This section of DiscoverTheNetworks focuses on organizations whose modus operandi is terrorism, defined by the FBI as the “unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” Special attention is given to the Islamic terror groups that have carried out so many spectacular and deadly attacks against civilians around the world in recent years.
Islamic terrorism is based on a dualistic view that divides humanity into two separate and mutually exclusive spheres: (a) the followers of Islam, or "believers," on the one hand, and (b) all non-Muslims, or "infidels," on the other. Just as humanity is divided into believers and infidels, the planet itself is divided into the abode of Islam (dar al-Islam), namely the region under Muslim rule, and the abode of war (dar al-harb), referring to all lands not yet under Muslim rule, which must be conquered by the sword.
The "family tree" of modern-day terrorist groups traces its roots back to the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni organization founded in 1928 by the Egyptian activist Hasan al-Banna. Egypt has historically been the center of the Brotherhood’s operations, though the group maintains offshoots throughout the Arab-Muslim world and is also active in the United States and Europe. Islam expert Robert Spencer has called the Muslim Brotherhood "the parent organization of Hamas and al Qaeda."
The Brotherhood was founded in accordance with al-Banna’s proclamation that Islam should be “given hegemony over all matters of life.” Accordingly, the organization seeks to establish a unified caliphate (kingdom) spanning the entire Muslim world. It also aspires to make Islamic law (Shari’a) the sole basis of jurisprudence and governance on earth. Toward this purpose -- encapsulated in the Brotherhood’s militant credo: “God is our objective, the Koran is our Constitution, the Prophet is our leader, struggle is our way, and death for the sake of God is the highest of our aspirations” -- the Brotherhood since its founding has supported the use of armed jihad to achieve its ends against its enemies, most notably the United States and Israel.
One of the Muslim Brotherhood's offshoots, al Qaeda, is most famous for having carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The group was founded in approximately 1988 by Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam, and Muhammad Atef -- the latter a native Egyptian and a onetime member of the terrorist group Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Al Qaeda's overriding objective is to establish a worldwide caliphate governing all the earth via the dictates of Islamic Law. Crucial to the achievement of that goal is the destruction of America by any means necessary. As one Al Qaeda Training Manual makes explicitly clear, violence is the preferred method of dealing with the enemy:
"Islamic governments have never and will never be established through peaceful solutions and cooperative councils. They are established as they [always] have been by pen and gun, by word and bullet, by tongue and teeth."
The manual further exhorts jihadists to "pledge ... to make their [the infidels'] women widows and their children orphans ... to slaughter them like lambs and let the [rivers] flow with their blood."
The other most noteworthy outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas ("Islamic Resistance Movement"), is a radical fundamentalist group founded in 1987. Its avowed purpose is "liberating Palestine" from its Jewish "oppressors," whose presence in the Middle East Hamas considers an affront to Muslim sovereignty over the land of the Prophet Mohammad. The Hamas Charter, written in 1988, explicitly abjures negotiated settlements as mechanisms for peaceful coexistence with infidels: "There is no other solution for the Palestinian problem other than jihad. All the initiatives and international conferences are a waste of time and a futile game." According to the Charter, those against whom jihad is to be directed are the Jews.
The sentiments and objectives of the Muslim Brotherhood, al Qaeda, and Hamas are mirrored as well in the pronouncements and activities of other Islamic terrorist groups such as the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad.
In addition to Islamic terrorist organizations, this section of DiscoverTheNetworks also examines the goals and activities of secular leftist terror groups, past and present. Among these are the Weather Underground, the Symbionese Liberation Army, the Animal Liberation Front, and the Earth Liberation Front.
The RESOURCES column on the right side of this page contains a link to
the section where profiles of terrorist groups can be
found. It also contains links to articles, essays, books, and videos that explore such topics as:
- Islamic terrorist groups that have explicitly called for the genocide of Jews, Americans, and other "infidels";
- Palestinian/Arab terrorism and its various manifestations in the 20th and 21st centuries;
- the most recent terrorist incidents to occur in various places around the world; and
- the Communist roots of Palestinian terrorist organizations.