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Middle Eastern Terrorists

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"Our courage will be seen by all!"

"You have murdered our women and our children and bombed our cities from afar like cowards, and you dare to call us terrorists?! Now, we have the ability to strike back at our enemies. Unless you, America, pull all military forces out of the Persian Gulf area, immediately and forever, Crimson Jihad will rain fire on one major U.S. city each week, until our demands are met."
Salim Abu Aziz, True Lies

A Sister Trope to Western, African, South Asian, and Far East Asian Terrorists, Middle Eastern Terrorists are terrorists who are based in The Middle Eastnote  to carry out guerrilla and terrorist attacks against domestic/foreign governments and interests alike. They can be based in other places, but the majority of the manpower is made up of nationals who are from the Middle East. They can be used as mooks, usually working alongside other types of terrorists and criminals, as long as they share the same objectives and interests.

In fiction, they mostly operate under Terrorists Without a Cause, La RĂ©sistance, or Knight Templars, or are placed under Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters. In other instances, they can operate as a "lone wolf" terrorist without being tied to any known terrorist group, a bit like a Middle Eastern version of a solitary Right-Wing Militia Fanatic (though as with Right-Wing Militia Fanatics, even a terrorist who isn't taking direct orders from an organization may still be connected to a larger cause if they've been self-radicalized through immersion in that cause's propaganda). Due to a string of large-scale and highly-publicized attacks attributed to primarily Salafist Arab terrorist groups in the early 21st century (particularly al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and their affiliates), it can come under Unfortunate Implications if handled clumsily.

Some stereotypes associated include the use of shemaghs or black balaclavas, communist-made weapons/gear (notably the iconic AK-47 assault rifle and the RPG-7 rocket launcher), and driving "technicals" (civilian pickup trucks converted into gun trucks by mounting a heavy machine gun or anti-aircraft cannon on the back). They may be depicted citing verses from the Koran to justify their actions, most prominently including the phrase Allahu Akbar.note 

Creators can draw inspiration from Real Life sources and cases where terrorism has occurred in the Middle East, the vast majority of them falling under Islamist groups, making The Fundamentalist a common character among their ranks regardless of their exact "flavour". In the 2010s, the majority of terrorist deaths worldwide were caused by five specific groups: the Islamic State, the Taliban, Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, and al-Qaeda.note  All five of these groups are Sunni fundamentalist, and with the exception of the Taliban (Deobandi), all belong to the Salafi jihadism movement. The Shia variants include groups like Hezbollah and its various Syrian/Iraqi proxies, which is tied into places like Lebanon and groups like the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Sometimes, fictional depictions can also include ultranationalist/Communist (or an odd mixture of both as some nationalist and pan Arab factions were Soviet aligned), Christian fundamentalist groups, Jewish fundamentalist (especially if the story is set in Israel) or some obscure cult.

Compare Western Terrorists, which consists of terrorists who are born/raised in Western countries from the Americas to Europe, including Australia and New Zealand, African Terrorists, which consists of terrorists who are born/raised in the African continent, South Asian Terrorists, which consists of terrorists who are born/raised in the region of South Asia, and Far East Asian Terrorists, which consists of terrorists who are born/raised in the Far East region of the Asian continent.

Compare and contrast with Arab Oil Sheikh, which is a possible source of how Middle East-based terrorists get help in terms of funding.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Alan Ford: issue 212 features the Group trying to infiltrate of a group of plane-diverting islamic terrorists. Surprisingly, they are an Equally Opportunity Evil (willing even to hire homosexuals for their plots under the promise of lot of acohol, smoke and hot dudes). Years later (both In-Universe and out of), unmistakenly islamic terrorists show up in volume Attaaaaaack! Pt 1, blowing up the plane Alan's traveling on.
  • Captain America: U.S. Agent is introduced fighting Middle Eastern terrorists in Nick Spencer's run.
  • Champions: Terrorists in a fictional Middle Eastern country try to prevent girls from being educated in an early issue of Champions (2016).
  • The DCU: The DC universe has Qurac, located in the said region. It's known publicly to be a rogue nation for sponsoring terrorists. In the late 1980s Qurac-backed terrorists appeared as villains in Suicide Squad and Adventures of Superman.
    • And before Qurac was a thing (indeed, the story was possibly WHY Qurac became a thing, to keep real-world geopolitics out of superhero comics), The Joker was selling nuclear weapons to Shiite terrorists in Lebanon in A Death in the Family, which brought him to the attention of one Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who made him the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations. At the same time, Lady Shiva was also training terrorists in the region.
  • Holy Terror: The Fixer take on Al-Qaeda terrorists.
  • The Punisher: Saracen is a mercenary terrorist from the Middle East. He was purely money-motivated, however, and at one point rather cheerily brushes off a client's comment about how "un-Arab" he comes off as after Saracen mentions that he has only one wife to whom he is completely faithful.
  • Tintin: Tintin: Land of Black Gold has armed gunmen working for Sheik Bab El Ehr. Armed saboteurs were seen destroying oil pipelines. Turns out they're being hired by Dr. Muller.

