Religion A Fundamental Source Of Terrorism Criminology Essay

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The suspicion that religion is a fundamental source of terrorism has been broadly examined since the 9/11 attacks. In fact, religious motive has became an essential part of defining terrorism in UK and other jurisdictions including Australia and New Zealand, but has been resisted in others including the United States, Indonesia, and many countries in the Middle East, which define terrorism primarily by reference to the nature of the harm caused. My article illustrates the difficulties in examining secular and religious motives. The inclusion of religious motive as an essential element of a terrorist activity might encourage a process of religious profiling in which investigators paid undue attention to the religion of suspects or accused persons. I would argue that this not only put religion on trials, but it also diminishes the effectiveness and value of the terrorism laws and, moreover, it encourages discrimination.


Religion kills. Throughout human history, people have killed in the name of their god. TIME magazine has quoted a statement from a person named as Marwan in Iraq. "Yes, I am a terrorist," he says. "Write that down: I admit I am a terrorist. [The Koran] says it is the duty of Muslims to bring terror to the enemy, so being a terrorist makes me a good Muslim." He quotes lines from the surah known as Al-Anfal, or the Spoils of War: "Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into the enemy of Allah and your enemy."

"The jihadis are more religious people," he says. "You ask them anything--anything--and they can instantly quote a relevant section from the Koran." [1] 

People like Marwan have used religious text as their inspiration and sources to commit violence. But Marwan is not alone.

On July 29 1994, Paul Hill approached a Pensacola, Florida abortion clinic with which he was familiar. When he spotted clinic doctor John Britton and his bodyguard, James Barrett, outside, he shot them both at close range with a shotgun. Hill also wounded Barrett's wife, Joan. Following the shots, Hill laid his shotgun on the ground and waited to be arrested. In September 2003, Hill as America's first antiabortion militant was put to death by the state of Florida. On the eve of his execution, Paul Hill was smiling and cheerful. 'I expect a great reward in heaven', he said, 'I am looking forward to glory. I don't feel remorse.' Hill, a former Presbyterian preacher, said he would die a martyr and inspire other abortion militants to kill on behalf of unborn children. He looked forward to death, where he said God would forgive him for the murders and offer him a great reward. Hill's action supported this desire: after the shooting Hill sat down on a curb and waited for the police to arrive and once charged, he made no attempt to appeal the death sentence. Hill told Jessica Stern only months before his execution, "I would be willing to die to promote the truth . . . I'm not resisting their efforts to kill me . . . The heightened threat, the more difficulties forced on a Christian, the more joy I experience if I respond appropriately" (Stern, 170). [2] 

The fact that a holy text contains divine commands to despise or kill 'the Other' does not mean that the believers in the sanctity of the text must actually be doing so. The same Torah that contains the commands to slaughter the idolatrous nations inhabiting the Land of Israel also contains the commandment 'Thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt' (Exodus 23:9). The same Gospel of Matthew that declares 'His blood be on us, and on our children' (27:25) also declares 'Love your enemies, bless them that curse you' (5:44). Similarly, the same Quran that states 'slay the idolaters wherever you find them' (9:5) also states 'Let there be no compulsion in religion' (2:256).

One can always find scriptural verses to legitimate both the slaughter and the acceptance of the Other. It is true that in every religion we can see the battle of interpretation. One reason that religions may have played a powerful role in history is that they often carry the symbols, stories, and worldviews through which people shape their identity, designate or assign their deepest questions of meaning, deal with problems of injustice and suffering, and develop codes of morality and conduct to meet the requirements of community life. Nevertheless people are often prepared to die in order to defend or uphold these symbols, meanings, and identity systems (Rapoport, 1984). [3] 

The suspicion that religion is a fundamental source of terrorism has been broadly examined since the 9/11 attacks. In fact, religious motive has became an essential part of defining terrorism in UK and other jurisdictions including Australia and New Zealand, but has been resisted in others including the United States, Indonesia, and many countries in the Middle East, which define terrorism primarily by reference to the nature of the harm caused.

