Terrorism in the twenty-first century has had one of greatest effects on the status quo of international relations, peace and war. It has become the 'specter' of our era and in many instances, it has been referred to as the predominant threat of modern civilization. Furthermore, it has the potential to drastically change the world we live in. For these reasons it has rightfully earned our attention and focus. Many efforts to understand terrorism have fallen short of recognizing the underlying causes. In many cases, acts of terror have either been of purely political motivation or have had socioeconomic conditions cited as the primary factor contributing to its occurrence. Some research has delved into the topic of the psychological makeup of terrorists while other attempts have looked at Islam itself ' dealing primarily with the textual references to war. Over the past decade terrorism research has progressed a significant deal due to the security importance of the issue and consequently the sheer number of academics and politicians who have developed an interest in it. There still appears to be, however, significant gaps in the research, particularly from the Western academic and political fronts where it is greatly needed. When it comes to particular interpretations of certain Islamic topics as well as the political grievances of the Muslim world, the West has largely failed in its analysis and understanding of the far-reaching effects these both have on terrorism and its propagation. This research will set out to begin filling these gaps by focusing on two primary topics: a) the theological basis being cited as an Islamic position and used to justify today's acts of terrorism; and b) the commonly cited political grievances that the advocates of terrorism have built their arguments upon. It is the hypothesis of this research that these two critically important issues are amongst the major contributing factors to acts terrorism. Unfortunately they have largely been ignored and in some cases exacerbated by our very own attempts to thwart terrorism. Thus it has become even more significant and important that we reassess our strategies in order to slow and eventually reverse this continuously growing threat of our era. This research will attempt to explain what I hypothesize are the most prevalent factors that have contributed to the development of terrorism in modern times. I contend that there are both influential religious and political dimensions to current acts of terrorism that are too often overlooked because of a lack of interest in Islamic theology as well as the fear of appearing to be a terrorist sympathizer or anti-patriotic. There is undeniably a religious dimension to terrorism which is amongst the most influential factors in answering why it is happening. It is a particular ideology that has been the glue which is used to fit together arguments and provide justifications to such acts of terror. At the same time, to pass the burden off so simply without listening to and understanding the political grievances of the advocates of terrorism would make the goal of eradicating terrorism quite unrealistic. While this research will cover these important points, it should not be mistaken as providing legitimacy or justification to any religious or secular group attempting to rationalize terrorism as an ideology nor the individual acts themselves.
Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Cusano, Christopher, "Understanding Terrorism: Religious & Political Dimensions" (2010). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 4424.