Islamic vs non-Islamic terrorism

Probably been discussed ad nauseum but I was wondering what the breakdown is of Islamic vs non-Islamic terrorist acts? Within the non-Islamic category, what is the breakdown of religious reasoning (anti-abortion, anti-homosexual, etc) versus political (Weather Underground) versus racial (KKK) versus others? Despite the Catholic against Protestant facet, I would consider IRA attacks more political than religious in nature because the goal was to get the British out of Northern Ireland. Anyone seen stats for this over, say, the past 50 years?

The acts don’t have to result in the loss of life or even injuries. The Environmental Liberation Front vandalizes logging machinery, torches SUVs or “spikes” old growth trees.

I put this in GQ because it should be a factual response with definitive answers but it might wind up moving because some people will argue that some causes cross categories (abortion could be religious but also political, for example).

I have no answer to this question, but you may want to clarify if you mean to include the whole world, or just some part(s) of it. The selection of any particular region would seem to influence the outcome quite a bit, if only because Islam is much more common in some areas.

Personally, I’d also like to see statistics of religious vs non-religious terrorrism.

If you want a realistic (GQ-type) answer to this, I think you need to give tighter definitions of what you consider ‘terrorist acts’. Because the old saying is those are terrorists on your side, my side is freedom fighters.

For example, in 1776, the British troops marching toward Concord considered the tactics used by the Americans (hide behind the stone fences, shoot the soldiers as they march by, if they attack, run away to another fence further down the road) as terroristic and quite outside the proper way of fighting a war.

Most of the people in Mideast Muslim countries consider the Crusades to be terroristic.

Both Israel and the Arabs consider each other terrorists. The apartheidists in South Africa imprisoned Nelson Mandela as a terrorist; now he’s a widely-respected Noble Prize winner.

I’ve heard terrorism defined on the basis of creating terror within a population, and your example of the Environmental Liberation Front does not sound like it fits. Well, except perhaps for the people in Jeep commercials.

It’s ad nauseAm. I’ll point this out until I get sick of it. As to the OP, I think your distinctions between religious and political terrorism are completely arbitrary and not very helpful either. All terrorism is political; some of it deals with the part of politics that can be called religious, some of it does not, but the part that does generally still has a political goal in mind. This goes for IRA-related terrorism as it does for Islamic terrorism (which is why Islamic terrorism may be a misnomer: just because the terrorist calls himself a Muslim does not mean that what he or she does is Islamic terrorism. So I’m going to join most of the others in this thread and ask for more specifications: is it world-wide, are you talking about money involved, terrorists involved, casualties involved?

This statement serves as a good example of why your thinking is too simplified. You then have to ask yourself why the IRA wanted the British out of Ireland (or Northern Ireland). If you continue to explore the complexities of the history, you do have to include some of the religious persecution of the Catholics as a reason. (It doesn’t have to be limited to just one reason, you know.)

There’s just no way to break it all down or look at all sides. The American Revolution: Freedom Fighters or Terrorist Rebels?

Why are Americans friends with Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese?

For a long time the group responsible for the most deaths through sucide attacks was not muslim, it was the Hindu Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. Though I never saw anyone do the math, I’m pretty sure at some point during the Iraq invasion that was no longer the case.

Wow. I didn’t think it would be that complicated.

First off, sorry about the typo ** Švejk**. My goof.

Let’s start with a definition of terrorism. According to Wikipedia:

For the sake of conformity let’s use the FBI’sdefinition:

The FBI includes eco-terrorismas well:

So, let’s try to break down the terrorist groups accordingly. According to a US report on profiling terrorists, there are 4 divisions:
• Nationalist-separatist - ETA, FARC, White Legion and Timothy McVeigh are examples of agents that oppose governmental policies and actions according to where they fall on the political spectrum (socialist, ultra-conservative, etc).
• Religious fundamentalist - While Al-Queda, PLO, Hamas act against certain governments and their policies, the basis of the conflict is religious in nature. Yes, the IRA falls into that category as well
• New religious – Not sure how this could be defined. Any ideas?
• Social revolutionary - ELF, ALF, Eric Rudolph, KKK, white supremicists would be more in the social terrorist side. Sure, there is overlap between the causes (ELF pushes an extremely liberal agenda and the Klan is on the opposite end) but they are not trying to change the government and its policies but instead try to influence the behavior and mores of the populace.

Under religious there are many divisions: IRA (Catholic), Hamas (Islamic), Babbar Khalsa (Sikh), JDL(Judaism), etc.

I understand what Bruce Hoffman said:

However, if I supported the IRA’s efforts to get the British out of Northern Ireland and my family is blown up on the streets of Belfast, I don’t give a damn. They are still terrorists. So, are my divisions still too subjective and arbitrary or could these be used to gather some kind of stats?

There is always a problem defining these boundaries.

Some are clear-cut - Al Qaeda is explicitly and undeniably an Islamist terrorist groups. While its multifarious cells often have some nationalist issues ( ObL certainly has/had his vis-a-vis Saudi Arabia ), the overarching agenda is overwhelmingly a religious and internationalist one.

On the other hand Hamas is an Islamist terrorist organization, operating within a strongly religious framework, towards nationalist goals. Hamas as a group, much like the Taliban, doesn’t give a shit about exporting Islamist revolution, or at least never gives it much more than cursory lip service. Their only real concern is Palestinian nationalism, much as the Taliban’s only real concern is isolationist, xenophobic Afghan nationalism. Both are interested in establishing a state based on their own, retrograde notions of religious faith and use religious rhetoric to justify their campaigns and tactics. But it is a wholely erropneous to say their nationalism takes second place - it is first and foremost on their agendas.

