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Islamic terrorism (Arabic: إرهاب إسلامي ʾirhāb ʾislāmī) is a form of religious terrorism committed by Muslims for the purpose of achieving varying political and/or religious ends. Islamic terrorism has been identified as taking place in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, South Asia including India, Southeast Asia, and the United States since the 1970s. Islamic terrorist organizations have been known to engage in tactics including suicide attacks, hijackings, kidnapping and recruiting new members through the Internet.
Some scholars, such as Mark Burgess of the Center for Defense Information, trace the roots of Islamic terrorism back to the 11th-century Assassins, an order of Isma'ili Shi'ism that targeted political and religious opponents who stood in the way of the Assassins' sectarian ideology. In positing a continuity between Islamic terrorism's medieval and modern manifestations, Burgess identifies both a common underlying motive, namely loyalty to a divine imperative, and similar tactics, such as actively seeking out martyrdom.
The emergence of modern Islamic terrorism has its roots in the 19th century. The Wahhabi movement, an Arabian fundamentalist movement that formed in the 18th century, began to establish a broad following during the 1800s and gradually inspired other fundamentalist movements during the 20th century. Waves of politically motivated terrorist movements in Europe during the 1800s (e.g. the Narodnaya Volya, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation) and early 1900s (e.g. the IRA, the Irgun) served as inspirations and models which would inspire the Islamists over the course of the 20th century and beyond. During the Cold War, the United States and the United Kingdom supported the rise of fundamentalist groups in the Middle East and South Asia as a hedge against Soviet expansion and as a means to weaken anti-Western nationalist movements in some countries.
According to Burgess, the escalation of terrorism during the later 20th century has its roots in three pivotal events circa 1979: the Iranian Revolution, the post-Cold War global religious revival, and the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. These events, Burgess goes on to argue, were factors that fueled a recourse to religious terrorism. American historian Walter Laqueur described the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan as the "global trigger" of Islamic terrorism.
Various arguments have been to explain the root cause of Islamic terrorism.
Robert Pape, has argued that at least terrorists utilizing suicide attacks — a particularly effective 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." However, Martin Kramer, who debated Pape on origins of suicide bombing, countered Pape's position 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 Lebanon raised the temperature necessary for this reinterpretation of Islam, but occupation alone would not have been sufficient for suicide terrorism. "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."
Former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer argues that terrorist attacks (specifically al-Qaeda attacks on America) 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, 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 U.S.-led intervention in Afghanistan and invasion of Iraq; Israel–United States relations, namely, financial, military, and political support for Israel.; U.S. support for "apostate" police states in Muslim nations such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, Algeria, Morocco, and Kuwait; 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; U.S. troops on Muslim 'holy ground' in Saudi Arabia; the Western world's religious discrimination against Muslim immigrants'; historical justification, such as the Crusades.
Some academics argue that this form of terrorism should be seen as a strategic reaction to American power: that America is an empire, and empires provoked resistance in the form of terrorism. The Russian, Ottoman, and Habsburg Empires, for example, all suffered from terrorist attacks and had terrorist organizations – the Black Hand, Young Bosnia, Narodnaya Volya – spawned from their multiple ethnic groups, religions and national identities. On the other hand, American intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq led to free elections in those nations. The United States therefore does not meet the definition of an empire as it lacks politico-military dominion over Muslim or other populations in those countries. Moreover, as discussed in the section below, the first instances of anti-American Islamic terrorism occurred long before the United States was a global power.
An alternative argument is that anti-American terrorism predated the rise of the United States as a global power and is justified by the Quran. This is exemplified by the events leading to the First Barbary War. Muslim pirates of Algiers, Morocco, Tunis, and Tripoli Barbary Coast had attacked, enslaved and held American merchant sailors for ransom, soon after the establishment of the United States of America in 1776 (see First Barbary War). These terrorist-type attacks predated any U.S. involvement in the Islamic world and occurred before the US had been involved in any overseas military action. In 1786, future U.S. Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams met with Tripoli’s envoy to London, Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdrahaman in an attempt to negotiate an end to the piracy. Adams and Jefferson summarized their meeting in a letter dated March 28, 1786 to John Jay, the United States Secretary of Foreign Affairs:
These diplomatic engagements suggest that a modern Jihad-like ideology existed prior to any U.S. involvement in the Islamic world, and that the Koran was used to justify this ideology.
