts at combating terrorism. The implementation of the UN’s counterterrorist measures will therefore continue to be difficult unless financial assonance is given by member states. A solution to this problem would be the investment of funds into the Counter-terrorism committee (CTC), this committee would thereby invest funding into state counter terrorism agencies who lack the financial capacity to effectively fight terrorism (Boulden, Weiss, 2004).
Fourth, the war against terrorism has been labeled as the “long war”, and it is true that the effort against terrorism will take time and finance, however there must also be an effort against the root causes of terrorism; poverty, disease, social disorder, unstable governments, etc (Boulden, Weiss, 2004). The UN has a promising track record when dealing with these problems, therefore the investment into social development programs will allow for significant advancements in the effort against terrorism (Boulden, Weiss, 2004).
This paper will now offer a list of policy recommendations. In order to combat terrorism effectively, Thomas Mockaitis (2007) suggests there should be elements of four broad tasks present. 1. Anti-terrorism to protect military forces, installations and personnel and to assist member nataions in protecting their citizens and infrastructure from terrorist attack. 2. Consequence management to aide member states in mitigating the effects of an actual terrorist attack. 3. Counterterrorism to take offensive action against terrorist organizations, personnel and facilities. 4.
Military cooperation with civilian institutions, government and private, to defend against terrorism. Evidently this system of counter-terrorism has been drafted as a military doctrine labeled the NATO Concept, which provides an excellent framework for organizing an effective response against terrorism (Mockaitis, 2007). Below is a chart which illustrates the three core measures of combating terrorism. ‘Consequence management’ refers to the measures taken by local, state, and national departments to prepare for and if necessary respond to a terrorist attack (Mockaitis, 2007). Counterterrorism’ and ‘Antiterrorism’ is the offensive military enforcement of operations against terrorists (organisations, networks, and individuals), and the economic, social, and diplomatic measures to combat the root causes of terrorism (poverty, civil unrest, etc) (Mockaitis, 2007). All three tasks require effective cooperation and rely on the intelligence which lies at the centre of the three and helps organise the effort (Mockaitis, 2007). This paper has argued that the most dangerous form of terrorism is religious terrorism.
In order to deliver an effective argument, this paper was divided into three sections; first, it was argued that religious terrorism is the most dangerous form of terrorism by examining defining it, examining how it is dangerous, and discussing why it is more dangerous than other forms of terrorism. Secondly, this paper argued that the most dangerous proponent of terrorism is the organisation of the Taliban, supporting this claim was an analysis of the group, giving background information, information on the Taliban’s policies and recent activities, and the threat this organisation poses on the international community.
Lastly this paper analysed and critiqued the anti-terrorism policy of the UN, and provided policy recommendations for all member states to implement, namely the policies currently implemented by NATO forces. This paper was written in order to legitimise religious terrorism as the most dangerous form of terrorism, thereby allowing for more effective international cooperation towards combating terrorism. This paper can therefore conclude that the most dangerous form of terrorism is Religious Terrorism. References: Alexander, Y. (1994).
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