Religious Terrorists vs Political or Single Issue Terrorists

Religious Terrorists vs Political or Single Issue Terrorists

Author: Josh Valdez

            In all types of terrorism has the general goal and purpose to create a sense of terror and fear in order to achieve some type of objective. Whether the group is political, ideological, religious, or economic based, many acts of terrorism consistently target with lethal force civilian or neutral military personal. Terrorism is also considered a war crime under war laws due to the direct targeting of non-combative personnel. Both religious and politically based terrorists operate both domestic and international who use similar modus operandi and tactics to get their purpose made known. No matter what type of terrorist group analyzed you will continue to see a passion and willingness to not only put their resources, family, and their life into the cause no matter the costs. Both types of terrorist groups are faced with the same types of realities when operating an active organization. They all need financing to be able to bargain and supply themselves with the needed living supplies as well as with weapons. They also both will be faced with the reality of recruitment and the high demanding commitment required by all recruits.

            Bruce Hoffman realized that modern religious terrorism what run by three different characteristics; first, the group must have some type of organization with religious scripture to justify their terrorist acts as well as gain a following. The organization of this group will typically be held by a hierarchy or chain of command. While using scripture, this organization will also use apocalyptic images to portray things that have happened and things that must happen so that they can become blessed.  They use these imagines to justify violent acts as well as to help their followers prepare for tactics such as suicide terrorism portraying it as a martyrdom. (Lesser, 1999)

            As terrorism evolves we can see growing differences between religious terrorism and other terrorist groups. Different ideologies continue to produce passionate groups of individuals who are particularly dangerous due to level of commitment of those in the group as well their willingness to self-sacrifice due to a belief that some Supreme Being or force. They believe that this Supreme Being or force will reward those who die for the current cause. Due to this willingness to self-sacrifice, many religious terrorist groups will use suicide bombing as a form defining the level of commitment required by others in the group as well as an outward expression of your inner desire to follow a Supreme Being or force. The most promenade group of religious terrorism would be Al-Qaeda who push the ideology of Jihad upon others. In past history, religious terrorism stretches as far back as Catholic – Protestant violence in Ireland and growing tension between Muslim and Hindu groups in Pakistan and India. 

            Politically based terrorists such as left wing, right wing, as well as single issue terrorists, wish to persuade a political movement or outcome. Left wing terrorists “seek to overthrow capitalist democracies and establish socialist or communist governments in their place. They want to attack the established system in order to do away with class distinction.” (Grothaus, 2016) We can see many examples of continual left wing terrorists in Turkey with the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party as well as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) present today. Right wing terrorism has tension with liberal governments who want to preserve traditional social orders. A very commonly known right wing terrorist group would be the Klu Klux Klan as well as the Neo-Nazi organizations. Single issue terrorism has also served as a catch all for those who don’t identify with a religious based cause nor a left or right wing purpose typically are classified as single issue. For example, bombing an abortion clinic or attacking whaling ships. Grothaus continues to outline that single issue terrorists commit “this type of terrorism is carried out for the purpose of advancing a specific issue. Commonly these issues are social in nature or deal with the environment.”


Lesser, Ian O., Bruce Hoffman, John Arquilla, David Ronfeldt, Michele Zanini and Brian Michael Jenkins. 1999. “Countering the New Terrorism.” Retrieved December 12, 2016. (

Grothaus, Nick. 2016. “Types of Terrorism.” Retrieved December 12, 2016.(


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