Terrorism is the unpredictable use of threats and violence to suppress an individual, group, and community with an aim of achieving particular goals (Burleigh, 2010).The perpetrators may be motivated by political, social, moral, and religious beliefs. Therefore, terrorism act may be executed to drive fear, to overthrow, to destabilize and to replace the existing systems and institutions (Burleigh, 2010). Terrorism may also be directed as a retaliatory act towards the previous attack. This paper critically considers the history of terrorism in relation to religious beliefs as a motive behind terrorism. In addition, this paper will discuss early terrorism and modern terrorism in connection to religion.
Early Terrorisms. The history of terrorism dates back to the first century, when the resistance zealot or Sicarii group (the dagger men) under the leadership of Judas of Galilee, killed Roman soldiers. Their aim was to overthrow the Roman rule from Judea and its religious rituals. They targeted the Roman rule, temple priests, Sadducees, scholars and Herodians. The zealot group managed to assassinate the High priest Jonathan (Chaliand & Blin, 2007).
In the 11th century, Hassan Ibn al- Sabbah a leader of Hashshashin (the Assassins) group, led war against the Fatimud rules which belonged to Sunni Muslims. Hassan Ibn al- Sabbah wanted to enact their radical Ismili Islam faith. The Hashshashin group belonged to Shia Muslim sect (Nizari Isma’ilis). The Hashshashin believed that by acquiring Alamut and other fortified places throughout Persia they will go to paradise. This group assassinated Christians, Muslims who opposed their faith including Maw dud, Seljuk emir of Mosul and Janah al- Dawa, ruler of Homs (Chaliand & Blin, 2007).
In 1095 Pope urban II officially launched the crusades at the council of Clermont. He called upon all Christian families living in Western Europe, who belonged to Roman Catholic to organize for a retaliatory attack against the Muslims (Saracens) invaders in the Holy lands. Muslims wanted to conquer Byzantine Empire and Roman Empire as a way of expanding their holy lands. However, Muslims believed that it was Mohammed’s command to conquer Jerusalem. On the other hand, crusaders believed that being a crusader is a surety to heaven. Christians managed to overthrow the Sicily emperor in 1072, Moorish Toledo in 1085 to the Kingdom of Leon. However, with the religious interests Pisa (maritime state) funded Palermo in 1063 and Mahdia in 1087 raids on Muslims (Burleigh, 2010).
Religious ideologies played a key role in sparking all these early terrorisms. Christians, Muslims and Jewish religion believed that engaging in the holy war, persecution, shedding of blood and acquiring Palestine and other fortified cities like Jerusalem had a reward in heaven (Burleigh, 2010).
Modern Terrorisms. In the history of terrorism, French revolution (1793-1794) is marked as the beginning of the modern terrorism. Maxmilien Robespierre and the Jacobin party brought the concept of terrorism as a virtue, in that it can be used systematically to intimidate and to silence the opposition (Poland, 2011). Robespierre used state terror to suppress those who were foes to revolution. Thousands of people died during his reign. Robespierre argued that violence can bring change and improve the current system. Though the motive of the French revolution was political, it is regarded as the revolution that laid the foundations to modern terrorism (Burleigh, 2010).
The Thuggee cult in India existed since 13th century and disappeared in the 19th Century. Thuggee were worshippers of Kali god (the Destroyer) one of the Hindu goddess. The followers of Thuggee used names such as Dacoits (gang robbers) and Phansigars (noose operators). The group could strangle, ritually mutilate and bury the victims, thereafter, they could offer sacrifices to Kali. Yearly the group is believed to have killed 20,000 men and women (Poland, 2011). Although the group was brought under siege by British movement in the 19th century, they had already made a greater destruction to the lives of people with an aim to worshiping their god Kali (Burleigh, 2010).
In1987, Ugandan cult known as The Holy Spirit Mobile Force rebelled against President Yoweri Museveni. The group was led by Alice Auma Lakwena who claimed to be inspired and possessed by Lakwena Spirit. She believed that her movement would free the Ugandans out of the oppression by president Museveni and witchcraft. Many people joined the movement including government forces. The grouped could use ‘holy oil’, as a divine protection over the gun shots. This gave them courage to face Museveni’s army in the late 1987. As a result of war, thousands of Lakwema forces were slaughtered mercilessly in acts of terror that followed the war (Martin, 2010).
Moreover, after the defeat of Lakwenas’ group, there cropped up a rebellious lethal group under the leadership of Josef Kony. Josef reorganized Lakwena group and rebranded it as Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Josef promised Muslims, Christians and witchcrafts that he would overturn the Government, cleanse the Acholi group and biblical Ten Commandments would be his pillars of rule. It is estimated that 1.6 million Ugandans were displaced, 30000 children abducted, 25000 women turned to bush wives and around 100,000 people lost their lives in the war (Martin, 2010). In 1987 AumShinrikyo cult under the leadership of Asahara in Japan had a vision of controlling the whole world.
Islamic Terrorism. The principle behind the Islamic fatalist terror attacks has been their belief in the Jihad war. The Jihad war is a holy war against the infidels. The word has got its roots in the Qur’an and Sura. Islamic terrorists believe that engaging in the Jihad is a way of getting to heaven and obtaining a reward of 70 virgins in heaven (Poland, 2011). At the end of the First World War Islamic Turks had killed approximately 1.5 million Armenian Christians (Maras, 2013).
In 1928, the Islamic terrorist movement known as Ikhwan al-Muslim (the Muslim Brotherhood) was formed in Egypt (Poland, 2011). The group fought to maintain Islamic Sheria law opposing the Arab secular type of government. When terrorist leader Hassan al-Banna was executed the terror group saw him as their martyrdom. The terror group now has loyal disciples in more than 70 countries (Maras, 2013).
In 1980, the Lebanon’s Terror group known as Hezbollah ( party of God) or Islamic Jihad in collaboration with Iranian Government, attacked the American soldiers on a peacemaking mission in Lebanon (Poland, 2011). The fatal group bombed the American embassy. Consequently, in the subsequent years up to 1990 the cases of suicide bombs and kidnappings of Westerners were numerous (Maras, 2013).
The series of bomb blasts by an Al Qaeda begun in December 1992 in Aden Yemen claiming to be alive. Lastly, the August 1998 U.S embassy in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania bomb blasts were carried out and more than 200 people died and 5000 injured. The 2001 September, 11attacks on America made Muslims believe that it was the successful war against the ‘great Satan’. Approximately 3000 people succumbed to the suicide bomb attack (Maras, 2013).
Solutions to Religious Terrorism. We are living in a religious world, where each and every religion has got its own beliefs and faiths (Poland, 2011). This fact makes it illogical to come up with a solution on religious terrorism. Hence, we need to acknowledge and appreciate our cultural differences. We also need to understand that no one knows the truth about the Supreme Being, religion and eternal life. Therefore, sharing ideas with one another will foster peace and understanding. In all religions and nations people should condemn the act of terrorism.