  • American Sniper follows Chris Kyle's career in the US Navy when he was deployed in Iraq, engaging Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
  • Back to the Future: The Libyans hired Doc Brown to help them make a nuclear weapon. Brown double-crossed them by taking the plutonium to power his time machine and replaced it in the bomb casing with pinball machine parts. When the Libyans found out, they hunted him down.
  • Big Game: Hazar is allegedly the Bastard Bastard of a Gulf oil tycoon and a freelance terrorist, and with Morris' aid he's responsible for bringing down a weakened Air Force One with missile launchers, then sets out to hunt, capture and ultimately kill the U.S. President. In reality, Hazar is a CIA operative who was assigned to masquerade and invoke this trope as part of a Government Conspiracy to renew the War on Terror.
  • Blackhat has Elias Kassar, a Lebanese Christian mercenary terrorist who used to fight in the Lebanese Civil War alongside fellow Lebanese Christians under the Kataeb Regulatory Forces.
  • The 1986 Chuck Norris action film The Delta Force has an airliner hijacked to Beirut by the New World Revolutionary Organization. It's largely based around the Iranian hostage crisis combined with wishful thinking and Stuff Blowing Up, filmed almost entirely in Israel.
  • Executive Decision features a group of Middle Eastern terrorists who have gotten their hands on some Deadly Gas. Their leader is captured early in the opening act, and the second in command and his team hijack a 747 en route to DC.
  • Gorilla, Interrupted: Dex, the dim-witted Mad Scientist, mentions offhand that a man named "Machmed" hired him to create a bomb because "He has an important building he needs to blow up."
  • Inside Man has the bank robbers dress all their hostages in the same uniform to disguise themselves. When a hostage, Vikrham, is pushed out the bank doors, SWAT officers pat him down to discover a brown-skinned man with a dark beard and black turban. They react as if he is a terrorist, assuming he's wired with a bomb and taking him down and stealing his turban. Vikrham is a Sikh and quite peeved with the police for violating his rights.
  • The Kingdom (2007) has the FBI assisting the Saudi Interior Ministry investigate a terrorist attack on Saudi soil, although directed at US citizens working for the oil companies.
  • London Has Fallen has the US military conduct an air strike on a terrorist cell in Yemen. At the same time, most of the terrorists operating in London are from the Middle East.
  • The Chinese blockbuster movie Operation Red Sea has Chinese troops fighting the "Zakka" terrorist group in a fictional version of Yemen. The movie leaves them as a pretty Generic Doomsday Villain without elaborating on what their core beliefs and goals are.
  • Sicario: Day of the Soldado: Yemeni terrorists infiltrate the United States through the Mexican border to bomb a shopping mall in Kansas City. The U.S. government declares a dirty war on the cartels that control human trafficking in response. However, it's later discovered that the Yemeni terrorists attempting to cross the border are separate from the Kansas City bombers, who are a home-grown cell.
  • The Siege is a 1998 film about an Islamic terrorist group that attacks New York City, and the American government's heavy-handed response including internment camps and torture. It became a lot Harsher in Hindsight after 9/11.
  • In Team America: World Police, most terrorists are stereotypical Middle Easterners who talk in Arabian-sounding gibberish ("Derka derka Muhammad Jihad!"). One prominently featured group is based in Egypt, near the Pyramids of Giza. However, the Big Bad, a fictionalized version of Kim Jong-Il, is from North Korea.
  • True Lies has Crimson Jihad as the Big Bad, which has acquired nuclear warheads and demands the withdrawal of US forces from the Persian Gulf. Their leader, Salim Abu Aziz, is actually said to have been thrown out of other terrorist movements because they thought his methods were too extreme.

