Sociology of Terrorism is gaining importance as a subject of study. Martha Crenshaw observed, "The actions of terrorist organizations are based on a subjective interpretation of the world rather than objective reality." Terrorist groups prosper because they are supported by an ethnic, religious, and also a political base that is sympathetic to their cause. One mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter, makes it all the more difficult to define terrorism. The implications of defining the term terrorism tend to transcend the boundaries of theoretical discussions.
In Terrorist Ideology the variables from which their belief systems are formed include their political and social environments, cultural traditions, and the internal dynamics of their clandestine groups. Terrorist Ideology, Religious Perception, and convictions do seem irrational or delusional to society in general. Terrorists view the world within the narrow lens of their own ideology or Terrorist Ideology, whether it be Marxism, Leninism, anarchism, nationalism, Islamic fundamentalism, or some other ideology.
Most researchers agree that terrorists generally do not regard themselves as terrorists but rather as soldiers, liberators, martyrs, and legitimate fighters for noble social causes. Those terrorists who recognize that their actions are terroristic are so committed to their cause that they do not really care how they are viewed in the outside world. Others may be just as committed, but loathe to be identified as terrorists as opposed to freedom fighters or national liberators.
Monroe and Kreidie conclude that "fundamentalists see themselves not as individuals but rather as symbols of Islam." They argue that it is a mistake for Western policymakers to treat Islamic fundamentalists as rational actors and dismiss them as irrational when they do not act as predicted by traditional cost/benefit models. "Islamic fundamentalism should not be dealt with simply as another set of political values that can be compromised or negotiated, or even as a system of beliefs or ideology (Terrorist Ideology), such as socialism or communism, in which traditional liberal democratic modes of political discourse and interaction are recognized."
Existing works that attempt to explain religious fundamentalism often rely on modernization theory and point to a crisis of identity, explaining religious fundamentalism as an antidote to the dislocations resulting from rapid change, or modernization. Islamic fundamentalism in particular is often explained as a defense against threats posed by modernization to a religious group's traditional identity.
Rejecting the idea of fundamentalism as
rational choice theory and theorists point to unequal
socioeconomic development as the basic reason for the discontent and alienation these
individuals experience. Caught between an Islamic culture that provides moral values and
spiritual satisfaction and a modernizing Western culture that provides access to material
improvement, many Muslims find an answer to resulting anxiety, alienation, and
disorientation through an absolute dedication to an Islamic way of life.
Harold M. Cubert argues that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), guided by Marxist economic ideology, has misjudged the reasons for popular hostility in the Middle East against the West, "for such hostility, where it exists, is generally in response to the threat which Western culture is said to pose to Islamic values in the region rather than the alleged economic exploitation of the region's inhabitants."