Armed Hostilities

The Three Categories of Dissident Terrorism


Terrorism may be defined as the systemic use of terror to force upon or disband a certain social, religious or political ideology on an unwilling counterpart. As a norm, the terror is un-respectful of other people’s rights and freedoms and may involve tragic bombings, suicide attacks, or guerilla warfare. Most of these attacks are usually well planned with radical groups harboring some sort of organizational hierarchy, typically based on knowledge, wit, money, influence, or power. It is these leaders who then fashion attacks citing heartfelt reasons or a simple need to retaliate upon pent-up steam, a good example of this might be Osama bin Laden’s 9/11 attacks on the Americas.

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“What the U.S.A is enduring now is only a copy of what we have endured…. Our Islamic countries have been enduring the same for more than eighty years going through humiliation and disgrace, with their children killed and their blood spilled, its sanctities desecrated.” -Osama bin Laden, in a videotape aired on Aljazeera on 7th October 2001

This paper seeks to contrast the three categories of dissident terrorism as documented by Assistant Vice President Gus Martin in his bestselling book, Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues.


Dissident terrorism is as James puts it “violence by non-state parties against the government, ethnonational groups, religious groups, and other possible targets.” Categorized into three, dissident terrorism may be looked upon as revolutionary dissident terrorism, nihilist dissident terrorism, or nationalist dissident terrorism.

Revolutionary Dissident Terrorism

Revolutionary dissident terrorism aspires to ‘right a wrong that has been identified in the respective society. Proponents of this paradigm believe that a certain issue is unjust, corrupt, or undeserved and aspire to send out a retaliatory message that is hoped to revert the situation to the norm. In Hezbollah’s case, an increase in Israeli occupancy set off negative feelings within the radical community inspiring a pioneer suicide bomber against the Israeli embassy. The problem with such a move is that innocent people might get hurt in the process with the message not necessarily invoking the response desired, the Israeli might as well not move though they may be careful where they trod.

Nihilist Dissident Terrorism

Gus defines this form of terrorism as “Revolution for the Sake of Revolution” (2010). Dissenters of this sect base their terrorist acts on the “19th-century Russian philosophical belief that only scientific truth can end ignorance” and launch attacks to end what they consider an “unbearable society” (Jamet, 2009). While having no replacement for the targeted society, the nihilist dissenters self-righteously put many civilians at risk and for mostly unjust reasons: not that history records any justifiable nihilist attack.

Nationalist Dissident Terrorism

Nationalist dissenters assume an elevated ambition in society, launching attacks against say an authoritarian government like West Germany’s Red Army Faction did in the late 1960s. The objective is to attain a better system of government or political system though it might sometimes degenerate into baseless violence such as terrorism for the release of captured members.

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The Differences Between Right Wing and Left Wing Terrorism

Right-Wing Terrorism

Right-wing terrorism is aimed at promoting white racial supremacy with an added (strong) disregard for government and regulation. Groups in this class may vary in their attacks and beliefs but the binding notion is a deep suspicion of White House and Washington citing disarming conspiracies, taking away America’s guns, and excessive taxation. An example of a right-wing terrorist group is the infamous Ku Klux Klan though its attacks may predominantly have been retaliatory.

Left-Wing Terrorism

Left-wing terrorism borrows many of its ideologies from Marxist teachings and stands against authoritarian governments or imperialist political systems. Good examples of left-wing terrorist groups include the West German Red Army Faction, the Italian Red Brigades, and the French Action Directe.

The Differences Between Sunni and Shia Muslims

Mohamed’s Succession

When Mohammed founded Islam, there was only one Islamic nation that is the one headed by the prophet Mohammed. However, when he died and was to be succeeded, two factions came up: the one that believed in bloodline succession and another that believed in disciplinary inheritance. The faction that believed in the bloodline succession became the forefathers of the modern-day Shia community, accepting the religious leadership of Mohammed’s cousin Ali. The opposition believed in Mohamed’s closest disciple his advisor Abu Bakr: these represented the founding fathers of modern-day Sunna (, 2011).

Ruling Qualifications

According to the Sunna, an Islamic leader has to come from Mohamed’s tribe, for the Shia he has to descend from Mohamed’s bloodline.

Al Mahdi

The Sunna believe that the Al Mahdi is yet to come in history; the Shia believe that the Al Mahdi already came to Earth but is hidden from the public eye.

Temporary Marriage

The Sunna now disbands temporary marriages though the Shia still practice it.

Holy Cities

The Sunna don’t recognize Narjaf and Karbala as holy cities whereas the Shia do. The Sunna also don’t recognize Ashura as a holy day whereas the Shia do.

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Gus M., (2010). Understanding Terrorism. Challenges Perspectives and Issues. Web.

Jamet D., (2009). Justifiable Terrorism. Web., (2011). Sunni and Shia Muslims. Web.

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