Al-Qaeda and the Phinehas Priesthood terrorist groups with a common enemy and similar justifications for terrorist tactics Institutional Repository Document uri icon


  • The majority of studies on terrorist groups in the past have been conducted from the perspectives of political science, sociology, or psychology. This historical comparative study examines two terrorist organizations through a human resource development (HRD) lens. The study's goal is to provide a fresh perspective on terrorism to the current discussion of the subject within the public and private sectors. A comprehensive literature review is used to examine religiously based terrorist groups. The following HRD models and theories are used to frame this research: the Basic Systems Model of Swanson and Holton (2001), Daft's definition of an organization (2001), the work of Watkins and Marsick (1992 & 1993) on learning organizations, and group theory as discussed by Johnson and Johnson (2000). Crenshaw's (2001) work on terrorist group theory also helps provide a foundation to the discussion. The study begins with a short review of terrorism during the twentieth, and the first years of the twenty-first centuries. Next, the histories, cultures, and beliefs of the fundamentalist Islamic or Islamist movement and the Christian Identity movement are traced. The focus is then narrowed and an in-depth study of al-Qaeda and the Phinehas Priesthood, from the Islamist and Christian Identity movements, respectively, is conducted. The context of HRD organizational traits is used to portray the similarities and differences between these terrorist groups. There were eight major findings from this study. 1. Al-Qaeda and the Phinehas Priesthood possess structure and demonstrate input, output, process, and interaction with, and feedback from their external environment (Swanson & Holton, 2001) as do conventional organizations. 2. Both groups demonstrate structure and group dynamics similar to conventional organizations. 3. Members of both groups profess beliefs similar to those in mainstream Islam and Christianity, respectively. 4. The belief that God's law is superior to that of man in held in common by al-Qaeda and the Priesthood. This belief is based on the revealed word of God, the Koran and Bible, respectively. 5. Members of both groups believe they have been chosen by God to right the wrongs of society and/or the world. Violent acts in support of this mission are fully justified. 6. A common goal of these groups is to establish racially and culturally pure societies on some scale. 7. Al-Qaeda and the Phinehas Priesthood are both anti-Semitic. 8. Members of these groups are culturally isolated from mainstream society. The study makes four recommendations to HRD practitioners, government policy makers, and educators in pursuit of the goal of providing a fresh perspective on terrorism.

author list (cited authors)

  • Davis, D. W.

complete list of authors

  • Davis, Danny Wayne

publication date

  • September 2004