The Global Challenge of Jihadist Terrorism: A Quality-of-Life Model


What makes some Muslims in identifiable regions of the world accept Jihadism and, more particularly, Jihadist terrorism as a solution to domestic social, economic, and political problems? We attempt to answer this question using a sample of 32,604 Muslims from 26 countries surveyed in 2011–2012 by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. We hypothesized that many Muslims believe that Jihadist terrorism is an acceptable solution to national, regional, and global social problems such as political corruption, recurrent crime, inter-generational poverty, diversity-related social conflict, widespread joblessness and under-employment that pervade many Islamic nations. This belief is determined by attributing blame for recurrent national problems to Western powers and to their overly powerful cultural and political influence in Islamic societies but, especially those that until recently, were colonies of major European powers. National problems blamed on Western influence, in turn, result in a high sense of national ill-being, which in turn is influenced by low levels of subjective well-being (or subjective ill-being). We also hypothesized that certain effects associated with political militancy, including the willingness to engage in acts of terrorism, are moderated by a sense of economic ill-being and by a fervent sense of Muslim religiosity among the strongest believers in each society. The study results reported in this paper are mostly supportive of these hypotheses. The public policy implications of the findings reported herein are discussed throughout the paper as well.

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  1. 1.

    “Ill-being” is not strictly the opposite of “well-being.” In this paper, we use the term to refer to a feeling or condition of illness, unhappiness, or lack of prosperity. When contrasted with the meaning for well-being, ill-being also can refer to a condition of being deficient in health, happiness, or prosperity—a definition that is more closely related to the multiple dimensions of well-being.

  2. 2.

    Terrorism is defined by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation as “…the unlawful use of—or threatened use of—force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 2013).

  3. 3.

    Freedom in the World 2017 evaluates the state of freedom in 195 countries and 14 territories during calendar year 2016. Each country and territory is assigned between 0 and 4 points on a series of 25 indicators, for an aggregate score of up to 100. These scores are used to determine two numerical ratings, for political rights and civil liberties, with a rating of 1 representing the freest countries and 7 the least free. A country or territory’s political rights and civil liberties ratings then determine whether it has an overall status of “free,” “partly free,” or “not free” (Freedom House 2017, p. 2).


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Correspondence to M. Joseph Sirgy.

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None of the authors of this paper received financial support from any source in conducting or preparing this manuscript for publication. Further, the authors do not expect to benefit financially in any way from the paper’s publication.

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The authors are deeply appreciative to the anonymous reviewers of SIR journal’s editorial board who made many thoughtful and positive suggestions concerning how to strengthen an earlier version of this manuscript.

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Sirgy, M.J., Joshanloo, M. & Estes, R.J. The Global Challenge of Jihadist Terrorism: A Quality-of-Life Model. Soc Indic Res 141, 191–215 (2019).

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  • Islamic militancy
  • Jihadism
  • Jihadist terrorism
  • Terrorism
  • Radical Islam
  • Quality of life
  • Subjective well-being
  • National ill-being
  • Perceived Western influence