Cause-factor analysis of terrorism

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terrorism.jpgVarious causes are responsible for the growth of terrorism. Economic and Political deprivation, social disparity, psychological depression, bankruptcy of creative ideas and misinterpretation of religious codes are the chief causes behind the growth of terrorism.

Political Causes

It is generally believed that the nature and objectives of terrorism are political. The desire for power, and specifically political power often governs the minds of individuals. Terrorism thus is used as an instrument to attain political goals.

Politicization of violence secures public attention without which terrorism as a modus operandi cannot be successful. Further terrorists justify their violent course of action in the name of a common cause.

The phenomenon of Political terrorism and violence may be explained using the following cycle:

Terrorism is seen as a political phenomenon because of its objectives, methodology and organization:

Political Objectives of Terrorism:

  • Liberation
  • Seceding from an existing political entity
  • Changing prevalent order
  • Maligning credibility of Government or destabilizing the Government
  • Redistribution of political power
  • Political control and manipulation

Methodology of Terrorism:

  • The political nature of terrorism can be observed from some of the forms of violence adopted by terrorists-
  • Kidnapping or killing political personalities
  • Targeting political leaders, ministers. Heads of States and diplomats
  • Bombing or attacking embassies or consulates
  • Use of propaganda tactics and the promotion of the ‘philosophy of violence’ to attain certain political goals


  • Group Terrorism: Democratic systems provide numerous opportunities for group terrorism. When a group concerned fails to get its grievances addressed, it takes to terrorism and undermines the political will, confidence and morale of a democratic government. In other words, aspirants of a political ideology take to tactical violence if they fail to achieve their political goals and attempt to create mass unrest and terror. E.g.
  • State Terrorism: State terrorism provides countries with an alternative to diplomacy. It refers to the use of terrorism by Governments to suppress their civilian population. State terrorism may be used externally to destroy or weaken foreign states’ population. E.g. the Taliban regime that existed in Afghanistan deployed state terrorism.
  • State Sponsored Terrorism: is the form of terrorism whereby surrogate terrorist forces are functional having clandestine ties with the supporting State. Iran, Syria, Libya, Cuba, North Korea, and Sudan are among the governments that the US Secretary of State has designated as state sponsors of international terrorism.

Thus politicization of violence is a major cause as well as manifestation of terrorism. Terrorism confronts modern democracies and thus poses a challenge to international security.

Economic Causes

The economy is the framework within which the production and distribution of goods and services takes place. The paradox before humanity is that while we have always strived for economic equality, we have never been able to achieve it.

Inaccessibility of available resources causes agitation amongst common men. When this agitation takes violent proportions, it manifests as terrorism.

The same principle may be extended to international relations because of the prevalent gap between the developed and developing world. Regional differences (intra or international) in levels of economic development lead to the usage of political violence in the less-privileged regions.

With the growth of International Organized Crime, a growing nexus is found between drug trafficking, money laundering and terrorism. This nexus is an important factor in the growth of terrorism; thus the term narco-terrorism.

Afghanistan under the Taliban regime stands as a glaring example before the global community of state terrorism as well as excessive indigo cultivation.

Often social, political and economic factors behind the growth of terrorism are closely related.

Misinterpretation of Religious Codes

Fundamentalism is an attitude of some religious people who emphasize the letter of religious dogmas over the underlying spirit. It is a product of ignorance as well as deliberate mischief by vested interests to gain political power and economic benefits by exploiting religious sentiments of the faithful and dividing people along communal lines.

However to associate any particular religion with violence is completely incorrect. At times, it is wrongly asserted that fundamentalist Islam has given a spurt to terrorism. It is the narrow-minded religious zealots who spread a cult of hate against perceived Western designs and used ‘Islam is in Danger’ as a rallying war cry. Unemployed and semi-literate youth are attracted to the ‘gun culture’ spread by numerous terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, Intifada, etc.

Quranic verses call for a rational exchange of ideas, the freedom of choice in worship, and ask us to leave judging of others to God.

“Invite (mankind, O Muhammad) to the way of your Lord with wisdom, reason and clear intentions. Truly your Lord knows best who has gone astray from His path, and he is the best aware of those who are guided.”

(al-Nahl, Verse 125)

Not surprisingly, this verse is not mentioned in the al-Qaeda manuals. And sadly though, misinterpretation of religious codes makes the World bleed in the name of God.

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Write your opinions below

  1. 1) No these are not written to blame a particular group responsible for terrorism. In fact these are given as an example of how a particular ethnic or religious group or ideology cannot be blamed for terrorism.
    Whenever terrorism is promoted in the name of religion, it is usually through a misinterpretation or falsification of religious codes, as has been shown here.

    2) With Kashmir, I am positive a lot of Kashmiris would vouch for independence. But a pragmatic question would be, would that be economically (and even militarily) sustainable?

    3) The article does not in any way consider U.S. invasion of Iraq just.

    4) If it was as simple to define terrorism, nations would not be arguing about it on fora such as the United Nations. I cannot offer a comprehensive definition to terrorism but I can say that:
    (a) just goals do not justify wrong means (the end does not justify the means),
    (b) terrorism cannot be justified in the name of a freedom struggle,
    (c) terrorism relies on the infliction of fear in the minds of governments and peoples to promote one’s (or one’s group’s) objectives,

    5) I cannot tell you at once who coined the term terrorism but I shall try my best to get back to you with that. Some clear examples of terrorism would be:
    (a) 9/11 attack on the WTC
    (b) Mumbai train blasts
    (c) Dec 7 Delhi Parliament attack

    For those who say that terrorism is the only way today to counter aggression of large nations, I say that when Mahatma Gandhi could lead the people of India to freedom, a just war today can also be waged (and won) through non-violent means.

    P.S. This article did not aim to take sides or to play the blame game. It was an attempt to present an objective analysis of the causes of the terrorism. Any further comments only help me clarify and reiterate the case in point.

  2. I wonder whether these lines were written to prove that a single group is responsible for all the mess the world is witnessing or the article meant to regroup our segregated cults.
    Well if we go by examples set, it clearly pushes Muslims and Islam as the forms and abettors of terrorism. Which I can rubbish umpteen no of times.
    If the author gives the factors responsible for the growth of terrorism, why he fails to highlight the wrongdoings of states and other sects (other than Muslims) who resorted to terrorism and all that.

    Our Gujarat, Mumbai riots and Kashmir is the eye-opener. The recent Cnn- Ibn poll provides evidence about what a common kashmiri wants-Independence. Yet people may dub the dwellers as terrorists and all that.
    “Give dog a bad name and kill it”–This is what powerful nations are doing and simultaneously disseminating news that they are on the hit list of terrorists.

    I would like the author to tell me what is terrorism, the so called “human intervention” of US in Iraq or the resisting Iraqi people. Israel occupation or Palestine resistance.
    Occupation by powerful has always been welcomed by the vested interests, however, any sort of resistance has been dubbed as terrorism.
    America bombed, Iraq, Sudan , Algeria, Lebanon with the assistance of Israel, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Cuba, and all neighboring states as well as far away nations–but she is still the master of democracy. And if these minnows retaliate with a wee bit of sound (the terrorism factor comes into existence)

    Much said, I would like to get a proper definition and example of terrorism by the author. And I would also like to know the person who first coined this term and the reasons of his invention.

    And if the author failed to provide it–This article will pale into insignificance.

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