The terrorists are the main enemies in the war against terrorism. Terrorism has seen a recent growth and much attention towards the subject, which has led to many researches done on the major causes of the now global threat to security. According to (Miller, 2007), terrorism has been defined as system of battle, where typical casualties become the targets of violence. The behaviors and nature of terrorists shows a range of set of data. Ideology and motivation has been found to have an influence on the objectives of terrorist activities, especially the rates of casualties.
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The major objective of terrorism as outlined in (Greaves, 1981) is target immobilization while keeping the end goal in delivery of confusion. To achieve these goals, the perpetrators of terrorism are often motivated by certain aspects, which become their main driving force. The observations of the nature of humans and the group dynamics under anxiety, stress and extremist values, provides insightful causes of the particular observed behaviors. In general, terrorism has many motivating factors, which depends on the interests of cells or individuals. For example, terrorist groups with secular and non-religious ideologies will employ highly selective and discriminative forms of violence to achieve their political goals. Accordingly, (Miller, 2007) has identified the main motivators behind terrorism as political, religious, social, cultural and economic goals.
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The global terrorism index (GTI) ranks religious extremism as the greatest motivator of terrorism over the past decade (Statista, 2017). According to their 2014 report, the author points that about 70% of the terrorist attacks in the world are instigated by religion. Ranked according to their perpetrator category, Islamic extremists had the highest number of fatalities more than secular/political anarchist, neo-Nazi/fascist/white supremacist and others, combined. Religious motivations play a role in terrorism by providing the terror group’s identity and through provision of self-justifications of the terror actions. The famous religious terror groups with huge influence include the Taliban, Boko Haram, ISIS and Al-Qaida.
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The religious form of extremist is the most dangerous and common form of terrorism owing to the belief in martyrdom (shahadah) and self-sacrifice that motivates the perpetrators. The doctrine informs the perpetrators that although suicide is illegal under the Islam law, the element of self-sacrifice is justified if done in the will of God. Moreover, the widespread use and effectiveness of religious beliefs demonstrate the power of religion as a motivator of terrorism. This form of terrorism is not selective but is motivated by the will to spill blood and sacrifice to achieve their goals. According to (Fink, Marvasti, & Haroun, 2005) the millenarian and religiously oriented groups attempt to inflict as many casualties as they can. They believe that the best way to inflict fear and achieve influence is through mass fatalities.
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The apocalyptic frame of reference that is common with religious form of terrorism makes the loss of life irrelevant and the more casualties they achieve the better their goals achievement (Fink, Marvasti, & Haroun, 2005). The fatalities suffered by their co-religionists are of little concern because they consider them as the beneficiaries of afterlife. Likewise when the targeted non-believers suffer casualties, whether intended or as collateral damage, are considered as deserving as it is deemed a moral duty to be killed. These beliefs make religious terrorism not only the most dangerous form of terrorism, but provide the greatest source of motivation behind their attacks.
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The religious terror groups have also adopted the suicide bombing as a strategic attack too owing to its effectiveness. The use of human beings makes it hard to detect and counter; besides providing maximum impact and damage compared to other secular groups. For example, the Nairobi attack on the U.S embassy led to deaths of many U.S citizens and injuries to over 5000 Kenyan civilians, yet the bombers who died were incomparable to the fatalities among the targets. The use of human suicide bombers has been shown to create the greatest fear among the targets since it is often hard to know the bombers. The religious form of terrorism under the motivation of their apocalyptic frame of references has since become the most effective strategic tools for advancement of extremist ideologies.
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Religion as the greatest motivator of terrorism is further reinforced with the fact that the beliefs by religious terror groups are intertwined with the teachings in the Bible. These relationships between the religious terror group’s beliefs have created a huge loophole which facilitates innocent and naïve individuals into joining these religious extremist groups. The achievement of terrorist intent cannot be fulfilled if there is no essential environment to operate (Amir, 2006). However, religion provides an effective motivator for the creation of good cultural conditions for terrorist activities.
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According to (Amir, 2006) the use of religion as a motivator in creation of essential cultural conditions for terrorist attacks are best demonstrated by Yasser Arafat. According to the author, Arafat, during his reign as the leader of Palestine was not a religious leader. However, he reiterated the importance of creation of appropriate cultural conditions in which the Palestinians would use to further their struggle for their rights. He used religious rhetoric and terminology in his public speeches made in Arabic to reiterate that the dead Palestinian children (whom he referred to as “shahids”) were a testimony to the world.
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According to (Rausch, 2015) most of the religious extremists have been caused by political and cultural intrusions into their territories. Most of the organized groups such as the Taliban fight to safeguard and advance their influence which is perceived to be under threat from the incumbent political and external occupations. Therefore it is recommended that giving such groups a political and religious freedom is critical to their suppression. The use of military action can only serve to exasperate such groups and offer less viable solutions. In contrast, they need to be accommodated and allowed to have equal political and religious autonomy.
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However, the greatest impediment to this course of action remains the political unwillingness to adopt diplomacy as the strategy to fight religious extremism. Most incumbent political office holders hold the religious groups in bad views. Such groups are deemed as terrorists whose main goal is to kill. Those in power fail to recognize the legitimate intentions of such groups in fighting for their rights (Rausch, 2015). This has resulted in continued use of military in retaliation to such group which further reinforces their fight for their course. Religious groups will continue to fight to attain autonomy over the cultural intrusions and legitimate control of their economic wellbeing. Unless these major causes of the extremist violence are understood these groups will never relent and their influence will expand. Allowing such groups their cultural and political freedom remains key in combating religious extremism in the foreseeable future.