Seminar Paper, 2001
2) Characterizing Terrorism
3) Characterizing the Islamic fundamentalism
4) Why is religious fundamentalism dangerous?
“On 26th February 1993, at approximately 12.18 p.m., an improvised explosive device exploded on the second level of the World Trade Center parking basement…” Killing five people and injuring a couple of hundred people, the World Trade Center bombing still is present in the USA. “On Wednesday, 21 December 1988 at 7:03 pm GMT a Boeing 747 airliner owned and operated by Pan American World Airlines and cruising at 31,000 feet exploded above the small town of Lockerbie. Pan Am Flight 103 had taken off from London Heathrow some 38 minutes before and was en route to JFK Airport in New York. Aboard the aircraft were 243 passengers and a crew of sixteen. None survived.”, another tragic moment in world history . What do these two incidents have in common? They are both acts of international terrorism. But they share another common characteristic. They are religious motivated acts of terrorism. And this is quite important. In my personal opinion this kind of terrorism is rapidly increasing.
It isn’t easy to talk of terrorism in general. You have to distinguish between different types of terrorism and different intentions. Anyhow, the most incidents of terrorist attacks are religious motivated. Mostly they result out of Islamic fundamentalism. But one will find those patterns of terrorism in almost every religion. As Shireen Hunter says, “Despite legitimate Western fears of terrorism, it is also time to recognize that there is nothing unique about Islam when it comes to the choices of war or peace, pluralism, or authoritarianism. Judaism, Christianity, Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Shintoism have all had periods in which some in their midst utilized repressive religious laws or theological principles to commit unspeakable acts of brutality and terror. Indeed, this is one of the critical foundations of the Western drive to the secular, democratic state.” (Hunter 1998, 9)
The IRA fighting in Northern-Ireland refer to a Christian background. In Israel you’ll find Zionist settlers which refer to their religion in order to use violence. All these terrorist acts are religious motivated and there are much more examples to find all over the world. They share one common goal, trying to destabilize their political system in order to gain influence. They are mostly a threat to the world security. The Islamic fundamentalism however, in the sense of another kind of terrorism, refers to a religion as well. Of course fundamentalism doesn’t have to end in a terrorist act. In a lot of cases however it does. Whenever I’m talking of Islamic fundamentalism in this paper, I’m talking about this fundamentalism in a sense of violence, in a terrorist sense.
This kind of terrorism is seen as a major threat for western societies. Samuel P. Huntington even states that the major conflict in the near future will be the clash of the West and Islam. “The principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. […] The West’s next confrontation […] is definitely going to come from the Muslim world. […] On both sides the interaction between Islam and the West is seen as a clash of civilizations.” (Huntington 1993, 32)
In this paper I’d like to point out why the West fears the Islamic Fundamentalism. I will try to describe the characteristics of this type of terrorism. What are its motives? What is the danger for Western civilizations? And finally, does the West really have to fear the Islamic world?
“Terrorism has been defined as a specific weapon in the struggle for political power, employed either by groups of the extreme Left or the extreme Right but also quite frequently by national minorities.”, says David Capitanchick. (Capitanchick 1986, 115) As I pointed out before, it isn’t possible to talk of terrorism as one homogenous topic. Terrorism has several types of appearances. Commonly terrorism is divided into national terrorism and international terrorism. While both kinds are threatening society, it is especially the international terrorism which will be of interest for my paper. Terrorist groups are often well trained and organized. They always have a certain goal, they are trying to reach. Most of the times it is the destabilizing of a political system in order to gain influence in politics. According to Capitanchick, is “the purpose of terrorism, whether national or international, […] to murder political enemies, to deter potential foes and to destabilize society.”. (Capitanchick 1986, 116) The motivation results out of dissatisfaction and depression. In order to gain attention, terrorist groups usually choose targets of public interests, for example international airports, public buildings (World Trade Center, Kohbar Towers), and other. Sometimes they even attack the government itself, by either kidnapping politicians or attacking military bases. These attacks, as much a threat as the public attacks, however won’t be part of my paper. I will focus on the attacks of public places which are the major threat for society. “Terrorism”, says Capitanchick, “[…] has found its most menacing expression in the context of the resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism so evident during the past decade.” (Capitanchick 1986, 116-117) It is therefore important to characterize Islamic fundamentalism and its meaning.
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