  • Jack Ryan:
    • The novels that feature Jack Ryan Jr. involve him and "The Campus" in halting terror attacks being orchestrated by "Umayyad Revolutionary Council". Most of its members are based in Europe. In the Ryanverse, the URC was the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks instead of Al-Qaeda.
    • The Sum of All Fears has PFLP terrorists being assisted by the American Indian Movement and the Red Army Faction in smuggling an Israeli-made nuclear device to American soil to use it in a WMD attack on Denver. The movie version has the PFLP and their allies removed due to the production crew's thoughts that an Islamist terror attack in North America would be impossible. They were proven wrong after 9/11.
  • In the Year 2050: America's Religious Civil War features weekly suicide bombings, despite the US reaching majority Arabic Muslim demographics and winning sweeping election victories. In fact, the President of the United States has to order the bombings be stopped to fool the remainder of the country into thinking Islam is a religion of peace, reminding them that lying to infidels is A-OK. It's... not a very nuanced kind of book.
  • Victoria while lacking the terror angle as such, does feature every nation and sect in the Middle East banding together to invade Massachusetts, committing numerous atrocities such as crucifying Christians who won't reject their faith, and selling others into slavery, while getting hardly anything out of this expedition. The protagonists, though, get theirs back, first through a genetically engineered plague, then by the end of the book banding together all Christendom for a new Crusade.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Blacklist has Zal Bin Hasaan, an Iranian terrorist who was on Reddington's blacklist and is responsible for multiple bombing attacks in the Middle East.
  • Blindspot has the brief Syrian terrorist group known as the Ahmadi Family. There's also mention of Al-Qaeda and ISIS.
  • Blue Bloods has the NYPD investigate cases where they confront Al-Qaeda terrorists.
    • A season one episode has the Reagans discussing the pros and cons of racial profiling when the threat of an apparent radical Islamic bomb attack gets on the police's radar. It turns out that, whilst the bomb-maker is a radical Islamic person, it's a woman who wants to use a homemade carbomb to commit suicide rather than give custody of her son over to her husband, who divorced her when she begame radicalized, rather than the stereotypical angry young Islamic man seeking martyrdom and the glory of Islam.
  • The Boys (2019):
    • Four of them from an unnamed group (presumably ISIS) hijack a US airline, causing Homelander and Queen Maeve's intervention. It ends with tragedy.
    • ISIS features a bit more in the first two seasons. Homelander and A-Train conspire to give them Compound V to allow the creation of superhuman terrorists, to increase the need for superheroes. One such terrorist, Naqib, gains the power to create large explosions emanating from himself. Later, to tie up loose ends, both Homelander and Black Noir take out separate ISIS hideouts and slaughter all the operatives inside, with the latter beheading Naqib.
  • A subplot in Bosch has a money launderer being investigated for funneling money for ISIS and Hezbollah terrorists.
  • Fauda has an Israeli Army Mista'arvim unit conduct operations against HAMAS.
  • Grimm has Marwan Hanano, a mercenary terrorist used by Black Claw to do assassination operations.
  • Homeland has the CIA investigate USMC veteran Nicholas Brody in order to figure out if Palestinian terrorist Abu Nazir turned him into a terrorist.
  • The episode "Catch and Release" in Madam Secretary deals with an American Muslim terrorist named "Jihadi" Judd as the face of ISIS.
  • In the NCIS series, NCIS agents confront terrorists from Al-Qaeda and ISIS. They usually engage a lone wolf terrorist every once in a while.
  • In Quantico, the bombing attack on Grand Central Station has law enforcement suggest that ISIS terrorists may be the mastermind. Except that it's someone who trained at Quantico.
  • Spooks
    • One episode has MI5 and the police take on Kurdish nationalist terrorists when they conducted a siege on the Turkish embassy.
    • Another case has MI5 investigate an assassination attempt on a novelist by Path of Light, a Palestinian terrorist group based in the West Bank.
    • An unnamed Iraqi terrorist group hatched a plan to use sarin gas on the London Underground system, akin to the 1995 attacks on the Tokyo Metro subway system.
    • Zaf later goes undercover as part of a case against an Al-Qaeda cell in London.
    • Part of the show's Myth Arc has the bad guys conduct false flag attacks to make it look like VEVAK was going to conduct terrorist attacks in Britain.
  • Prisoners of War has three Israeli Army soldiers kidnapped by armed Arab fighters before they were released from captivity.
  • SEAL Team has many missions that go up against these groups, and the show uses a mixture of real life organizations and fictional ones. Among the real groups, the most common ones are Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Hezbollah.
  • Sleeper Cell has FBI agent Darwyn al-Sayeed infiltrate an Al-Qaeda cell operating in Los Angeles.
  • Throughout 24, CTU confronts various terrorists from the Middle East, most of them being a mixture of lone wolves and Islamist groups.
  • Subverted in the BBC remake of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). A conspiracy theorist is being targeted by a number of different factions, including a white power group, some government Men In Black, and a group of middle-eastern men led by a guy with a badass eyepatch. They bluff their way into the hotel where the conspiracy theorist is staying and leave a mysterious package in the restaurant... which turns out to contain a peace medal that they've come to present him with.
  • The West Wing has several episodes that deal with Qumar, a rogue nation that sponsors terrorist operations.
  • Tyrant (2014) has the Caliphate and its armed wing, The Army of the Caliphate as an Expy to ISIS.
  • Ultimate Force involves the SAS in taking out an Al-Qaeda cell that occupied the Italian Embassy.
  • Zero Zero Zero: While transporting a shipment of cocaine from Senegal to Casablanca, the Lynwoods run afoul of jihadists who have recently seized control of the area they need to drive through. As Moroccans, the terrorists are of Arab-Berber descent and technically North African terrorists.

