Terrorism: One of the Many Facets of Religious ExtremismResearch Paper

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Religious Extremism: Radical Islam

Radical Islam is a multifaceted phenomenon, comprising numerous groups and movements that, while related (especially with regard to faith and anti-western mind-set), may embrace very different thoughts on means and objectives. Radical Islam is a politico-religious quest to establish - by violent means if necessary - a society that, as much as possible, tries to adhere to the perceived 'original' Islamic values. This perspective, for the time being, ignores the fact that interpretation of 'perceived 'original' Islamic values' varies among the different Islamic sects, and these sects are also concomitantly 'at war' with one another. Apart from Islamic extremist organizations and movements that focus on Jihad (in terms of armed combat) against western nations, there are other organizations, which mostly concentrate on "Dawa" (the spread of radical-Islamic ideology), As well, some other networks and organizations combine both Jihad and Dawa. This means that different kinds of threat can come from radical Islam, including terrorism (Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Affairs, 2004).

There is no single and widely accepted definition of terrorism. However, according to Ariel (2009), terrorism is the utilization of violence or the threat of violence to bring about fear in the society, to destabilize, or even to overthrow the regime and cause political change. Terrorism is the use of violence against innocent individuals, most often non-combatants so as to make political gains through propagation of fear and intimidation. Another approach has often been linked to the perpetration of crime against the poor and the less fortunate members of the society by disenfranchising them. Therefore, terrorism is fundamentally the unpredictable utilization of violence by certain organizations and networks against persons, groups, societies or countries in order for the perpetrators to achieve their goals. These goals and objectives include but are not limited to; destabilizing, overthrowing or changing current systems and institutions or retaliation for perceived harms committed (Wilson, 2010). Particularly, there are quite a number of motivations that drive terrorist organizations to mete violence against unsuspecting victims. These motivations include religious, political, social, personal, and moral incentives (Kingsley, 2010).

Terrorism is increasingly becoming a social problem because it results in the killing of many people, use and indoctrination of child-soldiers, costs huge amounts of money and demoralizes people. Most of the casualties are usually civilian non-combatants. Terrorism also results in a decrease in life expectancy, multiplies the risk of health problems, and results in psychological trauma to the survivors of terrorist attacks (Pakvis).

This paper discusses radical Islam and specifically focuses on terrorism. This particular topic has been chosen because of the rapidly increasing number of terrorist attacks committed by individuals in the name of religion. The paper will help explain various aspects of terrorism in different perspectives helping people to better understand the phenomenon. The sociology of terrorism that entails the social construction of terrorism, organizing terrorism, socializing terrorists, terrorism as political violence and theorizing terrorism is also covered in this paper (Turk, 2004). This paper also includes a literature review on research done on the topic. It also presents a theoretical standpoint on how sociologist might understand the religious extremism. Conclusion and reference sections are also provided.

LITERATURE REVIEW

There is no single and widely accepted definition of terrorism. However, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), terrorism is described in Terrorism 2002-2005(NIJ, 2011) as the criminal utilization of violence or force against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate a group of people, a government, or a part thereof, so as to further social or political agendas.

Jessica Davis in the paper "Women and Radical Islamic Terrorism: Planners, perpetrators, patrons?" describes the rise in the number of women participating in terrorism and explains why. She explains that gender biases can bring about bad policies and security judgments. She also points out why social relativism can prevent the success of counter-terrorism strategies. Her paper delves into the role of women in extremist Islamic terrorist groups, and whether or not the portrayal of the women by the media as somewhat uninvolved participants is accurate. In pursuing this line of inquiry, a review was done of the available data on women, radical Islam and terrorism. The review brought into light several stereotypes and assumptions, resulting in three theories: that women facilitate the entrance of men into extremist Islamic terrorist groups; that women are increasingly becoming active in extremist Islamic terrorism; and that women will continue to participate in terrorism activities because of the women's perceived tactical and strategic value as terrorists (Davis, 2006).

