Terrorism is a word which is often talked about in the modern day due to events which have happened in the recent past. In this essay I will discuss about the factors which explain the rise to Global Terrorism and Islamic Terrorism. The main question which is posed to people everyday is that, can terrorism ever be defeated? Over the last 30 years, we have seen devastating acts of terrorism occur all around the world. 9/11 being a good example of where we saw thousands of innocent people in New York, USA killed due to violent acts of terrorism. I will be discussing more about this later in the essay as it was the catalyst for the war in Afghanistan.
Terrorism will produce more terrorism if we cannot find the main factor which leads to the rise of terrorism. Terrorism can only be dealt with if we find the main factors contributing to the rise of Global Terrorism and Islamic Terrorism. Although, it is rather a complex task in finding these contributing factors which I found from my research on the topic. The definition of terrorism from the dictionary is that terrorism is “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims. (Press, Oxford University, 2017) This definition is one of hundreds of definitions which could be used to describe terrorism. But in my own view, I believe that terrorism can be both politically and religiously aimed, with the use of violence to try and destroy the economic structure of the country along with having a psychological effect of fear on the civilian population who weren’t the immediate effect. It all boils down to the major question of, “so who is the terrorist? A popular quote which has been used before is that: “One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter. (Bjorgo, 2005, p. 1) In this essay, we identify the main factors which act as a catalyst for terrorism and will be discussed thoroughly in doing so.
Terrorism Throughout the Years
Terrorism can be described like an active volcano in the modern day, no one knows when the next terrorist attack will happen, but the possibility of a terrorist attack taking place is quite high. Over the last 30 years we have seen acts of terrorism happen on our televisions at home, sometimes on our own doorstep. In Northern Ireland and the UK, bombings and killings by the Provisional IRA (Irish Republican Army) have been acts of terrorism on our own doorstep which are all familiar with the present. The UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) conducting the Dublin and Monaghan bombings is another example of terrorism occurring on our doorstep. But why did these acts of terrorism happen in the past? The explanation for this is simply the factors contributing to terrorism. The motivation of the Provisional IRA was due to religious and political means in Northern Ireland. The UVF used the triggering factor or used it as revenge for the bombings the IRA had conducted in the North. This turned into a 30-year war against an ideology, thankfully this sectarian war finally ending in 1998 with the Good Friday Peace Agreement. But who is to say that these events won’t happen again? What will happen when Brexit enforces a hard border once again between Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland? Will there be a hostile environment once again in Northern Ireland? As you can see religion and politics has a major role to play in the motivation for terrorists and why these attacks happen.
On the 9th of September 2001, everything changed. The suicide attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon made it clear to us that Islamic Terrorist organisation, Al-Qaeda, posed a serious threat for Western countries. I believe that this was the beginning of the rise to Global and Islamic Terrorism. This event was the catalyst for other terrorist attacks to occur. 9/11 gave confidence and motivation to other terrorist individuals and groups. In retaliation, American troops were sent to Afghanistan to seek and destroy all terrorist organisations, Al-Qaeda being one of the main Islamic Terrorist organisations.
Factors Which Influence Terrorism
The only way in defeating terrorism is if we can identify its main causes and factors which contribute to the attacks. The events leading up to the attacks play a pivotal role in the reason why these terrorist attacks have occurred in the first instance. This is further explained as follows:
- Structural factors, for example globalisation, rapid modernisation, increasing individualism with rootless and atomisation, relative deprivation and class structure. All these examples can be associated with some of the causes for Islamic Terrorism today. (Bjorgo, Root Causes of Terrorism, 2005)
- Facilitator or the accelerator factors are used to influence or make the idea of terrorism attractive to the individual. Gaining popularity from modern social media is one of the main factors which becomes very attractive for the terrorist. Social media is accessible worldwide and any terrorist events, which are captured and posted on social media has a psychological effect of fear to the public. Other examples such as new weapon technology and having control of weak state territory can be attracted to modern terrorism. Global terrorism occurs mainly due to certain security and other circumstances which have made it easy to employ terrorist methods. (Bjorgo, 2005)
- The motivational factor is obviously interlinked with the cause or the roots for terrorism. Motivation can come from political and religious ideologies that the terrorist may have. For example, the main motivation for Islamic Terrorism is due to religious ideologies they have. The political situation can provide motivation for a terrorist also.
