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War and terror in the name of God - the spectrum is wide
a lecture given at the seminar Militancy in Islam and its relevance in Afghanistan held in Stockholm on March 10-11 2005

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." This is a quote from the Book of Matthew (10:34).

A number of passages in the Old Testament refer to an extremely harsh policy regarding the population of Canaan, such as in Deuteronomy 5 (20:16-17):

"However, in the cities that belong to these people, and which the Lord, your God, wants to make your property, do not spare a single living thing. Follow the command of the Lord, your God, and completely destroy them." After the fall of Jericho, Joshua's actions were described as follows: "They destroyed with the sword every living thing in the town - men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys."

No one would contemplate equating these bible passages, or the above quote from the Book of Matthew, with Jewish and Christian ethics. But the concept of jihad, usually translated as "holy war," has been the subject of a great deal of literature in Europe through the centuries, and is regarded as indubitable proof that Islam is a religion of fanaticism whose message has been spread by the sword throughout history, and which is still today being forced upon others with violence.

This view is based on our apparent assumption that the Islamic world, through some sort of natural necessity, must have treated its religious minorities with the same cruelty and fanaticism that we Europeans have done through the centuries. The view also stems from ignorance about the real meaning of the concept of jihad.

Although the term generates associations with fanaticism, cruelty and intolerance, its fundamental meaning has nothing to do with war at all. The root of the word jihad is j, h and d, signifying a physical, moral or intellectual struggle. The word "struggle" can have different meanings. Every action taken in order to follow God's path is a jihad, and need have no association at all with war-related actions. Arabic has other words for such actions: harb (war), qital (combat with killing), kifah (armed struggle), mukatala (armed conflict), sira'a (combat), and ma'araka (battle).

So jihad is not necessarily an act of aggression in the name of religion but primarily a Muslim's duty to try to follow God's path, jihad fi sabil Allah. According to one tradition, the Prophet called the internal struggle of each individual to avoid deviating from this path the greater holy war or al-jihad al-akbar, while the military or political struggle to protect the Islamic world (dar al-Islam), was known as the lesser holy war or al-jihad al-asghar.

Islamic doctrine differentiates between four different ways of conducting the holy war: the jihads of the heart, the tongue, the hand, and last in preference, the sword. The holy war of the heart is the inner spiritual and moral struggle that every person must conduct with himself. Sufic literature states that the war an individual wages against his evil own instincts is the highest form of jihad. The war of the tongue means that the believer is to spread the word of the true faith and serve as an edifying example to non-Muslims. jihad of the hand means that the believer uses his work to strengthen the Islamic community. According to the Tradition, Mohammed gave an example that a successful business deal constitutes a jihad.

What we in the West associate with jihad is, however, the holy war of the sword against the enemies of Islam.

The suras that discuss jihad in its armed form vary considerably, and often give directly contradictory messages. Jurists in the formative period of Islam tried to rectify this through what was called asbab al-nuzul, the time of the revelations, and they referred here to Sura 2:106: "Every verse that we abrogate or consign to oblivion, we replace with something better or of equal value. Don't you know that God has everything in his power?"

According to this theory, the revelations that are recorded in the Koran reflected the different circumstances under which the struggles were conducted. When Mohammed lived in Mecca, and his community was weak and vulnerable, the verses about revelations were mainly about how to avoid armed conflict. Not until oppression led to hijra, the flight from Mecca, did God give the Muslims permission to fight in self-defence. When the community later became more powerful, the conditions were widened and the restrictions were withdrawn about how the battle against the non-believers could be fought. According to certain scholars, the sword verse could then have replaced no less than 113 other suras.

For a majority of the scholars, jihad was a collective duty for the entire community and not merely the duty of an individual.

A number of rules are presented in the Koran and the traditions:

- in a war, the measures must be in proportion to the objectives that are to be achieved.

- those not waging war are to be protected; warfare aimed at financial destruction, such as scorched earth tactics, is not allowed.

- if the enemy wants peace, this is to be accepted ("But if they prove willing to resort to peace, be prepared to do so yourself and put your trust in God. He is the one that hears everything, knows everything."). (8:61)

- a defensive war is justified in order to stave off an attack or to prevent plans for an attack.