My article would illustrate the difficulties in examining 'secular' and 'religious' motives. First, I will use Rapoport's views on four waves of terrorism to provide the case how religion is alleged to have a link with terrorism. Second, a brief overview of anti terrorism law passed in the post 9/11 reveals how religion becomes one of the motive elements in the definition of a terrorist act. I examine how the inclusion of motivation in the definition promotes the impression that the State is punishing the religion of the accused as opposed to their having committed or planned to commit acts of violence. Thirdly, the Khawaja case in Canada, along with Indonesian cases, demonstrates how the Court is able to punish the terrorists even without examining their religious motive. Therefore, I would argue that the inclusion of religious motive as an essential element of a terrorist activity might encourage a process of religious profiling in which investigators paid undue attention to the religion of suspects or accused persons. I would argue that this not only put religion on trials, but it also diminishes the effectiveness and value of the terrorism laws and, moreover, it encourages discrimination.

The Four Waves

According to David Rapoport, we have had four waves of terrorism since modern terror began in the 1870s. [4] The Anarchist wave lasted some 40 years. The Anti-Colonial wave began in the 1920s and ended in the early 1962, lasting as its predecessor did for 40 years. The third or New Left wave began in the 1960s, reached its high point in the 1980s and is basically over, though a few organizations still survive in the 21st century, i.e. in Palestine, Spain, Peru, Columbia and Nepal. Now we are in the fourth or Religious wave. Rapoport dates the fourth wave from three almost simultaneous events: the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979, the start of the fifteenth century in the Islamic hijri calendar, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan-when the violence really started.

Each wave produced its own signature tactics. First wave terrorists assassinated the most prominent political figures in government. The second wave rejected assassination and organized a more complicated undertaking. The third wave introduced airline hijacking and hostage taking on a grand scale. The current or fourth wave rejected the third wave's inclination to kill from a distance and introduced self-martyrdom or suicide bombing assaults.

Rapoport's view is open for discussion. For instance, are the terrorist waves historically unique to each period? Don't we see some similarities between the anarchist terrorism (first wave) and today's terrorism? We may also ask: Is it true that only religious groups use suicide attacks? How do we explain situation in Iraq? Should we see it as the fourth wave (religious wave) or anti-colonial wave?

Ferguson (2001) compares between Osama bin Laden and late 19th-century Russian terrorists, and makes a note of similarities in the political religion of their ideologies; the transnational nature of both sets of terrorists, as they often resided and planned attacks abroad, along with the similarity of global political economic conditions at the end of the 19th and 20th centuries. Ferguson has also compared the motives of the 1880s Sudanese revolt against the British Empire with Osama's campaign against the US. [5] Another scholar, Schweitzer (2002) is of the view that while 19th-century anarchist assassinations were often done by individuals, the acts were part of a larger contemporary movement of which the general public was fearful; it was much like present-day reactions to terrorism. [6] Kennedy (2001) notes a similarity between the hatred of London as the financial center of world capitalism at the end of the 19th century and the hatred by 'fanatical Muslims today' of the dominance of Wall Street and the Pentagon. [7] Finally, Bergesen and Yi Han (2005) observe that if Al Qaeda is a reaction to American empire, then one could see parallels in pre-1914 terrorist groups attacking the empires of their day (the Serbian Black Hand versus the Austrian Empire; the Inner Macedonian Revolutionary Organization versus the Ottoman Empire, and the terrorists of Narodnaya Volya versus the Tsarist Russian Empire). [8] 

The point is that sometimes it is true that history repeats itself. Although we can see some unique characteristics of each wave, we can also see some similarities. It seems that Rapoport's tend to make a dichotomy between secular motive and religious motive. If this is the case, let us consider some interesting data here. In his book Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, Robert Pape shows that most actual terrorist incidents are non-religious. It is based on a database he has compiled at the University of Chicago, where he directs the Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism. The book's conclusions are based on data from 315 suicide terrorism campaigns around the world from 1980 through 2003 and 462 individual suicide terrorists. Some of his findings include: the leading instigators of suicide attacks are the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, a Marxist-Leninist group whose members are from Hindu families, but who are adamantly opposed to religion. 95% of the attack could have their roots traced to large, coherent political or military campaigns. 57% of the attacks were secular and 43% were religious [9] 

