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Terrorists are a different breed of criminal. Religious-based extremists are, in many respects,
unique within the overall terrorist community. All terrorists are driven by their political beliefs. In
the case of religious terrorists, many of their basic political beliefs are derived from, related to, and
bolstered by their faith convictions. Most religious terrorists believe that their God supports and
directs them. For some, it means that dying for the cause will result in a desirable afterlife.
Therefore, religious terrorists are often among the most dedicated extremists. Some are willing to
kill enemies of their political cause if they are convinced that their God will approve of it. Others
will actually kill themselves if they believe that it will further their cause and that their God will
be pleased by their actions. Many, but not all, suicide bombers are driven in part by their religious
Foreign Religious-Based Terrorism
The United States is possibly the most diverse civilization in the world. Virtually every culture on
earth is represented. Almost every language in the world is spoken by some one living in the United
States. Many of the early settlers came in search of religious freedom or because they were driven
from their home land due to their religious beliefs. The tradition of religious dissenters coming to
the United States continues to the present day. Some of the animosities that exist in other countries
have been brought to the United States by citizens of these lands who have immigrated to America.
Religious beliefs are often a part of foreign hostilities and conflicts.
Foreign-based religious extremists have attacked American interests in various parts of the
world on a number of occasions. However, until recently there have been few attacks within the
United States. Some of these extremists have targeted foreign consulates, people, and businesses
inside of the country, but not the United States itself. Examples include Armenians, Serbs, Croats,
and Sikhs. In some instances, the target has been something identified with the United States, but
not actually part of the government. The bombing of the World Trade Center in NewYork in 1993
was done by Middle Eastern religious terrorists. Members of this same group were arrested in New
York City later in 1993 as they conspired to bomb major landmarks in that city and to assassinate
prominent politicians and foreign leaders. The tragic attacks of September 11, 2001, reinforced the
message to Americans that the United States could indeed be attacked by foreign religious political
zealots. In that instance the Pentagon, a symbol of Americas military might, was struck along
with the World Trade Center.
Although Irish terrorists are not known to have committed violent attacks in the United States,
during the past 20 years there have been several arrests of people affiliated with the terrorist
Provisional Irish Republican Army who have attempted to purchase weapons in the United States
for use against their English targets. Irish terrorists have also used the United States as a source of
revenue for their cause. The struggle in Northern Ireland has largely been religious in nature, with
the Catholic Irish battling the Protestant British. The first part of the 21st century has seen relative
peace in Northern Ireland
Foreign-based religious terrorists have made a number of attacks against American interests and
citizens abroad. Because of statutes passed in the United States during the latter part of the 20th
century, American law enforcement officersprimarily from the FBIhave been conducting
investigations in the countries where these attacks have been staged.In such cases the involved
country must grant permission for U.S. law enforcement officers to function in their territory.
Since September 11, 2001, the trend with respect to American investigators conducting
investigations in foreign countries has increased greatly.
Islamic extremists present a significant terrorist threat to United States interests both in the
United States and abroad. Islam is one of the worlds largest religions, and there are many people
living in the United States who practice this religion. Only a very small fraction of the followers
of Islam are terrorists. There have been a number of recent arrests of terrorist conspirators in the
United States who have been motivated by radical extreme Islamic ideology. Some were foreign
born, while others are native United States citizens. Investigators must realize that violent political
extremists, who are true believers acting on what they believe their God wants them to do, present
a serious challenge.
Domestic Religious-Based Terrorism
When asked about religious terrorism, most Americans probably think of foreign fanatics. This is
because of the attacks that such groups have made on American targets abroad and because some
foreign religious zealots, such as the “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman, have engaged,or are
engaged, in radical political activity in the United States.
