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Terrorism or Hate Crime: Similarities and Differences Research Paper

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Updated: Aug 1st, 2020


Terrorism and hate crime are very common social phenomena in the contemporary world. It is possible to theorize that both of them are emphasized and motivated by the rapidly developing process of globalization that brings together many nations and cultures inevitably resulting in clashes between the representatives of the diverse communities. This paper explores the phenomena of hate crime and terrorism, discusses their similarities and differences, and provides a description of a personality of a terrorist versus that of a hate offender.

The Causes of Terrorism and Hate Crimes

Grothaus (2016) offers several causes for terrorism; among them, there are ethnonationalism, discrimination, socioeconomic status, political issues, and religion. The former cause (ethnonationalism) is described as resulting from the desire of an ethnic minority within a country to gain certain forms of independence that leads to the public acts of aggression in the form of terrorism.

Another driver of terrorism is discrimination or alienation of certain groups of the population. Usually, these communities are comprised of immigrants who are viewed as others by the rest of the population and thus are prevented from assimilation, excluded, and encouraged to draw to the extremist moods.

One more powerful motivator of terrorism is the religious doctrines formulated in a way that stimulates aggression and the points of difference between communities (Grothaus, 2016). Moreover, such doctrines may encourage suicide bombing by promising a happy afterlife. Finally, acts of terrorism may be caused by political instability in the countries that create the public desire to fight against certain regulations and rules with the help of armed aggression.

As for the drivers of hate crime, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (2008) outlines four primary causes that are thrill-seeking, defense, retaliatory actions, and the feeling of a mission. Besides, the report points out that some of the most popular person characteristics for which the victims of hate crime are usually attacked include religion, sexual orientation, and ethnic background (The Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2008).

Thrill-seeking behaviors stand for the search for excitement or satisfaction created by an attack on a pursued group or community; defensive motivators of hate crime represent the offenders’ perceived intention to protect their neighborhood of community from what (or who) is recognized as a threat; retaliation involves the actions that are facilitated as a response to attacks or discrimination (actual or perceived) from the opposing side; finally, the feeling of mission is a very strong commitment to the acts of hate that transform this type of crime into a lifestyle or a career of the perpetrators (The Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2008).

The Similarities of the Causes of Terrorism and Hate Crimes

The similarities of the two types of behaviors include the following aspects:

  • First of all, the perpetrators of both terrorist attacks and the crimes of hate are driven by the strong aggression and anger.
  • Secondly, in most cases, the groups of offenders in both terrorism and hate crime are motivated by the feeling that they must stand up to a perceived threat. In terrorism, the threat may be represented by the unwanted political regime, regulations, or the government. In hate crimes, the victimized groups of the population (such as immigrants, people of different religious confession, or the representatives of LGBT).
  • Hate crimes, as well as terrorist acts, are based on a very powerful theoretical background, belief, of a doctrine that positions the perpetrators as the individuals doing the right thing and their victims as an unwanted segment of the society.
  • Both terrorism and hate crimes can be committed by groups of people as well as a single offender
  • Terrorism and hate crimes are usually committed as the implementation phase of prior planning and preparation. In other words, they involve a lengthy period of organization before being put into practice.
  • Terrorism and hate crime target groups of people or communities based on a very specific set of traits or features. Differently put, a perceived enemy of a terrorist or a hate crime offender is determined by very few characteristics (for example, being a homosexual, having dark skin, or practicing Islam).

The Differences between Acts of Terrorism and Hate Crimes

Planning and organization of terrorist acts are much more thorough and serious than that of hate crimes. Sometimes the hate offenders can indeed travel long distances specifically to get to places where their victims gather (DeAngelis, 2001). However, the terrorist attacks are based on detailed knowledge of locations where they are going to happen, precise timing, additional and costly resources and weapons (explosives or guns), the powerful motivation of the perpetrators (suicide bombers), and days, months, or even years of planning (depending on the size of the act).

  • One of the most significant points of difference between hate crime and terrorism is that of the legislation that applies to the two matters. Hate crime laws in the USA vary from one state to another and there are areas where they simply do not exist. The Department of Justice recognizes hate crime as aggression resulting in intended bodily injuries caused to people based on their ethnicity, race, or religion; however, it does not recognize the attacks on the LGBT representatives as hate crime (Coble, 2016). At the same time, terrorism is viewed as a matter of federal concern and defined as the actions intended to harm or intimidate certain groups of the population or influence the government (Coble, 2016).
  • Finally, hate crimes can be committed spontaneously based on strong negative emotions, but the acts of terrorism are always planned and carefully prepared (Brax, 2015).

The Personality of a Terrorist versus the Offender of a Hate Crime

From the forensic and clinical points of view, the perpetrators of hate crime and acts of terrorism are not ill mentally; however, they may share similar patterns in antisocial behavior and aggression driven by motivation of different sources, childhood experiences, or pathologies (DeAngelis, 2001). The researchers find that terrorists and hate offenders usually share one significant common trait – they come from abusive families or have multiple cases of violence in their childhood experiences; in particular, the experiences represent the use of violence as a method to solve problems (DeAngelis, 2001).

Naturally, they develop a habit of applying violence to influence the unwanted situations. In other words, from the psychological perspective, the aggression comes from the painful past experiences that caused consequences that never healed properly, and a result, violent behaviors repeat time after time and turn into a habit or a lifestyle.

Compared to aggressive and emotionally unstable hate offenders, terrorists are well-organized and collected. Since the acts of terrorism are very expensive and are always carefully planned for lengthy periods, the perpetrators cannot afford to be obviously aggressive and attract attention to themselves (Schurman-Kauflin, 2013).

At the same time, along with their outer collectedness and organization, terrorists have psychopathic inclinations and tendencies; namely, they objectify the potential victims seeing them as means to achieve the desired effects and results, the more “objects” are affected, the better the result (Schurman-Kauflin, 2013). Besides, in comparison to the aggressive hate crime leaders whose main desire is to charge their followers with rage, terrorist leaders, and charismatic in a calmer manner, they are very confident and often described as charming and hypnotizing (Schurman-Kauflin, 2013).


To sum up, hate crime and acts of terrorism are quite common in the contemporary world and are registered daily all around the world. They are motivated by the clashing communities and groups of the population of different sizes. Hate crimes usually occur when a particular group is perceived as a threat and thus the offenders work under an impression of protecting themselves and their neighborhoods. Also, hate crimes are motivated by stereotypes and ideas and sometimes turn into very strong sets of beliefs setting a habit or a lifestyle.

At the same time, terrorism is just as passionate but much more organized and planned. Its acts are very costly and complex to prepare, that is why the terrorist leaders are very controlling and charismatic, and the followers are disciplined and well-trained. Moreover, terrorist attacks usually have deeper intentions and long-term goals whereas hate crimes pursue immediate results or simply target the “unwanted” groups of the population for very specific characteristics that are discriminated against.


Brax, D. (2015). .

Coble. C. (2016).

DeAngelis, T. (2001). Understanding and preventing hate crimes. American Psychological Association, 32(10), 60.

Grothaus, N. (2016). .

Schurman-Kauflin, D. (2013). .

The Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2008).

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Terrorism or Hate Crime: Similarities and Differences'. 1 August.

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