August 3, 2018 in Analysis
Terrorism: The Problem of Ideology

It is believed that terrorists use an ideology only to justify already committed terrorist acts. This is demonstrated by the fact that many terrorists do not care about ideology, they do not have clear, detailed plans and objectives, in a word, act impulsively, in unreasonable manner. According to Meigs (2003), the new generation of terrorists is often composed of young people, who do not think about the ideological motives of their behavior and had joined the terrorist activities because of curiosity, by incidental passion. Being an integral part of today’s society, terrorism has its ideology, motives and goals.

Sometimes, ideology serves only as a frame of terrorist groups. As such, the ideas change, the original purposes are forgotten. In this case, the ideology varies depending on the environment in which it exists. However, there are terrorist organizations whose work is based on a worldview, they are not subject to periodic change. In most cases exactly these organizations are subject of interest for the researchers of ideologies of terrorism.

Type of your assignment
Academic level

Extremism of radical revolutionary and radical conservative character acts serve as the basis of ideologies of terrorism. Many researches of this problem came to such conclusion. Namely extremism, fueling terrorism ideologically and spiritually, contributes to its development. However, it would be wrong to say that terrorism acts as a social practice of extremism does not have its own social practices. The best explanation for the difference of these practices is that a terrorist brings his work to an end whereas extremist stops it in the middle. Hudson (1999) claimed that where extremist throws stones, terrorist starts to throw bombs. Moreover, when extremist is blocking streets, railway lines, highways and runways, the terrorist takes hostages. Also, extremists threaten death, while terrorist sows death. Thus, extremism arises from the extremes of perception of society, and terrorism comes from the planes of extremism.

The main anti-terrorist operations are also in the ideological sphere. According to the US experts, there is no doubt that the U.S. could destroy al-Qaeda and any other terrorist group. The difficulty lies in the fact that terrorism is based on ideology accepted by many societies that are a breeding ground for new terrorist groups. Terrorist leaders can get the reputation of heroes and role models. The main problem is not solely in al-Qaeda, but in the form of Islam, which it uses in those views that are inherent in the religious and political leaders, in the soul being sympathetic towards the terrorists (Smith, 2002).

Paul Pillar, a former executive director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center has formulated four key elements that distinguish terrorist organization from any other. First, the terrorists do not act on impulse, but according a predetermined plan. Second, they pursue political rather than criminal purposes. Unlike the Mafia, they seek to change the existing order of things, and not get money. Third, their goal is civilian, not military. Fourth, they are composed of ethnic groups in most cases, regardless of national boundaries.

Terrorism has become a way of life for many people. Terrorist organizations give their members the social status, self-esteem, power, influence, which they may be deprived of when living in normal conditions. The terrorists are not irrational. In fact, they are simply trying to impose on society and the world rules of the game. Moreover, if they face problems while trying to enforce these restrictions, terrorists prone violate their own principles. One of the challenges to be addressed by countries of the world is to show that the activity of terrorists is meaningless and fail to achieve the intended result (Benedek, 1980).

The problem is not to destroy al-Qaeda, though it is now the main goal of many states. The main problem is to destroy the ideas of terrorism. Most of the principles professed by the leaders of al-Qaeda are not prohibited in many countries of the Arab world. West traditionally has respect for other religions and different lifestyles. On the contrary, Islamic fundamentalists do not have special respect for other faiths. The vast majority of the Arab world live in conditions where power is identified not only with force but also with violence. In these circumstances, terrorism is not something alien. It becomes a part of the tradition and culture of behavior (Smith, 2002).

As an example, we will consider the international terrorist organization al-Qaeda and internal terrorist organization of the Ku Klux Klan.

International terrorist organization of Islamic fundamentalist al-Qaeda carries out military operations around the world. It was established in 1988 by Osama bin Laden,  a native of Saudi Arabia, the son of a millionaire and billionaire himself, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. Bin Laden creating the organization used the experience and connections gained from Maktab al-Kidamat – a network established with the direct participation of the CIA to recruit volunteers worldwide wishing to participate in the jihad against the Soviet Union. During the war in Afghanistan, a large group of professional soldiers was formed, capable of conducting effective guerrilla war. Namely Afghan veterans became the backbone of the new organization of bin Laden. In February 1998, Osama bin Laden said that based on al-Qaeda he creates the International Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders, which advocates the idea of the Global Salafi Jihad. It includes the following terrorist groups: Islamic Jihad, Gama’at al-Islamiya, Yemen Islamic Army of Aden, Kashmir Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Abu Sayyaf Group and others. However, each of these organizations is acting independently. During this period, al-Qaeda has acted in close cooperation with the Egyptian terrorist group Egyptian Islamic Jihad. In June 2001, the partnership was finally adjusted, when on the basis of the two organizations a new group was created, called Qaedat al-Jihad. At first, headquarters was in Sudan, then in Saudi Arabia, and then in Afghanistan. The number of its members is unknown. At the head of al-Qaeda is a

council – shura. The organization is composed of eight committees, chief among which is the Committee on Religious Affairs. It is headed by the Abu Hafs al-Muritani.

The main purpose of al-Qaeda is the establishment of the Islamic world order based on Sharia. According to the leaders of the organization, among the enemies of the Muslims are not only the United States and the entire Western world, but also the moderate Islamic regimes. Terrorist attacks, planned and carried out by al-Qaeda, include: August 7, 1998, an explosion of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; in October 2000, an explosion of the U.S. Navy destroyer Cole; September 11, 2001, the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York and the west wing of the Pentagon building in Washington, DC (Hashim, 2001).

