Psychology of Terrorism

Published: 2021-06-20 17:30:05
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The purpose here is to examineanalyze scrutinize, evaluate and present synthesize what has been stated in the scientific and professional literature about the etiology of terrorism. This discourse is not intended to propose suggest that the scientific discipline of psychology and psychiatry provides the only, or necessarily the best, logical framework for understanding terrorism. Like all the approaches to understanding or explaining human behaviorbehaviour, these approaches have advantages and limitations. Even though the fundamental problem of defining terrorism has been difficult, but for the purpose of research one should specifically look at the acts of violence, rather than to the threats or intimidation, which are deliberately carried out on civilian non- combatants, with the objective of promoting some ideological political or religious point of view.
A primary Our focus on psychological dimensionsdimensions, will, de-emphasizes analysis of of significant sociologically based explanations, or the so-called ‘root causes’ or macro-level economic and political theories of terrorism..
In the global war on terrorism, it is pertinent to query what is meant by terrorism. The common definition of terrorism is to some extent… ‘the use or threat of violence, by small groups against non-combatants of large groups, for avowed political goals.’1 (McCauley, 2007). Terrorism is the warfare of the feeble, and it is the option for those who are desperate for a cause that cannot be won by fair and square means. It is interesting to note that state terrorism against its own citizens like the one carried out by Mao, Hitler and Stalin, far exceeds the number compared to the anti-state terrorism, where the number of people killed is comparatively insignificant.
The concepts of terrorism have changed over the yearstime and so have the terrorists, their motives, and the causes of terrorism. Hence in approaching this task,task, it is vital to to give a an astute overview of all the relevant literature on the subject one is wary of Walter Laqueur’s incisive conclusion based on more than a quarter century of personal research on the topic is valuable to mention. Laqueur, one of the leading experts on terrorism and international strategic affairs, recounting the history of terrorism and, more importantly, examining the future of terrorist activity worldwide, gives a list of alarming feasible options for terrorists. Chemical and biological weapons are cheap and relatively easy to make or buy. Even nuclear devices are increasingly possible choices . Laqueur traces the chilling trends developing in terrorism perpetrated by groups of oppressed nationalists and radicals seeking political change to small clusters of fanatics bent on vengeance and simple destruction. Coinciding with this trend is the alarming availability of weapons of mass destruction.2 (Laqueur, 2003). As psychiatrist, Jerrold Post,a psychiatrist, emphasizesmakes that caution even more directly applicable to an exploration of the psychological dimension of terrorism. He warns that:
“There is a broad spectrum of terrorist groups and organizations, each of which has a different psychology, motivation and decision-making structure. Indeed, one should not speak of terrorist psychology in the singular, but rather of terrorist psychologies. 3 (Post, 2001).”
The available literature on etiology of terrorism is mostly biased, lopsided and outlandish. For instance, the literature, on psychodynamics of so-called ‘Muslim Terrorism’ is bizarre and far-fetched. To explain the etiology of terrorism the authors used the garb of (Laqueur, 2003)4 existential and Freudian dynamic concepts. The simple facts are convoluted and magnified disproportionately to blame Islam as a religion and responsible globally for terrorism.

Changes in the Concept of Terrorism in the last Quarter Century
There have been significant changes in the concept of terrorism over the last quarter century. Most of the terrorist activities were designed to achieve specific identifiable and mostly achievable political objectives. The transformation has occurred partly because of the changes in the larger international political circumstances. For example, some of the old methods of terrorism were designed more for objectives that could be considered national liberation or self-determination; the kind of situations that have been involved in most of the Palestinian terrorism as well as terrorism in, for instance, Northern Irish groups. While most of those objectives having already been achieved, but not in the case of Palestine. This was also relevant in the case of various former African colonies which after their independence declared their freedom fighters (the so-called terrorist) as heroes. The decolonization of these countries has made it all irrelevant.
A facilitating society is one that sees them as heroes and provides refuge to them. Their belief or ideology is that they are doing the right thing or God’s will. In fact, they cannot succeed without this key ingredient.
