Terrorism is defined by our American government as the threat or the use of violence to advance a political cause by individuals or groups, whether acting for or in opposition to established governmental authority, when such actions are intended to shock, stun, or intimidate a target group wider than the immediate victims . Actually such a general definition will include all wars of liberation from the American War of Independence to the French Revolution. The worst aspect and perhaps the most common feature of terrorism is the unleashing of violence against innocent civilians.
The State of Israel is the most recent example of the establishment of a state by terrorism. It was established by Jewish terrorist groups, the most infamous of which was the Stern Gang.
The term "Muslim terrorist" is used to label Islam as a terrorist religion. However, it is a misnomer. When IRA bombers struck, they were not labeled as "Catholic terrorists" even though the struggle is between Catholic Ireland and Protestant Northern Ireland supported by Protestant England. Likewise, when Timothy McVeigh blew up the CIA headquarters in Oklahoma City in 1995 killing 168 people, he was not labeled as a "Christian terrorist", though he was Christian and a terrorist. In fact the "Muslim terrorist" label was attached to the activities of the PLO who were a mixture of Muslims, Christians and communists. The PLO is not, nor was it ever, a Muslim organization. It is a nationalist organization working for the establishment of a secular Palestinian state.
The face of terrorism can be seen in the extremist movements of Egypt. AlGama'a Al-Islamiya (Islamic Group) and Jihad Movements provided shock troops for a bitter struggle with Egypt's security forces that caused about 1,200 deaths from 1992 to 1997 but failed to topple Hosni Mubarak's secular rule. The Gama'a claimed responsibility for the Luxor massacre of tourists in November 1997. However, in March 1997 its exiled leaders declared a unilateral truce and renounced violence. The philosophy of these movements and their program of action have been loudly condemned by leading Muslim scholars internationally as well as local Egyptian scholars.
The case of Algeria is somewhat more complex. However, it is sufficient to say that the Islamic Salvation Front (F.I.S.) - which was poised to win the elections cancelled by the Algerian military - renounced violent struggle over a year ago, yet the slaughter of innocents still continues. From the beginning of the civilian slaughters, the F.I.S. disclaimed them and identified the G.I.A. as the main culprit. Recent reports indicate that the G.I.A. was created by government secret service agents to discredit the F.I.S.'s military struggle by alienating them from the masses through atrocities.
Islam opposes any form of indiscriminate violence. The Qur'an states:" Anyone who has killed another except in retaliation, it is as if he has killed the whole of humankind." (32:5) There are strict rules regulating how war may be conducted. Prophet Muhammad forbade the killing of women, children, and old people and the destruction of Churches and Synagogues or farms. Of course, if women, children or the elderly bear arms they may be killed in self-defense.