Thus, according to critics of Islam, Islamic terrorism is linked to the practice of divinely sanctioned warfare against apostates. Many Muslim groups including the Council on American-Islamic Relations argue that references to violence in Muslim sources have been taken out of context. They argue that these Koranic ayahs are only for self-defense when non-believers endanger Muslim life. While a debate may exist on the proper interpretation of Koranic verses, the terrorist actions leading to the First Barbary War and the justification provided by Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdrahaman, provide an early example where the Koran was used to justify anti-American terrorism. These events occurred at a time where the U.S. had yet to intervene in the Muslim world and argue against U.S. policy as a fundamental cause of Islamic terrorism. On the contrary, the historical timeline demonstrates that the very first U.S. engagement with the Muslim world was an American response to Islamic terrorism.
Scholar Scott Atran, research director and involved in NATO group studying suicide terrorism, points out that there is no single root cause of terrorism. Greatest predictors of suicide bombings, Atran concludes, is not religion but group dynamics: "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".
The Muslim world has been afflicted with economic stagnation for many centuries. In 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama himself stated that apart from crude oil, the exports of the entire Greater Middle East with its 400 million population roughly equals that of Switzerland. It has also been estimated that the exports of Finland, a European country of only five million, exceeded those of the entire 260 million-strong Arab world, excluding oil revenue. This economic stagnation is argued[who?] to have commenced with the demise of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924, with trade networks being disrupted and societies torn apart with the creation of new nation states; prior to this, the Middle East had a diverse and growing economy and more general prosperity.
Obama gave a major public speech in the United States in response to the 2011 Arab Spring. In a message to Muslim leaders around the world, Obama urged reform and stated "that in a global economy based on knowledge, based on innovation, no development strategy can be based solely upon what comes out of the ground (oil). He also stated that people can not reach their potential when they cannot start a business without paying a bribe. Throughout the region, many young people have a solid education, but closed economies leave them unable to find a job. Muslim entrepreneurs are brimming with excellent ideas, but corruption, lack of funding, lack of support or inadequate infastructure leaves them unable to develop and profit from those ideas."
Strong population growth combined with economic stagnation has created urban conglomerations in Cairo, Istanbul, Tehran, Karachi, Dhaka, and Jakarta each with well over 12 million citizens, millions of them young and unemployed or underemployed. Such a demographic, alienated from the westernized ways of the urban elite, but uprooted from the comforts and more passive traditions of the villages they came from, is understandably favourably disposed to an Islamic system promising a better world – an ideology providing an "emotionally familiar basis for group identity, solidarity, and exclusion]; an acceptable basis for legitimacy and authority; an immediately intelligible formulation of principles for both a critique of the present and a program for the future."
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. 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.
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."
Scholar Olivier Roy describes 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 for their Westernized background; for the lack of Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghans "coming to avenge what is going on in their country"; their lack of religiosity before being "born again" in a foreign country; the high percentage of converts to Islam among them; their "de-territorialized backgrounds" – "For instance, they may be 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 nontraditional belief that jihad is permanent, global, and "not linked with a specific territory."
This profile differs from that found among recent local Islamist suicide bombers in Afghanistan, according to a 2007 study of 110 suicide bombers by Afghan pathologist Dr. Yusef Yadgari. Yadgari found that 80% of the attackers studied had some kind of physical or mental disability. The bombers were also "not celebrated like their counterparts in other Arab nations. Afghan bombers are not featured on posters or in videos as martyrs." Daniel Byman, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institute, and Christine Fair, an assistant professor in peace and security studies at Georgetown University say that many of the Islamic terrorists are foolish and untrained, perhaps even untrainable.
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| Islam Portal
One ideology that plays a role in Islamic terrorism is the principle of Jihad, which broadly means struggle. Militants generally use jihad to mean defensive or retaliatory warfare against actors that have allegedly harmed Muslims.