Olcott (2007) in the paper "The Roots of Radical Islam in Central Asia" details the background and development of Islamic terrorism in Uzbekistan and Central Asia. The paper provides answers to questions such as what Islamic extremism is and who among the devoted Muslims should be regarded as posing a threat to secular governments. It provides a detailed look at several renowned Islamic clerics from Uzbekistan who have been tagged as "Wahhabis" or "fundamentalist" and who played an instrumental part in the development of radical Islam in Uzbekistan. The paper also describes the teachings, teachers and the influence of the clerics on the politics in Uzbekistan and the social behavior of its citizens (Olcott, 2007).

In the paper "Religious Extremism in Sub-Saharan Africa" Irving Hexham describes the history of religion, religious extremism in Africa, and quite a number of thematic issues that the inhabitants face. Hexham analyzes the issue of "African Jihad" and extremist Islamic organizations. His paper goes even further to categorize religious extremism in terms of geographic locations. It discusses religious radicalization in East, West and South Africa (Hexham, 2002).

MAIN SECTION

Nowadays viewers are exposed to disturbing images on various media platforms regarding religious violence. For instance the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS; now IS, the Islamic State) video-records its beheadings and sends the footage to social media sites and news stations. Boko Haram in northern Nigeria parades hundreds of the kidnapped schoolgirls it has been holding hostage. The Al Shabaab in Somalia attacks a high-end shopping mall in neighboring Kenya's capital city Nairobi. These horrific acts that are splashed on various media platforms make us feel angry, helpless, fearful and perhaps even guilty, because it appears there is very little we can do to prevent them from occurring. Commentators trudge from one broadcaster to the other, giving their perspectives. Some of them condemn ISIS and Boko Haram, while simultaneously they assure their television viewers that these violent acts are not in any way related to true Islam. Other commentators are of the opinion that these two terrorist organizations do represent the true face of Islam. None of these positions is helpful. Both stances distort the fundamental nature of Islam and its relationship to violence and terrorism (Azumah, 2015).

Establishing whether an act of violence would have happened in the absence of religious belief can be challenging. Nonetheless, it is not enough to quite simply note, as several religious critics frequently do, that even the Bible sets death as the punishment for several everyday offenses including adultery and falsely swearing by God's name. Just to refresh our minds, for instance, Deuteronomy 13:7-11 instructs the faithful to stone to death everyone who attempts to divert their attention from Yahweh their God; the Quran 9:73 commands prophets of Islam to go to war against nonbelievers. These statements provide very little insight upon which to base an accusation of religious motivations (Krause, 2015).

Religion plays a key role in terrorism by giving moral legitimacy to the activities of these terror groups. It is obvious that all religions do impose a moral structure upon their devotees, thus allowing terrorists to present their causes in terms of absolute moral dichotomies, for instance, righteousness vs. evil. Even as religion legitimizes the terrorists' cause, it is particularly successful in demonizing those with contrasting views (Richard & Alcorta, 2010). The history of the world is dotted with many examples whereby the passion of those within a group was aroused and hatred against those not within the group ignited. Undeniably, the one determining factor of suicide terrorism is the religious difference between the terrorists and the victims. This occurs when a terrorist organization seems to be motivated by secularism. For example the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are Hindus who are fighting a Buddhist majority. Consequently over 90% of the terrorist attacks targeted victims of opposing Religions (Kingsley, 2010).

Religion, however, plays a very minor role if any in the process of radicalization. It is more of an excuse instead of a reason. The actions of ISIS can be as much attributed to organized crime, political repression, and a union of convenience between secular, power-hungry Ba'athists as it is a consequence of distortion of Islamic beliefs and practices. According to Murad, Islamic scholars universally reject ISIS, while among most Muslims there is widespread rejection of Baghdadi and his vicious followers according to Mogahed. The supposed Islamic State "IS" is, thus as "Islamic" as the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea (DPRK) is "democratic"… [END OF PREVIEW]

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