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Which Terror Is Greater: Secular or Religious? Essay


Secular terror is anything that does not have to do with religion; however, religious tactics can be used to get ahead in secular terrorist organizations. Religious terror is based on the protecting, converging, and maintaining beliefs of a religion upheld by a religious terrorist group. Although different tactics are carried out by each different group of terror, they have some core features in common, such as emotionally evocative symbols, rituals, and myths (Alcorta, Phillips, Sosis, 2012). With their differences and similarities, the question at hand is which terror is greater? Religious terror is a greater threat because it is more widespread and brutal than secular terror. Secular terror remains a threat but not as big a threat as religious terror.

Which Terror Is Greater: Secular or Religious?

There is much perplexity about where to draw the line between secular and religious terror. Secular terror is distinct from religious terror in many ways. Religious terror is done in the name of a “God”, whereas, secular terrorism is anything but to do with religion. With diverse definitions and goals sought after by each group, a question poses; which terror is greater: secular or religious?

A Vague Definition of Secular Terror

Secular terror, as stated before, is anything but to do with religion. Secular groups are more likely to carry out discerning attacks to realize a political objective. They mainly target individuals and political dignitaries. “They do not kill on a massive scale, but on a more individual basis,” (Garcia, 2011). Casualties in such attacks must remain at a minimum to be able to achieve their goal. It is imperative that attacks be carried out this way to avoid repercussions that could wreak havoc on the organization itself. Secular groups are also very careful that the world around them perceives them as a lucid organization that has genuine tribulations at hand. Secular groups carry out their attacks in such fashion not only to keep up appearances, but also in an attempt not to discourage any political or economic support they may receive from any external parties. The main goal of secular parties is assassination. Once realization of any goal set is achieved, the secular group is finished.Secular Terrorist Organizations

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or LTTE is “secular and is eager to maintain its secular status,” (Schalk, 2003). The LTTE is the only terrorist group in the world that once had its own military. The FBI stated that the LTTE “is one of the most dangerous and deadly extremist outfits in the world and the world should be concerned about the outfit as they had inspired networks worldwide” in their report of January 10, 2008 (SATP, 2011). Their main objective was to create a separate homeland for the Tamils known as the Tamil Eelam in the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka. One of the major aspects of the LTTE’s operations was its publicity, fund-raising and military gaining schemes.

The largest publicity centers were located in the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, and Australia. The most financial support they received came from six main areas: Switzerland, Australia, the UK, Canada, and the Scandinavian countries. At one time, the LTTE had come to gain control of nearly one-fourth of the territory of the island nation. However, they were demolished when their chief, Velupillai Prabhakaran, was killed on May 18, 2009. Three broad groups of the remaining LTTE parties are now presumed to still exist in various parts of the world.

Religious Terror Outlined

Religious terror is a form of intimidation towards others to converge to the same religious beliefs as the religious terrorist group. Everything done by a religious group is done in the name of the “God” for that specific religion. These groups feel that they must defend their beliefs at all costs. If they feel threatened in the manner that their beliefs would be jeopardized or converged to other beliefs, they feel they must act. Their acts are done for a higher power and have divine significance in their eyes.

In contrast to secular groups, religious terror groups usually intend to impose as many casualties as possible. They use destructive tactics. The amount of lives “sacrificed” in the name of their cause is of no consequence to them. The benefits of the afterlife overweigh their actions in their life here on Earth. Anyone who is not a believer in their eyes, whether they are the immediate target or just collateral damage, deserves death. It is considered their “moral duty” to kill any non-believers. Religious terror groups do not concern themselves with the enemy’s counterattacks.

Religious Terrorist Organizations

Al-Qaeda is a broad-based militant Islamist organization founded by Osama bin Laden in the late 1980s. Al-Qaeda started as a logistical network to support Muslims who were fighting during the Afghan War against the Soviet Union. Their members are recruited throughout the entire world. After the Soviets retreated in 1989, Al-Qaeda disbanded; however, they continued to oppose any corrupt Islamic regimes and foreign presence in Islamic lands. Al-Qaeda joined forces with other militant Islamist organizations. That included Egypt’s Islamic Jihad. They have declared holy war on the United States on very many occasions. Al-Qaeda was driven into hiding in 2001. The invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 compromised their communication, operational, and financial connections.

This stimulated a structural evolution for Al-Qaeda. They use the Internet as an expansive venue for communication and recruitment. They also use it as a “mouthpiece” for video messages, broadcasts, and propaganda. Al-Qaeda was said to have reached its greatest strength since the attacks of September 2011 at the end of the first decade of the 21st century. On May 2, 2011, Osama bin Laden was killed by military forces after U.S. intelligence found him living in a secure compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. His long-serving deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was appointed to take bin Laden’s place on June 16, 2011.

Which Terror Is Greater?

There is a broad difference between secular terror and religious terror. There is also a common basis between the two. They both employ core features such as emotionally evocative symbols, rituals, and myths (Alcorta, Phillips, and Sosis, 2012). It is my personal opinion that religious terror is a greater threat to the global community. Secular terrorism poses a significant threat; however, as stated before, these groups tend to aim towards more discriminating acts and they try to keep casualties at a minimum.

In simpler words, they do what they were there to do and they get out. Religious terror is so much more complex. There are so many different religions throughout the globe. There are so many different beliefs whether they may be peaceful or most violent. It is not written on the foreheads of each individual whether they are a terrorist or not; therefore, it would be very difficult to be able to defend ourselves. Terrorism cannot be narrowed down to a single person, religion, or race. It is impossible to believe that there could be a solution to so many various religions and beliefs opposing each other.


Secular terrorism is in its simplest definition, anything but to do with religion. Religious terror is anything but simple. Secular terror has focused targets and a not always flawless plan, but never-the-less a set plan and focus. Religious terror may have a primary aim, but it is willing to take any mission put in its path in order to achieve an ultimate outcome. It is unpredictable and unconscientious to the end result or casualties at hand. That is why religious terror is a greater threat to the global community than is secular terror.

al-Qaeda. (2013). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/734613/al-Qaeda Garcia, M. (2011). Secular and religious terrorism. (Master’s thesis, Kaplan University)Retrieved from http://www.termpaperwarehouse.com/essay-on/Secular-And-Religious-Terrorism/53060 Goals and motivations of terrorists. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.terrorism-research.com/goals/ Liberation tigers of tamil eelam (ltte). (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/shrilanka/terroristoutfits/LTTE.HTM Sosis, R., Phillips, E. J., & Alcorta, C. S. (2012). Sacrifice and sacred values: Evolutionary perspectives on religious terrorism. (pp. 233-253). White, J. R. (2011). Terrorism and homeland security. (7th ed.).

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