Islamic Terrorism can have no definition other than that of "terror created by Muslims." The problem with such a definition and with the term itself is it's vagueness. Attempts to define Christian Terrorism, Jewish Terrorism, Hindu Terrorism and Buddhist Terrorism would be similarly useless. There is no single Islamic terrorism any more than there is a single Christian or Jewish terrorism. At best, historical cases can be found of individuals identified as members of particular religious groups who employ political violence later identified as terrorism. They may or may not have identified with that religious group identity and may or may not have attributed their political violence to a political program associated with that religious identity. For example, it would be meaningless to describe the Ulster Volunteer Force, Ulster Defence Association, Loyalist Volunteer Force, Orange Volunteers, Red Hand Commandos, Red Branch Knights or Ulster Young Militants as Christian Terrorists. Each of these organizations is both Christian and is accused of using the sorts of political violence that most Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland would deem terrorism. Instead a term that describes them with meaning, Protestant Loyalist Terrorism, is used because it is more specific.
The violent political conflicts now occurring in many predominantly Islamic societies have convinced some observers that Islam is as a religion likely to generate political violence by its adherents. A longer historical view would disclose that societies in which most of the population are adherents of any of the three of the major monotheistic religions exhibit high levels of political violence. Indeed, it was the wealthy, predominantly Christian countries of Western Europe that pioneered the use of modern military violence against civilian populations: administrative massacres and genocide against colonial populations, unrestricted submarine warfare and conventional aerial bombardment of cities. Consider that the only country that has ever committed mass murder with nuclear weapons had and has a predominantly Christian population. All of the casualties from terrorism by non-state actors over the last century and a half were exceeded several times over by the casualties in the little known genocide by the German Army in 1904-1905 against the Herroro in German Southwest Africa (today's Namibia).
Efforts to demonize Islam as generating political violence often begin with accounts of the Assassins, a small Shi'a sect that disappeared after the 11th century. Founded by Hassan Sabbah, a well-educated Ismali leader, the Assassins sowed fear among Islamic elites throughout the Seljuk Empire, one of many nomadic empires that ruled parts of the Eurasian steppe lands. Although firing the romantic Orientalist imagination, the Assassins were never terribly powerful or significant. Real power, then as now, required large scale military organizations supported by states.
The origins of modern terror in the Middle East and elsewhere may be traced to the Eastern Europe and the Balkans. The first modern terrorist organizations were People's Will or Народная Воля in Russia, which was organized in 1879, and the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization or Вътрешна македонска революционна организация or Внатрешна Македонска Револуционерна Организација, commonly known in English as I.M.R.O. , which was founded in 1893 in Ottoman-occupied Thessaloniki. Their use of modern weapons, especially explosives, to force political change provided the model for revolutionary organizations around the world. Much of what is today deemed Islamist terrorism was learned from secular political revolutionary organizations.
- Maalouf, Amin. Samarkand. New York, Quartet Books, 1998.
--EphemeralNotion 19:26, 2 Jun 2004 (PDT)