At present, clearly the actions for which Nelson Mandela was convicted in 1964 did not constitute terrorism. Thus the confusion between the ends and means has given an adage, that one man’s ‘freedom fighter’ is other man’s ‘terrorist’ such a long life. ‘Whether they are struggling for freedom, to enforce repressive theocracy to suggest freedom fighter, is an alternative to terrorist is to confuse ends and means.'[1]
The Evolution of Terrorism
Terrorism is continually persistently changing. While onat the surface it remains ‘”the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat to inculcate fear…”‘ it is rapidly becoming incresingly the predominant strategic tool of opponents. The twenty-first century has seen the new adaptations in the terrorists’ tactics and strategies according to the developing global socio-political environment. Some of these changes facilitate the abilities of terrorists to operate, procure funding, and develop new capabilities. These global changes are leading to an altered relationship with the world at present . Other changes are gradually moving terrorism into a different relationship with the world at large.
Historically, it is essential to remember that society and governments have changed over the years. As there were no central form of governance, or a single leading political power it was not possible to use terrorism to bring about change. Modern forms of governance and states came into being after 1648 (Treaty of Westphalia). Thus terrorism is a relatively recent phenomena used by anti-state elements to bring about change.
Thus the game of warefare became open and availabl to many more more players ,,due to the absence of a governing central authority . Also, the absence of central authority meant that the game of warfare was open to many more players. Instead of national armies, a variety of non-sovereign landed gentry nobility, armed forces, religious group leaders, or commercial companies participated in warfare. Their involvement in warfare was considered to be perfectlyabsolutely legitimate. This distinguishes the modern period, where nations go to the war, but private involvement is actually against the law.
Psychological approaches to understand violence in the context of terrorism
As psychology is regarded as ‘the science of human behaviorbehaviour’, hence it is a reasonable, and potentially productiveuseful line of inquiry. Before investigating the exploring psychological approaches to the specific particular problem of terrorist violence, at this stage it would be pertinent,it may be helpful first to examine the explainations given bywhether and how psychology and other behaviorbehavioural sciences have resorted to explain violent and agressive behaviorbehaviours in more generallly. An act that deliberately hurts physically or harms another being will fit in the definition of ‘violence’. Violence is generally defined as how harm is caused to others, but it also takes in the form of ‘violence to self’ by means of suicide and self-mutilation. However, several social scientists might not agree and find these parameters to be constricted and limiting to provide any meaningful description of violence. They might argue that threats as well as overt acts be included, that psychological or emotional harm is as relevant as physical harm, and that injury is merely an outcome and not a descriptor of the act. On the other hand, some would contend that ‘intentional harm’ is too restrictive because it would include legitimate behaviorbehaviour in some contact sports or consensual infliction of pain.
Available evidences and observations support that violence is ’caused’ by multiple factors, many of which are strongly related to, and even affect each other. These factors are a a complex interaction of biological, social, contextual, cognitive, and emotional in nature that occur over a period of time. Some of these causes will be more prominent than others for certain individuals and for certain types of violence and aggression.5 (Borum et al, 2004).
A second general observation is that most violence can be usefully viewed as intentional. It is goal-directed and intended to achieve some valued outcome. It is not the product of innate, instinctual drives, nor is it the inevitable consequence of predetermining psychological and social forces. Obviously, many factors influence that decision and the competing options are available, but humans typically are not passive receptacle for involuntary displays of behaviorbehaviour. Indeed there are exceptions. For instance an individual could become aggressive or violent, if there is some emotional disturbance or cerebral dysfunction, as these conditions can generally lead to lack of self- control or dis-inhibition. However this behaviorbehaviour would be inconsistent with the kind of organization and planning necessary to carry out a terrorist attack.
Thus a terrorist action simply, is a calculated well-planned violent act against civilians and military personnel in times of peace, carried out by a group of people who use terrorism to publicize their cause which could be religious or political. ThusAnd/or threatening or pressurizing a government(s) or civilian population into accepting demands on behalf of the cause.
To identify the relevant social science literature the focus will be on locating professional literature published in major books or in peer-reviewed journals. A comprehensive review of scientific and professional literature is fundamental to the holistic approach in order to succinctly to comprehend the underlying understand the causes, motivations and determinants of terrorist behaviorbehaviour.
Earlier literaturey writings on the ‘psychology of terrorism’ were based mostly on psychoanalytic theories (e.g., narcissism, hostility toward parents), but now, the new research data has provided most researchers have since moved on to other explanations,in this context.6 (Borum et al., 2004).
Psychologists have introduced the term ‘psychology of terrorism’ to answer questions like, how and why people become terrorists, and are there any personality traits typical for terrorism.
