Unholy Terror: The Origin and Significance of Contemporary, Religion-based Terrorism

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In this Study, the author makes three points. First, to understand contemporary terrorism, one must consider both the material and the spiritual context within which it has developed. Second, an analysis of recent trends in terrorism might answer the question: what, if anything, is new about early twenty-first century terrorism? Third, the paper considers briefly what might be done.In a report issued some 16 weeks prior to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Colin Powell, the American Secretary of State, noted that there had been an 8-percent increase in international terrorist attacks during the previous year (Lacey, 2001). Two hundred of the 423 attacks recorded in the State Department inventory were directed against the United States or American citizens. Other accounts of international terrorism show similar trends. Prior to September 11, 2001, about a thousand Americans had been killed by terrorists (Hoffman, 2001).

The sheer magnitude of the killing on that day indicates why the US has begun to reconfigure the architecture of its national security, as on a more modest scale has Canada.

In this Study in Defence and Foreign Policy, the author makes three points. First, to understand contemporary terrorism, one must consider both the material and the spiritual context within which it has developed. Second, an analysis of recent trends in terrorism might answer the question: what, if anything, is new about early twenty-first century terrorism? Third, the paper considers briefly what might be done.


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