Despite a different views discussed above, Rapoport's view clearly highlights the idea of religious terrorism as the current wave. This brings us to Juergensmeyer's book, Terror in the Mind of God. He examines the cases of a number of people who engage in, or somehow support, the use of violence for religious ends in different religious traditions. So basically he asks some difficult questions here: Since religion was found in bed with terrorism, is this the fault of religion? Has its mask been ripped off and its murky side exposed-or has its innocence been abused? Is religion the problem or the victim?

According to Ranstorp (1996), despite having vastly different origins, doctrines, institutions, and practices, these religious extremists are unified in their justification for employing sacred violence either in efforts to defend, extend or revenge their own communities or for millenarian or messianic reasons. [10] 

This leads us to consider the motive behind such terror. The secular-religious dichotomy is often used to make distinctions between "fanatics" and "pragmatics" as if secular motives for murdering large numbers of innocent civilians are somehow more rational than religious ones. The reasoning follows that one can negotiate with pragmatic terrorists, but religious ones are so irrational that there is no possibility of compromise or negotiation. People are concerned that religious terrorist attacks are likely to be more deadly as they are less motivated by a desire to win-over the people. This is owing to the fact that religious terrorist differ from their secular counterparts in motivation Bruce Hoffman writes that 'whereas secular terrorists attempt to appeal to actual and potential sympathizers, religious terrorists appeal to no other constituency than themselves'. [11] For Audrey Cronin, religious terrorists act 'directly or indirectly to please the perceived commands of a deity'. [12] This is why, for Hoffman and Cronin, religious terrorism is uniquely destructive and uniquely dangerous.

Such scholars dismiss any strategic motivation for terrorist tactics, and rather they assert that religious terrorism is caused by ideological obsession and fanaticism.. However, is it true that religious terrorism is based on irrational decisions, no strategic motivation, and conducted by frustrated people?

One scholar has one possible answer: "I collected data on more than 130 members of the Global Salafi Jihad. . . In terms of socio-economic status, two thirds came from solid upper or middle class backgrounds. . .  They came from caring intact families. . . As a group, the terrorists were relatively well educated with over 60% having some college education. . . Most had good occupational training and only a quarter were considered unskilled with few prospects before them. Three quarters were married and the majority had children. I detected no mental illness in this group or any common psychological predisposition for terror." Marc Sageman, Understanding Terror Networks, University of Pennsylvania Press (April, 2004)

Therefore, the views that irrationality or mental illness is the main sources of religious terrorism are questionable. I think we should try to see this main issue from terrorist point of view: they see their actions as reasonable, and a calculated response to circumstances they face. What is perceived by outsiders as failure may not be perceived as such by terrorists groups; instead it may serve as a further justification of their tactics. For instance, in the three countries Stern visits, Islamist radicals have different views on what constitutes success. Most are focused on their local or regional conflict; Pakistani jihadist groups want to evict India from Kashmir; Hamas wants to push Israel out of the occupied territories; the Indonesian group, Laskar Jihad, began as a local paramilitary group designed to save Muslims from Christian persecution (Stern, 2003). Although religion might inspire their violence acts, they also have other motives or goals which could be considered as 'secular'.

