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The aim of Terror and Religion is to explore the historic and contemporary links between terror and religion, and to help students understand the complexity of religious violence in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, especially in relation to terrorism and the so-called “war against terror”. The course addresses the re-emergence of religious nationalism and the threats it presents to modern states.

The course investigates legal and other definitions of terrorism and the development of modern doctrines of terror. It examines topics such as religious motivation, and the justification and legitimisation of the use violence in a number of major religious belief systems. It identifies the differences between mainstream and extremist teachings on the use of violence in these religions. It analyses significant acts of religiously motivated violence, and explores background issues such as secularisation, modernism and globalisation. It also looks at more personal issues, such as the nature of religious conviction and its influence on behaviour.

The course takes an interdisciplinary approach, incorporating insights from history, philosophy, psychology, sociology, studies in religion, politics and the law.

Main Topics

  • Historic and contemporary examples of violence in religions such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Buddhism and new religious movements;
  • The evolution of modern doctrines of terror and their influence on religiously motivated violence;
  • Similarities and differences between religious and other forms of terrorism;
  • Interpretation of religious teachings on violence by extremist thinkers in a number of religions and their significance for contemporary terrorism;
  • Analytical tools for understanding contemporary religious violence, including an understanding of personal, contextual and environmental factors;
  • Ideology: what it is; how it works; some examples;
  • The influence of local and global politics and secularisation on the spread of religiously motivated violence;
  • Alternative forms of governance suggested by religious extremists, including the transnational entities such as a caliphate or theocracy;
  • The threat that contemporary terrorism poses to democracies; and
  • Recent developments in terrorism studies, including legal and policing counter-terrorism policies.
Faculty Faculty of Law
Study Level


Offering Terms

Summer Term, Term 2



Indicative contact hours


Course Outline

To access course outline, please visit:


Additional Information

This course is offered as General Education.

Pre-2019 Handbook Editions

Access past handbook editions (2018 and prior)

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