A Critique of Prof. Sadri’s Articles on Terrorism


Masoud Kazemzadeh
by Masoud Kazemzadeh

A Critique of Professor Ahmad Sadri’s Series of Articles on Terrorism




1. It is wonderful to see committed Muslims publicly condemn terrorism committed by Islamic groups. We need to see a lot more of this. So far, too few committed and practicing Muslims have been doing this.

2. It is also a positive development to observe a committed Muslim academic search for the root causes of terrorism in Islamic groups.

3. There are many shortcomings in Dr. Ahmad Sadri’s contribution. Some of these shortcomings are perhaps due to Dr. Sadri’s reluctance or inability to present the whole truth considering that the initial venue of the articles is a publication inside Iran, currently ruled by a terrorist regime.

4. Dr. Sadri traces the genesis of terrorism to Anarchists in Europe. The definition of terrorism which Sadri uses (a definition that many scholars use and indeed the U.S. State Department accepts) defines terrorism as having the following elements:

a. the use of force or threat of the use of force;

b. the victim is non-combatant; and

c. the goal of violence is political.


Sadri then states that it was the anarchists who invented the use of violence for political purpose. But in all the cases that he mentioned the anarchists used violence against political leaders.

It is logically inconsistent to call the violence used against heads of governments by anarchist "terrorism" but not call the use of violence against non-combatants committed by Islamic groups such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and Lebanese Hezbollah "legitimate resistance."

The terrorist regime ruling Iran has provided funds to PIJ and Hamas, organizations that have in fact targeted non-combatants. Both PIJ and Hamas on purpose have detonated bombs inside buses and restaurants and killing non-combatants. Lebanese Hezbollah has also murdered Iranian dissidents for the terrorist regime. Lebanese Hezbollah also took journalists hostage. Lebanese Hezbollah is also regarded to have assassinated Dr. Malcolm Kerr, the pro-Palestinian President of the American University of Beirut, although after much criticism Hezbollah denied responsibility. The terrorist regime itself has also murdered a large number of non-combatants (e.g., Parvaneh Eskandari-Forouhar, Ms. Zahra Kazemi,....). Therefore, by the very definition that Sadri utilizes, the fundamentalist regime ruling Iran is in fact a terrorist entity: the use of violence against non-combatants for political objectives.

5. Professor Sadri states that terrorism was brought to Iran by the Sazeman Cherikay Fadai Khalq Iran and Sazeman Mojahedin Khalq Iran. Utilizing the definitions of terrorism by Sadri, why does he fail to state that Fadaian Islam was the first group that brought terrorism in Iran? Was Ahmad Kasravi a combatant? Fadaian Islam made an attempted assassination of Dr. Fatemi and also planned to assassinate Dr. Mossadegh. Why the double-standard? Why Fadaian Islam use of violence is not regarded as terrorism but the use of violence by Cherik-ha and PMOI is regarded as terrorism?

6. If I am not mistaken Dr. Sadri was a member of the (secretive) Hojatieh society. Was the use of violence against the Bahais not a terrorist action and policy? Would according to Dr. Sadri’s definition of terrorism, Hojatieh Society be classified as a terrorist organization? We know that Dr. Soroush was a member of the Hojatieh. Would Dr. Sadri regard Dr. Soroush to have been a terrorist?

7. Didn’t the Safavids use violence to force Iranians who were by and large Sunnis before 1501, a terrorist act?

8. Why violence by Sunni fundamentalist groups opposed to the fundamentalist regime (e.g., al Qaeda) is condemned as terrorist, but similar violence by Shia fundamentalist groups or allied Sunnis (PIJ) considered just resistance? Although Dr. Sadri states that he opposes the notion of one’s terrorist is another’s freedom-fighter, in actual usage he falls for that practice.

9. In conclusion, it is most welcomed to see committed practicing Muslims publicly condemn terrorism. So far, only very few brave ones have done so. I applaud Dr. Sadri and hope that he would continue this endeavor. Dr. Sadri unfortunately fails to go to the root causes of the practice of terrorism in Islamic groups. Only condemning Sunni terrorist groups opposed to the regime but justifying other terrorist groups is one main problem. Perhaps more significantly, is the problem of publishing in publications under a regime which itself is one of the world’s main state-sponsor of terrorism (the main victims of which are the non-combatant Iranian people). Dr. Sadri is silent on Fadaian Islam as he is silent on Ansar-e Hezbollah, Lebas Shakhsi-ha, and the fundamentalist regime’s death squads who have been assassinating Iranians who disagree with the terrorist regime.