The heyday of the notorious Ku Klux Klan was in the twenties of the twentieth century. Then Klan was several times revived – the second world has already passed, and in the US massacres of Negroes continued, occurring in front of the law-abiding Americans who gladly approved the cleanup of rural America from blacks. Clan formed a habit of killing the inhabitants. And in the middle of the twentieth century, blacks could still be considered nonhumans. Therefore, the only reason why the US Black Panthers arose was to kill white racists with no less cruelty.

Members of the Clan tried everywhere and always to emphasize the mystery of the organization, its connection with mysticism. Especially members of the Clan preferred night processions – in silence, in white robes and caps, on horseback, they drove through the deserted streets. The sight was probably impressive.

Ku Klux Klan supposed to keep public killing in secret. Therefore, the main businesses of the clan were murders and attacks. Owing to the unusual branching of the organization, “vampires” had complete information on the basis of which they committed murders, arsons and assaults. Operationally “Invisible Empire” had the following structure – county (administrative unit of the United States) was divided into several districts, each of which was a “lag”, i.e. lower military unit led by “Captain”.

During the World War II, the activity of the clan began to decline. April 28, 1944, due to non-payment of taxes in the amount of 685,305 dollars and eight cents, “Invisible Empire” announced in Atlanta insolvency and dissolution. However, not for long.

For the third time the clan was born in 1946, in the same Atlanta. One of the last “great magicians” of the Klan was Samuel Green, a “vampire” from 1922, which is “the great dragon” of Georgia in the early 30’s.

By the early 80’s of the twentieth century, Ku Klux Klan continued to exist in a fragmented form. The best known are 16 formally independent organizations. The largest are United Clans of America – the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Tuscaloosa, and the National Federation of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Louisiana.

In modern times, the state of the Ku Klux Klan is not known, mostly because of privacy, which is the primary rule of “Invisible Empire”, which exists to this day, but not on such a scale as in the past. It is no accident that one of the vows of “vampire” has been and continues to be the following, “I would rather die than betray the secrets of the clan”. In some “caves” coffins are stored, on which there is the inscription: “This box is prepared for chatterbox” (U.S. Congress. House. Committee on the Judiciary. Subcommittee on Crime).

There is now no doubt about the thesis that the use of force alone cannot defeat terrorism. Developed in the present national system of counter-terrorism focus, first and foremost, it is vital to focus on the priority measures to prevent terrorist acts. Consequently, the problem of counter-terrorist ideology in the last decade is of paramount importance.

There is no doubt that in order to successfully solve this problem, it is necessary to answer two questions: “Why does the ideology of terrorism find fertile ground?”, and “What can we oppose it?”

No country in the world can defend itself by military means

Owing to this fact, the leaders of international terrorism make the increased focus of the ideological underpinnings of their actions, which is expressed primarily in the religious rhetoric. In fact, they are trying to hide under beautiful wrapping unsightly nature of terrorism. In addition, to romanticize the image of a terrorist, also practical purposes are pursued: replenishment of their ranks by recruiting new members, attracting undecided and sympathizers, increasing funding of terrorist activities (Bell, 2005).

One of the most interesting ways to destroy terrorism is to influence it. It is clear that it is impossible to re-educate bin Laden. To influence the leaders of terrorist groups or engage in negotiations is often meaningless. Some of them consider themselves prophets, implementing the will of God. As a rule, they have nothing to lose. The destruction of the command center of the terrorist organizations is often impossible as al-Qaeda has no central command. Experience shows that the most painful are blows to convince supporters and sponsors of terrorist organizations to have a normal life and interest in freedom, prosperity, and security. Unlike the terrorists, the state of the world (except Israel) rarely punishes family members of terrorists. Paul K. Davis, an expert from the analytical center RAND, believes that some sanctions on them, for example restrictions on entry into certain countries, the prohibition to conduct business with them, can play a positive role.

Terrorists who seized airliners on September 11, 2001, came a long way before being ready for the attack. They were not satisfied with their way of life or the state of affairs in the world. They have absorbed some ideological dogmas from their teachers and religious leaders. Thus, they performed errands of the organizations adhering to this ideology. Gradually, they began to participate in illegal activities, and only at the end of this process were sent to training camps to get new knowledge and training of terrorist methods. However, it is possible to influence all stages of man’s transformation into a terrorist. Practice shows that the police methods to combat this evil in most cases are unsuccessful (U.S. Department of State, Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism).

The successes of the anti-terrorist coalition caused recently significant damage to international terrorism. Counting the human and financial losses, international terrorist organizations are trying to attract new supporters. Their leaders understand that it can be done only with an effective ideology, taking into account the peculiarities of the target audience. What is more, it is important to always be adaptable to the demands of modernity, and work in the conditions of active opposition to the special services and law enforcement agencies of the anti-terrorist coalition states.

Addressing to ideology is necessary because it helps to reveal some phenomena unexplained from other positions, for example such inhuman reactions as gleefully happy response of Palestinian children to the terrorist attacks in the U.S. It is evident that among measures to prevent terrorism and cooperation with international organizations, the first thing to do in order to prevent terrorism is to check the spread of its ideology.


Related essays