Transnational Islamist ideology, specifically of the militant Islamists, assert that Western policies and society are 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. Osama bin Laden, for example, almost invariably describes his enemy as aggressive and his call for action against them as defensive. Defensive jihad differs from offensive jihad in being "fard al-ayn," or a personal obligation of all Muslim, rather than "fard al-kifaya", a communal obligation, which if some Muslims perform it is not required from others. Hence, framing a fight as defensive has the advantage both of appearing to be a victim rather than aggressor, and of giving your struggle the very highest religious priority for all good Muslims.
Many of the violent terrorist groups use the name of jihad to fight against certain Western nations and Israel. An example is bin Laden's al-Qaeda, which is also known as "International Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders". Most militant Islamists oppose Israel's policies, and often its existence.
According to the U.S. Army Colonel Dale C. Eikmeier, “ideology”, rather than any individual or group, is the "center of gravity" of al-Qaeda and related groups, and the ideology is a "collection of violent Islamic thought called Qutbism." He summarizes the tenets of Qutbism as being:
The historic rivalry between Hindus and Muslims in the Indian subcontinent has also often been the primary motive behind some of the most deadly terrorist attacks in India. According to a U.S. State Department report, India topped the list of countries worst affected by Islamic terrorism.
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 when talking about them 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.
Given their perceived piety, The Times noted the irony when a major investigation by their reporters uncovered a link between Islamic Jihadis and child pornography; a discovery that, according to the London paper, "is expected to improve understanding of the mindsets of both types of criminals and has been hailed as a potentially vital intelligence tool to undermine future terrorist plots.". Similarly, Reuters reported that pornography was found among the materials seized from Osama bin Laden's Abbottabad compound that was raided by U.S. Navy SEALs.
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" she said "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." She said that 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." She also cautioned how difficult it was to gain a proper perspective, saying that although there are more important dangers we face daily without feeling so threatened by them such as climate change and road deaths and though terrorist deaths were few the intelligence services had prevented some potentially large threats and that vigilance was needed.
||The neutrality of this section is disputed. (July 2011)|
The role played by the Qur'an, Islam's sacred text, in opposing or in encouraging attacks on civilians is disputed.
At no time did the (Muslim) jurist approve of terrorism. Nor indeed is there any evidence of the use of terrorism (in Islamic tradition). Muslims are commanded not to kill women, children, or the aged, not to torture or otherwise ill-treat prisoners, to give fair warning of the opening of hostilities, and to honor agreements. Similarly, the laws of Jihad categorically preclude wanton and indiscriminate slaughter. 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.
Even the Christian crusade, often compared with the Muslim jihad, was itself a delayed and limited response to the jihad and in part also an imitation. But unlike the jihad it was concerned primarily with the defense or reconquest of threatened or lost Christian territory...The Muslim jihad, in contrast, was perceived [by Muslims] as unlimited, as a religious obligation that would continue until all the world had either adopted the Muslim faith or submitted to Muslim rule.… The object of jihad is to bring the whole world under Islamic law.
Bernard Lewis says Islam imposes, without limit of time or space, the duty to subjugate non-Muslims.
"...it is the duty of those who have accepted them [Allah's word and message] to strive unceasingly to convert or at least to subjugate those who have not. This obligation is without limit of time or space. It must continue until the whole world has either accepted the Islamic faith or submitted to the power of the Islamic state.”
Michael Sells and Jane I. Smith (a Professor of Islamic Studies) write that barring some extremists like al-Qaeda, most Muslims do not interpret Qura’nic verses as promoting warfare; and that the phenomenon of radical interpretation of scripture by extremist groups is not unique to Islam. 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."