In this context, Assaf Moghadam argues that Middle East bombers are driven by a combination of motivations that vary from person to person. He categorizes suicide bombers' motivations as religious, personal, nationalist, economic, or sociological. According to Moghadam, personal motives are probably the biggest driving force; they include a reward in the afterlife; elevated status of the bomber in society; revenge for the deaths of a friend or family member; spiritual benefits to the bomber's family; and a restoration of dignity from the humiliation felt in Palestine. [13] 

Adam Dolnik and Keith M. Fitzgerald (2008) point out that even Aum Shinrikyo's sole hostage-taking incident (1995 hijacking of Nippon Airways flight 857) was motivated by a rational demand for the release of the cult's guru from prison. This Aum's ideology was based on a 'cosmically scientific' mix of prophetic cultic practices that was difficult for most people to comprehend. [14] They explain more:

…the "new terrorists" in general are effectively very similar to their secular counterparts: they are individuals who fail to see alternative perspectives on the issues for which they are fighting, and who empathize with-or attempt to embody-the victimization of their own people, while exercising minimal empathy for their victims... It is still the perception of humiliation, victimization, and injustice that drives the so-called "religious terrorist," rather than a perceived command from God. The use of holy rhetoric by most groups commonly labelled "religious" serves much more as a uniting and morale-boosting tool than as a justification for acts of unrestrained violence. (Dolnik and Fitzgerald, 2008, 139)

I would argue that we need to reconsider whether the current wave is religious terrorism as it is difficult to determine a single motive or goal of such violence. What we see as religious terrorism might not be unique in history and the link between socio-political and economic structural factors, such as poverty, lack of economic opportunity, foreign occupation, and terrorism should be taken into account. As I would discuss below, the difficulties to examine motives of religious terrorism have influenced the debate on the definition of terrorism itself.

Anti-Terrorism Law

Different countries, with differing political and legal traditions and systems, recognising the particular threat posed by terrorism, have enacted a variety of measures to counter that threat.

Before 2002 terrorist acts in Australia would have been prosecuted as crimes such as murder, infliction of serious injury, assault, arson, possession of explosives, offences against aircraft or ships and so on. This position was radically changed by the Security Legislation Amendment (Terrorism Act 2002), which introduced a definition of terrorism into Australian law and created a number of offences based on that definition (Divisions 101 and 103 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code). At the Commonwealth level there have been more than 30 pieces of "anti terror" legislation introduced since 2001. Each State and Territory has introduced legislation to complement that of the Commonwealth. By way of example, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Act 2003 introduced a regime whereby "questioning warrants" allowed for the detention and questioning of individuals. This legislation was replaced by the ASIO Legislation Amendment Act 2006, which consists of more extensive powers, including the detention of an individual for the purpose of questioning for days continuously on any one occasion. Multiple warrants may be sought. Preventative detention was enacted in December 2005 by the Anti-Terrorism Act (no 2) 2005 (Cth) which inserted Division 105 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) allowing, amongst other things, for the detention of an individual for up to 48 hours to prevent an imminent terrorist act occurring or to preserve evidence. [15] 

In the U.S., on 25 October, 2001, the Congress passed the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act. The Act prescribes up to 10 years of imprisonment to "whoever harbors or conceal any person who he knows, or has reasonable grounds to believe, has committed, or is about to commit", offences associated with terrorism. Legislative counter-measures were reinforced by declaring 'war against terror' since "after the chaos and the carnage of September the 11th, it [was] not enough to serve [their] enemies with legal papers." (Bush: 2004) [16] 

Indonesia enacted a new anti-terrorism law in 2002. The Act arguably confers excessive powers to investigators, public prosecutors and judges. A suspect can be detained for up to seven days during investigations based on preliminary evidence (Article 28). If convicted, a person is liable to a period of imprisonment of up to 15 years, or an award of the death penalty. However, political offences are excluded from the sweep of terrorist acts (Article 5). Singapore and Malaysia have used Internal Security Act, while the Philippines, President Arroyo approved the Human Security Act of 2007.


While governments around the globe agree that terrorism is a threat, there is a lack of world-wide agreement on what terrorism is. The wide definition of 'terrorism' used in the post 9/11 legislation attack generates significant problems, as it potentially encompasses a very broad range of activity and activism.