    Video Games 
  • Army of Two has several antagonist groups that the titular duo scythes through, including al-Qaeda which is actually namedropped.
  • Project Reality uses actual real life terrorist organizations, like HAMAS, the Taliban and the Free Syrian Army. It also has a "Insurgent" faction that represents the large and diverse groups in the Iraq War, like Al-Qaeda and Ba'athist loyalists.
    • Its Spiritual Successor Squad uses an Anonymous Ringer in form of the "Insurgents". In early versions of the game they looked like stereotypical Taliban fighters, but were remade to look closer to islamic insurgents in various other conflicts so they'd be more versatile.
      • Mods like Middle Eastern Escalation took this a step further and even had ISIS added in, but this was removed under orders of OWI. Regardless, the game has alot of real-life armies and factions across the Middle East.
  • 428: Shibuya Scramble has Alphard masquerading as the fake Canaan responsible for a biological attack on Shibuya.
  • Alpha Protocol has Michael Thorton investigate Al-Samaad to figure out if they were involved in taking down a civilian jetliner. Turns out that an American defense contractor helped them with weapons in order to fuel tensions in the Middle East.
  • The first Army of Two game has Salem and Rios working together to take on Al-Qaeda terrorists.
  • Battlefield 3 has the People's Liberation and Resistance, an Iranian ultranationalist terrorist group that overthrew the legitimate Iranian government after an earthquake wrecked most of the country, allowing its leader Faruk Al-Bashir to take control with help from sympathizers in the Iranian military. They were the culprits for using a nuke in downtown Paris. Although Solomon was the culprit, using the PLR as military backup
  • Call of Duty:
    • The first Modern Warfare game has Khaled Al-Asad, leader of the OpFor. His group is a populist rebellion which launched a coup in an unnamed Middle Eastern country and executed President Yasir Al-Fulani. He's also working together with the Russian Ultranationalists through Vladimir Makarov and Viktor Zakhaev, who provide him with weapons, vehicles, and even nuclear warheads.
    • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) has the Al-Qatala group, one of the three main factions in the civil war in Urzikstan (along with the Russian occupation government and the heroically-portrayed Uzrikstani Liberation Force). Among other things, Al-Qatala storms a US embassy and ruthlessly slaughter embassy workers just to get their leader back. In Warzone they spread their activities to Russia. Their actual ideology is never really given, but their leader goes out of his way in his very first scene to say that they are definitely not religiously motivated.
  • Command & Conquer: Generals has the Global Liberation Army, or GLA. They have become so powerful, that they actually have a more conventional military in addition to their terrorist tactics. They have armored forces, bio-weapons arsenal, and even a small airforce (which is used to deliver said bio-weapons). Also because they specialize in not being seen and terrorist and guerilla tactics, they are the only faction in the game that does not need any power for their base (they will need it for American and Chinese buildings they capture though). They aren't totally Middle Eastern though, having bases from Xinjiang to Libya and from Kazakhstan to Somalia. However, all named leaders are Arab (Dr. Thrax is Jordanian, Kassad is Libyan, and Juhziz is Egyptian).
  • Insurgency: The game is set in an unnamed Middle Eastern Country and features the titular insurgents, motivated by Occupiers Out of Our Country, battling an American Security Forces (that is heavily implied to be a Private Military Contractors).