- a jihad is permitted to prevent oppression and persecution of Muslims who live in dar al-Harb, the realm of war, i.e. non-Muslim countries: "Why should you not fight in the cause of God and for the defenceless men, women and children who cry: Lord, deliver us from this country of oppression and send us in your mercy, a protector, yes send us in your mercy a helper!" (4:75)

- a jihad can also be waged as a response to a broken promise: "If they have entered into a treaty, and they violate their promises given under oath and attack your faith, fight the leaders of paganism, whose oaths lack all value, to force them to stop their attacks" (9:12).

- however, war may not be used to compel people into a conversion: "There shall be no compulsion in matters of belief" (2:256). "If this had been your Lord's will, all the people on earth without exception would have believed. But can you force belief on the people? No, nobody will believe without God's will" (10:99-100). Many other suras plead for the spreading of the religion by peaceful means: "Invite the people to the path of your Lord with wisdom and good advice, and present the arguments moderately and discreetly; your Lord knows best who has strayed from His path, and He knows best who the ones that follow his leadership are. If you respond (to an attack to which you have been subjected), respond with the same means that were used against you, but if you show patience this is the best for the patient ones" (16:125-126).

Many fatwas about a holy war have been issued for purely political purposes. Throughout history, there have often been cases in which two Muslim countries have been at war with each other and scholars on both sides have then declared a holy war against apostates. No more than 25 years after the prophet's death, the Kharijites proclaimed a jihad against the Caliph after accusing him of leaving the pure and true faith, and during the 18th and 19th centuries, different radical movements that wanted to purify the Islamic community declared holy wars against its enemies, both Muslim and non-Muslim.

During the colonial period, both the British and French managed to secure fatwas stating that they were the rightful rulers and that rebellion against their rule was not allowed.

After the uprising against their rule in India in 1857, the British started to give preferential treatment to Hindus in the army and administration. One of the leading Muslim philosophers, Ahmad Khan, argued that Islam did not forbid collaboration with occupying powers. He argued that opposing the occupying power would exclude educated Muslims from the middle and upper classes, which would harm the Muslim community. His interpretation of the Koran's messages of jihad was that they only applied when Muslims were subjected to actual repression or when they were prevented from living according to the five pillars of Islam. The British colonial powers did not interfere in the way the Muslims practised their religion, so there were no grounds for a jihad against them.

For other reformists such as Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905) and Muhammed Rida (1865-1935), the struggle against the infidels depended upon their attitude towards the Muslim community. They argued that peaceful coexistence was the normal relationship between dar al-Islam and dar al-Harb, and that jihad was therefore only allowed as a defensive war. However, a holy war against a colonial power was allowed because this was an aggressor. Consequently, this type of jihad was regarded as a justifiable war (bellum justum).

Another politically motivated fatwa was issued in April 1948 by the Grand Mufti in Egypt, Mohammed Makhlouf. This stated that all Muslims wishing to participate in the struggle for Palestine must follow the provisions laid down by the Arab League. This fatwa was issued one month before the neighbouring Arab countries entered the conflict in Palestine, and was directed against the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which had taken up the struggle independently and beyond the control of these countries.

During the Yom Kippur War in October 1973, the Chancellor of the al Azhar University in Cairo declared that jihad was a duty of all Egyptians, both Muslims and Christians. Dying for the fatherland in that war would take both Muslims and Copts directly to paradise.

In November 1977, the Islamic research congress issued a fatwa stating that a jihad against Israel was not aimed at destroying the Jewish state, but at liberating the areas occupied since 1967 and setting up a Palestinian state that also included eastern Jerusalem. By doing so, the congress supported President Sadat's line in the Camp David Agreement, and the justification was that, according to the Koran, the leader of a Muslim state may agree on a ceasefire with the enemy if this is to the benefit of the community.

Opposition to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan can be said to have been a jihad in the original meaning of the concept, because Moscow's communist dictatorship had forbidden the practice of all religion, and the aim of Soviet policy was to eliminate religion. The resistance fighters thus became mujahidin, warriors on God's path.