These people fail to realize, however, that native-born, religious-based political extremists
residing in the United States pose an internal terrorist threat. Their religious beliefs form the
foundation of their political extremism. Some have committed terrorist attacks. Others may do so
in the future because they believe that their religions condone such actions. Many of these extreme
religions are not themselves political terrorist movements. However, some of their adherents also
belong to extreme political groups that have staged attacks in the past or may stage attacks in the
The Christian Identity religion is based in the United States but traces its roots to 18th-century
England. Originally called British- or Anglo-Israelism, Christian Identity developed a philosophy
of its own in the United States, particularly following World War II. The primary theme of the
religion is that the white people of England and most of western Europe descended from the
missing tribes of Israel who were carried away from the Promised Land by invading Assyrians in
721 B.C. Because many of the early settlers to the Americas came from Europe, it is presumed
that they, too, are descended directly from those taken from the Promised Land. Men such as
Wesley Swift, William Potter Gale, and Richard Girnt Butler did much to formalize Christian
Identity beliefs in the United States from the 1950s to the present. Through studying the Bible they
concluded that the “chosen people” are descended from Adam, who was created by God in his
image. To them, Adam was of the white race. They believed that although God may have also
created nonwhite people, he did not give them souls and therefore they are less than human. These
non white people have been called “mud people.”
Christian Identity adherents believe that Satan physically seduced Eve, resulting in “half-devil”
Cain being born. Being the product of evil, Cain had little choice but to kill his half-brother, Abel,
who was the offspring of Adam and Eve. After Cain was banished from the Garden of Eden, he
fathered many children through liaisons with the “mud people.” Swift, Gale, Butler, and their
supporters became convinced that, through the years, the descendants of Cain spread throughout
the earth and continue to live today as what the world knows as Jews. To “true believers,” Jews
must be feared and hated. Nonwhites are not considered equals.
Christian Identity is not organized in the same way as many of the Christian denominations in
the United States. There is no pope or recognized leader or council of elders who direct the church.
Therefore, Christian Identity doctrine will vary from place to place with respect to the
interpretation of certain biblical passages. However, the basic tenets concerning the chosen people
and the status of nonwhites and Jews are fairly consistent. Christian Identity followers are often
quite religious and study the King James version of the Bible regularly. Because they believe that
they are the true “chosen people,” some follow the rules of Kosher as outlined in the Book of
Most of the people who joined Christian Identity after World War II were converts. For the most
part they had been raised in Protestant churches. With the passage of time, however, there have
been an increasing number of individuals raised from birth in the Christian Identity religion.
Because many of these people have also been home-schooled, at least during their early years, they
are ingrained with the Christian Identity teachings of scorn and hate for, and separation from,
nonwhites and Jews.
A religion that advocates hatred for certain groups of people, for whatever reason, is likely to
promote violence by its followers. The right-wing terrorist group known as The Order, founded in
the early 1980s by Robert Mathews, was influenced heavily by Christian Identity members,
although Mathews himself was probably not a member of this religion. The armed compound at
the ArkansasMissouri border in the late 1970s and early 1980s known as the Covenant, the
Sword, and the Arm of the Lord was influenced heavily by the Christian Identity religion. Buford
Furrow, who in 1999 fired a gun into a Jewish day care center, wounding children, and who
subsequently shot to death a Filipino postal worker, was a Christian Identity follower. Members
of the Christian Identity religion belong to a variety of right-wing extremist organizations in the
United States, including the Ku Klux Klan and Posse Comitatus.
Creativity Movement (Formerly Known as the World Church of the Creator)
The Creativity Movement, previously calling itself the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC),
was founded by Ben Klassen, a Ukrainian who was raised in Canada and Mexico before settling
in California, where he worked as an engineer. He later moved to Florida, where he enjoyed
success in the real estate business and served as a state legislator in the mid-1960s. Klassen
originally called his religion the Church of the Creator, but Matt Hale expanded the scope of the
movement by adding “World” to its name. Many of the basic tenets of the religion are contained
in Klassens books, Natures Eternal Religion (1973) and The White Mans Bible (1981). The
religion marks several holidays, the two most significant of which revolve around Klassen.