Psychological theories relating to terrorism:
Frustrating Psycho-social Environment: Frustration due to poverty, marginalization, and unemployment is one of the oldest theories which are the earliest identified is factors significant in sociology related to terrorism. Terrorists usually belong to the above-mentioned categories. They suffer from social alienation and it is these socially disadvantaged people who are reported to be more at risk for getting involved in acts of violence.
Psychopathology and severe mental disorders: The persons who commit acts of extreme violence and destruction, killings and carnage have been regarded as inhuman, fanatical and abnormal. Terrorist organizations are now known to be well-organized and disciplined. It is unlikely that they would induct mentally ill people in the organizations. Possibly there is some casual screening, for serious psychopathology prior to induction in a group for organized terrorism.
Personality disorder: People resorting to terrorism, may have some form of psychopathology such as personality disorders.But The problem is that they are frequentlygenerally recognized as terrorists after a long period of association to a group The so-called narcissistic traits, for example extreme sensitivity to criticism, extreme fluctuations of mood, tendency to divide the world into extreme black and white, rather than understanding that there is a large grey area in life ,which must be comprehended in order to get adjusted to the world., which one needs to get adjusted to. Besides, characteristics like inability to form intimate bonds, insensitivity to others needs and feelings could also be the causes which may result in people to join fundamentalist, fanatical or otherwise terrorist organizations.
Fanaticism: A fanatic is described as a ‘person who is passionately engaged in a religious cause’. For a fanatic the world is divided in two categories: one is of those who are keenly involved in a religious cause; and the other who are not keenly involved in a religious cause. The concept of fanaticism has somecarries some implications of mental illness. The terrorist is branded as fanatic, mainly due to the actions which lead to self-harm in psychological terms., However, Taylor (1988)7 does not categorize fanaticism as a diagnostic entity in mental illness. He believes that the common assumptions about the relationship between fanaticism and mental illness are inappropriate. The fanatic often has fastidious perspective to the world view, which is at the extreme end of a continuum.
Terrorist Strategy
According to Alexanader and Klien (2006)8 the objectives of terrorists vary leading to the following reactions:
‘cCreates mass anxiety, fear, and panic, fostering a sense of helplessness and hopelessness; demonstrating the incompetence of the authorities; destroying a sense of security and safety provoking inappropriate reactions from individuals or the authorities (e.g. repressive and/or incompetent legislation or the excessive use of violence against suspect individuals and organizations). In addition, large-scale terrorist incidents can have adverse effects on world financial markets, travel and tourism, and may trigger xenophobic counter reactions’.
Modern terror organizations devote a lot of time and effort, as well as extensive resources into techniquesmethods of psychological warfare. They meticulously studycarefully observe their target- population which can be exploited. Research studies in terrorism indicate that they target country’s media in order to get their threats across and the media gets into their trap by magnifying the fears of the population and leads them to intensely condemn amplify criticism of the government and its policies. Radical viewsebellious views in the society are skilfully exploited carefully collected and used to create doubts inhallenge the populations’ beliefs in the rightness of its own ways. The terror organizations from the outset, plan that that they will not necessarily achieve their goals purely by means of terror attacks. They recruit the help of its victims themselves in gaining its objectives by inculcating fear. A conquest that would be impossible by military means is thus subtly achieved through a prolonged campaign of psychological warfare that steadily wears down the target-populations will to fight. Hoffman, 1998).9
An important understanding is that becoming caught up in terrorism is a process. No one is born a terrorist. It is neither the question of bad genes, nor does a person suddenly wakes up one morning and makes a decision that he would start planting bombs in public streets.