- The use of the triggering factor can be used as another factor. Triggering factor is basically when an outrageous sequence of events has taken place and as a result the terrorist retaliates and seeks for revenge. The enemy or terrorist will carry this out with the use of violence, to ensure that his/ her message is received to the larger community. Peace talks can be used as one of many examples to explain the triggering factor. (Bjorgo, 2005)
I believe the main reason why terrorism has become so popular in the last 20 years is due to globalisation. How globalisation can be explained is through the freedom of communication, ease of travel and more of a cultural understanding around the world. Positives of Globalisation include; Economic interconnectedness (European Union; “Asian Tigers; outsourcing. But, Globalisation has many negatives also, including; transmission of disease (1986 Mad Cow Disease, 1997 Bird Flu and 2014 Ebola); Bird Flu; Terrorism. The most important aspect to take from Globalisation is that without Globalisation, terrorism wouldn’t be occurring as frequent as it has since 2001. (Tabor, 2015)
I believe that “Globalisation encourages religious fundamentalism. (Arc) The freedom of travel, especially in the EU, allows for terrorists to migrate with ease into different countries. For example, the death of Ahmed Shah Masood, an Afghan weapons trafficker, was carried out by Algerians with Belgian passports. These Algerians had a visa to enter Pakistan which was issued in London. Getting to London they were able to travel with Belgian passports because the UK was part of the EU at the time. The death of Masood shows “how radical Islam does not reject Globalisation. (Arc)
Unlike other terrorist organisations, Al-Qaeda had very little state sponsorship, so they had to financially support themselves by working as a business and receiving donations from other shade organisations. They were not a traditional terrorist group, with a well-defined hierarchy, but rather a decentralized global organisation which is interconnected all around the world making the organisation one of the most dangerous terrorist organisations. (Arc) Al-Qaeda brought a sense of professionalism to Islamic Terrorism, they financed themselves and they became a decentralized global organisation. This made it very difficult for Western countries to monitor the influx of extremists onto their land.
The effects Globalisation has on the rise of Global Terrorism and Islamic Terrorism is quite evident. Perhaps it is one of the key factors which can be the explanation to why there is an increase in Terrorism since 2001.
In the last 15 years, we have seen rapid modernisation in society occur throughout the world, especially in well developed countries. The significance of having technology in the modern world is untold of. Perhaps technology has a key role in rapid modernisation in todays world? I certainly question the development of technology since the early 2000’s, is it a coincidence that we have had a severe increase in Global Terrorism and Islamic Terrorism? Terrorist organisations have used technology to instil fear onto innocent people all around the world, especially in Western nations. The internet has been used in terrorism over the last decade to broadcast bombings, killings and other terrorist acts. It has also been used to recruit members into their organisations with the use of social media such as Twitter. ISIS have their own Twitter account which allows them to share their ideologies on the internet which is free to the public to see. As stated in the previously discussed topic on the effects Globalisation has on terrorism, we have seen that Islamic Terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS are not the traditional terrorist group. They rather run the organisation more like a business, instead of heavy relying on State funding. This allows the organisation to grow, which as a result increases the rate of recruitment. Some gruesome footage of terrorist acts has been posted online also. This makes the public fearful of the terrorist organisation and it allows the promotion of the terrorists and terrorist organisations ideologies to the Western world.
Technology has also led to the development of explosives, such as IED’s, pressure cookers and suicide vests. Explosives have been used by terrorist organisations in the past, but the evolution of explosives is quite amazing. They have become more powerful and can cause extreme destruction to infrastructure and innocent humans. Over the last decade, explosives have been the main tool used by terrorists to conduct their attacks. For example, 79% of attacks from Al-Qaeda were conducted with the use of explosives, including bombings, car bombings and suicide bombings. (Bjorgo, 2005) We continue to witness the development of modernisation in society today. Although, terrorist organisations are using this to their advantage. There is no regulation on the development of technology and unfortunately with the continuation of modernisation and the development of technology, terrorist organisations will gain popularity and more recruits along with creating havoc and destruction across the world.
Relative Deprivation and Class Structure
Leaders of most, if not all, terrorist organisations come from an upper-class background. These men would have received the highest level of education in their country and have a good knowledge of the society we live in. The most important possession these men have is money. They would not have been set up these terrorist organisations without the influx of money. This money allows the organisation to buy weaponry and explosives, which are used for the attacks. The money is used to feed and supply shelter for their members and families. Being from an upper-class society from countries in the Middle-East is essential when setting up a terrorist organisation.
Organisations such as Al-Qaeda, show us that their “relative deprivation has differing impacts on the well-educated, upper-middle-class leaders and on the less-educated, lower-class foot soldiers. (Bjorgo, 2005, pp. 3-5) The well-educated, upper-middle-class leaders can be intimidating to the lower-class and easily convince them to join their terrorist group. The class structure in Islamic Terrorist strongholds are terrifyingly unfair. As a result, there has been occasions where the less-educated, lower-class natives either joined the terrorist organisation or, if they didn’t, were awarded a severe punishment, possibly death.
