Challenging the Curious Erasure of Religion from the Study of Religious Terrorism

In: Numen
View More View Less
  • 1 Department of Sociology and Legal Studies, University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, on, Canada N2L 3G1

Abstract

The role that religion plays in the motivation of “religious terrorism” is the subject of much ongoing dispute, even in the case of jihadist groups. Some scholars, for differing reasons, deny that it has any role; others acknowledge the religious character of jihadism in particular, but subtly discount the role of religion, while favoring other explanations for this form of terrorism. Extending an argument begun elsewhere (Dawson 2014, 2017), this article delineates and criticizes the influence of a normative religious bias, on the one hand, and a normative secular bias, on the other hand, on scholarship addressing the relationship between religiosity and terrorism. I examine two illustrative studies to demonstrate the complexity of the conceptual issues at stake: Karen Armstrong’s best-selling book Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence (2014) and a recent article by Bart Schuurman and John G. Horgan on the rationales for terrorist violence in homegrown jihadist groups (2016).

  • Alimi, Eitan Y., Chares Demetriou, and Lorenzo Bosi. 2015. The Dynamics of Radicalization: A Relational and Comparative Perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Aly, Anne and Jason-Leigh Striegher. 2012. “Examining the Role of Religion in Radicalization to Violent Islamist Extremism.” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 35(12): 849862.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Armstrong, Karen. 2014. Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

  • Atran, Scott. 2010. Talking to the Enemy: Religion, Brotherhood, and the (Un)Making of Terrorists. New York: HarperCollins.

  • Bakker, Edwin and Peter Grol. 2015. “Motives and Considerations of Potential Foreign Fighters from the Netherlands.” International Centre for Counter Terrorism (ICCT) Policy Brief (July). The Hague.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bales, Jeffrey M. 2013. “Denying the Link between Islamist Ideology and Jihadist Terrorism: ‘Political Correctness’ and the Undermining of Counterterrorism.” Perspectives on Terrorism 7(5): 546.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bellah, Robert N. 1970. “Religious Evolution.” In Beyond Belief: Essays on Religion in a Post-Traditional World, New York: Harper & Row, 2050.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Benjamin, Daniel and Steven Simon. 2002. The Age of Sacred Terror. New York: Random House.

  • Berger, Peter. 1967. The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion. New York: Doubleday.

  • Blumer, Herbert. 1969. “The Methodological Position of Symbolic Interactionism.” In Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 160.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Borum, Randy. 2011. “Radicalization and Violent Extremism I: A Review of Social Science Theories.” Journal of Strategic Security 4(4): 736.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Burstein, Alon. 2016. “Armies of God, Armies of Men: A Global Comparison of Secular and Religious Terror.” Terrorism and Political Violence. doi 10.1080/09546553.2015.1135424.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Casanova, Jose. 1980. Public Religions in the Modern World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Cavanaugh, William T. 2009. The Myth of Religious Violence. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Coolsaet, Rik. 2016. “Facing the Fourth Foreign Fighter Wave: What Drives Europeans to Syria, and to Islamic State? Insights from the Belgian Case.” Egmont Paper 81 (March). Brussels: Egmont — Royal Institute for International Relations.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Crenshaw, Martha. 1987. “Theories of Terrorism: Instrumental and Organizational Approaches.” Journal of Strategic Studies 10(4): 1331.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dalgaard-Nielsen, Anja. 2010. “Violent Radicalization in Europe: What We Know and What We Do Not Know.” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 33: 797814.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dawkins, Richard. 2006. The God Delusion. New York: Bantam Press.

  • Dawson, Lorne L. 2014. “Trying to Make Sense of Home-Grown Terrorist Radicalization: The Case of the Toronto 18.” In Paul Bramadat and Lorne Dawson (eds.), Religious Radicalization and Securitization in Canada and Beyond, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 6491.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dawson, Lorne L. 2017. “Discounting Religion in the Explanation of Homegrown Terrorism: A Critique.” In James R. Lewis (ed.), Cambridge Companion to Religion and Terrorism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 3245.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dawson, Lorne L. and Joel Thiessen. 2014. The Sociology of Religion: A Canadian Perspective. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

  • Dawson, Lorne L. and Amarnath Amarasingam. 2016. “Talking to Terrorists: Ethical and Methodological Challenges in Canada.” TSAS Working Paper No. 16–13 url: http://tsas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/TSASWP16–13_Dawson-Amarasingam.pdf.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dawson, Lorne L. and Amarnath Amarasingam. 2017. “Talking to Foreign Fighters: Insights into the Motivations for Hijrah to Syria and Iraq.” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 40(3): 191210. doi 10.1080/1057610X.2016.1274216.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Duyvesteyn, Isabelle. 2004. “How New is the New Terrorism?” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 27: 439454.