According to Robert Spencer, Muhammad said in one Hadith: "Allah's Apostle said, "I have been sent with the shortest expressions bearing the widest meanings, and I have been made victorious with terror (cast in the hearts of the enemy), and while I was sleeping, the keys of the treasures of the world were brought to me and put in my hand." Abu Huraira added: Allah's Apostle has left the world and now you, people, are bringing out those treasures (i.e. the Prophet did not benefit by them). Narrated in Abu Huraira, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 220" Furthermore Muhammad said in another Hadith: The Prophet said, "Who is ready to kill Ka'b bin Al-Ashraf who has really hurt Allah and His Apostle?" Muhammad bin Maslama said, "O Allah's Apostle! Do you like me to kill him?" He replied in the affirmative. So, Muhammad bin Maslama went to him (i.e. Ka'b) and said, "This person (i.e. the Prophet) has put us to task and asked us for charity." Ka'b replied, "By Allah, you will get tired of him." Muhammad said to him, "We have followed him, so we dislike to leave him till we see the end of his affair." Muhammad bin Maslama went on talking to him in this way till he got the chance to kill him. Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah Volume 4, Book 52, Number 270 And another Hadith: The Prophet passed by me at a place called Al-Abwa or Waddan, and was asked whether it was permissible to attack the pagan warriors at night with the probability of exposing their women and children to danger. The Prophet replied, "They (i.e. women and children) are from them (i.e. pagans)." I also heard the Prophet saying, "The institution of Hima is invalid except for Allah and His Apostle. Narrated As-Sab bin Jaththama Volume 4, Book 52, Number 256
Although "Islamic" terrorism is commonly associated with the Salafis (or "Wahhabis"), the scholars of the group have constantly attributed this association to ignorance, misunderstanding and sometimes insincere research and deliberate misleading by rival groups. 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. 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.
Criticism of Islamic terrorism on Islamic grounds has also been made by Abdal-Hakim Murad (Timothy Winter):
Certainly, neither bin Laden nor his principal associate, Ayman al-Zawahiri, are graduates of Islamic universities. And so their proclamations ignore 14 centuries of Muslim scholarship, and instead take the form of lists of anti-American grievances and of Koranic quotations referring to early Muslim wars against Arab idolaters. These are followed by the conclusion that all Americans, civilian and military, are to be wiped off the face of the Earth. All this amounts to an odd and extreme violation of the normal methods of Islamic scholarship. Had the authors of such fatwās followed the norms of their religion, they would have had to acknowledge that no school of mainstream Islam allows the targeting of civilians. An insurrectionist who kills non-combatants is guilty of baghy, “armed aggression,” a capital offense in Islamic law.
Colonel Eikmeier points out the "questionable religious credentials" of many Islamist theorists, or "Qutbists," which can be a "means to discredit them and their message":
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. Muhammad Abd al-Salam Faraj was an electrician. Ayman al-Zawahiri is a physician. Osama bin Laden trained to be a businessman.
Fethullah Gülen, a prominent Turkish Islamic scholar, has claimed that "a real Muslim," who understood Islam in every aspect, could not be a terrorist. There are many other people with similar points of view such as Karen Armstrong, Prof. Ahmet Akgunduz, Harun Yahya and Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri. Huston Smith, an author on comparative religion, noted 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.
Islamist-based fundamentalist terrorism against Western nations and the U.S. in particular, has numerous motivations and takes place the larger context of a complex and tense relationship between the ‘West' and the Arab and Muslim 'world,' which is highlighted in the previous section on motivations and Islamic terrorism. Identity-based theoretical frameworks including theories of social identity, social categorization theory, and psychodynamics are used to explain the reasons terrorism occurs.
Social identity is explained by Karina Korostelina as a “feeling of belonging to a social group, as a strong connection with social category, and as an important part of our mind that affects our social perceptions and behavior” This definition can be applied to the case of Osama bin Laden, who, according to this theory, has a highly salient perception of his social identity as a Muslim, a strong connection to the social category of the Muslim Ummah or 'community,' which affect his social perceptions and behaviors. Bin Laden's ideology and interpretation of Islam led to the creation of al-Qaeda in response to perceived threats against the Muslim community by the Soviet Union, the U.S. in particular due to its troop presence in Saudi Arabia, and American support for Israel. The Islamist terrorist group al-Qaeda has a group identity, which includes “shared experiences, attitudes, beliefs, and interests of ingroup members,” and is “described through the achievement of a collective aim for which this group has been created,” which in this case is to achieve "a complete break from the foreign influences in Muslim countries, and the creation of a new Islamic caliphate."