Ben Saul, in his book Defining Terrorism in International Law (2006), proposes the following definition, which, he argues, would reflect existing agreement on the wrongfulness of terrorism: '(1) Any serious, violent, criminal act intended to cause death or serious bodily injury, or to endanger life, including by acts against property; (2) where committed outside an armed conflict; (3) for a political, ideological, religious, or ethnic purpose; and (4) where intended to create extreme fear in a person, group, or the general public, and: (a) seriously intimidate a population or part of a population, or (b) unduly compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act'. Furthermore, he suggests an explicit exception for acts of advocacy, protest, dissent or industrial action that are not intended to cause death, serious bodily harm or serious risk to public health or safety. [17] 

Other definition usually includes: 'the use or threat of action' where it endangers life, or poses a serious risk to health or to property, and is 'designed to influence the government or to intimidate the public or a section of the public', and where 'the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause' (Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000 in the United Kingdom). And yet, on each of these counts, the attempt to define terrorism is fraught with difficulties in in distinguishing terrorism from what it is not such as legitimate state responses or counter-terrorism, national liberation struggles or freedom fighter, and ordinary criminal offences.

Laura Donohue, for instance, observes that counter-terrorism does share so many qualities with terrorism. She explains:

The definition, targets, and additional characteristics of terrorism and counterterrorism are intimately connected. In each of the five regions - the US, UK, Ireland, Israel and Turkey - there is a close relationship between the types of actions taken by state and non-state actors. Both incorporate violence, fear and a broader audience. They are purposive, political and (although denied in each case by the actor) affect non-combatants. And they are instrumental. Their targets range from the immediate and symbolic to a broader audience and demands. In addition, such actions are emotive and carry strong moral and religious overtones. While not all counter-terrorism involves violence, neither does all terrorism (Donohue, 2005: 35) [18] 

With regard to freedom fighters, one only needs to offer the examples of Yasser Arafat and Nelson Mandela. Nobel Prize winner Yasser Arafat has been charged in the cold-blooded assassination of U.S. Ambassador Cleo Noel in the Sudan in 1973. His PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) is an umbrella group embracing organizations for whom the weapon of choice in the war against Israel is terror. Nelson Mandela, another Nobel Peace Prize winner, did not get life imprisonment on Robben Island for sitting in at lunch counters, but if memory serves, for plotting terror to overthrow the regime. Is it then true that 'one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter'?

It is worth noting that half of all terrorist organizations have such 'liberation' aims. They wish to make an independent state for minority (The Basque Fatherland and Liberty group, IRA, Kurdistan Worker's Party), independent Islamic state (Abu Sayyaf Group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front), or independent state of working class (Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front). Put it simply, they struggle for the country's liberation. Are they terrorists or freedom fighters?

Another issue is how can we distinguish between a terrorist act and an ordinary crime? According to Victor Ramraj, [19] to the extent that anti-terrorism offences are incorporated into the criminal law system, substantive and procedural criminal law concerns arise. Substantively, these concerns relate, for example, to the ways in which anti-terrorism laws depart from traditional criminal law norms. They might do so by, for instance, relaxing the mental element required for a conviction or by expanding criminal liability to those who facilitate acts of terrorism or even to third parties with no direct knowledge of the activity in question (by creating secondary offences relating to, say, the failure to monitor or report financial or property transactions). This tendency to fight terrorism by criminalizing conduct that might otherwise be harmless (say, allowing a customer to open a bank account without collecting detailed personal information) gives rise to concerns about privacy and overcriminalisation.

Most acts of terrorism could be regarded as particularly heinous crimes and prosecuted accordingly, yet there is a perceived need to treat terrorism as a sui generis offence. The temptation might be to distinguish terrorism from ordinary criminal offences by reference to the political, religious, or ideological motive with which the act is committed.

Two possible scenarios below might explain the difficulty to draw a clear line between a terrorist act and a crime?

Rambo with M16 in his hands came to the class, and said clearly "Allahu Akbar" before shooting everyone in the classroom.

Rocky with M16 in his hands came to the class, and said clearly "Jennie, I love you" before shooting everyone, including Jennie, in the classroom.

