Skip to main content

“Holy terror”: The implications of terrorism motivated by a religious imperative


Studies in Conflict and TerrorismJournal abstract

One of the distinguishing features of international terrorism the past fifteen years has been the resurgence and proliferation of terrorist groups motivated by a religious imperative. Such groups are far more lethal than their secular counterparts, regarding violence as a divine duty or sacramental act conveyed by sacred text and imparted by clerical authority. Moreover, religious terrorism is not restricted to Islamic terrorist groups exclusively in the Middle East. The same characteristics—the legitimization of violence based on religious precepts, the sense of profound alienation and isolation, and the attendant preoccupation with the elimination of a broadly defined category of “enemies”—are also apparent among American Christian white supremacists, among some radical Jewish messianic terrorist movements in Israel, and among radical Sikh movements in India. Finally, as many of these groups embrace strong millennialist or apocalyptic beliefs, we may be on the cusp of a new and potentially more dangerous era of terrorism as the year 2000—the literal millennium—approaches.

You might also like: