Towards Developing a Theory for Terrorism

Samir Yousif



In Paris and on Friday, Nov 13, 2015, terrorism committed another crime against humanity (1). One day after the crime a number of pro-Saudi commentators, writers and journalists, went out speaking openly in an attempt to provide a logical “justification” or explanation to why such acts have or should happened. These justifications centered around the argument that the Sunnis, as a sect, are “prosecuted”, or “marginalized”, therefore such a reaction from their side should be fully understood or expected!!

My argument is that, anybody, who claims that the terrorists represent a group of people who are subject to “injustice” and are unwillingly “pushed” to commit such criminal acts, is part of the same killing machine, and can be in many ways linked to the political organization that plans such acts of murder.

Terrorism cannot be justified, and killing of innocent people is a crime against the whole human race.

And with the word terrorism I mean all terrorism and under all circumstances. There is no definition of “good” terrorism and “bad” terrorism. All terrorism is unaccepted by the civilized World. The present Work is an attempt to hunt for facts and bring them together in order to build a theoretical concept out of the history of the last 50 years.

ISIS and Persecution of Sunnis

The creation of ISIS is not linked in no way with the “persecution” of the Sunnis as many pro-ISIS writers and commentators claim. Such a concept is nothing but an attempt to justify the crimes committed by the Islamist terrorists.

In case we agree with this concept then we should assume that a new ISIS state will be established in Bahrain (2) where the ruling Sunni minority applies an apartheid regime against the majority as does Saudi Arabia against the Shia (3) and the Zaidiyyah (4).

The establishment of ISIS was a direct and deliberate act of a number of political forces and the involvement of neighboring and regional countries.

The Origin of ISIS

When did the phenomenon of ISIS appear, and why? By answering this question, one can reply to all the pro-ISIS analysts and writers. In areas like the Middle East, dictators were found in all countries and injustice was practiced everywhere. During the 20th century all Middle East countries never knew what democracy was and yet nothing like ISIS ever developed.

To be more specific, Iraq was run by the Dictator Saddam Hussein. Millions of Iraqis were butchered by this dictator. Neighboring countries suffered greatly from his dictatorship. His rule was based upon the Arab Sunni minority while other components of the Iraqi society were deprived from basic human rights.

So what created ISIS in Iraq was not the grievances but the principles of democracy – one man one vote (5). In order for the Sunnis to take power back in Iraq they have to achieve that either through a military takeover or a rebellion (we had two rebellions since the Sunnis lost power as a result of the USA liberation of Iraq in 2003: one in 2004 when Al-Qaeda was brought into Anbar Province, and secondly in 2014 when ISIS was brought into Iraq). Both of these attempts failed as the Sunnis overlooked the simple fact that they represent a minority of less than 15% of the total population (6).

Looking internationally at the main terrorist organizations such as Boko Haram, Al-Shabbab, Al-Murabitoon (7), ISIS (ISIL), Al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda in Syria), Al-Qaeda, Taliban (Afghanistan), Taliban (Pakistan), Jund Al-Islam (8), Ansar Al-Islam (9), Jemaah Islamiyah (10)  …etc. one can easily notice that all these terrorist organizations are Sunni and follow Wahhabism(11)- with the exception of Taliban. But Sunni Islam was predominating during the last 1400 years without such fanatic or extreme movements. This fact will lead us to the following question: what are the factors that turned the Sunni faith into the main ideology for terrorism? Can it be Wahhabism? Wahhabism as an ideology was known since the 18th-century.

The theme of this paper assumes that the tool for terrorism was established as an unintended consequence of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan during the 1979(12). The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan necessitated Western support of Islamic Mujahedeen as a resistance movement against the Soviets occupation. But this created only the tool for terrorism, i.e., an organization that recruits Islamist fighters for a specific cause.

This historical event was randomly followed by the Iranian Islamic Shia Revolution against the Shah of Iran at the end of the 1970’s. The Iranian leader Khomeini planned to export his Revolution to other Islamic countries. This intention to export the revolution produced strong reaction from neighboring countries like Saudi Arabia and Iraq (13).

Saudi Arabia, the homeland of Wahhabism, had to face the Iranians on several occasions inside the country especially during the Hajj (pilgrimage) (14). But faced with an Iranian attempt to extend beyond its borders and to have a leverage over other countries in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia had to prepare a counter plan.


Walayat-Al-Faqih and the Birth of Political Islam

Iran used the ideology of Walayat-Al-Faqih (15) as the means to control the Shia population in other Muslim countries. As for Saudi Arabia Wahhabism was the only ideology available.

The Shia Muslims in Iran succeeded in drawing international attention and managed to be in the forefront as a direct outcome of the Islamic Revolution against the Shah. The Iranian Supreme Leader Khomeini went international and considered the USA to be the “Great Satan”.  The Iranians occupied the US Embassy in Tehran and came in direct conflict with the USA.

The theme of my argument rests on the assumption that modern Political Islam is an outcome of the Iranian Islamic Revolution and not linked in any way to underground Islamic movements such as the MBH. Islamic traditional writers, since the very beginning of the 20th century, such as Hasan Al-Banna (16) and Sayyid Qutb (17), never succeeded in developing a political theory out of Islam and actually they never wanted(18). Salafist and all Fundamentalists thinkers are committed strongly to the original Quranic verse. This is why they are called Salafists or fundamentalists. Therefore, Political Islam is actually a Shia phenomenon. This conclusion leads us to the statement that all the destruction caused as a result of the birth of a new political ideology, Political Islam, is a result of the Work and activities of Grand Ayatollah Khomeini. Sunni Political Islam is nothing but a reaction to the Iranian Islamic Shia Revolution.

The Sunni reaction to all that had to wait until the 11 September 2001 to present themselves internationally. Al-Qaeda which is a Sunni organization admitted full responsibility for the attacks. They consider the civilians to be a legitimate target, and they showed their willingness and ability to blow up themselves (suicide bomber). By targeting the civilians, they were considered to be terrorists.

The events of 11 September 2001 were used by Al-Qaeda Organization to market itself within the Sunni Muslims all over the World (19).

The Iranian increasing involvement in the Middle East initiated a strong Saudi response. But this response took the form of controlling certain political groups if possible or some uncontrolled terrorist organizations. The use of controlled and uncontrolled organizations to achieve specific political ends became a cornerstone of Saudi typical response. Ample examples can be presented in Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq and Syria. While Libya (20), Tunisia, Mali, Nigeria and Somalia are examples of the involvement of Qatar.

The spread of terrorism to areas outside the Middle East, like Africa, for example, or even Europe, refutes the argument that explains terrorism as an outcome of grievances of the Sunnis as there are no Shia or Alawites ruling over Sunnis in Africa or Europe. 

Religious Schools and Mosques

Terrorist organizations to survive need urgently unlimited supply of terrorists. For this to be met Religious Schools and Mosques have been established worldwide. These religious institutions are financed mainly by Saudi Arabia. A fact that enabled these institutions to teach Wahhabism (21). As long as the Religious Schools and the Mosques are used to spread Wahhabism then terrorist organizations will never face a shortage of manpower.


Practical Implications

The conclusion drawn from the previous analysis has serious practical implications for the policymakers. Terrorism has been created to become an important player in international politics. Many competing countries will try to benefit from such a phenomenon during conflicts and civil wars (22).

In the Middle East and where the societies are mainly Muslims, the analysis above provides road maps for achieving durable stability under the present fragile circumstances. Countries like Libya, Yemen, Syria and Iraq will be excellent examples for this analysis.

The road map produced by this analysis requires that in addition to the indigenous Players the main players or poles (in this case Saudi Arabia and Iran) should reach compromises and settle down their differences otherwise instability will persist. Without such conciliation between the two poles of Islam, national stability and consequently regional stability will be unattainable.

It is an axiom to state that each country is a special case with its own Players. In the case of Syria, and in addition to the indigenous Players, a number of regional Players like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Iran and Iraq should all reach an agreement for a conciliation. For Libya, and beside the indigenous Players, regional Players like UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey (although they are all Sunnis) should also reach a compromise. The efforts of the UN in Libya are fruitless as it is concentrated on bringing the indigenous players together while excluding the regional ones.



[1] “Paris attack had nothing to do with religion” that was the statement said by many western officials, an attempt to draw the public attention away from Muslim communities. Actually, one has to admit that such attacks are the message conveyed by the Quran. It is time to admit that Islam calls for violence and hatred, see ISIL and Islam in Religious Indoctrination and the Creation of Terrorist, New English Review, April 2015.

2- See Apartheid Under the Mandate of Islam, New English Review, July 2011.



5- The USA established on 13 July 2003 first the Governing Council. This council included representatives of all religious, sects and ethnic minorities. It was the first council in history that representing all Iraqis. The Sunnis rejected this council as they were treated as equal as the others. See the following link:

6- UN and USA estimates of the Sunni sect assume the following composition for Iraq: around 60% Shia, 20% Kurds, 15% Arab Sunnis and the last 5% other indigenous minorities such as the Christians, Ṣābi’a Mandaeans and Yezidis , see the following link:

7-This organization claimed responsibility for the hotel attack in Mali on 20 Nov 20015.






13- In Iraq case this led to the Iraq-Iran war that lasted for 8 years. As for Saudi Arabia the reaction was far more complicated.





18-  All the Work of both Hasan Al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb was discussions of existing Islamic concepts and Sharia. I have reviewed all their work and found nothing new to existing Islamic knowledge. On the other hand, Grand Ayatollah Khomeini developed Walayat-Al-Faqih which is a significant diversion from the Shia faith.

19-  I will add to that the role played by Arab media in presenting such terrorists as heroes and airing all the speeches of Al-Qaeda leader Osama Ben Laden several times as Al-Jazeera TV used to do. After 2001 Al-Jazeera TV became the official speaker of Osama Ben Laden.

20-  In Libya all the three countries (Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE) are involved and each one supports a different armed organization.

21-  Religious Schools, Ideology and Terrorism, New English Review, July 2015.

22-  One can extend this argument to include the case of Ukraine and the role of Russia in supporting the insurgents in East Ukraine.