Social categorization theory has been discussed as a three-stage process of identification, where “individuals define themselves as members of a social group, learn the stereotypes and norms of the group, and group categories influence the perception and understanding of all situations in a particular context” This definition can be applied to the U.S.-led war on terror, in which conflict features such as the phenomenon of Anti-Americanism and the phenomenon of non-Arab countries like Iran and Afghanistan lending support to Islamist-based terrorism by funding or harboring terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and al-Qaeda against Western nations, particularly Israel and the United States are, according to social categorization theory, influenced by a three-stage process of identification. In this three-stage process of identification, the Arab and Muslim world(s) are the social group(s), in which their members learn stereotypes and norms which categorize their social group vis-à-vis the West. This social categorization process creates feelings of high-level in-group support and allegiance among Arabs and Muslims and the particular context within which members of the Arab and Muslim world(s) social group(s) understand all situations that involve the West. Social categorization theory as a framework for analysis indicates causal relationships between group identification processes and features of conflict situations.
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. Muslims living in the West denounce the September 11th attacks against United States, while Hezbollah contends that their rocket attacks against Israeli civilian targets are defensive Jihad by a legitimate resistance movement rather than terrorism. Subsequently, however, on Osama Bin Laden's death, many Muslims in UK came out on streets in support of Osama, announcing him as an Islamic hero and condemned the role of US and west in killing him. The protest against Bin Laden’s death was organised by controversial preacher Anjem Choudary – who praised both 7/7 and the September 11 attacks. Statistics compiled by the United States government's Counterterrorism Center present a complicated picture: of known and specified terrorist incidents from the beginning of 2004 through the first quarter of 2005, slightly more than half of the fatalities were attributed to Islamic extremists but a majority of over-all incidents were considered of either "unknown/unspecified" or a secular political nature. The vast majority of the "unknown/unspecified" terrorism fatalities did however happen in Islamic regions such as Iraq and Afghanistan, or in regions where Islam is otherwise involved in conflicts such as the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, southern Thailand and Kashmir.
Many Muslim scholars have presented proofs against the religious justification of terrorism, a notable example being that of Muhammad ibn al Uthaymeen who states regarding killing a non-Muslim: "As for a non-Muslim living under Muslim rule and a Mu’āhid (a Non-Muslim ally with whom Muslims have a treaty, trust, peace, or agreement), it’s been authentically established that the prophet (blessings and peace upon him) said: “Whoever kills a Mu’āhid will not even smell the fragrance of paradise and its fragrance can be smelled from the distance of forty years away.” and he also said: “Certainly, one of the most difficult situations for which there is no turning back for whomever casts himself into it - shedding sacred blood without right.”
Another example is that of late scholar Abd al-Aziz Ibn Baz who stated: "It is well-known to anyone with the slightest amount of common sense that hijacking planes and kidnapping embassy officials and similar acts are some of the greatest universal crimes that result in nothing but widespread corruption and destruction. They place such extreme hardships and injuries upon innocent people, the extent of which only Allāh knows."
Numerous fatwās (rulings) condemning terrorism and suicide bombing as haram have been published by Islamic scholars worldwide, one of the most extensive being the 600-page[clarification needed] ruling by Sheikh Tahir-ul-Qadri, whose fatwa condemned them as kufr. On 2 March 2010, Qadri's fatwa was an "absolute" condemnation of terrorism without "any excuses or pretexts." He said that "Terrorism is terrorism, violence is violence and it has no place in Islamic teaching and no justification can be provided for it, or any kind of excuses or ifs or buts." Qadri said his fatwa, which declares terrorists and suicide bombers to be unbelievers, goes further than any previous denunciation. Iranian Ayatollah Ozma Seyyed Yousef Sanei issued a fatwa (ruling) that suicide attacks against civilians are legitimate only in the context of war. The ruling did not say whether other types of attacks against civilians are justified outside of the context of war, nor whether jihad is included in Sanei's definition of war.
