Megan Johnson

Date of Graduation

Fall 2013


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

Ilan Berman


Acts of religious terrorism are nothing new to history, but in the last decade or so the world has seen a rise in the number of terrorist acts committed in the name of religion. This thesis sets out to identify and provide a context for the motivations, justifications, and ideological background through which religiously motivated acts of terror by jihadist extremists are committed. For nearly two decades, the United States has been engaged in a fight against the threat of terrorism and during this time the United States has used force as its main retaliatory response. In recent years, tools other than force have been used but it is argued that they have been largely underutilized. This thesis argues that in order for terrorism to be deterred or contained, U.S. strategies must consist of a whole-of-government approach which includes a combination of various tactical and policy tools. To this, the last chapter of this thesis identifies policy recommendations and strategic options for developing counterterrorism strategies capable of addressing the constant and evolving nature of the extremist threat.


Islam, religion, religious terrorism, Jihadist, extremism, Shia, Sunni, Quran, Hadith, counterterrorism, deterrence

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


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