The acts of Rambo and Rocky are the same, but the motive might be different. So, which one is a terrorist and which one is a mass murderer? This illustration leads us to examine the problems with motive elements (reference to a political, religious or ideological purpose) in the definition of terrorism. On one hand, the adoption of motive elements assists us to differentiate terrorism from other kinds of serious violence which may also generate fear such as common assault, armed robbery, rape, or murder. On the other hand, such inclusion might encourage a process of religious profiling in which investigators and others paid undue attention to the politics or religion of suspects or accused persons. This could be seen as not only a departure from ordinary criminal law principles, but is also a prosecutorial and political minefield. Giving motive (rather than the intention) primary legal significance leaves prosecutors and governments vulnerable to charges of profiling and discrimination against religious groups or unpopular political groups, further politicizing anti-terrorism prosecutions.

It is worth noting that the ordinary criminal law functioned under the traditional principle that motive was not relevant to a crime and that a political or religious motive could not excuse the commission of the crime. In contrast, the Anti-terrorism act in Australia requires proof that terrorist crimes are committed for religious or political motives. In February 2006, the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) and the Attorney-General's Department have argued that this motivation element should be removed from the definition of 'terrorist act' on the grounds that the definition is too complicated and that motive should not be relevant to criminal culpability. The CDPP submission states that "it is not in the public interest for a person to avoid criminal liability by showing that their acts were motivated by something other than politics, religion or ideology". [20] 

Professor Kent Roach of McGill University shares the views that the requirement of proving a political, religious or ideological motive as a threat to liberal principles:

"It means that police and prosecutors will be derelict in their duties if they do not collect evidence about a terrorist suspect's religion or politics. In my view, this presents a threat to liberal principles that democracies do not generally inquire into why a person committed a crime, but only whether he or she acted intentionally or without some other form of culpability. It also may have a chilling effect on those whose political or religious views are outside the mainstream and perhaps similar to those held by terrorists. Investigations into political and religious motives can inhibit dissent in a democracy." (Kent Roach, 2004) [21] 

Similarly, Canada's O'Connor J in the first Arar Report noted that "anti-terrorism investigations at present focus largely on members of the Muslim and Arab communities" leading to an "increased risk of racial [or] religious profiling". [22] On the other hand, while he acknowledges that motive is not traditionally relevant to criminal responsibility, Ben Saul presents a case for why motive should be included as an element of definition of 'terrorist act':

"In a sophisticated criminal justice system an element of motive can promote a more finely calibrated legal response to specific types of socially unacceptable behaviour. Where society decides that certain social, ethical, or political values are worth protecting, the requirement of a motive element can more accurately target reprehensible infringements of those values. There may be a powerful symbolic or moral value in condemning the motivation behind an act, quite separately from condemning the intentional physical act itself." (Saul: 41) [23] 

In this sense, Alan Norrie has argued that ignoring the relevance of motive effectively ignores the social conditions in which individuals live. Norrie points out that the principle that motive is irrelevant to the question of criminal responsibility originated in a system where rules relating to property were imposed on all, despite the poor's motives of 'desperate social need and indignant claim of right'. [24] By ignoring the social conditions that led to crime, assigning criminal responsibility could be simplified.

According to Williams, Lynch and MacDonald (2006), the inclusion of the motive of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause is necessary as it is one of terrorism's distinguishing features. It is the intention of 'advancing a political, religious or ideological cause' that distinguishes terrorist acts from other forms of criminal conduct. such as armed robbery, serial rape and mass murder, from terrorism. [25] Such views have been supported by HREOC on the grounds that removing the motive elements would widen the breadth of the definition to the extent that the terrorism offences could be a disproportionate limitation on the rights to freedom of expression and association guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). [26] 

By contrast, Justice Robert McDougall of NSW Supreme Court [27] offers his views that if the prosecution is able to establish that an act is undertaken with the intention of coercing, or influencing by intimidation, the government or intimidating the public or a section of the public, then the motive for the act should be irrelevant. That which is considered conceptually and morally distinctive about terrorism - that it aims to disrupt and coerce peaceful political process and interrupt society through violence - should form the focus of the law, not the underlying motive of the perpetrator.

