Institute of European Studies
Fundamentalist terrorism – the assault on the symbols of secular power
- Author(s): Halfmann, Jost
- et al.
Jost Halfmann argues that fundamentalist terrorism is an extreme expression of protest against the separation of state and religion; this form of protest is motivated by a utopian vision of society as a community of the faithful. The protest against secular states arises in states with forced modernization politics (such as Iran or Egypt), but also in states which base national identity on religion (such as Israel) and in states with high popular religiosity (such as the US). The terrorist form of protest exhibits an extreme form of self-ascribed marginality. Terrorism seems to be the only expression of protest when the enemy is considered overwhelmingly powerful, the struggle must, however, not be lost. Fundamentalist terrorists view themselves as being engaged in a cosmic war enforced on them by the enemy. Terrorist assaults are, therefore, symbolic acts of violence against symbols of the enemy's power to demonstrate emporarily the enemy's weakness.