I hope that committed Muslims develop the courage to publicly condemn violence and terrorism by ALL Islamic groups. And then begin the search for the root causes of so much violence and terrorism committed by Shia and Sunni groups alike. This endeavor will not be easy. They will be attacked by the extremist terrorists in their own sect (e.g., the dude in Keyhan) for abandoning the jihad. To expect a publication inside Iran to publish an honest CRITICAL analysis on root causes of terrorism is like expecting the KKK to publish an honest CRITICAL analysis on the root causes of racism.

Committed Muslims have a long way to go in analyzing the pervasive practice of terrorism and violence by other Muslims. I wish all those who take this responsibility well.


my apologies for the typos.


more from Masoud Kazemzadeh

The definition!

by Ajam (not verified) on

My point does not have much to do with Mr. Sadri's interpretation of terrorism (for he may or may not be ignoring one form in favour of another...), but with what this critique is subscribing to as the yard-stick by which terrorism is identified as (i.e. the U.S. state department's definition)!

Such definitions deliberately ignore the terrorist acts committed by the U.S. and its allies! Vietnam, Nagazaki and Hiroshima speak for themselves, but I'm talking about the overt and covert operations directly conducted by the CIA (including the false-flag operations)! Unless, considering those whom such operations targeted (i.e. Mossadegh, Alende, Buto...) as legitimate targets!


Actually why stop there?

by Q on

You use "US State Department" as a legitimizing authority. But what about US Defense Department?

We now know the bombings of Vietnam and Cambodia where millions of civilians died were deliberate, a were the atomic bombings of Japan. They all had a real political aim, which in case of Japan, was actually achieved.

So where is your definition of "terrorist regime" and how could it possibly exclude the governments responsible for the biggest number of civilian killings for political purposes?

If you don't accept IRI's explanations you should not accept US ones either.

And what about native Americans who massacred many innocent American settlers for centuries While the US Army eradicated their entire race? Similar scenario with Australian natives and many other people's all over the world... including Palestinians. So the question is, do you hold native Americans as "terrorists" ?

So, as you an see, if you are actually serious and fair in your definition, very soon any violence would have to be called terrorism. I'm quite comfortable with that definition, but most people make a distinction based on legitimacy of the cause given the weight of the injustice they may have suffered.

In the specific case of Hezbollah or Hamas, there is no way you can call these organizations "terrorist" while also not calling Israel terrorist. The numbers of innocent civilians are clear, Israel kills many more. You can't argue with facts.



by Asghar_Massombagi on

I agree with you on some of Dr. Sadri's short comings in the articles you've mentioned but then by your definition any use of violence by any group against any other group, so long as the combtants are not wearing the uniforms of an army is an act of terrorism.  Hassan Sabbah and his fedaiis were of course terrorists (according to the Moghul and Arab rulers they terrorized).  How about Nicaraguan Contras?  Were they terrorists?  If yes, then what about the US government who trained them and supplied them with arms?  What about Isreali army's policy of collective punishment in Southern Lebanon and the occupied territories? What about Hafez Al-Assad's ruthless suppression of Sunni fundementalists in early Eighties?  Is any form of Carthegian solution justififed?  Is terrorism predicated on one's political position?  My understanding is that introduction of the term terroirsm into Western political lexicon specifically after the French Revolution was within the context of the Enlightenment's concept of humane treatment of civilians in time of war.  Wars were fought by armies outside the cities.  When an army was victorious, it didn't pillage the vanquished army's cities, didn't rape their women and set their houses on fire.  This was an ideal that hardly ever was practiced.  Dr. Sadri's explanation of modern day terrorism selective as it may be, is within this context (Bakunin and the anarchists' concept of political change through the use of terror; as a character in Conrad's The Secret Agent says "the more irrational the targer of violence, the better").  Terrorism these days seem to be attributed to insurgency committed by non-army personnel who doesn't happen to be "our" allies.  If you are trying to expose Dr. Sadri's hypocricy (very true about Fedaian Islam and their killing of not only Kasravi but also prime minister Mansour as well), then I think you should be weary of not commiting it yourself.