An influential group of Pakistani scholars and religious leaders declared suicide attacks and beheadings as un-Islamic. 'Ulema' (clerics) and 'mushaikh' (spiritual leaders) of the Jamaat Ahl-e-Sunnah, who gathered for a convention, declared suicide attacks and beheadings as un-Islamic in a unanimous resolution. Chairman of the Pakistani Ruet-e-Hilal Committee, Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman, said in his address that those who were fighting in the name of implementing Shariah or Islamic law must first abide by these same laws and killing minors is contrary to the teachings of Islam.
Some contemporary scholars who have followed a textual based approach to the study of the Qur'an with an emphasis over the coherence in the Book and the context of situation offered a radical interpretation on the verses and prophetic narratives that are usually quoted by the militants to promote militancy. According to Javed Ahmad Ghamidi (his booklet on Jihad is considered one of his most important contribution towards understanding the religion according to the principles of interpreting the Qur'an introduced by Farahi and Islahi) the Qur'an does not allow waging war except for against oppression under a sovereign state. He holds that jihad without a state is nothing but creating nuisance in the land when hijacked by the individuals and groups independent of the state authority defeats the purpose. The principle behind this study of the issue in the basic sources is the principle that there are divine injunctions in the Qur'an which are specific to the age of the Messenger. He says that nobody can be punished for apostasy or being non-Muslim after the Prophet who acted as the divine agent when he punished the disbelievers by sword who had rejected the message of God and his messenger even after the truth was made manifest to them. Ghamidi and his associates have written extensively on the topics related to these issues. In his book Meezan Ghamidi has concluded that:
Some prominent Islamic terror groups and incidents include the following:
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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. Formed by Osama bin Laden and Muhammad Atef in the aftermath of the Soviet war in Afghanistan 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.
According to recent government statements Islamic terrorism is biggest threat to Canada. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) reported that terrorist radicalization at home is now the chief preoccupation of Canada's spy agency. The most notorious arrest in Canada's fight on terrorism, was the 2006 Ontario terrorism plot in which 18 Al-Qaeda 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.
Between 1993 and 2001, the major attacks or attempts against US interests stemmed from militant Islamic jihad except for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. In 2001 nearly 3,000 people were killed in the massive September 11 attacks organised by al-Qaeda 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. As of July 2011, there have been 51 homegrown jihadist plots or attacks in the United States since the September 11 attacks.
Major lethal attacks on civilians in Europe credited to Islamist terrorism include the 1985 El Descanso bombing in Madrid, the 1995 Paris Metro bombings, 11 March 2004 bombings of commuter trains in Madrid, where 191 people were killed, and the 7 July 2005 London bombings, also of public transport, which killed 52 commuters. According to EU Terrorism Report, however, there were almost 500 acts of terrorism across the European Union in 2006, but only one, the foiled suitcase bomb plot in Germany, was related to Islamist terror. In 2009, a Europol report also showed that more than 99% of terrorist attacks in Europe over the last three years were, in fact, carried out by non-Muslims. In terms of arrests, out of a total of 1,009 arrested terror suspects in 2008, 187 of them were arrested in relation to Islamist terrorism. The report also showed that the majority of Islamist terror suspects were not first generation immigrants, but were rather children of immigrants who no longer identified with the culture of their parents and at the same time felt excluded from Western society, "which still perceives them as foreigners," thus they became "more attracted to the idea of becoming ‘citizens’ of the virtual worldwide Islamic community, removed from territory and national culture."
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 multiethnic group aligned to Riyad-us Saliheen Brigade of Martyrs; hundreds of people died during the storming by Russian forces.
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 were 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. In 2011, the U.S. Department of State included the Caucasus Emirate on its list of terrorist organisations.
Turkish Hezbollah (unrelated to the Shia Hezbollah in Lebanon) is a Sunni terrorist group 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.
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 400 incidents of one type of attack (suicide bombing), killing more than 2,000 people – many if not most of them civilians. 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. 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.
