Combating Terrorism

Combating Terrorism


Dr. Ali S. Awadh Asseri

(Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon)




     While describing religious terrorism, most scholars tend to confuse the role of religion, depicting it as a goal rather than a means. In fact, terrorists are only using, or rather abusing, the name of religion. Their ultimate goal is essentially political and motivated solely by power ambitions. Given that, religious terrorism can be more logically and fairly defined as the deliberate use of organized violence against unarmed civilians for achieving political ends by using a bigoted religious creed as a means. The immediate purpose of a terrorist act, whether it is suicide bombing, targeted assassination of hijacking of an airliner, is to terrorize, intimidate and demobilize the general population. Among all other forms of terrorism such as ethno-nationalist and ideological inspired terrorism, religious terrorism is the oldest, most consistent, and deadliest in terms of its current global reach and impact. Religious terrorists can hail from either the main religious faiths or small religious cults, and target not only the followers of other faiths, but also fellow believers refusing to follow their diktats.[1] At present, the operational scope of terrorism in the name of religion is no more limited to a particular country, or a specific region. Rather, it has become global, transcending international boundaries.[2]

      According to Hoffman, the reason why religious terrorism results in so many deaths than political terrorism ‘may be found in the radically different value systems, mechanisms of legitimization and justification, concepts of morality, and worldviews embraced by the religious terrorist.’[3]

     ‘Holy terror’ contains a value system that stands in opposition to ‘secular terror’. Secular terrorists operate within the realm of a dominant political and cultural framework. They want to win, to defeat the political system oppressing them. Their goal may be to destroy social structure, but they want to put something in its place. Secular terrorists would rather make allies than discriminately kill their enemies. Holy terrorist, however, are under no such constraints. They see the world as a battlefield between the forces of light and darkness. Winning is not described in political terms. The enemy must be totally destroyed. For political terrorists, killing is the outcome of an operation. Again, religious terrorists differ. Holy terrorists see killing as a ‘sacramental act’.[4]

(To be continued)


[1] Ibid

[2] Ahmad, ‘Simplifying a Complex Issue,’ op. cit

[3] See Hoffman, op. cit., pp. 87-92 and Stern, op. cit., pp.1-10

[4] John White, Terrorism: An Introduction (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2002), p. 51.