February 20 is recognized as “Klassen Day” because it marks Klassens birthday, and February 21
is designated as “Founding Day” because it is the date on which Natures Eternal Religion was
originally published. Klassen committed suicide on August 6, 1993.
Many critics refuse to recognize the Creativity Movement as a true religion because it does not
worship a deity. Church members generally accept the fact that there may have been a deity that
created the earth. However, they believe that if such an entity existed, it is no longer present.
Klassen gave himself the title of “Pontifex Maximus” (Supreme Leader) of the church. His
successor, Matt Hale, also assumed that title. Hale, who is a law school graduate and a concert
violinist, also refers to himself by the titl eof “Reverend.” The Creativity Movement describes
itself as being aracial religion for the white race.
The Creativity Movement urges its members to memorize five fundamental beliefs:
1. We believe that our race is our religion.
2. We believe that the white race is nature’s finest.
3. We believe that racial loyalty is the highest of all honors, and racial treason is the worse of all
4. We believe that what is good for the white race is the highest virtue, and what is bad for the
white race is the ultimate sin.
5. We believe that the one and only, true and revolutionary white racial religion-creativity-is the
only salvation for the white race.
The Creativity Movement encourages its members to love, aid, and abet white people, while
hating their enemiesnamely nonwhites and Jews. Although the Creativity Movement informs
its followers that their church membership could be revoked if they commit illegal acts or
encourage others to do so, its hatred for nonwhites and Jews could serve to cause followers to
commit violent acts. In 1993, George Loeb, a church minister, murdered Harold Mansfield, a black
Gulf War veteran, in Florida. More recently, in 1999, Benjamin Smith allegedly went on a shooting
rampage in Illinois and Indiana over the July Fourth holiday. Smith killed Ricky Byrdsong, a
former basketball coach at Northwestern University, who was black, and Won-Joon Yoon, a
Korean graduate student in Bloomington, Indiana. He also shot several Jewish people exiting a
Chicago synagogue and a black minister in southern Illinois. Smith had been an extremely active
member when the group was known as the WCOTC and had been recognized as the Creator of
Year by the church. Smith committed suicide as authorities in southern Indiana were attempting
to arrest him.
At one time the WCOTC was a rapidly expanding religion that used the Internet to spread its
message. It was actively recruiting among skinheads and other young white people. Its battle cry
of “RAHOWA” had become well known across the United States and in Europe. This term is
derived from the first two letters of the three-word phrase, “Racial Holy War.” Law enforcement
officers had come to realize that if they observed graffiti containing RAHOWA, they should be
aware that the group had at least some supporters functioning in their area.
Things began to come apart for the WCOTC in late 2002 when it became apparent that a civil
suit filed by the TE-TA-MA Truth Foundation of Oregon demanding that the WCOTC cease using
that name because they held a copyright on it was going to force the WCOTC to give up the name
that they had spent years promoting. On January 8, 2003, Hale was arrested when he arrived at the
federal building in Chicago for a hearing in the matter. On the previous day a federal grand jury
had indicted Hale on charges of conspiring to kill U.S. District Court Judge Joan Humphrey
Lefkow, who was presiding magistrate in the copyright case. Hales incarceration, combined with
Judge Lefkows ruling that the WCOTC could no longer use their name, dealt the WCOTC a
crippling blow. The group renamed itself the Creativity Movement and relocated temporarily to
Riverton, Wyoming, where they were not welcomed warmly by local residents. On April 26, 2004,
Hale was convicted in federal court in Chicago of soliciting to murder Judge Lefkow, as well as
three counts of obstruction of justice. A year later on April 6, 2005, Hale was sentenced to 40 years
in prison. This sentence ensured that the Creativity Movement leader will spend most of the rest of
his life in federal custody.
