Sociology Index

Terrorism Related Terms

Sociology of Terrorism, Terrorist Groups

Afghans - Veterans of the Afghan War. A number of the would-be mujahideen, or Islamic resistance fighters, who flocked to Afghanistan in the 1980s and early 1990s later applied the skills and contacts acquired during the Afghan War and its aftermath to engage in terrorist activities elsewhere. Afghans also transmitted the knowledge they acquired to a new generation of Muslim militants in countries as different as Algeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, France, and the Philippines. Afghan terrorists, who operate independently of state sponsors, draw on global funding and are savvy about modern weapons and explosives.

Assassins - A sect of Shiite Muslims called the Assassins used assassination as a tool for purifying the Muslim religion between the eleventh and the thirteenth century . The Assassins' victims, who were generally officials, were killed in public to communicate the error of the targeted official. The Assassin would allow himself to be apprehended and killed in order to demonstrate the purity of his motives and to enter Heaven.

Baader-Meinhof Gang - Journalistic name for the Red Army Faction (Rote Armee Fraktion--RAF). Although the RAF had been reduced to fewer than 20 members by the early 1990s. The group's support network, reportedly involving hundreds of Germans, many of whom are well-educated professionals, helps to account for its possible survival.

Fundamentalism - The term is used to refer to people who dedicate their lives to pursuing the fundamentals of their religion.

Cult - Journalistic term for an unorthodox system of religious beliefs and ritual that scholars of religion generally refrain from using.

Fight or Flight - A theory developed by W.B. Cannon in 1929. When an individual is under stress, the heart rate increases, the lungs operate more efficiently, adrenalin and sugar are released into the bloodstream, and the muscles become infused with blood.

Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis - An hypothesis that every frustration leads to some form of aggression and every aggressive act results from some prior frustration. As defined by Ted Robert Gurr: "The necessary precondition for violent civil conflict is relative deprivation, defined as actors' perception of discrepancy between their value expectations and their environment's apparent value capabilities. This deprivation may be individual or collective."

Groupthink - As originally defined by I.L. Janis, "a mode of thinking that people engage in when the members' strivings for unanimity override the motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action."

Guerrilla - A revolutionary who engages in insurgency as opposed to terrorism, although guerrillas also use terrorist methods. Usually operating relatively openly in less-developed countries, guerrillas attempt to hold territory and generally attack the state's infrastructure, whereas terrorists usually operate in urban areas and attack more symbolic targets. Guerrillas usually coerce or abduct civilians to join them, whereas terrorists are highly selective in whom they recruit.

International Terrorism - Although the Central Intelligence Agency distinguishes between international and transnational terrorism (international being terrorism carried out by individuals or groups controlled by a sovereign state and transnational terrorism being terrorism carried out by autonomous nonstate actors), the distinction is not used in this paper. This is because the distinction is unnecessarily confusing, not self-evident, and lacking in usefulness, whereas the term "state-sponsored terrorism" is self-evident and unambiguous. Moreover, one would have to be extremely well informed to know which terrorist acts are state-sponsored.

Intifada - The uprising by Palestinians begun in October 1987 against Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Also the name of the involved Liberation Army of Palestine, a loosely organized group of adult and teenage Palestinians active in 1987-93 in attacks on armed Israeli troops. Their campaign for self-determination included stone-throwing and petrol bombing. Some 1,300 Palestinians and 80 Israelis were killed in the uprising up to the end of 1991.

Jihad - An Arabic verbal noun derived from jahada ("to struggle"). Although "holy war" is not a literal translation, it summarizes the essential idea of jihad. In the course of the revival of Islamic fundamentalism, the doctrine of jihad has been invoked to justify resistance, including terrorist actions, to combat "un-Islamic" regimes, or perceived external enemies of Islam, such as Israel and the United States.

June Second Movement - An anarchistic leftist group formed in West Berlin in 1971 that sought to resist the liberal democratic establishment in West Berlin through bombings, bank robberies, kidnappings, and murders. The group was named after the anniversary of Benno Ohnejorg's death, who was killed in a demonstration against the visiting Shah of Iran in Berlin on June 2,1967. The group was closely associated with the Red Army Faction and after the majority of its members had been arrested by the end of the 1970s, the remainder joined the RAF.

Mindset - A noun defined by American Heritage Dictionary as: "1. A fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person's response to and interpretation of situations; 2. an inclination or a habit." Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (10th ed.) defines it as 1. A mental attitude or inclination; 2. a fixed state of mind. The term dates from 1926 but apparently is not included in dictionaries of psychology.

Mujahideen - A general designation for Muslim fighters engaged in jihad, as well as the name of various Muslim political and paramilitary groups like the Afghan Mujahideen.

Personality - The distinctive and characteristic patterns of thought, emotion, and behavior that define an individual's personal style of interacting with the physical and social environment.

Psychopath - A mentally ill or unstable person, especially one having a psychopathic personality, according to Webster's.

Psychopathy - A mental disorder, especially an extreme mental disorder marked usually by egocentric and antisocial activity, according to Webster's.

Psychopathology - The study of psychological and behavioral dysfunction occurring in mental disorder or in social disorganization, according to Webster's.

Psychotic - Of, relating to, or affected with psychosis, which is a fundamental mental derangement (as schizophrenia) characterized by defective or lost contact with reality, according to Webster's.

Red Army Faction - The RAF, formerly known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang, was a group of German anarchistic leftist terrorists active from May 11, 1972, to the early 1990s.

Sociopath - Basically synonymous with psychopath. Sociopathic symptoms in the adult sociopath include an inability to tolerate delay or frustration, a lack of guilt feelings, a relative lack of anxiety, a lack of compassion for others, a hypersensitivity to personal ills, and a lack of responsibility. Many authors prefer the term sociopath because this type of person had defective socialization and a deficient childhood.

Sociopathic - Of, relating to, or characterized by asocial or antisocial behavior or a psychopathic personality, according to Webster's.

Terrorism - the systematic, calculated employment of violence and intimidation to coerce a government or community,