Justice McDougall also explained that

In R v Mallah [28] there was evidence that the accused was motivated by a religious or ideological cause. However, there was also evidence that he may have been motivated by a desire for revenge or because of a grievance against a Government agency. Subsequently the accused was acquitted of two counts of preparing for or planning a terrorist act. Thus it seems that tactically, it may be easier for the Office of Public Prosecutions to charge individuals with pre-existing offences rather than make use of the terrorism legislation.

He then concluded that the inclusion of the motive element in the definition diminishes the effectiveness and value of the terrorism laws.

Another concern is that if we still accept the motive elements, particularly religious one, the motive requirement could also provide an accused with a possible platform to politicise the trial process by offering extensive evidence about the true meaning of often ambiguous religious beliefs. The battle of interpretation within religion will take place in the court. Do the Courts have the capacity and ability to analyse the religious text and literature?

Once again this debate illustrates the difficulties we have in not only examining whether secular terrorist and religious terrorist have different motives but also whether we should put the motive elements as an essential part in defining the terrorism. Further, what will be considered a political, religious or ideological cause may change over time.

If we accept motive elements, particularly religious motives, how do we explain the recent findings that from 2004 to 2008 only 15% percent of the 3,010 victims were Western? During the most recent period studied the numbers skew even further. From 2006 to 2008, only 2% (12 of 661 victims) are from the West, and the remaining 98% are inhabitants of countries with Muslim majorities. During this period, a person of non-Western origin was 54 times more likely to die in an al-Qa'ida attack than an individual from the West. The overwhelming majority of al-Qa'ida victims are Muslims living in Muslim countries, and many are citizens of Iraq, which suffered more al-Qa'ida attacks than any other country courtesy of the al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI) affiliate. The figures, drawn from exclusively Arabic news sources, show that the Muslims they claim to protect are much more likely to be the targets of al-Qa'ida violence than the Western powers they claim to fight. [29] 

At international level, there is no consensus as to whether motive should be included within the definition of 'terrorist act'. Anti-terrorism legislation in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and South Africa all require the prosecution to establish a political, religious or ideological motive. South Africa also includes philosophical motives. Conversely, the United States and the draft UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism do not require such a motive (Golder and Williams, 2004). [30] 

Simon Butt (2009) explains that in Indonesia the Anti Terrorism Law does not define terrorism per se. Rather, Article 1(1) simply states that: "The crime of terrorism is any act that fulfils the elements of a crime under this Interim Law". These elements are set out in Articles 6. Article 6 provides a generally-worded description of terrorism: "any person who by intentionally using violence or threats of violence, creates a widespread atmosphere of terror/fear or causes mass casualties, by taking the liberty or lives and property of other people, or causing damage or destruction to strategic vital objects, the environment, public facilities or international facilities, faces the death penalty, or life imprisonment, or between 4 and 20 years' imprisonment." [31] 

As can be seen, motive elements are excluded. However, Indonesian court has punished many terrorists such as the three Bali bombers. Two hundred and two people, including 88 Australians, 38 Indonesians and 24 Britons, died in the three explosions in the resort town of Kuta six years ago this month. They were carried out by an Indonesian cell of a south-east Asian militant group known as Jemaah Islamiyah. Amrozi, Ali Gufron and Imam Samudra were executed in 2008 after an Indonesian court rejected their appeal.

Whatever their motive is, terrorist is terrorist. Another example comes from Khawaja case in Canada. Mohammad Momin Khawaja was the first man charged under the federal Anti-Terrorism Act. He was arrested March 29, 2004, accused of participating in the activities of a terrorist group, and facilitating a terrorist activity. The officers raided Khawaja's house in Orleans, a suburb of Ottawa, and his workplace. The raid was part of an investigation involving Canada and Britain in which nine men of Pakistani heritage were arrested. Khawaja was the only person arrested in Canada.

The charges allege that terrorist activities took place in London, England, and Ottawa between November 2003 and March 29, 2004. Khawaja had made trips to London but his brother said it was to find a wife. Khawaja had been working on contract as a computer software operator for the Foreign Affairs Department, but authorities said he had no access to classified documents.

