Islam and Terrorism

‘Islamic terrorism’ refers to terrorist acts committed by Muslim groups or individuals who are motivated by Islamic or Islamist views. Islamism is a totalitarian ideology adhered to by Muslim extremists who envision the establishment of an ‘Islamic state’ and the submission of all people to Islam.

Islamic terrorism is inspired by the concept of ‘lesser Jihad‘ — ‘holy warfare’ against the enemies of Allah and Islam.

As noted, Muslims disagree among each other as to what is or is not acceptable in ‘lesser Jihad.’ For instance, while many Muslims speak out against terrorist acts committed in the name of Islam, others approve of such acts under certain conditions [example], or have been seen as tacitly — if not explicitly — supportive of extremist groups guilty of terrorism [example].

Apologetics Index uses the terms, “Islamic terrorists,” and “Islamic extremists” to refer to terrorists and extremists who claim to be motivated primarily by their interpretation of Islam. Therefore, the use of such terminology is not in any way meant to convey that all Muslims are terrorists or extremists.

In an interview, Ruth Gledhill, Religion correspondent for The Times (England), stated the following:

Muslim leaders have criticised the BBC for referring to bin Laden as an Islamic terrorist. Why?

The Muslim Council of Britain wanted bin Laden referred to as a terrorist with no reference to his faith, because they feared a racial backlash was being provoked.

Inayat Bunglawala, a spokesman for the council, said: “We will never accept the term Islamic terrorist. Islam does not permit such violence. The BBC should call bin Laden a terrorist, which is what he is. The BBC is not even-handed. It never refers to the IRA as a Catholic extremist organisation or IRA members as Catholic extremists.”

The BBC declined to back down, nor should it. To back down could give an impression that bin Laden’s motivation is not religious, when clearly it is.
– Source: Ruth Gledhill, Q and A: religion and war, The Times (England), Sep. 21, 2001

Extremists target Muslims and non-Muslims alike

Muslims extremists attack Muslims and non-Muslims alike, committing the most atrocious and despicable acts of terrorism under the pretense of promoting what these terrorists consider to be ‘pure Islam.’

Amid the general mayhem now afflicting the Muslim world, [the] venerable understanding of Islam is defied by a rising movement that’s attractive to a subset of young Muslims. It claims divine sanction to embrace thievery, torture, mutilation, terrorism, suicide bombing, kidnapping for ransom, sexual slavery, gruesome executions without trial, killing of envoys and guest aid workers, slaughter of worshippers and Jews and Christians, and of fellow Muslims who dissent from those who hold power or belong to rival factions.
– Source: Richard Ostling, Is Islam a “Religion of Peace?”

In his introduction to an article titled, “Muhammad, Islam, and Terrorism” – which documents the roots and history of Islamic terrorism – the webmaster of Answering Islam writes:

This article shows the basis for radical, fundamentalist Islam. This is not the only Islam there is. Note also, that this article is linked under the heading of “Understanding Islamic Terrorism”, not under the title of “Understanding Islam”.

Apart from many peaceful Muslims who are themselves unaware of the material presented below, there are also educated, moderate Muslims who do not agree with such terrorist acts and interpret these passages of the Qur’an and these precedents in the life of Muhammad differently. They would not interpret them as justifying atrocities as committed by Islamic terrorist groups.

The problem is that those Muslims who oppose the radicals are themselves in danger and fear of becoming the target of the radicals in Islam. Ignoring the “violent passages” in the Qur’an and Muslim traditions will not be the solution. The Islamic community has to confront the terrorists in their midst in word and deed, by bringing them to justice and by opposing their interpretation of Islam, if they believe it is not the true interpretation.

We call for all Muslims to unmistakenly distance themselves from terrorist acts AND by giving the real meaning of these passages and precedents presented below, to confront and excommunicate those who hold this violent Islam to be the only true Islam. As long as the Muslim community does NOT confront and stop them, they cannot complain that “the non-Muslims are misrepresenting Islam” and are biased and islamophobic.
– Source: Silas, Muhammad, Islam, and Terrorism

Muslim leaders have indeed been speaking out against Islam-inspired terrorism. See, for instance, the open letter addressed to ISIS leader “Dr. Ibrahim Awwad Al-Badri, alias ‘Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’” and signed by hundreds of Muslim leaders.

Islam does not promote or support terrorism

It should be noted that the religion of Islam itself does not promote or support terrorism. Indeed, the vast majority of Muslims condemn such acts.

Muslims point out that the Quran forbids the killing of noncombatants. Too, according to the Quran, “If you kill a life unjustly it is as if you killed all life.” (Quran 5:32).

That said, it is no secret that much extremism is committed in the name of Islam, often (but certainly not always) without clear condemnation from other Muslims. This includes extremist interpretations of certain aspects of jihad, and such despicable practices as suicide bombing.

At the same time, no one who has read the Quran, Islam’s holy book, can get around the fact that it calls for violence against non-Muslims.

The Quran contains at least 109 verses that call Muslims to war with nonbelievers for the sake of Islamic rule. Some are quite graphic, with commands to chop off heads and fingers and kill infidels wherever they may be hiding. Muslims who do not join the fight are called ‘hypocrites’ and warned that Allah will send them to Hell if they do not join the slaughter.
– Source: What does the religion of peace teach about violence?

But as the open letter mentioned earlier shows, mainstream imams interpret such passages differently than those who commit terrorism in the name of Islam.

How the Pope reacted to the November 13, 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris

How Muslims reacted to the Nov. 11, 2015 terror attacks in Paris

Muslims and their supporters took to social media last night and this morning to condemn the deadly terror attacks in Paris and reiterate the difference between Islam and extremist dogma.[…]

Muslim groups and countries widely condemned the terror attacks in Paris, and Muslims and supporters around the world took to social media to defend Islam as a nonviolent faith.
– Source: Ana Swanson, How Muslims around the world condemned the Paris attacks: ‘Terrorism has NO religion’, Washington Post, November 14, 2015


  • 4 Ways ISIS Grounds Its Actions in Religion — and Why That Matters by Ayman S. Ibrahim, Religion News Service, November 17, 2015

    To claim that all Muslims are terrorists is far from correct, but to deny or underestimate the significant power and influence of some Islamic texts and specific interpretations of them is not prudent, either.

    To suggest that this is the true Islam and that these attacks reveal the true face of Islam would also be wrong, as Islam is far from monolithic and there are plenty of Muslims who sincerely condemn such atrocities.

    To adopt a politically correct discourse and suggest these attacks had nothing to do with religion and that Islam is the religion of peace (as if other religions are not?) would be also naive and inaccurate.

    Religious texts in the hands of religious exegetes can be lethal. One can avoid or ignore the reality of the Islamic reasoning and interpretation of ISIS, but we all will be affected by such avoidance and ignorance.

  • 8 facts you need to know about Islam and terrorism, by Marc Ambinder, The Week, January 22, 2015
  • Is Islam a “religion of peace”? by Richard Ostling, February 25, 2015

    This great world religion is embroiled in an increasingly dangerous internal conflict as an expanding faction of militant “Islamists” or “jihadis” works to abolish Muslim thinkers’ consensus across centuries about justifications for violence, the proper conduct of warfare, and who has the authority to decide such matters.

  • Muhammad, Islam, and Terrorism Silas, at the Answering Islam website, documents the roots and history of Islamic terrorism.
  • Religious Terrorism Dated (2001) but insightful article by John Morehead. Focuses on destructive religious cults and other extremist groups.
  • Who speaks for Islam in a time of terrorism? by Richard Ostling, September 27, 2014

    [On September 24, 2014] 126 Muslim leaders issued a dramatic 15-page “Open Letter” to ISIL’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his followers that denounced them on religious grounds. Implicitly, the letter targets as well the tactics of al-Qaeda, Nigeria’s Boko Haram, and similar terrorist movements claiming Islamic inspiration. The technical argument relies on dozens of citations from the Quran, Hadith (accounts of the Prophet Muhammad’s words and deeds), and Sharia (religious law). […]

    The September letter makes it more obvious than ever that this great world faith faces a moral and theological civil war that will consume years if not decades.

    The open letter, will full citations and a list of signers, is posted at


See Also

  • Organizational Learning and Islamic Militancy written by Michael Kenney for the U.S. Department of Justice. The Principal Investigator “concludes this report by discussing some of the policy implications of these findings, suggesting that the real threat from Islamic militancy comes less from hyper-sophisticated “super terrorists” than from steadfast militants whose own dedication to the cause may undermine the cunning intelligence and fluid adaptability they need to survive.”


  • “Islam — the politically incorrect truth about one really messed up religion.” The website documents hatred, terrorism and other acts of violence committed in the name of Islam. It also shows how the Quran, Islam’s holy book, promotes violence. is a pluralistic, non-partisan site concerned with Islam’s true political and religious teachings according to its own texts. We present the threat that Islam poses to human dignity and freedom, and we document the violence and dysfunction that ensues as a direct consequence of this religion’s supremacist teachings.

    We are not associated with any organization. We do not promote any religion, but we are not hostile to religion. We generally support the rights of atheists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, homosexuals, women, Muslims and anyone else on the planet to live as they wish without violating the rights of others. […]

    At the same time, we see no use in pretending that Islam is just another religion – which always seems to be the assumption of those preferring not to look too closely.

    In fact, Islam is dreadfully unique – and it should be OK to say so.

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This post was last updated: Nov. 22, 2015