Types of terrorism

There are different classifications of terrorism, depending on the selected characteristics. The most widespread is the classification of terrorism on ideological grounds as it is the ideology or political objective that distinguishes terrorism from (organised) crime. Based on ideology, terrorism is classified as follows[1]:

  • nationalist or ethnic terrorism;
  • religious terrorism;
  • rightwing extremist terrorism;
  • leftwing extremist terrorism.

The most widespread type of terrorism arisen in the last decades is undoubtedly religious terrorism, first and foremost due to the activity of Islamic terrorists. 11 September 2001 demonstrated that terrorists acting in the name of their religion could cause by far graver consequences than terrorists striving for any other political objective. As other types of terrorism are above all confined to national territory, Islamic terrorism differs by its international dimension - the common aim of various Islamic terrorist groups is to eliminate Western impact from the Islamic world and to unite the whole Islamic world into one caliphate like at the time of the Prophet Muhammad.


Radical Islam

There are several concepts related to Islamic terrorism that need clarification:

  • Radical Islam or Islamism - political theory according to which Islam is not only a religion but a perfect political system that has to be a basis for the organisation of the society. Islamism is a broad concept embracing different religious trends and organisations. The goal of Islamistic groups is to establish the Islamic law or the Sharia. Islamism justifies violent jihad, the aim of which is the fight against "infidels". Depending on the movement, it can refer to a particular state or the entire world.
  • Fundamentalist Islam - an aspiration to adhere to authentic Islam of the time of Muhammad. Fundamentalists practise traditional Islam above all in their daily life - behavioural rules, clothing and the organisation of family. Fundamentalist Islam is followed most meticulously in Saudi Arabia where the official religious expression is Wahhabi Islam - one of the forms of fundamentalism.
  • The common feature of both is condemnation of Western impacts. Traditional fundamentalism in itself is not a security threat, however its adherents will be in conflict with European customs and in some cases also with the legal system.

[1] Different sources, e.g.: J.M. Lutz, B.J. Lutz. Global Terrorism; Council of Foreign Relations. Types of Terrorism; Encyclopedia of World Terrorism 1996-200