Islamic extremism

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Islamic extremism refers to two related and partially overlapping but also distinct aspects of extreme interpretations and pursuits of Islamic ideology:

  • An extremely conservative view of Islam,[1] which does not necessarily entail violence[2] (see also Islamic fundamentalism; Zeyno Baran, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Eurasian Policy at the Hudson Institute, prefers the term Islamism).[3]
  • The use of violent tactics such as bombing and assassinations for achieving perceived Islamic goals;[4] see Jihadism (Zeyno Baran prefers the term Islamist extremism).[3]


Main article: Khawarij

Extremism within Islam goes back to the 7th century to the Kharijites. From their essentially political position, they developed extreme doctrines that set them apart from both mainstream Sunni and Shiʿa Muslims. The Kharijites were particularly noted for adopting a radical approach to Takfir, whereby they declared other Muslims to be unbelievers and therefore deemed them worthy of death.[5][6][7]


Zeyno Baran, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Eurasian Policy at the Hudson Institute, argues Islamist extremism and Islamism are better terms, to distinguish the political ideology from the religion.[3]

Active Islamic Extremist Groups

Some of the proponents of Islam emphasise peaceful political processes, whereas Sayyid Qutb in particular called for violence, and those followers are generally considered Islamic extremists and their stated goal is Islamic revolution with the intent to force implementation of Sharia law and/or an Islamic State Caliphate.

There are over 120 such groups active today.


Group Name Banner Home Base Leaders Strength Casualties Ideology
al-Qaeda Flag of al-Qaeda.svg Afghanistan/Pakistan Region Abdallah Azzam (founder)
Osama bin Laden (1989–2011)
Ayman al-Zawahiri(present)
300–3,000[8][9] 4,400 casualties [10] To restore Islam and establish "true Islamic states", implement Sharia law, and rid the Muslim world of any non-Muslim influences and other teachings of Islamic author Sayyid Qutb.[11] The title translates to "Organization of the Base of Jihad".
al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb Flag of al-Qaeda.svg Kabylie Mountains, Algeria Abdelmalek Droukdel 800–1,000+[12] 200+ AQIM is an Islamist militant organization which aims to overthrow the Algerian government and institute an Islamic state.
Al-Mourabitoun- AKA:al-Qaeda West Africa Flag of al-Qaeda.svg Mali, Niger, Libya Mokhtar Belmokhtar Under 100 (French claim) Killed 27 in the 2015 Bamako hotel attack. Affiliated branch of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb listed above.
Ansar al-Sharia in Yemen / AKA:Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula Flag of al-Qaeda.svg Yemen Nasir al-Wuhayshi   (2011–15)
Qasim al-Raymi (2015–Present)[13]
2000+ Over 250 killed in the 2012 Sana'a bombing and 2013 Sana'a attack. AQAP is considered the most active[14] of al-Qaeda's branches, or "franchises," that emerged due to weakening central leadership.[15] The U.S government believes AQAP to be the most dangerous al-Qaeda branch due to its emphasis on attacking the far enemy and its reputation for plotting attacks on overseas targets.[16]
al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent Flag of AQIS.jpg India Asim Umar 300[17][18] Claims 6 killed in assassinations. Naval frigate hijacking attempted in 2014. AQIS is an Islamist militant organization which aims to fight the Governments of Pakistan, India, Myanmar and Bangladesh in order to establish an Islamic state.
al-Qaeda in Somalia Flag of al-Qaeda.svg Somalia
al-Qaeda in Syria Flag of al-Qaeda.svg Syria


Group Name Banner Home Base Leaders Strength Casualties Ideology
Boko Haram - West Africa Province of the Islamic State Caliphate AQMI Flag.svg Northeastern Nigeria, Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon. Mohammed Yusuf  (founder)
Abubakar Shekau (current leader)
Estimates range between 500 and 9,000.[19][20][21] Since 2009, it has killed 20,000 and displaced 2.3 million. Title means "Western Education is Sin", founded as a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist sect and influenced by the Wahhabi movement, advocating a strict form of Sharia law.