Otherwise, jihad in modern times primarily assumes the character of Islamic civil wars directed against a leadership that is deemed to have deviated from the pure faith. Muslim activists regard themselves as the equivalent of the original mujahidin who fought with Mohammed to purify Arabia from all idolatry. Militant Muslim groups in Egypt, Syria and Algeria have declared a holy war against the regimes of their own countries, which were said to have deviated from the true faith, and therefore had become heretics (takfir) or infidels (kafir). This was the case when a separatist group from the fundamentalist organisation, al-Jamaat al-Islamiyya, actually taking the name Islamic jihad, murdered President Sadat, "the new Pharoah." The group's ideologist, Abd as-Salam Farad, argued that Islam's worst enemies were in the Muslim countries, whose leaders had put the countries into the same state of barbarism - jahiliyyah - that had existed before the arrival of the prophet. A jihad was therefore every Muslim's duty. The group that murdered Sadat was a mixture of military, civilian and religious personalities whose actions were authorised by a fatwah issued by a religious leader.

Both sides in the long and bitter war in the 1980s between Iraq and Iran claimed that theirs was a holy war, and Saddam Hussein also claimed a holy war to justify his occupation of Kuwait. Even if the Koran is read in the same way the Devil is said to read the Bible, an attack on a neighbouring Islamic country by a president with his political base in a socialist party, with a Christian as his closest follower and foreign minister, cannot be justified on Islamic grounds. This was also a primary reason why the Arab world did not broadly support Saddam Hussein to the extent predicted in the war calculations. Nevertheless, he succeeded in getting the support of some Islamic scholars, while other and more authoritative scholars instead declared the allies' war against Iraq as a jihad. As a final example, in 2002, Shi-ite leaders in Iraq issued a fatwa that urged all Muslims to defend the country against foreign aggression, after a prominent Shi-ite group in exile had accepted American help in an attempt to topple Saddam Hussein.

Consequently, the concept of jihad can be easily used for different, often contradictory, purposes.

For Habib Bourguiba, the founder of modern Tunisia and explicitly secularist, jihad was synonymous with efforts to modernise the country.

Bourguiba felt that the fasting month of Ramadan caused excessive production losses, so he instructed the Tunisian ulama to issue a fatwa that allowed workers to eat during the fasting month. The justification was that their efforts at work were a jihad and that they were mujahidin participating in a holy war according to the Koran. Thus they were exempted from the duty to fast.

The concept is also often used in the same way as the word "crusade," such as a crusade against drugs. In Cairo, for example, the city authorities have proclaimed a jihad against rubbish in the city.

In the contemporary debate about the real meaning of jihad, a modernist and a fundamentalist school can be identified.

The modernist interpreters argue that Muslims and non-Muslims enjoy basically friendly relations. It can be said that the modernists accept the world they live in and accept that Western values have entered the Muslim world due to financial and political contacts, and they want to reform the Islamic world by incorporating these values.

The modernists say that the classical definition of jihad must be applied in the context of the time when Islam was growing and enemies surrounded the new community. Nowadays, it is a matter of deciding when war is allowed. The modernist interpretation is that every form of jihad must be conducted in the name of God, fi sabil Allah, which excludes war waged for territorial expansion, robbery, acts of revenge or other secular purposes. Two categories of jihad are allowed - one is about spreading Islam, and the other is action taken to defend the Muslim community. In the first case, the purpose is to strengthen the monotheism and to combat polytheism and idolatry. All obstacles to the practice of religion must therefore be removed, and all people must be given the opportunity to convert to Islam without oppression from authorities or the surroundings.

Initially, poor communication meant that conquest was the only way to spread the faith, but today the situation is different. This is why the modernists emphasise jihad al-Tarbiya, holy war through education, i.e. the duty to spread awareness of the true Islamic faith in the Muslim communities, and jihad al-Da´wa, the duty to spread Islam peacefully through argumentation and by setting a good example, a task that is also called jihad al-Lisan or jihad al-Qalam, holy wars of the tongue or the pen.

At least as important is jihad al-Nafs, fighting the ego, and jihad al-Shaytan, fighting the Devil.

In contrast, the fundamentalists argue that these interpretations discussed above are just a conspiracy, aimed at diverting the Muslims from the true jihad and subduing their will to fight. Therefore, they put all the emphasis on the expansionist suras and argue that verses that were revealed to Mohammed towards the end of his life, and which exhort to an uncompromising struggle against the infidels, supersede the earlier, more conciliatory, passages.

For the fundamentalists, the jihad is a universal revolutionary fight and they cite what Sayyid Qutb wrote about Islam's peaceful character.

When Islam strives for peace, this is not a cheap peace, a peace that means no more than that you are safe in a certain country where people follow the Islamic faith. No, Islam wants peace where all religion belongs to God, which means that all people worship God.

Consequently, peace can only be accepted after Islam's complete triumph over the world. The fundamentalists do not tolerate today's situation, but want to create a pure Islamic state governed according to the shari´ a. jihad is a means of reaching this objective, and this holy war should not just be directed against western superpowers, communism and Zionism, but also aimed at the Muslim states that do not apply shari´ a, i.e. virtually all of them, or at the regimes that do not live according to the true faith, such as the Saudi royal family. All differentiation between religion and politics is blasphemy, and so even nationalism is dismissed as a secular ideology.

Martyrdom occupies a key position in fundamentalist argumentation, which refers to a number of suras that urge believers to get involved in the struggle and promise rewards to those killed in the course of a jihad.

The word martyr, shahid, has the same root as shahada, creed. According to one tradition, a martyr can save up to 70 sinful members of his family otherwise destined for hell. Another tradition states that nobody that has died and gone to paradise will want to return to earth, except for the martyr. Only the martyr, after experiencing the rewards of martyrdom, will want to be killed in battle again and again.

These martyrs are recruited with the promise of a life in paradise described in sensual detail in the Koran.

Suicide, qatlu nafsi-hi, is not named in the Koran, but a number of Hadiths are in no doubt that the prophet opposed such action. One says:

The prophet said: He who takes his own life with a sword-blade, will be tormented by this blade in the fires of hell. The prophet also said: He who strangles himself will strangle himself in hell, and he who stabs himself with a knife will stab himself in hell. He who kills himself with poison will bear the poison in his hand and drink it in hell for all eternity. Everyone who takes his own life in this world will be tormented by his action on resurrection day.

Consequently, the people that lie behind suicide attacks try to justify them by calling it self-martyrdom, istishhad. The fatwas that legitimise these actions have been issued by people of dubious authority and legitimacy in the Persian Gulf and in Pakistan, while other radical leaders have condemned these actions. Even if religious arguments are used to justify the Palestinian suicide attacks, they are primarily a combination of realist politics and desperation. One aim of suicide attacks has been to trigger off massive reprisals from the Israelis, which would thus further radicalise the Palestinian people in the occupied territories. Furthermore, many of the suicide bombers have political links to the Marxist PFLP and the secular al-Aqsa brigades.

Osama bin Ladin launched his terrorist activities in February 1998 when he, together with four other leaders of radical Islamic groups, issued a fatwa exhorting people to rise against "the crusader-Zionist alliance". The message was that this was a struggle against a foreign aggressor, so that jihad was the duty of every single Muslim. This fatwa became the justification of the terrorist acts that preceded that of 11 September 2001, such as the attacks against the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and against the cruiser, USS Cole.

However, bin Ladin's fatwa cannot be legitimised under the doctrine of a defensive jihad because he calls for the murder of both civilians and soldiers in all countries where this is possible. He argues that the presence of Christians and Jews on Muslim territory is equivalent to aggression, and this conflicts with the Koran's teachings on how to treat the People of the Book.

The terror attacks against the World Trade Center, the synagogue in Djerba, and the discotheque in Bali, were mass murders that also affected Muslims. There is no support for these kinds of actions in the Koran.

Terror in the name of God and religion is an old phenomenon, a fact illustrated in that many of the words used to denote terrorists can be traced to religious groups active many years ago.

The etymology of the English word for a fanatic - zealot - goes back to the Zealots, a Jewish liberation movement that, seven years after Christ, began a national uprising with strong religious overtones against the Romans, which ended in the destruction of both the temple and of Jerusalem in the year 70. The defeated Zealots then retreated to the rock cliff fortress of Masada, where, in the year 73, they committed collective suicide when the Roman troops attacked after an extended siege.

The word assassin, used in both English and French, has a Muslim background and comes from an extremist breakaway sect from the mainstream Shiite belief. The Assassins acquired a number of permanent strongholds in both Persia and central Syria. Under the influence of hashish - hence the name - they carried out their suicide assignments during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries aimed at murdering leaders of the armies that approached their strongholds.

Even the English word thug has its background in a religiously motivated terrorism. It originates from the name of an Indian religious society of professional murderers and thieves who, for more than one thousand years - from the end of the seventh century until the middle of the nineteenth century - systematically murdered travellers in rural areas of India as a sacrifice to Kali, the Hindu goddess of terror and destruction. Throughout the centuries up to one million people lost their lives through strangulation at their hands.

Up until the middle of the nineteenth century, when nationalism, anarchism and communism became the inspiration, religion was the driving force behind terror attacks. Of the 13 terrorist groups identified in 1968, the year in which politically motivated terrorism reached its climax, none could be labelled as religious. Even though many of the Palestinian groups, the Tamil Tigers, the Provisional IRA and the Armenian terrorist groups had ideological elements with religious overtones, the political aspects still dominated.

It can be said that religious terrorism first made a comeback on a broad scale after the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979. During the 1980s, the new Islamic regime sponsored groups in many countries that wanted to establish the same theocratic system, and this activity was facilitated by the fact that the Iranian revolution coincided with an ideological collapse, in which both capitalism and communism were seen as outdated ideologies in the Muslim world. Religious demagogues made skilful use of this ideological vacuum.

The U.S. Department of State´s list of terrorist organisations in 1980 did not contain any religious groups. In 1994, 16 of the 49 listed terrorist groups were identified as being religious. The year after, the number was 26 of 56, and when 30 of the world's most dangerous terrorist organisations were listed in 1998, half of them were religion-oriented with an ideological base not only in all of the major world religions but also in a number of more or less mystical religious movements.

While secular terrorists view arbitrary terror that affects people indiscriminately as counter-productive and perhaps outright immoral, it appears that religious terrorists are more inclined to view this kind of violence as morally justifiable and necessary for them to achieve their purpose. Terrorism motivated by religion therefore risks being much more violent and much more extensive than its secular counterpart with its distinct political goals, however confused they may seem to be. The religious terrorist's host of enemies are often much more extensive and he or she therefore does not hesitate to make use of mass murder and indiscriminate violence on a large scale. Accordingly, this terrorism acquires a sort of spiritual dimension that its secular counterpart lacks, and its perpetrators consequently see themselves as absolved from the political, moral and practical considerations that a secular terrorist still often feels should be taken.

Both in New York on 11 September 2001 and in the attacks against the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998, Muslims killed innocent Muslims just as indiscriminately as they killed other innocent victims, while secular terrorists are less inclined to injure people not considered as belonging to the enemy forces. The IRA issues warnings in advance of their bomb attacks in order to minimize the loss of human life. The attack against the World Trade Center, however, took place when everyone was in their office or on their way to work so that the loss of life would be as great as possible, the Christian fundamentalist Timothy McVeigh's bomb attack against the federal office building in Oklahoma City was, for the same reasons, carried out during office hours and Egyptian Islamic fundamentalists attacked tourists in Luxor in November 1997 at a time when the number of visitors at the site reached its peak.

Another difference between religious and political terrorists is that their actions are aimed at influencing completely different target groups. Secular terrorists try to gain the support and sympathy of the groups they claim to be fighting for and they imagine that their actions will act both as eye openers for the "oppressed" and increase their support. Religious terrorists, on the other hand, are engaged in what they view as "the total war" and their acts of terror are often carried out only for their own sake or a very small group of supporters. They consequently do not feel that they should or need take any consideration to the impact their actions can have on sympathy to their cause in the rest of the world but rather carry out their deeds for their own sense of well-being. Violence can therefore be aimed without hesitation at anyone who does not sympathise with the sect in question. Terror is holy and aimed at "unbelievers" or "children of the devil."

Often, the deed is said to be carried out directly on divine command. Such was the case in the murder of Yitzhak Rabin. It was preceded by a religiously oriented campaign against him that had been going on for over two years and during which he and everyone who supported the Oslo Agreement and a territorial compromise with the Palestinians were characterised as murderers, enemies and traitors. It therefore became a religious duty for Rabin's assassin, Yigal Amir, to kill his own Prime Minister since according to him, the peace process would involve giving up the Holy Land. The same psychological atmosphere was created in Egypt after the Camp David Accords in 1978. Sadat was condemned from the pulpits of the mosques and was considered an apostate from the true belief. Khaled Ahmed al-Islambouli listened to this message and came to the conclusion that it was a religious duty to kill this "new Pharaoh". In a letter to his sister he wrote: "I haven't committed a crime. What I did, I did for the sake of God, the Merciful, the Almighty."

The American police archives are said to contain information on 100 000 persons who in one way or another have been involved with religiously motivated violence. At present, there are hundreds of organisations and so-called churches with close to 50 000 members throughout the USA, with ideologies ranging from anti-federalist beliefs to race oriented religious hatred. The various groups are united by resistance to any form of government beyond the municipal level, by regarding Jews and non-whites as the children of Satan, by belief in a Jewish conspiracy that can only be surmounted by overthrowing ZOG (The Zionist Occupation Government) in Washington. All of this racism, anti-Semitism and hatred towards governmental institutions is cloaked in religious terms and given a theological basis. Members of these extremist groups see themselves as the last bastion against the assault by the powers of evil against "the faithful remnant".

The bomb attack in Oklahoma City in April 1995 was, to date, the culmination of religiously based violence in the USA. The attack cost the lives of 168 people. The perpetrator, Timothy McVeigh, a Gulf War veteran, belonged to the Michigan Militia, a paramilitary organisation of approximately 12 000 persons who seriously believe that the American government already has a political program whose purpose is to totally control the lives of every American. According to Timothy McVeigh, Oklahoma City was a centre for this conspiracy - "one of the epicentres of an unspeakably evil plot". All patriots west of the Mississippi were to be deported there, and he claimed there were already five crematoriums set up with the capacity to cremate 3000 patriots per day.

What all religious terrorist organisations have in common, regardless of their religious affiliation, is a Manichaean perspective of life, with the irreconcilable division of the world into good and evil, the rejection of all pluralistic social models and an eschatology contending that the end of the world is approaching and that true believers will be rewarded on the last day. In this paranoid view of the world, all outsiders are demonised. This results in extreme rigorism and moralism, a fixation with apocalyptic end of the world and final battle scenarios, and a self-chosen isolation from the contemporary sinful culture and the sense of contamination it produces. Preparations for the final battle include stockpiling weapons, which can also contain poisons and other weapons of mass destruction.

The first large-scale terrorist attack using chemical means, in this case sarin gas, was carried out in March 1995 on the subway system in Tokyo by an apocalyptic Japanese religious sect, Aum Shinrikyo. Twelve people were killed and over 5000 were injured in this attack. The group proved to have an extensive arsenal of biochemical, biological and conventional weapons, including mustard gas, anthrax and TNT, which would have been enough to kill up to ten million people. In 1984, a group of militant Jews from the settlement movement Gush Emunim planned to blow up the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem in order to initiate a holy war between Jews and Muslims of such dimensions that the Jewish Messiah would feel compelled to return and intervene.

The goal of religious terrorists is to re-establish an idealised, harmonic, uncorrupted society - in the case of Muslims, umma, the believers' ancient community; in the case of America, the pilgrim fathers' sectarian community, seen as the actual origin of the true American culture. Religion is their only means of salvation and an absolute, effective remedy against all evil and all personal and social problems.

In order to prepare the way for an ideal Christian, Jewish, Sikh or Muslim society, these groups view violence and oppression against those who think differently as something entirely legitimate, violence that with due right can also afflict those who are weak or indifferent in their faith. Violence thus becomes a form of sacrament and a divine duty. Religiously inspired terrorists feel they have a monopoly on the absolute truth, which is also manifested in the names they have adopted: Hizbollah (God's Party), Jund al-Haq (Soldiers of Right) and Aum Shinrykuo (The Supreme Truth).

All opponents of the faith are to be exterminated on the way to the true divine state and these groups see themselves as an extension of God's hand through acts of violence. Also characteristic for a religiously motivated act of terrorism, regardless of whether it is committed by a Christian, Muslim, Sikh or a Jew, is that it is seldom followed by a letter claiming responsibility that justifies the act or conveys an ideological message expected to attract other target groups or which contains demands that must be met in order for the terrorism to cease. The message from 11 September was conveyed through pictures alone, there was no text. One result of this is that acts of violence can be given a number of different interpretations and this may very well be the actual intention. Was 11 September a result of the unresolved Palestinian issue or was the attack a protest against the presence of American soldiers in what to Muslims is the holy ground of Saudi Arabia; was the triggering factor a conflict of values between the secularised western world and the Islamic concept of a righteous society, or was the purpose to trigger Huntington's so celebrated "clash of civilisations"?

This question is still unanswered. One message was, however, clear to both friend and foe, namely the will to pursue a totally uncompromising battle in the name of religion.

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