  • Counter-Strike features Middle Eastern terrorists, with the Elite Crew and Guerrilla Warfare in particular being in every game from the 1999 mod all the way to Global Offensive. Condition Zero is the only game to elaborate on them past a single paragraph.
  • Splinter Cell: Blacklist has Fourth Echelon take on Engineer terrorists in Iraq, Jordan and Yemen, as well as black market arms dealers in Turkey. Otherwise, it's averted since the rest of the Engineers are recruited worldwide.
  • IS Defense a mediocre turret game by Destructive Creations where the player fight ISIS, in an Alternate History where they've conquered most of the Sunni Middle East and engaged in a full-scale land war with NATO.
  • Syrian Warfare by Russian indie developer Cats Who Play has the player primarily fighting Al-Qaeda/ISISnote  in northern Syria during the Syrian Civil War. Unusually for this trope, you play as the Syrian Arab Army (with some help from Russian special forces, who of course get a hefty Historical Badass Upgrade), and one of the most common insults your grunts throw at the terrorists is "infidel." This is actually accurate, as the Salafist doctrine that ISIS and Al-Qaeda (and their allies) follow is considered heterodox among most Muslims, including other jihadists (which some of your men may be, considering the NDF had no shortage of Islamists). Predictably given its source, the game has a pro-SAA perspective.note 
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II has a militia in Yemen as part of Raul Menendez's supporters.
  • Jonathan Kane: The Protector have the main villains, the Scarlet Vengeance, who seeks an Artifact of Doom to destroy the Westertn world. And of course, it's up to your titular hero to stop them.
  • Metal Gear Solid has Sniper Wolf, a Kurdish member of FOXHOUND and a former war orphan who was recruited by Big Boss, who she refers to as "Saladin".
  • Medal of Honor, the 2010 one and its sequel Medal of Honor Warfighter, features this as the main antagonists, Taliban for the former and Al-Qaeda (including Abu Sayyaf for the Philippines missions) for the latter, with an Osama bin Laden Expy The Cleric as the Big Bad.
  • The third Lethal Enforcers game has Middle Eastern terrorists raiding a nuclear plant in Japan with the leader being an Expy to Osama Bin Laden. The Japanese Special Forces Group is called in to take back the plant.
  • Saints Row IV opens with the Boss and their crew slaughtering their way through a base of masked, AKM-wielding, Arabic-speaking terrorists in a nondescript desert country. The Saints killing the terrorists and stopping their plot to nuke Washington DC instantly makes the Boss a frontrunner for President.

    Web Original 
  • In Decker, there are Middle Eastern terrorists, often referred to as Al-Qaeda or ISIS, interchangeably, that serve as the main antagonists in a number of episodes.

    Western Animation 
  • Surprisingly averted in one Very Special Episode of The Proud Family where Penny makes friends with a Muslim girl and finds out that most post-9/11 Islamic stereotypes are wrong.
  • Young Justice (2010): Invoked in Season 3. Baron Bedlam hires a Quraci terrorist to assassinate the King and Queen of Markovia (Baron's own sister and brother-in-law), enabling Baron to seize power and begin profiling and registering all Quraci refugees who might be metahumans.


Video Example(s):


The Triumphant

Jack tries to interrogate a Libyan man who's a terrorist from the Triumphant, a terrorist group based in Libya from the Ubari region. The suspect doesn't fear his arrest and says that the others will succeed where he failed.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / MiddleEasternTerrorists

Media sources: