Understanding ‘Islamic’ terror

People in the west need to look beyond simplistic interpretations of Islam and engage in genuine discussion about the factors contributing to terrorism.

In light of recent events, events of the past, and events to come, I feel that it is imperative to understand what Islamic terrorism really is. It is easy to play the blame game and start attacking minority groups, religious scriptures or just religion as a whole. However, issues this deeply rooted are not that simple. Once we understand that, we can actually start constructively combatting one of the most threatening issues of the 21st century, which in my opinion we are not successfully doing just yet. This article aims to bring to light the underlying problems of Islamic terrorism and how harmful and unproductive the approach currently being taken is.

So, ‘Islamic terrorism’ – key word being Islamic. Let me be the first to say that I admit that Islam is central in understanding the problem with Islamic terrorism. I am sure you have heard the general rhetoric of “Islam has nothing to do with it; terrorists are just crazy people” and “Islam doesn’t promote violence; people need to stop associating these two things together because it makes Muslims look bad”. While I agree with much of that rhetoric, I feel that most Muslims who stand by that have been coerced into doing so out of fear of being associated with terrorism and violence. The truth is, in order for us to start combating the problem, we need to actually look at Islam and why so many terrorists use it as a tool of justification.


Islam is a religion, a set of beliefs that are designed for Muslims to live by. To accuse it of being the sole cause of terrorism is slightly absurd. However, I understand the concern about the Qur’an and all its scary referencing to violence and killing non-believers etc. I have read the Qur’an twice and know exactly what they are talking about, but there is something very amusing to me about the one-liners people pull out and say, “See, we told you Islam is violent”. The Qur’an is a combination of timeless verses that are laid out to guide us in daily life and then verses about the life of the prophet and his family and issues pending at that time. I can assure you that every verse dealing with hypocrites and non-believers are to do with anecdotes of the enemies of the prophet. It is quite entertaining to see people on social media quoting lines from the Qur’an as “proof” that Muslims are out to get everyone, when if they read the context they would realise they are purely addressing the struggles of the prophet and those who were trying to kill him.

Taking lines from the Qur’an at face value shows a complete and utter lack of understanding about modern Islam. If people take the Qur’an so literally, you can begin questioning the use of tanks and modern artillery as in that time they only fought with swords and sticks. I’m not sure how the prophet would feel if he knew the “Soldiers of Allah” were using machine guns to massacre Muslim school children in his name. There are so many problems here. You can see the incoherency. If we really want to be literalists, the Qur’an clearly states the importance in fair battle; kamikaze bombings are hardly fair. Killing children is forbidden and mutilation is strictly not allowed. What I am trying to get at here is the fact that terrorists clearly do not have a solid religious justification for their actions.

Perceived justification

This is why I believe that Islam is central in understanding this sort of terrorism. We need to understand how easy it is to use it as a tool of justification because most people will not question religion, it is so easy to fall into the trap of misinterpretation. This is how terrorist leaders and organisations recruit people and this is why these groups are constantly growing. It is not helpful and can be incredibly harmful when even people from the west start going along with the idea that Islam is a violent religion, and that it alone is fuelling terrorist ideology.

We also need to look at the other factors involved in Islamic terrorism, now that we have established that Islam alone cannot be used as a solid justification. It is pretty widely known that the US were responsible for creating the Taliban and recently it has even been brought to light that the US had been funding what are now known as ISIS. This had a large role in allowing the exponential growth of these groups. It came to a point where these groups were living off terrorism and using it as a means of income and purpose.

War on terror

As we already know, there is a long history of resentment from the Muslim world towards the west, specifically the US. This is due to a combination of colonialism, exploitation of resources and drone attacks on Muslim-majority countries. It is important not to ignore this as it highlights that the approach of the so-called war on terror is not exactly the best solution to a problem largely created by those who are conducting this ‘war’. The US’s involvement in trying to combat terrorism has not proven to be effective and is potentially making the problem worse. It is further fuelling terrorist organisations to attack the west as they see the war on terror as a threat, obviously. This approach will inevitably lead to a full-fledged war which is a very scary thought and not something anyone wants to be around to see.

There needs to be a change in attitude towards the issue of Islamic terrorism as it is clear that the current approach is not effective and is detrimental in allowing the problem to fester. It is not as simple as just blaming religion as the cause of terrorism as this is exasperating the problem, we need to take into consideration all the relevant factors. We need to focus on education, how religion is currently being spread in Muslim countries, how the Quran is being manipulated to indoctrinate people, how the uneducated ones don’t dare speak out against terrorist leaders out of fear of being accused of blasphemy and bigotry.

The religion itself isn’t the problem; the interpretation, execution and the egotistic value that some people feel entitled to the right to take others lives is what is wrong here. Once this is acknowledged by the west as a whole, only then can we hope to see some positive change. The more the west attacks, provokes and uses force against Muslims, the more they will aggravate the problem. The whole “We don’t negotiate with terrorists” mentality needs to change, because honestly, the west has been negotiating with terrorists long enough, when they admit that maybe we can move forward.