On Oct. 24, 2006, an Ontario Superior Court judge ruling on Khawaja's case struck down the motive clause of the Anti-Terrorism Act, saying it violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This clause defines a terrorist act as one committed "for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause." He held that the political or religious motive requirement was an unjustified violation of fundamental freedoms and should be severed from the other parts of the definition of terrorist activities. [32] 

In the end, Justice Rutherford concluded "that the focus on the essential ingredient of political, religious or ideological motive will chill freedom protected speech, religion, thought, belief, expression and association, and therefore, democratic life; and will promote fear and suspicion of targeted political or religious groups, and will result in racial or ethnic profiling by governmental authorities at many levels." As Roach points out, "the removal of the political and religious motive requirement is, of course, no guarantee that profiling or unfairness will not occur, but it is a step in the right direction" (Roach, 2007). [33] 

Although the judge struck down this part of the law, he said Khawaja's trial on the charges could go on. On Oct. 29, 2008, Khawaja was found guilty of five charges of financing and facilitating terrorism and two Criminal Code offences related to building a remote-control device that could trigger bombs. Five months later, Judge Douglas Rutherford of the Ontario Superior Court sentenced Khawaja to ten and half years jail, calling him 'a willing and eager participant' in a terrorist scheme.

The Khawaja Case suggests that even without motive elements, Mr Khawaja can be convicted under anti-terrorism law. Canadian and Indonesian cases demonstrate that courts should be able to convict people of terrorism even when there is no religious motive requirement for the crime.


The inclusion of religious motive opens the possibility that people who might share religious stripe could not help but fall under some sort of shadow which might lead to racial or ethnic profiling and prejudice in and beyond the investigative and prosecutorial process. The inevitable impact of the motive clause is to focus investigative and prosecutorial scrutiny on the beliefs, opinions, and expressions of a large number of people, producing an equally inevitable chilling effect on the exercise of freedoms of religion, expression, opinion, and association.

According to Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart, the more secure people become in the developed world, the more they loosen their hold on religion. Religion, meanwhile, retains its authority among the less secure but faster-growing populations of the less developed world. They conclude that rich societies are becoming more secular but the world as a whole is becoming more religious. However Norris and Inglehart also conclude that the United States remains one of the most religious in the club of rich countries, alongside Ireland and Italy, and indeed this makes America one of the most religious countries in the world. America is always a special case. [34] 

In the context of America, Bruce Ledewitz, argued that we are living in a religious democracy and he explores the implications of participating in this new form of American government. He has coined the new term "American Religious Democracy". His book, American Religious Democracy: Coming to Terms with the End of Secular Politics (2007), explains the decline of secular democracy, describes some of the legal, political and religious implications of this new religious democracy and, finally, invites secular voters to participate in religious democracy. According to Ledewitz, the 2004 Bush re-election clearly showed that a substantial number of voters in America now vote the way they do for what they consider to be religious reasons and that, as a result of their voting, government policy is changing to reflect their religious commitments. The result has been the creation of a religious democracy. [35] 

In the context of Australia, Dr Marion Maddox (2005) published her books, God Under Howard: the Rise of the Religious Right in Australian Politics. She parallels the beliefs of the religious right in US politics with those of the conservative Liberal Party government lead by John Howard in Australia. Despite her criticisms, Maddox's works show us that in Australia religion can play a significant role in the public life. [36] 

To sum up, by taking religion as the current wave of terrorism, some scholars tend to accept the motive elements as an essential part of the definition of terrorist activities. This leads those scholars to examine the motive of religious terrorism itself as compared to secular motive. At the same time, the world as a whole is becoming more religious and the rejection of the thesis of secularisation (as has been discussed in other Chapters of the book) is increasing. Then, one may put a rhetoric question: which religion we put currently under the terrorist trials and which religion that we believe can play a significant role in our democratic secular systems? Perhaps the answers to the questions illustrate the paradox of religion-security and secularism-democracy.