The word terrorism gained popularity during the late 18th Century during the political upheaval in France. The exact psychology behind terrorism is hard to determine. Thus, it has been subject to opinion and beliefs rather than empirical science. Many researchers agree that terrorism is defined as the use of violence in a bid to achieve political aims Terrorism, in the most widely accepted contemporary usage of the term, is fundamentally and inherently political. It is also ineluctably about power: “the pursuit of power, the acquisition of power, and the use [1]of power to achieve political change.” However, terrorism has been seen to encompass many other kinds of conflict without regard to the safety of others around them. “Terrorism is the simplest, most readily available form of violent struggle, and violent struggles exist wherever there is sufficiently acute conflict. Terrorism is the first form of violence that appears when conflicts escalate.”[2]

The Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) and Syria is an extremist group with most members from the Sunni Arabs of Iraq and Syria. For many years, researchers have tried to evaluate the reasons behind what motivates these terrorists to engage in violent crimes to achieve certain goals. They have also endeavored to find out what motivates people to join these terrorist groups. Terrorists tend to target groups that are more vulnerable or those that have felt alienated or discriminated by the society. These vulnerable groups tend to feel like their influence in the society does not warrant much change especially concerning their well-being.

The terrorist recruits feel deprived of privileges and, therefore, develop anger towards the system in which they are subjected. They have been led by the leaders to believe that these violent actions are not illegal or immoral and are instead a necessity to effect change for a better future. They are thus willing to engage in acts of violence to garner attention from the system they feel has been unjust towards them. They feel that speaking out on these issues will not be sufficient cause for the system to be modified to suit their needs. Therefore, action must be taken. They also feel a sense of belonging when they engage in such activities since the members all share the same predicament.

Some researchers suggest that ISIS is a group that desires to expand their territories in which they will be able to claim authority. This is in opposition to the claims that the group is focused on exerting terror to achieve political advancements. “Terrorist networks, such as al-Qaeda, generally have only dozens or hundreds of members, attack civilians, do not hold territory, and cannot directly confront military forces. ISIS, on the other hand, boasts some 30,000 fighters, holds territory in both Iraq and Syria, maintains extensive military capabilities, controls lines of communication, commands infrastructure, fund itself, and engages in sophisticated military operations.”[3] They claim that the organization is slowly shifting from being military oriented to becoming a system that can provide basic needs to the areas it controls.

On the other hand, they are believed to be responsible for prominent figures and leaders such as the Salafi group Ahrarar al-Sham and Muhammad Bahaiah. In addition, punishments including unlawful beheadings and amputations have been associated with the ISIS groups. Chilling videos have been released on their modes of punishment, which highly resemble those of the Sharia Law. These include videos of women being executed by stoning for adultery and even smoking cigarettes. These punishments are inclusive of their members. “ISIS claims that smoking is not representative of Islam, and any of its members caught breaking the rule must endure a series of punishments”[4]



Kronin, Audrey. ‘ISIS Is Not A Terrorist Group’. Foreign Affairs. 2015. ,

Bruce. Inside Terrorism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006. <>.

Merari, A. 1999. “Terrorism as a Strategy of Struggle: Past and Future”. TERRORISM AND POLITICAL VIOLENCE. 11: 52-65.

Wright, Bruce. ‘Islamic State Smoking Cigarettes: Watch ISIS Punish Its Own Fighters For Breaking Militant Group’s Rules’ International Business Times. Last modified 2015. Accessed September 10, 2015.

[1] Merari, A. 1999. “Terrorism as a Strategy of Struggle: Past and Future”. TERRORISM AND POLITICAL VIOLENCE. 11: 52-65.

[2] Hoffman, Bruce. Inside Terrorism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006. <>.

[3] Audrey Kronin, ‘ISIS Is Not A Terrorist Group’, Foreign Affairs, 2015, accessed September 10, 2015,


4Audrey Kronin, ‘ISIS Is Not A Terrorist Group’, Foreign Affairs, 2015, accessed September 10, 2015,

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