''Holy Terror''

The Implications of Terrorism Motivated by a Religious Imperative

by Bruce Hoffman


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This paper examines how terrorism motivated by a religious imperative differs from purely "secular" terrorism. In particular, it focuses on the radically different value systems, mechanisms of legitimization and justification, concepts of morality embraced by "holy terrorists" and the millennialist view that often informs their thought process and influences their actions. For the religious terrorist, violence first and foremost is a sacramental act or divine duty executed in response to some theological demand or imperative. Terrorism thus assumes a transcendental dimension and its perpetrators are thereby unconstrained by the political, moral, or practical considerations that affect other terrorists. The paper concludes that terrorism lethality has increased as a result of religious terrorism and that as the year 2000 — the millennium — approaches, this type of violence could increase.

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