Combating Terrorism


Dr. Ali S. Awadh Asseri

(Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon)


      Terrorism is not a new phenomenon. In some respects, what is known as terrorism in contemporary jargon predates by millennia the modern term used to describe it. This is not to say that the act of terrorism has remained static. In fact, as the difficulties involved in defining it reflect, terrorism has evolved considerably over the years. It may be that it has retained some of the same characteristics that have historically typified it. A definitive ascertainment of when it was first used may be difficult. What we call terrorism today traces its roots back at least some 2,000 years. Moreover, today's terrorism, in some respects, has come full circle as many of its contemporary practitioners are motivated by religious convictions – something that drove many of their earliest predecessors. It has also, in the generally accepted usage of the word, often possessed a political dimension. This has coloured much of the discourse surrounding terrorism – a phenomenon that, according to Paul Pillar, is 'a challenge to be managed, not solved'.[1]

    The history of terrorism is as old as the history of religion itself. In fact, until the end of the nineteenth century, religion provided the only justification for terrorism. From the beginning of the nineteenth century up to the 1980s, however, religious terrorism was overshadowed by anarchist, socialist revolutionary, counter-revolutionary, anti-colonial and ethno-nationalist terrorism. These include anti-colonial and post-colonial movements for national liberation in the shape of ethno-nationalist terrorism, and right wing and left wing terrorism.[2] Religion became a far more popular means for terrorism in the post-Cold War era as old ideologies were discredited by the collapse of the Soviet Union and communist ideology. Samuel P Huntington's 1993 'clash of civilizations' thesis placed religion at the heart of regional and global conflicts in the post-Cold War period.[3]


[1] Paul R. Pillar, Terrorism and US Foreign Policy. (Washington, DC:

   Brookings Institute Press, 2001), p. vii

[2]  Reich, op. cit.

[3]  Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilization and the Remaking of   

    the World Order (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), pp. 45-46.