The causes of terrorism have been explained to include the following:-
i.        Psychology
ii.       Political explanations
iii.      Economic factors;
iv.      Religion and
v.       culture


            Apart from the above-listed causes of terrorism, different writers/ sources have either added more issues to the afore-listed causes of terrorism, or have had divergent list of the causes of terrorism. For instance, the Transnational Terrorism, security & the Rule of Law53 has divided the causes of terrorism into:-

i.       Root and

ii.      Trigger causes

         According to the source,

i.       Root causes (or preconditions) are those factors that set the stage for terrorism over the long run. The list of root cause runs thus:

a.      Lack of democracy, civil liberties and the rule of law.

b.      Rapid modernization and urbanization in the form of high         economic growth has also been found to correlate strongly with the            emergence of ideological terrorism, but not with ethno- nationalist        terrorism54.   

c.      Extremist ideologies of a secular or religious nature are at least an       intimidate cause of terrorism, although people usually adopt such            extremist ideologies as a consequence of more fundamental     political or personal reasons.         


d.      Historical antecedents of political violence, civil wars, revolutions,    dictatorships or occupation may lower the threshold for acceptance     political violence and terrorism, and impede the development of           non-violent norms among all segments of society.  

e.      Hegemony and inequality of power. Terrorism offers the possibility    of achieving high political impact with limited means. Take for            instance, when local or international powers possess an    overwhelming power compared to oppositional groups, and the         latter see no other realistic ways to forward their cause by normal       political or military means, can represent a tempting option.   

f.       Illegitimate or corrupt governments frequently give rise to         opposition that may turn to terrorist means if other avenues are not         seen as realistic options for replacing these regimes with a more    credible and legitimate government or a regime which represents      the values and interests of opposition movement.       

g.      Powerful external actors upholding illegitimate governments may        be seen an insurmountable obstacle to needed regime change.   Such external support to illegitimate governments is frequently    seen as foreign domination through puppet regimes serving the         political and economic interests of foreign sponsors.      

h.      Repression by foreign occupation or by colonial power has given        rise to a great many national liberation movements that have       sought resource in terrorist tactics and other political means.

i.       The experience of discrimination on the basis of ethnic or religious    origin is the chief root cause of ethno-nationalist terrorism.

j.       Failure or unwillingness by the state to integrate dissident groups        or emerging social classes may lead their alienation from the            political system.     

k.      The experience of social injustice is a main motivating cause    behind social revolutionary terrorism.

l.          The presence of charismatic ideological leaders able to transform     widespread grievances and frustration into a political agenda for       violent struggle is a decisive factor behind the emergence of a             terrorist movement or group.

            Those are the root causes of terrorism as postulated by the transnational terrorism, security and the rule of law, “explaining root and trigger causes of terrorism.

ii.         Trigger causes (or percipients) are specific events that immediately precede the occurrence of terrorism. The following are the trigger causes of terrorism,

(a)       Existence of concrete grievances among an identifiable subgroup of a larger population, such as an ethnic minority discriminated against by the majority.

(b)       Lack of opportunity for political participation.

            Going back to the first list of the causes of terrorism as postulated by the club de Madrid Series on Democracy and terrorism, in the international summit on democracy terrorist and security”, let us know what the five various contributors on the five causes of causes of terrorism as presented by the summit have to say.

1.         Psychology55             

In the view of Jerrold M. P; it is not going too far to assert that terrorists are psychologically normal in the sense of not being clinically psychotic. They are neither depressed, severely emotionally disturbed, nor are they crazed fanatics. In fact, terrorist groups and organizations regularly screen out emotionally unstable individuals. They represent after all, a security risk56.

            Psychology is one of the major causes of terrorism. It entails ‘working” on the physics of perpetrators of terrorist activities. There is a multiplicity of individual motivations. For some it is to give a sense of power to the powerless, for others, 


revenge is a primary motivation, for still others, it is to gain a sense of significance. Within each group, there are motivational differences among the members, each of whom will be driven to differing degrees by group interest versus self-serving actions, as well as those inspired by ideology57.

            A general clarity exists which is, it is not individual psychology, but group, organizational and social physiology, that provides the greatest analytical power in understanding this complex phenomenon.

2.         Political explanations58

            It is apparent that terrorism is not a monolithic phenomenon but rather quite diverse, not only in terms of ideology but in organization and inception. Many a time terrorism is associated with social movement or political party that enjoys significant popular support, largely as a result of its non-violent activities such as providing much needed social services. (Hamas and Hezbollah are examples of such implanted organizations). Such actors employ terrorism because it is temporarily expedient means of pressuring a government. They can survive, even flourish, without using terrorism. Other groups are more socially isolated.



They may be splinter factions of larges organizations, or small groups that have formed in order to use terrorism. Such groups have few options other than terrorism and over time it may become an identity for them as much as a strategy. Groups of both types are subject to internal strains and divisions and factionalism is common. Their leaders struggle to maintain cohesion and loyalty59.

3.         Religion60

            Religion may also be a cause of terrorism people get indoctrinated and can be irrational to attack innocent people in fulfillment of their so-called religious obligation.

            Religion being a very effective tool used to effecting all forms of change in society, has had it adverse effect on the society by having powered, empowered, legitimating violence and motivating violent activists and followers.

            Mark J. accepts that:

i.          Religion is seldom the only cause of terrorism

ii.         Religion can contribute to a ‘culture of violence

iii.       Religious terrorism has an ambivalent relationship with the state

iv.        Terrorism can be found in all religious traditions61.   


4.         Economic Factors62

            Ted, Robert posits;

Terrorism is a tactic sometimes a strategy, chosen by groups waging conflict. In addition to their ideologically- driven pursuit of ethno-national, religious, or revolutionary objectives, the perpetrators justify their choice of terrorism – rather than other political strategies by a mix of rational calculation about its costs and benefits63.

            Economic factor as a cause of terrorism has to do with the resources, material and economic that a terrorist group or organization stands to gain after they have perpetrated their act or the resources they have that propel them to carry out their terrorist activities.


52 Addressing the causes of terrorism, the club de Madrid series on democracy and terrorism vol. 6 in the international summit on democracy terrorism and security -8-11 March 2005 Madrid    

53 Exploring  Root and trigger causes of terrorism, 28 June 2007, Revised, April 2008 in www.transnationalalterrorism.eu

54. Reshow, M. “The causes of terrorism”  comparative politics, (1981) vol.13, no.4    

55 Jerrold, M. P., “Addressing the Causes of Terrorism” club de Madrid Series on Democracy and Terrorism vol. 1

56 Ibid pg 7

57 Ibid pg 7

58 Martha, C. “Addressing the Causes of terrorism” club de Madrid Services on Democracy and terrorism vol.1 

59 Ibid pg 13

60. Mark J., Club de Madrid International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security (2005). Addressing the Causes of terrorism, vol.1    

61 Ibid pgs 27 and 28

62 Ted, R. G Club de Madrid International Summit on Democracy, terrorism and security (2005). Addressing the causes of terrorism vol.1

63 Ibid pg 19
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