Improving Counterterrorism Efforts by Removing Misconceptions about Islam in the Western World   [open pdf - 855KB]

"The defining events of September 11, 2001, began a global political era in which Western culture is increasingly pitted against Muslim society, as if there were a fundamental struggle between the two. In fact, Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations hypothesis has morphed into a self-fulfilling prophecy as the international media has capitalized on its divisive rhetoric for profit, and extremist groups have operationalized its message. By highlighting historical and political grievances, fringe groups such as al-Qaeda (whose tactics are expressly forbidden by Islamic faith) are able to boil all aspects of an aggrieved individual's identity down to salient religious aspects, and then redefine historical terms like 'jihad' and reinterpret religious themes to compel actors. From a Western perspective, extremist actions combine with media coverage to promote a cognitive bias, cementing a conceptual link between Islam and terrorism. This thesis advances the claim that counterterrorism is an issue of grievance and extremism, and that religion has little to do with the issue. By examining relevant teachings from Islam and other faiths, this paper will aim to dispel common divisive myths and misperceptions surrounding Islam. Ultimately, counterterrorism efforts cannot succeed unless campaigns are undertaken to correct misinformation and widespread biases."

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