  • Giddens, Anthony. 1991. Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

  • Ginges, Jeremy, Scott Atran, Sonya Sachdeva, and Medin Douglas. 2011. “Psychology Out of the Laboratory: The Challenge of Violent Extremism.” American Psychologist 66(6): 507519.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gunning, Jeroen and Richard Jackson. 2011. “What’s so ‘Religious’ about ‘Religious Terrorism’?” Critical Studies on Terrorism 4(3): 369388.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gupta, Dipak K. 2008. Understanding Terrorism and Political Violence: The Life Cycle of Birth, Growth, Transformation, and Demise. New York: Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hafez, Mohammed and Creighton Mullins. 2015. “The Radicalization Puzzle: A Theoretical Synthesis of Empirical Approaches to Homegrown Extremism.” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 38: 958975.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Harris, Sam. 2004. The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.

  • Hemmingsen, A.-S. 2011. The Attractions of Jihadism: An Identity Approach to Three Danish Terrorism Cases and the Gallery of Characters around Them. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Copenhagen.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Henne, Peter S. 2012. “The Ancient Fire: Religion and Suicide Terrorism.” Terrorism and Political Violence 24: 3860.

  • Hitchens, Christopher. 2007. God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. New York: Twelve Books.

  • Hoffman, Bruce. 1993. “‘Holy Terror’: The Implications of Terrorism Motivated by a Religious Imperative.” RAND Paper P-7834. url: http://www.nwcitizen.com/publicgood/reports/holywar3.htm.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Horgan, John. 2004. “The Case for Firsthand Research.” In Andrew Silke (ed.), Research on Terrorism: Trends, Achievements, and Failures, London: Routledge, 3056.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Horgan, John. 2005. The Psychology of Terrorism. London: Routledge.

  • Horgan, John. 2009. Walking Away from Terrorism: Accounts of Disengagement from Radical and Extremist Movements. New York: Routledge.

  • Jones, James W. 2008. Blood that Cries Out from the Earth: The Psychology of Religious Terrorism. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Jones, David Martin and M. L. R. Smith. 2014. Sacred Violence: Political Religion in a Secular Age. Houndsmills: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Juergensmeyer, Mark. 2000. Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Terrorism. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Juergensmeyer, Mark, Margo Kitts, and Michael Jerryson (eds.). 2013. The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Khalil, James. 2014. “Radical Beliefs and Violent Actions are not Synonymous: How to Place the Key Disjuncture Between Attitudes and Behaviors at the Heart of Our Research into Political Violence.” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 37(2): 198211.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kepel, Gilles. 2017. Terror in France: The Rise of Jihad in the West. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

  • Koehler, Daniel. 2016. Understanding De-Radicalization: Methods, Tools and Programs for Countering Violent Extremism. London: Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Koomen, Willem and Joop Van Der Pligt. 2015. The Psychology of Radicalization and Terrorism. London: Routledge.

  • Laqueur, Walter. 1999. The New Terrorism: Fanaticism and the Arms of Mass Destruction. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • LaFree, Gary and Joshua D. Freilich (eds.). 2017. The Handbook of the Criminology of Terrorism. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.

  • Lewis, James R. (ed.). 2017. The Cambridge Companion to Religion and Terrorism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Lohlker, Rüdiger. 2016. “Theology Matters: The Case of Jihadi Islam.” Strategic Review 6(3): 92105.

  • McCants, William. 2015. The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McCauley, Clark and Sophia Moskalenko. 2011. Friction: How Radicalization Happens to Them and Us. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • McCormick, Gordon H. 2003. “Terrorist Decision Making.” Annual Review of Political Science 6: 473507.

  • Mink, Charles. 2015. “It’s About the Group, Not God: Social Causes and Cures for Terrorism.” Journal for Deradicalization 5: 6391.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Moghadan, Assaf. 2006. “Suicide Terrorism, Occupation, and the Globalization of Martyrdom: A Critique of Dying to Win.” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 29(8): 707729.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Moghadan, Assaf. 2008. The Globalization of Martyrdom: Al Qaeda, Salafi Jihad, and the Diffusion of Suicide Attacks. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Murphy, Andrew R. (ed.). 2011. The Blackwell Companion to Religion and Violence. Oxford: John Wiley and Sons.