Hamas ("zeal" in Arabic and an acronym for Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya) began support for attacks on military and civilian targets in Israel at the beginning of the First Intifada in 1987. The 1988 charter of Hamas calls for the destruction of Israel, and remains in effect today. Its "military wing" has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks in Israel, principally suicide bombings and rocket attacks. Hamas has also 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. Hamas has been designated as a terrorist group by the European Union, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, 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". During the second intifada (September 2000 through August 2005) 39.9 percent of the suicide attacks were carried out by Hamas. The first Hamas suicide attack was the Mehola Junction bombing in 1993. Although Hamas justifies these attacks as necessary in fighting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, the attacks continue despite the 2005 Israeli withdrawal from Hamas controlled territory and Hamas still states its goal to be the elimination of Israel. The wider Hamas movement also serves as a charity organization and provides services to Palestinians.
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 Egyptian 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. 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 militant attacks in Israel, including suicide bombings. The group has been designated as a terrorist organization by several Western countries.
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Hezbollah first emerged in 1982 as a militia during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, also known as Operation Peace for Galilee. Its leaders were inspired by the ayatollah Khomeini, and its forces were trained and organized by a contingent of Iranian Revolutionary Guards. 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. 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." 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. Hezbollah maintains 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, and is able to mobilize demonstrations of hundreds of thousands. Hezbollah alongside with some other groups began the 2006–2008 Lebanese political protests in opposition to the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. 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. A national unity government was formed in 2008, giving Hezbollah and its opposition allies control of 11 of 30 cabinets seats; effectively veto power. Hezbollah receives its financial support from the governments of Iran and Syria, as well as donations from Lebanese people and foreign Shi'as. It has also gained significantly in military strength in the 2000s. Despite a June 2008 certification by the United Nations that Israel had withdrawn from all Lebanese territory, 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 and the Netherlands regard Hezbollah as a "terrorist" organization, while the United Kingdom and Australia consider only Hezbollah's external security organization to be a terrorist organization. Many consider it, or a part of it, to be a terrorist group responsible for blowing up the American embassy and later its annex, as well as the barracks of American and French peacekeeping troops and a dozens of kidnappings of foreigners in Beirut. It is also accused of being the recipient of massive aid from Iran, and of serving "Iranian foreign policy calculations and interests," or serving as a "subcontractor of Iranian initiatives" Hezbollah denies any involvement or dependence on Iran. 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. In 2005, the Lebanese Prime Minister said of Hezbollah, it "is not a militia. It's a resistance."
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. The group's members have been described as militant jihadists, and the group itself has been described as a terrorist movement that draws inspiration from al-Qaeda. Its stated goal is to reform the Palestinian refugee camps under Islamic sharia law, and its primary targets are Israel and the United States.
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.
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."
In Bangladesh the group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh was formed sometime in 1998 and gained prominence in 2001. 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.
Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed are militant groups seeking accession of Kashmir to Pakistan. Comments made by several Pakistani religious clerics in public gatherings about ISI included 'ISI's role towards India is to continuously bleed India through a thousand cuts'. The Lashkar leadership describes Indian and Israeli regimes as the main enemies of Islam and Pakistan. 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, India, Australia and Pakistan. Jaish-e-Mohammed was formed in 1994 and has carried out a series of attacks all over India. 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". The group was also implicated in the kidnapping and murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl.
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 Bangsamoro (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 ابو, abu ("father of") and sayyaf ("Swordsmith"). 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). The U.S. Department of State has branded the group a terrorist entity by adding it to the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
An increasingly popular tactic used by terrorists is suicide bombing. This tactic is used against civilians, soldiers, and government officials of the regimes the terrorists oppose. The use of suicide bombers is seen by many Muslims[weasel words] as contradictory to Islam's teachings; 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.
Islamic terrorism sometimes employs the hijacking of passenger vehicles. The most famous were the "9/11" attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people on a single day in 2001, effectively ending the era of aircraft hijacking.
Along with bombings and hijackings, Islamic terrorists have made extensive use of highly publicised kidnappings and executions, 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.
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 America and the West, 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".
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