U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Use of Beheadings by Fundamentalist Islam

NCJ Number
Global Crime Volume: 7 Issue: 3-4 Dated: August-November 2006 Pages: 583-614
Lisa J. Campbell
Date Published
August 2006
32 pages
This article discusses the rational and longstanding history behind the use of beheadings by Islamic Fundamentalists and the dramatic increase of beheadings in the last 4 years.
The present-day use of beheadings by Islamic Fundamentalists is a tactic that has been used for thousands of years on and off the battlefield, and by both state and non-state entities. State-run beheadings were typically a means of capital punishment and a means to deter criminals. However, over time this practice faded. Today, Islamic Fundamentalists are purposely inconsistent in their use of beheadings and, with the assistance of media, publicize their use of this tactic at will and on any level, global or local. Contemporary beheadings have taken on a more criminal nature while beheadings in the past had more legitimacy with some even considered honorable. Current beheading tactics include unexpected and illegal targeting, unorthodox and barbaric techniques, and irregular display to an unprepared public. Beheadings are predominantly being conducted by Islamic militants; however there is evidence of beheadings conducted by non-Islamic entities and in unexpected locations. With the resurgence of public beheadings since 2002, there are questions as to why the militants are using beheadings, how they justify them, and how they exploit the media to accentuate the effect of the beheadings worldwide. These questions are addressed and discussed in this paper. 2 table, 42 footnotes, and 1 figure