  • Nesser, Petter. 2015. Islamist Terrorism in Europe: A History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Neumann, Peter R. 2009. Old and New Terrorism. Cambridge: Polity.

  • Neumann, Peter R. 2013. “The Trouble with Radicalization.” International Affairs 89(4): 873893.

  • Neumann, Peter R. 2016. Radicalized: New Jihadists and the Threat to the West. London: I.B. Tauris.

  • Nilsson, Marco. 2017. “Interviewing Jihadists: On the Importance of Drinking Tea and Other Methodological Considerations.” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. May (online). doi 10.1080/1057610X.2017.1325649.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Orsini, Alessandro. 2011. Anatomy of the Red Brigades: The Religious Mindset of Modern Terrorists. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pape, Robert. 2005. Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. New York: Random House.

  • Prucha, Nico. 2016. “IS and the Jihadist Information Highway: Projecting Influence and Religious Identity via Telegram.” Perspectives on Terrorism 10(6): 4858.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Quiggin, Tom. 2009. “Understanding al-Qaeda’s Ideology for Counter-Narrative Work.” Perspectives on Terrorism 3(2): 1824.

  • Rapoport, David. 2001. “The Fourth Wave: September 11 in the History of Terrorism,” Current History 100(650): 419424.

  • Roy, Oliver. 2007. “Islamic Terrorist Radicalization in Europe.” In S. Amghar, A. Boubekeur, and M. Emerson (eds.) European Islam: Challenges for Society and Public Policy, Brussels: Center for European Policy Studies, 5260.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sageman, Marc. 2004. Understanding Terror Networks. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

  • Sageman, Marc. 2008. Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-First Century. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

  • Sageman, Marc. 2014. “The Stagnation in Terrorism Research.” Terrorism and Political Violence 26(4): 565580.

  • Schuurman, Bart and John G. Horgan. 2016. “Rationales for Terrorist Violence in Homegrown Jihadist Groups: A Case Study from the Netherlands.” Aggression and Violent Behavior 27: 5563.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Silke, Andrew. 2008a. “Holy Warriors: Exploring the Psychological Processes of Jihadi Radicalization.” European Journal of Criminology, 5 (1): 99123.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Silke, Andrew. 2008b. “Research on Terrorism: A Review of the Impact of 9/11 and the Global War on Terrorism.” In Hsinchun Chen, Edna Reid, Joshua Sinai, and Andrew Silke (eds.), Terrorism Informatics: Knowledge Management and Data Mining for Homeland Security, New York: Springer, 2750.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stark, Rodney and Roger Finke. 2000. Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion. Berkeley: University of California Press.

  • Stern, Jessica. 2010. “5 Myths About Who Becomes a Terrorist.” Washington Post, 10 January, B04.

  • Stern, Jessica. 2016. “Radicalization to Extremism and Mobilization to Violence: What Have We Learned and What Can We Do about It?” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences 668 (November): 102117.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Taylor, Max. 1991. The Fanatics: A Behavioral Approach to Political Violence. London: Brassey’s.

  • Taylor, Max. 2012. “Conflict Resolution and Counter Radicalization: Where Do We Go From Here?” DIIS: Religion and Violence. Copenhagen: Danish Institute for International Studies.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Thomas, William Isaac and Dorthy Swaine Thomas. 1928. The Child in America: Behavior Problems and Programs. New York: Knopf.

  • unoct. 2017. “Enhancing the Understanding of the Foreign Terrorist Fighters Phenomenon in Syria.” New York: United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ward, Veronica and Richard Sherlock (eds.). 2014. Religion and Terrorism: The Use of Violence in Abrahamic Monotheism. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weber, Max. 1958 [1904–5]. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Trans. T. Parsons. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weggemans, Daan, Edwin Bakker, and Peter Grol. 2014. “Who are They and Why do They Go? The Radicalisation and Preparatory Processes of Dutch Jihadist Foreign Fighters.” Perspectives on Terrorism 8(4): 100110.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wood, Graeme. 2015. “What isis Realy Wants,” The Atlantic (March). url: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/03/what-isis-realy-wants/384980/.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 1374 768 190
Full Text Views 444 112 7
PDF Downloads 132 78 4