The following study will discuss the ideology of radical "Islamist" terrorism. What is the appeal of this ideology? Why does it draw supporters not just from the poor, but from successful members of the middle class, and even the very wealthy?
Experts on terrorism have recognized that the form of terrorism that al-Qaeda engages in is different from the sort of terrorism that was common in the 1970s and 1980s (Kushner, 1998). Terrorism at that time was often associated with wars of national resistance. This is still the case in many parts of the world. Groups that engaged in terrorism often did so mainly for its political effects (Carr, 1997). It was a way to make the world notice them and their cause. It was also the one means they had to attack much more powerful enemies. Once they had support and resources, groups would often abandon terrorism. They would turn instead to conventional military or political action. Often they were supported by some state (Lacqueur, 1987).
Even when they committed terrorist acts, their goal was to create an effect of psychology, not simply to kill people. For example, when airplane hijackers took hostages, their goal was defeated if they killed them all. The goal was to force attention, and often to bargain. An example would be a demand for release of prisoners. A list of terrorist actions since 1945 tends to bear this out, until the last few years (Ripley, 1999).
However, the newer terrorist movements like al-Qaeda seldom take hostages, and are not interested in bargaining. They simply want to kill as many people as possible. This is true even if most of the victims are not their enemies. When al-Qaeda bombed two American embassies in Africa, most of the victims were Africans. The reason for this is based on the false theology of the movement, which glorifies death.
This type of terrorism is not intended to "send a message." Instead, the terrorist act is the mes...