Following Hales sentencing, the Creativity Movement almost disintegrated. Lacking a leader
and unable to use its well-known WCOTC name or its Web site, the group could no longer spread
its message of hate and white supremacy. Pockets of followers continue to exist several years after
Hale’s sentencing; however, the group no longer holds much prominence in the extremist
Odinism, or Wodenism, is an ancient Norse religion that gained popularity in the United States
during the 1980s and 1990s. Certainly not all people who practice this religion are extremists.
Many people are drawn to it because of its emphasis on nature. Right-wing extremists have turned
to Odinism as a kind of rejection of Christianity. They believe that Christianitys love thy
neighbor and turn the other cheek doctrines have weakened the white race. They have come to
believe that Odinism is a white-Aryan religion that stresses the survival of the white race. They
believe that the spirit of Wotan (also known as Odin and Woden) permeates their souls and causes
them to want to fight to preserve their race. These extremists have also adopted the warlike stance
of some of its gods, especially Thor, the god of thunder. Many skinheads have laid claim to this
religion and have adorned their bodies with tattoos of Odinist symbols.
It would be unreasonable to believe that many right-wing adherents have a true understanding
of the tenets of the long-dead Odinist religion. They seem to have taken from it the warlike virtues
and symbolism that fit their needs. Some right-wing followers of Odinism also continue to hold
some of the Christian beliefs of their childhood.
Literal Interpreters of the Bible
There are few religions that advocate murder and terroristic violence as a matter of course. In fact,
most of the major religions emphasize love and compassion. However, it is possible for a fanatical
member of almost any religion to find something in the sacred scriptures of his or her faith that
would justify terrorist action. Judeo-Christian holy texts contain many passages that, if taken
literally or out of context, could be used by extremists to validate terrorist attacks.
An excellent example involves the story of Phineas that is told in the Old Testament. Phineas
appeased the wrath of God when he slew Zimri, who was an Israeli, and Cozbi, who was a Midian,
because they engaged in an unacceptable sexual relationship (Cozbi was not of the chosen people).
Some extremists have taken this biblical account to be a message from God that true believers
should take action when they see a transgression against God’s laws. Some Christian extremists
also cite Chapters 8 and 9 of Ezekiel to not only legitimize their violence, but to describe how it
should be accomplished.
In 1996, a small group of white male religious zealots calling themselves the “Phineas
Priesthood” staged bank robberies and bombings in and around Spokane, Washington. Three men
were subsequently arrested and convicted in this case. The men all espoused a right-wing extremist
philosophy, but apparently acted without direction from any organization. Like Phineas, they
believed that they had the right to enforce Gods laws. As far as they were concerned, the banks
they robbed engaged in usury-a practice they believed was contrary to God’s teachings.
Of course, Christians are not the only literal translators of religious scripture. Muslim extremists
also find justification in the Koran for their violent actions.
Religious-Based Antiabortion Activism
Many, but not all, extreme antiabortion activists base their views upon the Bible. Some cite
the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exod. 20:13), as justification for their actions.
They believe that abortion is murder and violates God’s law. Others have gone deeper into scripture
and have found passages that they believe specifically outline God’s abhorrence of abortion and
authorize them to act on God’s behalf against abortion providers. Although deeply religious, people
who believe that they are carrying out Gods will by committing violent attacks against abortion
providers, including doctors, are dangerous terrorists. It would be difficult to find any other
political extremist who would be more dedicated to his cause than one who believes that God
sanctions what he or she is doing.
Dealing with Religious-Based Terrorists
The investigation of a religious-based terrorist group is similar to the investigation of any other
terrorist group. However, certain factors relating to religious-based extremists are worthy of note.
Such people are likely to be more willing to die for their cause than other terrorists. Most terrorists
realize that their number is small; consequently, the death of even a single group member can have
a major negative impact on their cause. Therefore, many members will be reluctant to die even
though they have totally dedicated their lives to their political agenda.
Religious fanatics, especially those who believe that dying while struggling for their cause will
result in eternal life, are much more likely to go out in a blaze of …
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