Islamist terrorism

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Islamist terrorism is terrorism that is carried out to further the political and religious ambitions of a segment of the Muslim community. The term Islamic terrorism is used more commonly, especially in Western media, but some believe it to be a smear against Islam.


Use of Islamist versus Islamic

Some people use the term "Islamic terrorism" instead of "Islamist terrorism", but this use is contentious; many Muslims, particularly those supporting liberal movements within Islam, do not accept that attacks on civilians can ever be justified by Islam. From this perspective, describing terrorism as "Islamic" is seen as a slur on Islam. Although "Islamic terrorism" is commonly used by Western media to describe the activity of a wide variety of groups, some believe that "Islamist terrorism" is a more accurate term that respects the sensitivities of Muslims.

The term Islamist, though often used generically for any political or militant group that uses Islam as an identity or ideology, is used by experts in a specific meaning when there is no other substitute for the word. Recently, the Western media have adopted the phrases "Islamists", "Islamic militants", and others, to refer to this.


The first Islamist terrorist groups as defined by the U.S. were the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and Hezbollah of Lebanon. Both organizations are also involved in a wide range of other activities from community services to mainstream political activism.

The Islamist group most closely associated with terrorism, and which has adopted terrorism as its central strategy, is Al-Qaeda. The group was formed in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan but has, as one of its primary objectives, the overthrow of the royal family of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi regime is perceived as being too closely associated with American foreign policy, particularly through granting permission to the United States to conduct military operations and establish bases on what is viewed as sacred soil. Al-Qaeda's ideology is an extreme form of Islam as a political movement, and among its ideals are pan-Islamic unity. To the group's leadership, the Saudi regime was seen as insufficiently Islamic. Such a view may seem bewildering to Westerners who often cannot imagine anything more 'Islamic' than the country's Wahhabi interpretation of Islamic law but, to Al-Qaeda in particular, the world is viewed as a struggle between their extreme Islamist ideology on one hand and Zionism, Christianity and the secular West on the other.

Terrorist view

In the view of the terrorists involved, they are defending Islam against aggression, or otherwise supporting or spreading it. Modern Islamist terrorist groups are often inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood. Some Islamist terrorist groups, notably Hizbullah and Al Qaeda, have employed suicide bombers, in spite of the condemnation of suicide by Muslim religious authorities. These groups refer to suicide bomber attacks as martyrdom operations and the suicides are characterized as shohada (plural of "shahid").

The members of such groups are more likely to see themselves as freedom fighters rather than terrorists, as the political origins of such groups in Israel/Palestine, Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation, Chechnya and most recently post-Saddam Iraq are often connected to demands for statehood and nationalist self-determination.

Other Muslim views

The extent of support for "Islamist terrorism" within the Muslim population is disputed, although it is generally agreed that only the most extremist fringes support it. Many Muslims have denounced support for terrorism[1] ( For example, the Free Muslims Coalition rallied against terror, stating that they wanted to send "a message to radical Muslims and supporters of terrorism that we reject them and that we will defeat them," and Imams in the United Kingdom told their followers to denounce violence and stand united against this “grave danger” from terrorism. The Imams of the two holy mosques of Saudi Arabia also denounced Islamist terrorism [2] (].

Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, the general manager of Al-Arabiya said:

"It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims."

This would be difficult to verify, however, and there are certainly many non-Muslim terrorist groups with various political and religious backgrounds.

Muslim scholars in North America, in a statement just after the September 11, 2001 attacks, wrote:

"We encourage Muslim medical professionals and Muslim relief agencies to assist in whatever possible way with humanitarian and relief efforts both locally and nationally. Moreover, we urge people of diverse religious traditions, faith groups and spiritual expressions, including Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and members of other communities, to share their grief and sorrow together as one family, the human family."

Many Muslims also share the view that since Islam means "peace" and positions against it, terrorism in the name of Islam, Islamic terrorism, is an oxymoron.

Verdict of the Qu'ran

Template:SectNPOV The Qur'an, the highest source of authority in Islam, vehemently denounces the killing of any person who is not guilty of at least one of two crimes:

"Whosoever killed a person – unless it be for killing a person or for creating disorder in the land – it shall be as if he killed all mankind; and whoso saved a life, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind." (5:32)

According to this verse of the Qur'an, if one human being is killed who is neither guilty of murdering another person nor guilty of causing disorder/strife, it would be equivalent of massacring the entire human race, which is an inconceivably barbaric crime, and a monumental sin. This verse makes it clear and unequivocal who is a legitimate target, and who is not.

Other possibly relevant Qur'anic statements include:

2.190-1: "Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors. And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith."

This verse is traditionally interpreted (for example by Ibn Kathir) as forbidding attacks on non-combatants; see al-Baqara for further details.

With reference to the Hypocrites (munafiqin), a group at Medina, who are said to have pretended to be Muslims while secretly supporting their enemies, the Qur'an says:

[4.89-91] "They desire that you should disbelieve as they have disbelieved, so that you might be (all) alike; therefore take not from among them friends until they fly (their homes) in Allah's way; but if they turn back, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them, and take not from among them a friend or a helper. Except those who reach a people between whom and you there is an alliance, or who come to you, their hearts shrinking from fighting you or fighting their own people; and if Allah had pleased, He would have given them power over you, so that they should have certainly fought you; therefore if they withdraw from you and do not fight you and offer you peace, then Allah has not given you a way against them. You will find others who desire that they should be safe from you and secure from their own people; as often as they are sent back to the mischief they get thrown into it headlong; therefore if they do not withdraw from you, and (do not) offer you peace and restrain their hands, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them; and against these We have given you a clear authority."

U.S. State Department's list of Islamist terrorist groups

See also

External links critical of the topic


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