Motivating an individual to join such a dangerous organisation whom possess radical ideologies can be quite difficult. The individual must be influenced and motivated by the organisation to join. Influential factors such as religious and political beliefs, are popular in recruiting individuals for these terrorist organisations. Many years of research, psychologists and psychiatrics interested in terrorism and the mind of a terrorist, have gathered a consensus that “terrorists are not mentally ill. They also found that “psychopathologies have not been proven to be disproportionately present among terrorists. (Centre of Excellence Defence Against Terrorism, Ankara, Turkey, 2007, p. 4) “Most terrorists are willing participants in their attacks, although there is evidence that the PKK in Turkey may have forced the individuals to partake in the terrorist attacks. (Centre of Excellence Defence Against Terrorism, Ankara, Turkey, 2007, p. 4)
In my opinion, I believe that the individuals who join these terrorist organisations are brain washed into thinking that these attacks are for the good of the organisation and it is done so to promote their political or religious ideologies. As discussed previously, the uneducated, lower-class individual is the most vulnerable into joining these organisations. Psychologists continue to study the mind of a terrorist and they try to understand the main motivational factors into the causation of terrorism. Perhaps these terrorists are “true believers and are willing to sacrifice their life for the ideology they believe in. Unfortunately, violent “true believers can be the most dangerous type of terrorists due to their strong beliefs. These types of terrorists have a stereotype of thinking, believing in the superiority of their belief system, they have an indifferent attitude to those with different belief systems, hostile and have justification on their violent behaviour and lack of critical reflection and rigidity. (Martens) Violent true believer terrorists ignore any other different ideologies making these types of terrorists arrogant and extremely motivated. Arrogance and extreme motivation are some characteristic traits which can be associated with the violent “true believer terrorist. These traits make it unbelievably difficult for all countries in trying to prevent terrorists conducting inhumane acts across the globe.
The triggering factor is a very important factor to take in to consideration when discussing about the roots of terrorism and what causes the rise of terrorism. Over the years, we have witnessed retaliation from terrorist groups, Islamic terrorist organisations for example.
In 2017, “the West succeeded in their mission of ensuring ISIS loses its stronghold in Syria. Although on the 5th of December 2017, the express newspaper in Britain titled at the front of their newspaper: “Terror warning: 26,000 ISIS jihadis ready to launch attacks on the West after Syria defeat. (Falvey, 2017) This article was published after interviewing US Colonel Dillion at the US embassy in London. He believed that after conducting successful attacks on Syria and Libya, the extremists will exit these countries and infiltrate into the western countries such as France and the UK and will retaliate with violent terrorist attacks. Colonel Dillion’s assumptions were accurate as we saw some devastating attacks in the early months of 2018. For example, the Kizlyar church shooting in Russia in February 2018, the TrГbes hostage crisis in France in March 2018, the Paris knife attack in May 2018, the Liege shooting in Belgium in May 2018 and the Danforth shooting in Canada in July 2018. (htt1) These attacks were carried out by ISIS in retaliation to the situation in Libya and Syria. Obviously, the triggering factor can have a major final influence on the terrorist whether he/ she will carry out the attack.
In conclusion, I believe the factors which have been discussed in this essay have a major impact on the rise of Global and Islamic Terrorism. All factors illustrate to us that the foundations of a terrorist organisation or the planning of a terrorist attack, lies within its roots or factors. It is evident over the past decade, terrorism is becoming more popular every year. Islamic terrorism can be associated with most terrorist attacks today. The impact Al-Qaeda and ISIS have on Islamic terrorism is quite outstanding.
But, everyone wants the answer to, “can terrorism ever be defeated? It is quite a difficult question to answer, as many politicians and army personnel have made attempts into responding to the question when it has been posed towards them. The main aim of a terrorist attack is to “indiscriminate violence as a means to create terror or fear among masses of people to achieve a financial, political, religious or ideological aim. (Fortna, 2015) If we allow these terrorist organisations to think that the public are not afraid and do not panic after an attack has occurred, this can lead the terrorist group into approaching a different way of means of ensuring that they share their ideology to the public. They might find a more peaceful solution into how they share their message to the public, through political means perhaps? Maybe, it is ourselves to blame for the constant hatred the Middle-East have on the Western world. We should take sensible patient measures into how we deal with terrorism by changing our habits and thinking because this is where they gain their support. Bombing the Islamic countries into submission and depriving them of their own civil liberties in our countries is not the answer to defeating terrorism.
If anything, it encourages it, as we can see with the triggering factor effect as previously discussed. It is up to the governments and politicians to analyse how the factors relating to terrorism have impacts on the rise of global terrorism and Islamic terrorism. They must conduct an assessment into combating terrorists and terrorism itself, with the inclusion of academic experts and insurgents. From this assessment, they must create a timeline plan of how they will approach terrorism resolution with a short-, medium- and long-term objective. These objectives will be coupled with the result, which the government will recommend into how they will defeat terrorism on a national and international stage. (Bjorgo, 2005) Whatever direction the governments take into dealing with terrorism, it is crucial that they have unity within politicians, law enforcement, military establishments and most importantly with the public. I believe terrorism can be defeated but with a different approach, compared to previous years. There is a saying in Buddhism which is associated to dealing with terrorism: “Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. (htt2)