It is often said that religion causes terrorism. Until recently the facts said otherwise. But now it appears to be true, in five countries at any rate.
The changing face of terrorism
Several years ago I reviewed the evidence for the connection between religion and terrorism, and found that religion was generally only a supporting player. The main causes of terrorism were politics, inequality, injustice, and ethnic/national grievances.
However there has been a slow increase in terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and a marked increase since 2011.
Five key countries
In the last few years, terrorism by Wahhabi Islamic groups (Taliban, ISIL, al-Qu’aida and Boko Haram) in 5 countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria) has increased dramatically, now causing 80% of all world deaths by terrorism.
This information is contained in a 2014 Global Terrorism Index (GTI) report by the The Institute for Economics and Peace. The report points out that other factors are still the most important causes of terrorism elsewhere.
Exaggeration and criticism
I’ve also come across some websites that have a different view to the GTI.
- The Guardian newspaper references the report (though it gives the wrong link) but draws slightly stronger or more definite conclusions than the Institute does, perhaps because it has simplified the complex issues involved.
- This page by Global Research suggests that the GTI is incomplete and perhaps biased because it does not include the fighting between Israel and the Palestinian state.
The conclusion is fairly clear. Religion has not been a major factor in terrorism over the past century, but has become a major factor in five countries, and globally, as a result of several Wahhabi Islamic groups. It is inaccurate and unfair to categorise all religions together in this.
I’ve summarised a number of reports on religion and terrorism at Does religion cause terrorism?