Violent attacks by radical Islamists against civilians represents a serious and continuing threat to human security in a number of States, including India and to a lesser extent Australia. Causes of such violence have been extensively debated in the literature of a variety of disciplines including law, psychology and political science. This paper examines one aspect of this debate: the use by extremists of concepts derived from Islamic law to justify violence against civilians. It does so by identifying religious norms that underpin the ideology of radical Islamists who engage in terrorism. The thesis advanced here is that an effective response to such violence requires, among other things, that the ideology propagated by radical Islamists be challenged. To do so, their approach to interpretation and application of Islamic law must be refuted. It is argued that Muslim States and the schools of Islamic jurisprudence must energetically engage in this task if the ideology that motivates such attacks is to be thoroughly discredited. Until this occurs, it will be difficult to counter the process of radicalisation of young Muslims who, through exposure to the ideology of radical Islamist organisations such as al-Qaeda and Jamaa Islamia ('JI'), often regard violence against civilians as permitted by their religion.


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