Many radical Islamic terrorist groups believe that globalization is an encroachment upon Islamic identity. Globalization, according to Islamic Political Scientist Fauzi Najjar, is “…the age of modern science, advanced technology, global communications and knowledge-based information.” Using America’s separation of church and state as an example, radical Islamic terrorists cite that this governmental arrangement has become more pronounced. At the conclusion of the Cold War, the United States emerged as the preeminent global force. Radical Islamic terrorists therefore believe that declaring a jihad will fulfill their mission of defeating American globalization.
I assert that the primary cause of the current wave of radical Islamic terrorism is globalization. Globalization is aided by an increasingly modernized media presence, through which radical Islamic terrorists believe that globalization fosters differing viewpoints, thus diluting the ideology of radical Islamic doctrine. To counter this perceived threat, radical Islamic terrorists select charismatic leaders to propagate terrorism, leaders who are more commonly using media technology to achieve their goals.
Charismatic Leaders Justifying Terrorism
Up until now, there have been four waves of terrorism. When comparing all four waves, a common characteristic is the portrayal of an increasingly transnational enemy. While the first wave’s enemy was the autocrats, the second wave depicted foreign invaders as the enemy. Similarly, while the third wave viewed less radical Islamists as the enemy, the fourth wave expanded its reach to include any force that espouses secularism. As time passed, technology naturally advanced, allowing the fourth wave to rely on the media to communicate globally.
In the current fourth wave of terrorism, a charismatic leader is arguably even more dangerous. These leaders can use their charismatic ethos to mirror the grievances of the disaffected public through sophisticated media technology. For example, during the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew the Iranian Shah’s regime. Khomeini used the then-revolutionary audiocassette to distribute copies of his sermons to the Iranian public.
Today, akin to Khomeini, the global public uses current technology to quickly disseminate differing viewpoints. Inventions such as the smart phone, mobile tablet and digital camera allow anyone to become amateur journalists. When stories are published, eyewitness pictures and videos accompany testimonials to help foster the inherent globalized marketplace of ideas. However, radical Islamic terrorists can use this technology to quickly disseminate their justifications for terrorism to a global audience.
As members of the intelligentsia, charismatic leaders are the primary source for recruitment to both high and mid-level organizational leadership positions. When a charismatic leader forms a radical Islamic terrorist group, the group mobilizes support based on the common identity of a religious affiliation, clan or ethnic group. Under this identity, a charismatic leader often uses a conspiratorial approach to fill prominent leadership positions. Cohesiveness and loyalty are almost guaranteed, then, because the leadership’s small size allows it to remain ideologically consistent
To convince citizens that a government is ineffective and illegitimate, charismatic leaders will often exploit autonomous, exclusionary, disorganized, or weak states. Radical Islamic leaders expand on this by portraying the delegitimized government as “evil,” thereby giving the public a motive to rebel. In doing this, they can build multi-class and multi-ethnic coalitions which can then trigger a revolution, allowing the formation of terrorist networks, mobilization of supporters and incapacitation of the current regime’s supporters. In the end, when charismatic leaders make demands, the targeted government cannot ignore the demands completely and are forced to respond.
Building Ideological Foundations
Creating an ideological foundation to justify radical Islamic terrorism is difficult. The public is often bombarded with competing sociopolitical opinions about the “appropriate” use of jihad. However, by combining a radical ideology with core Islamic values, radical Islamic leaders can mold Islam into a militant, quasi-religious philosophy. When taken out of context, many organized religions can espouse violence. Islam is no exception, as the jihad calls for a conversion of nonbelievers, and the Qur’an’s “sword verses” in particular calls for death to unbelievers. These verses are frequently cited as “definitive” proof that a radical Islamist leader’s jihad is legitimate.
Charismatic radical Islamic leaders can subsequently convince the public that they are engaging in a “cosmic war” against evil forces. This “cosmic war” is believed to “transcend” the troubles of the world because it aims to please the commands of a deity, and is justified by radical Islamist leaders as “above” the justifications for current societal laws.
However, it is important to keep in mind that a radical Islamist terrorist leader is not representative of Islam as a whole. Rather, radical Islam arises from its own cultural, religious, and historical context. When radically militant ideologies spread to a global audience, mainstream Islam can be manipulated to create a more “uniform” extremist Islamist law. In turn, this allows for grievances to be translated into widespread objectives.
While I have asserted that globalization heavily contributes to radical terrorist Islam, globalization is aided by an increasingly sophisticated media. One of the by-products of globalization is an increasingly diverse marketplace of social, economic and political ideas. One of the key facets of modernization is continually advancing technology. Media technology—such as cameras, camcorders and smart phones—allows the public and media to use real-time methods to communicate with the world, thereby fostering globalization. As time progresses, media technology will become available to more consumers, thanks to cheaper, more advanced models. However, this propagation will provide more opportunity for radical Islamic terrorists and their charismatic leaders, to use the media to protest against globalization and proliferate a violent philosophy.
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David C. Rapoport."The Fourth Wave: September 11 in the History of Terrorism." Current History100, no. 650 (2001): 420. The first wave (pre-1920s) viewed autocrats as the enemy. The second wave , which occurred between the 1920s-1960s, pit liberators against a foreign invader. In particular, a National Liberation Ideology evolved from these Nationalist Movements. The third wave (1960s-1980s) of terrorism expanded its nationalist borders to include targets across the globe. Like the third wave, the present fourth wave of terrorism’s crucial ingredient is religion. However, unlike the third wave’s in-fighting between common religious groups vying for the title of which sect is more “true,” the fourth wave sees radical Islam fighting against secularism.
Fareed Zakaria. "Why Do They Hate Us?" In Understanding the War on Terror, ed. James F. Hodge and Gideon Rose (New York: Foreign Affairs/Council on Foreign Relations, 2005), 126
Martha Crenshaw. "The Logic of Terrorism: Terrorist Behavior as a Product of Strategic Choice." InOrigins of Terrorism: Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, State of Mind, ed. Walter Reich (New York: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1998), 20. Andrew H. Kydd and Barbara F. Walter. "The Strategies of Terrorism." International Security 31, no. 1 (2006): 58.
-“… it frequently delivers
Bard E. O’Neill. Insurgency & Terrorism: From Revolution to Apocalypse. 2nd, Revised ed. (Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, 2005), 97.
The U.S. Army & Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 11.
Mark Juergensmeyer. "Terror in the Name of God." Current History (2001): 359. Jeff Goodwin. No Other Way Out: States and Revolutionary Movements, 1945-1991. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 27
Goodwin, 27 & 62.
Kydd and Walter, 57.
John L. Esposito. Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 66.
Mark Juergensmeyer. "Religion as a Cause of Terrorism." In The Roots of Terrorism, ed. Louise Richardson, (New York: Routledge, 2006), 133.
Juergensmeyer. Terror, 359.
Ibid., 358. Cronin, 41.
Juergensmeyer. Terror, 357-358.
Michael Mousseau. “Market Civilization and It's Clash with Terror.” International Security 27, no. 3 (2002/2003): 20. Rapoport, 421. Ted Robert Gurr. "Economic Factors." In The Roots of Terrorism, ed. Louise Richardson. (New York: Routledge, 2006): 91.