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Appendix 2C. Islam, conflict and terrorism



I. Introduction

II. Religion, conflict and terrorism

III. Islamist violence and its context

IV. New developments and responses

V. Conclusions: new approaches to Islamist violence


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With the end of the cold war, religion has increasingly been viewed as a key element in many of the world’s conflicts. In recent years, and particularly after the events of 11 September 2001 in the USA, radical Islam has been identified as a source of violence, including terrorism. While some observers have seen in the growth of religious extremism a ‘clash of civilizations’ in which Islamists are taking a leading role, recent research has shown a more complex picture of Muslim societies and their relationship to the rest of the world. From this perspective, internal transformation and conflict within the Muslim world as a result of globalization is promoting the emergence of new, dynamic and, in some circumstances, violent movements that are often opposed to traditional Islam. The diversity of contemporary Islamist movements and the variety of factors that shape the role of Islam within conflict suggest the need for more sophisticated development of security policies intended to prevent and terminate conflict involving individuals and groups linked to the Muslim world.


Dr Neil J. Melvin (UK) is the Leader of the SIPRI Armed Conflict and Conflict Management Project.