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How significant was 9/11?

What is a terrorist? Why do people become terrorist?

What are the causes of terrorism?

How has the nature of terrorism changed in the 20th and 21st Century?

What were the events that led to 9/11?

What happened on 9/11?

How was 9/11 portrayed by the US government and the western media?

How was 9/11 portrayed by al –Qaeda and other terrorist groups?

How was 9/11 portrayed in the media in non-Western countries?

How did the US and the West respond to 9/11 in the short term?

Why is 9/11 significant today?

What are the causes of terrorism?

There are many reasons why people have chosen to resort to terrorist tactics over the years. In general terms the terrorist group will make use of these tactics, rather than non-violent methods, as they may:

a) feel that there is no alternative but to use force.

b) feel that these tactics have the potential to force change.

c) view the use of terror as appropriate 'revenge' against a perceived enemy.


a) The IRA used force partly because the democratic process, in their view, had failed and was unlikely to result in any positive outcome. The actions of the British Government and Armed Forces, in their opinion, proved this and as the Government response to calls for improvements etc hardened, so to did their 'need' to use terror tactics.

b) Zionist groups bombed British targets in Palestine in the 1930's as they felt this would prompt the British and the International community into creating an independent Jewish State.

c) The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine used violence against the isreali's as they felt this was legitimate given that the Isreali's occupied what they considered to be their land.

Of course none of the groups mentioned here simply decided one day that they were going to take up arms and terrorise people. The movement towards the use of terror often has deep rooted causes and in many cases follows a long period of grievance. Some of the more common grievances that lead to extremism and terrorism are outlined below.

Social Reasons:

In areas where there are minority groups there have been incidences of terrorism emerging as a result of these groups not being granted adequate rights or as a result of seeing their culture destroyed. One example of this being the case is the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka who fought to have an independent nation for the Tamils.


Throughout History there have been examples of terrorism being used by Nationalist groups who were trying to gain indepedence and the right to self determination. Examples include Boudicca, whom the Romans viewed as a terrorist; the Black Hand organisation assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 due for this reason.

Religious Reasons:

When Religious Freedoms are violated groups often resort to the use of terror tactics to try and address the issue. One example is the Ugyhur Separatist Movement who responded to the suppression of their religion by the Chinese authorities by launching a bombing campaign.

Below is a selection of terrorist groups and a brief explanation as to their grievance / aims:

Terrorist Organisation Grievances / Aims
  • Blame Western influences for the decline of Islamic states.
  • Believe it is right to fight a Holy War to remove foreign states from Holy Islamic Lands.
  • Opposed to US and Western support for Isreal.
Continuity Irish Republican Army
  • Want an end to British rule in Northern Ireland.
  • A united Irish Republic.
  • Want the end of "any imperial presence in Lebanon."
  • The destruction of Isreal.
Palestine Liberation Front
  • "Liberation of the Palestine State through armed struggle"

Note: the PLO no longer advocate the use of terror, this statement is from their original stated aims which have changed considerably since.

Ulster Volunteer Force
  • Destruction of Irish Nationalist paramilitary groups.

Note: Many 'terrorist' groups are not universally condemned as being a terrorist organisation. In the list above, for example, Hezbollah is considered to be a terrorist group by the United States but not by the United Kingdom. Other organisations have also changed their methods and become more widely accepted as a pressure group or representative organisation with which meaningful dialogue and negotiations can take place. The Palestine Liberation Front is an example of one organisation that has changed from terrorist methods to more conventinal diplomatic methods.


The causes of 9/11 terrorism - NYT journalist Thomas Friedman

Source: Osama Bin Laden, February 1998

For more than seven years, the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors and turning its bases in the peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples. The best proof of this is the Americans' continuing aggression against the Iraqi people, using the peninsula as a staging post, even though all its rulers are against their territories being used to that end, but they are helpless.

...These crimes and sins committed by the Americans are a clear declaration of war on God, his messenger and Muslims. And ulema [Muslim scholars] have throughout Islamic history unanimously agreed that the jihad [Holy War] is an individual duty if the enemy destroys the Muslim countries.

On that basis, and in compliance with God's order, we issue the following fatwa to all Muslims:

The ruling is to kill the Americans and their allies is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it, in order to liberate the Al Aqsa mosque [Jerusalem] and the Holy Mosque [Mecca]... This is in accordance with the words of Almighty God...

We call on every Muslim who believes in God and wished to be rewarded to comply with God's order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it.

Source: Osama Bin Laden, May 2001

"Allah ordered us in this religion to purify Muslim land of all non-believers… After World War II, the Americans became more aggressive and oppressive, especially in the Muslim world. American history does not distinguish between civilians and military, and not even women and children. They are the ones who used the bombs against Nagasaki. Can these bombs distinguish between infants and military? America does not have a religion that will prevent it from destroying all people."

What motivates acts of terrorism?  


About.com - asks what the root causes of terrorism are and what conditions are favourable for terrorism to be deployed as a tactic.

Marijke Keet - academic perspective on the causes of terrorism.

nobeliefs.com - looks at the causes of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

eblogs - an overview of terrorism over time and the motives for the actions.

Hwa Chong Institution - part of a larger educational site about Terrorism.

Towson - looks at the roots of a number of terrorist campaigns.

National Bureau of Economic Research - asks whether Poverty is the main cause of terrorism.

Toward Freedom - looks at the causes of terrorism.






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