Terrorism is “politically motivated violence, perpetrated by individuals, groups, or state-sponsored agents, intended to instill fear and helplessness in a population in order to influence decision-making and to change behavior” (Moghaddam, 2005a, p. 161). Particularly since the 1990s, there has been a sharp rise in Islamic terrorism (Bloom, 2005; Oliver and Steinberg, 2005; McDermott, 2005; Pape, 2005), coupled with a radicalization of Islamic communities around the world (Pew Research Center, 2006). Of course, non-Islamic societies also continue to serve as a source of terrorism (Coogan, 2002; Linenthal, 2001), but since the tragedy of 9/11, the devastating mismanagement of Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003, and the disastrous foreign policy of the Bush administration in the Near and Middle East, terrorism emanating from Islamic communities has become a greater international challenge.
Complex historical, economic, cultural, social, and psychological factors are associated with the increase in Islamic terrorism (Bongar et al., 2006; Moghaddam, 2006a). Enormous resources have been invested by the United States and other countries to better understand these factors, and a vast amount and variety of information is being gathered to develop more effective tactics and weapons in the seemingly endless “War on Terror.” Indeed, despite claims of a “lack of information about terrorism,” we are increasingly in danger of being swamped by a tsunami of data about terrorism around the world, but without adequate conceptual models that allow us effectively to interpret this data.