Group Name Banner Home Base Leaders Strength Casualties Ideology
Hamas -
AKA: Muslim Brotherhood of Palestine
Flag of Hamas.svg Gaza Strip Khaled Meshaal 16,000+ [22] Since 1988 numerous rocket attacks and suicide bombers targeting Israel It's 1988 founding charter, steep in Islamic rhetoric, calls for destruction of Israel.
Hezbollah -
AKA: The Party of Allah
Flag of Hezbollah Lebanon Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah 1,000+ [23] Since 1982 numerous rocket attacks and suicide bombers targeting Israel Shi'a Islamist militant group with Jihadic paramilitary wing. Hezbollah was largely formed with the aid of the Ayatolla Khomeini's followers in the early 1980s in order to spread Islamic revolution.[24][25]


Group Name Banner Home Base Leaders Strength Casualties Ideology
Jemaah Islamiyah - Southeast Asia:
  • Indonesia
  • Malaysia
  • Philippines
  • Singapore
  • Thailand
5,000 [26] Over 250 killed in bombings throughout Indonesia since 2002. With a name meaning "Islamic Congregation", (frequently abbreviated JI),[27] is a Southeast Asian militant Islamist terrorist group dedicated to the establishment of a Daulah Islamiyah (regional Islamic caliphate) in Southeast Asia.[28]
Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid Aceh, Indonesia Abu Bakar Bashir 1500-2000 dozens wounded in 2011 Java church bombing Break-off group from JI,


Group Name Banner Home Base Leaders Strength Casualties Ideology
Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan
AKA: Pakistani Taliban
Flag of Tehrik-i-Taliban.svg Northwest Pakistan Maulana Fazlullah 25,000[29] hundreds TTP is an umbrella organization of various Islamist militant groups protecting foreign terrorists hiding in the mountains of Pakistan. (Not to be confused with Afghani Taliban.)

See also


  1. Brian R. Farmer (2007). Understanding radical Islam: medieval ideology in the twenty-first century. Peter Lang. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-8204-8843-1. 
  2. Jason F. Isaacson; Colin Lewis Rubenstein (2002). Islam in Asia: changing political realities. Transaction Publishers. p. 191. ISBN 978-0-7658-0769-4. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Baran, Zeyno (2008-07-10). "The Roots of Violent Islamist Extremism and Efforts to Counter It" (PDF). Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Retrieved 2011-11-11. 
  4. Ira Marvin Lapidus (2002). A history of Islamic societies. Cambridge University Press. p. 823. ISBN 978-0-521-77933-3. 
  8. Bill Roggio (26 April 2011). "How many al Qaeda operatives are now left in Afghanistan? - Threat Matrix". Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  9. "Al Qaeda in Afghanistan Is Attempting A Comeback". The Huffington Post. 21 October 2012. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  10. NPS Global News
  11. Kepel, Gilles (2002). Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam. Harvard University Press. 
  12. "Profile: Al-Qaeda in North Africa". BBC. 17 January 2013. Retrieved 2 July 2015. 
  13. "Al Qaeda in Yemen says leader killed in U.S. bombing". Reuters. 16 June 2015. Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  14. "Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) – Council on Foreign Relations". Retrieved 2012-06-04. 
  15. "The al-Qaeda Brand Died Last Week". Forbes. September 6, 2011. Retrieved September 7, 2011. 
  16. "What is al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula?". CNN. 14 January 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  17. Sanger, David E.; Mazzetti, Mark (June 30, 2010). "New Estimate of Strength of Al Qaeda Is Offered". The New York Times. 
  18. "Al Qaeda finds base in India, Modi is on its radar". The Sunday Guardian. March 29, 2014. Retrieved June 5, 2014. 
  19. "Are Boko Haram Worse Than ISIS?". Conflict News. 
  20. "Global Terrorism Index 2014" (PDF). Institute for Economics and Peace. p. 53. Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  21. "Al-Qaeda map: Isis, Boko Haram and other affiliates' strongholds across Africa and Asia". 12 June 2014. Retrieved 1 September 2014. 
  24. Jamail, Dahr (July 20, 2006). "Hezbollah's transformation". Asia Times. Retrieved October 23, 2007. 
  25. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (April 11, 1996). "Hizbullah". Retrieved August 17, 2006. 
  26. "Al-Qaeda map: Isis, Boko Haram and other affiliates' strongholds across Africa and Asia". 12 June 2014. Retrieved 29 August 2014. 
  27. Zalman, Amy. "Jemaah Islamiyah (JI)". Retrieved 2008-08-01. 
  28. Counter-Society to Counter-State: Jemaah Islamiah According to Pupji, p. 11., Elena Pavlova, The Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, [1]
  29. Bennett-Jones, Owen (25 April 2014). "Pakistan army eyes Taliban talks with unease". BBC News. Retrieved 4 July 2014.