Meanwhile the PLO and its numerous offshoots, while largely Muslim ( ostensibly ) in membership, was explicitly founded as a secular group and includes Christians, including in its leadership ranks. It is purely nationalist in character and despite its many Muslim members, it is overall not Islamist, i.e. seeking to create a state based explicitly on Muslim law and principles. As noted above you have to be careful to not automatically conflate motives with background - a Muslim who committs terrorism may be a Muslim terrorist, but he isn’t necessarily a Muslim Terrorist, if you get my meaning ;).

Similarily I view the IRA as tribal nationalists, where tribe is defined by ostensible religious labeling by birth, but not necessarily inspired by religious reasoning. Ian Paisley certainly muddies the issue on the other side, but at core that’s how I see it.

New religious I assume refers to what one might want to call cultic terrorism, as with Aum Shinrikyo in Japan.

Meanwhile social revolutionaries like white supremacists are also often ( certainly not always ) wrapped up in extreme religious rhetoric, as with the Christian Identity Movement or Boermag.

Categorizing is problematic and going case by case is probably safer :).

I knew that categorization of the groups would be difficult but, damn it, there has to be a way to break it down. The categories I listed came from a US security report. I chose examples of groups that I thought qualified. Is there overlap? Sure. Is there room for interpretation? Definitely. But just because something is difficult to categorize doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. Can we create split groups? For example “Religious/Nationalist” for groups that have a religious basis for their statist goals like Hamas and PLO. Or “Social/Religious” for groups who have religious reasons for making social changes such as the aforementioned Christian Identity Movement or if Fred Phelps started bombing soldiers’ funerals.

I am asking about a breakdown because we frequently hear phrases like “radical Muslims” and “Islamic fanaticism” being bandied about when terrorist attacks occur and was hoping to see how the percentage of acts committed by groups with a Muslim foundation compared to those perpetrated by other organizations. One of the favorite boogiemen of the right is that the “Religion of Peace” is anything but. I would love to have numbers to either squash that appellation or to clarify the charge.

Again, the PLO ( as a whole, it a fractured, chaotic group ) has NO religious basis for their statist goals. They are quite different from Hamas.

I understand and I’m sure it must be frustrating to see what looks like a careful minuet around the issue. In general I think it is probably fair to say that at the very least radical Islamism represents the single largest ideological affiliation among active terrorist organizations. Looking at the current list of terror organizations so labeled by the U.S., at least 24 of 45 look to me to have some degree of Islamist affiliation, whether it be secondary ( to nationalism/secessionism, much more common ) or primary ( internationalists ).

The U.S. list is not all-inclusive of course and to some extent represents the United States’ own preoccupations. India alone I’m sure could add another dozen or two ( no Babbar Khalsa on the U.S. list, no Naxalites, no Ranvir Sena, etc. ). But it does give a loose, if perhaps slightly exaggerated indication of prevalence. Going piece by piece through every loosely defined terrorist organization in the world ( and I’m not sure there is any single comprehensive list - you’d have to pretty much go country by country ), would be a significant undertaking and I’m just flat-out too lazy to do it. Right now, anyway.

But at any rate the whole “Religion of Peace” thing is a red herring. Is Islam among major world religions inherently a little more twistable into violent iterations? Probably - it explicitly calls for at least the militant defense of the Muslim community if under threat and that combined with the profound social and ideological upheaval since the 18th century in much of the Muslim world gives a lot to be worked with for ideologues. Does that mean Islam is therefore rotten to the core? Not IMHO. Most Muslims are peaceable folk going about their lives, like most other people.

Even if it was, what is anyone going to do about it? One billion people aren’t going to disappear or suddenly turn their back on their faith. And demonizing them certainly doesn’t make the problem any better.

Rats, rats, rats! I suppose distinguishing between groups and causes is like trying to define what is pornography: I might not be able to articulate it but I know it when I see it.

I know that Islam seems to get the rap for the majority of terrorism. I just wish I could quantify it. Thanks for your input.

If we make this a little simpler, the problem is more manageable. Restrict terrorism to suicide terrorism. Robert Pape has already done the work for us. The champions of suicide terror are, without a doubt, the Tamil Tigers.

If you’re going by this definition

just pointing out that you’re going to have to include, just off the top of my head, France, the United States, and Russia, or at least portions of those governments.

I don’t think terrorism must have political motives. It can be religious or simply intimidating. For instace if a gang harrasses the mother of a witness against them, so he won’t testify.

You can’t considered the crusades to be any more terrorism than the Muslims who took them in the first place. The goal of the crusades was to liberate the land from the Muslims and make the people Christian. The goal of the Muslims was to take the land from the Christian and Jews and force Islam on them.

And yes it’s always said “Muslims didn’t force them,” and in the strictest literal sense that’s true, but when the Christians and Jews and others were treated as second class citizens, harassed, forced to pay taxes, this is hardly free will.

The whole point of the Islamic Empire was simply to spread the religion. This is no more terrorism than the crusades were to reverse that spread and put back what was there.

As you see, people pick and choose what they want.

Terrorism has certain elements. First of all it’s directed at people rather than military formations. Second of all it’s conducted by non-established military people.

Now this doesn’t mean Armies can’t use terror tactics. But if an Army uses the exact same thing it’s a terror tactic, not terrorism. Though the results are the same. Nazis for instance used terror tactics against Lice. The British used terror tactics against the Boers.

In order to have a reasonable conversation you must first define your terms, and then stick to the timeline. You simply can’t compare warfare and tactics from the 20th century to what happened a thousand years ago.