Religious Terrorism
in Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez, ed, Encyclopedia of Religion and War
(New York: Berkshire/Routledge, 2003), pp 423-28
Religious terrorism can be defined as the deliberate use of violence against civilians for religious ends. As compared to ethnonationalist or ideologically inspired terrorism, religious terrorism is the oldest, most consistent, and deadliest in terms of its current global reach and impact. Religious terrorists could hail from both main religious faiths and small religious cults, and target not only the followers of other religious faiths but also fellow believers refusing to follow their diktats. For centuries, religion has been a source of violence, terrorism, and war. However, never before did it emerge as the principal source of terrorism at the global scale as it has since the start of the 1990s. The 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States carried out by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network thus far represent the optimal stage of transnational Islamic terrorism. These and a number of other successive attacks against Western and non-Western targets claimed by al-Qaeda and other radical religious organizations reflect the likely enormity of international terrorism in the twenty-first century. Full Text