Similar Ideology and Motives of ISIS and Al Qaeda Terrorist Organizations

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There are many terrorist groups located in the world today. Each have their own focus and goal. One of the most well-known and deadliest terrorist groups today is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). Another well-known terrorist group is Al Qaeda. Their tactics and motivations are far beyond our comprehension. Anyone who has seen or heard the news, knows about these two groups, but what is not known is where they came from or what their intentions are. Both groups however, share similarities and differences that help define them.

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In order to understand where ISIS and Al Qaeda come from, we must first understand what defines a group of people as terrorist group and where they come from. Not many people know what it is that makes a person with extreme political views want to take part in terrorism. From the textbook Understanding the Political World, it states “the U.S State Department defines terrorism as premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents (Pearson 327).” In other words, terrorism is a violent act of an individual or group based on political motives. Bombs can be placed in public areas; mass shootings can occur; deadly chemicals can be placed in anything; attacks on government buildings. Terrorism can occur anywhere at anytime and the occurrence rate changes constantly over time. Terrorist groups are more likely to come from countries with low levels of political freedom.

In 2013 there were nearly 10,000 attacks, 17,000 deaths, and 33,000 injuries in one year’s time (U.S State Department 2014). Most of theses attacks came from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. While not many know why terrorist groups target noncombatants, there are five theories to help explain and guide the acts as said in the political world textbook. First, terrorist can target their own state or another based on injustices, despite civilians injuries. Second, terrorists can target domestic groups. Third, terrorists can act in order to gain international publicity and to prove their claims to the world. Fourth, financial security or the release of imprisoned members can also be a motive of terrorist groups. Fifth and final, terrorist groups may act out to promote revolutionary thoughts. All of these are theories based on political scientists seeking answers.

Al Qaeda is a Sunni militant islamist group founded by Osama bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam in 1988. Al Qaeda began after soviet forces had invaded Afghanistan and after being fought against the soviet troops eventually pushed out and Osama bin Laden met with his associates to keep his new terrorist group alive. Bin Laden’s goal was to recruit Muslims from all over to support him and join his “holy war” also known as jihad. With the help of other groups within the Middle East, Osama bin Laden begun to set out the base of jihad against the West. Al Qaeda’s most devastating attack on the United States was September 11, 2001, when four planes were hijacked; two of them were flown and crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon in D.C, and the last into a Pennsylvania field. After the attacks, United States Military responded to eliminate Al Qaeda and on May 2, 2011 Osama had been killed by U.S Navy Seals.

The ideology and tactics of Al Qaeda are important in understanding who this group really is. The main goals of this group are to remove Americans and their culture out of Muslim nations; destroy Israel and enforce the rise of Islam; and to establish an Islamic nation from the rule of the first Caliphs. Osama bin Laden claimed that apostates of the Islamic faith had a duty to take part in the holy war on Americans. To reach these goals, Al Qaeda has used several different tactics: bombings in cars, roadsides, hijacks, and other tactics. One of the group’s biggest tactics is multiple attacks at the same time to increase the fear level of civilians and maximum damage in an area.

ISIS is originally branched off from Al Qaeda and in 2004 Abu Musab al Zarqawi established Al Qaeda in Iraq: the beginning of ISIS. When Zarqawi was killed in a U.S air strike, al Masri took over and renamed the group to the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). When the views changed from those of Al Qaeda, ISI moved away from the parent group and onto their own path of terrorism. At this point ISI changed their name to what is now known as ISIS. With the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIS’s main goal was to take over Syria and Iraq and now move into other Middle Eastern countries.

ISIS has its own tactics in order to take control of countries. Their tactics include posting gruesome videos of them torturing those who do not believe in Islam faith. These videos including executions of many Muslims and Americans caught in the horrifying hands of ISIS terrorist. ISIS uses one of the theories of international publicity to show their power to the world. “The Islamic State uses mass executions, public beheadings, rape, and symbolic crucifixion displays to terrorize the population into submission and “purify” the community, and at the same time provides basic services (Byman).” To ensure that Syria becomes an Islamic state, ISIS has put themselves as a government, taxing, education limits, and many other societal parts. In consequence of these actions, ISIS has become the world’s deadliest terrorist group. It is by far more brutal and harsh from Al Qaeda and has gained negative attention from all over the world.

While these two terrorist groups are different in several ways, they do share many similarities. Both of these groups share the same ideology which is Wahhabi. This ideology focuses on returning the Middle East back to the early Islam of Koran and is performed by strict Sunni Muslims. In addition to ideology, both groups are internationalist. These groups have strong political views based upon socialism and liberalism; by wanting both economic and social freedom and establishing one religion for everyone to follow. Because these groups come from one another, ISIS and Al Qaeda target and murder non believing Muslims and are youth-oriented in gaining followers. With new technologies in today’s world, it is easier for terrorist groups to put out horrific propaganda videos or actions in order for them to make their point and gain followers. The last main point that these two groups share is when and why these groups started. The beginning of Al Qaeda and soon the creation of ISIS began when allied countries sought out “to control Islamist violence and terrorism from Afghanistan to Syria (AbuKhalil).”

In contrast to the similarities of ISIS and Al Qaeda, these groups have many differences that help distinguish them. One main difference between the two is who they have attacked. Al Qaeda has attacked the United States while ISIS has only attacked neighboring countries. While ISIS has the intentions of attacking the U.S, they have not done so successfully, whereas Al Qaeda has attacked the U.S leaving a devastating impact (9/11). ISIS’s main goal is to become the only Islamic state in the world and to re-establish the caliphate while Al Qaeda’s goal is to attack the United States to push them out of the Middle East all together, leaving vulnerability within the broken state to create the Islamic government.

Despite being on other sides of the world or an ocean away, many countries have felt the threat and violence of terrorism today. Many countries have joined the United States in hopes to diminish the ISIS group. These allied countries include: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (Fantz CNN). These countries have carried out almost 8,200 airstrikes on ISIS in Syria and Iraq combined. The United States is responsible for the majority of the airstrikes, but countries such as Paris and Jordan are fighting back in after major attacks and video threats have been brought upon. The countries around the world want their people and themselves to be safe and have realized that they must be a part of the allied system in order to protect their country.

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With today’s countries fighting for power it is not unlikely that there will be terrorist groups. The two established groups are ISIS and Al Qaeda. The world’s deadliest terrorist group is ISIS, branched from Al Qaeda. These two groups share similarities such as ideology and motives, however, they also differ by their tactics, and goals. Many of the countries affected by terrorism have united in finding solutions to prevent further attacks as well as minimizing the amount of recruitments from each group. With new technology developing in today's society, terrorist groups are changing and so are government attempts to keep their regions safe. Until there is a united world effort to prevent theses ideologies from spreading, terrorism cannot be eradicated completely.

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Similar Ideology and Motives of Isis and Al Qaeda Terrorist Organizations. (2019, April 26). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 1, 2023, from
“Similar Ideology and Motives of Isis and Al Qaeda Terrorist Organizations.” GradesFixer, 26 Apr. 2019,
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