In the first instance, becoming a terrorist is an matter of socialization. Most of the societies possess some minorities or dissatisfied groups who rightly or wrongly perceive that the world is treating them cruelly. In other cases there could be a genuine and very significant cause for grievance. Individuals who belong to or identify with such disenchanted groups share a sense of injustice and discrimination. It is from such groups of people that individual terrorists emerge. The transition from a disaffected individual to the violent extremist is usually facilitated by a catalyst event. Usually the instigating event is police or security forces’ brutality; or a rival group against the individual, family, or friends; or just anyone they can identify with. The combination of sense of belonging to an under-pressure group combined with the experience of extreme violence against, either oneself or significant number of others, is the impetus for some to engage in terrorism. (Silke, 2003; 11 Shamim, 2009).10
According to McCauley:
” A terrorist group is the apex of a pyramid of supporters and sympathizers. The base of the pyramid is composed primarily those who sympathize with the terrorist cause even though they may disagree with the violent means that the terrorist use. In the present time the instance of Northern Ireland, the base of the pyramid constitutes who agree with ‘Brits Out’. In the Islamic world, the base of the pyramid is all those who agree that the US has been hurting and humiliating Muslims for decades. The pyramid is essential to the terrorists for cover and for recruits. The terrorists hope that a clumsy and over-generalized strike against them will hit some of their own side who are not yet radicalized and mobilized, will enlarge their base of sympathy, will turn the sympathetic but immobilized to action and sacrifice, and will strengthen their own status at the apex of this pyramid. (McCauley, 2007).12″
In 1986, the US attempted to retort to Libyan-supported terrorism by bombing Libya’s leader, Muammar Khaddafi. The bombs missed Khaddafi’s residence but a nearby apartment building was badly damaged, killing several women and children. This blunder was downplayed in the US but it became a public relations success for anti-US groups across North Africa. Interestingly, in 1998, a similar act was committed by the US when it sent cruise missiles against terrorist camps in Afghanistan and against a supposed bomb factory in Khartoum as retaliation to a terrorist attack on US embassy. (It appears now that the ‘bomb factory’ was in fact producing only medical supplies).
Usually a terrorist does not aim for a violent response that is not well – aimed . Terrorists hope for a reaction of stereotyping and prejudice in which the y are seen as typical members of the cause they sa y they are fighting for. Often the terrorists are only a tiny splinter of the group they aim to lead. Their mo st dangerous opposition is mostly from their own side, from moderates who see alternatives other than violence. If the reaction to terrorist attack is to put together all those who sympathize with the cause the terrorists claim to serve, to see a whole ethnic or religious group as dangerous and violent, then the moderates are undermined and the terrorists win.
The hardcore terrorists are usually a tiny splinter of the group. They aim to lead and expect a reaction of stereotyping and prejudice; which enhances their image. Their most dangerous opposition is often from their own side, from the moderates who see alternatives other than violence. If the response to terrorist attack is to lump together all who sympathize with the cause the terrorists claim to serve, to see a whole ethnic or religious group as dangerous and violent, then the moderates are undermined and the terrorists win.
Discrimination in the form of hostility and offensive behavior Rudeness, suspicion and hostility directed toward Arabs and other Muslims in the US and Europe will possibly lead to empathy with the terrorists. The reactions of stereotyping and prejudice observed against them is more likely to become a source of help to the terrorist instead of being a positive force against terrorism. ‘Profiling’ or other infringement of civil rights of Arabs and Muslims by US agencies of state security would help encourage a sense of victimization. Several thousands of Arabs and Muslims who were jailed since 9/11 on suspicion of terrorist activities will be obviously antagonized, leading them to feel aggrieved and violated by the infringement of their rights, when they are finally released.
The US stance of threat and hostility towards Arabs and Muslims, following 9/11 has proven dangerous. ” ‘Join our war against terrorism or else’ has clearly, now risked and undermined the Western leaning governments andof states, where fundamental Muslim forces are contesting government cooperation with the West. If the reaction to terrorism is seen as a crusade against the Muslims, the terrorists will be in a position to lead a jihad in their countries. Anti-terrorist activities in Afghanistan and invasion of Iraq are again seen as pursuance of the same policy. Pakistan at present is bearing the fall-out of this policy and suffering the brunt of the war on terror as the frontline state for terrorist activities. (Ereira & Wallace, 1995).13
Alexander and Klien (2005)14 provided a critical analysis of the western perspective of psychological aspects of terrorism at The Royal Society of Medicine Conference in April 2005.
“We need to view this phenomenon not through a moral prism but through a psychosocial one. This not an easy challenge and mental health specialists are more comfortable dealing with the impact of terrorist activity than with the motives and the psychological makeup of those who perpetrate such incidents.”
This is indeed one of the rare positive points of view of a leading expert in psycho-trauma from the Western World.
The biased use of the term ‘terrorist’ is often useda convenient one to stigmatize the adversaries. It is also understandable why such events, like the destruction of the World Trade Center; the car and suicide bombings in Iraq; the Bali nightclub bombing; and the London suicide bombing of July 2005, provoke public anger and egg on politicians and other prominent figures in civil society to compete with rival each other in their expressions of condemnation denunciation. ‘Howeverr, emotional catharsis of this kind does not add to the efforts to deal with terrorism.’ (Gunaratnam et al. 2003).15
There are several misconceptionsyths about terrorists and ‘suicide’ bombers in particular. The term ‘suicide bomber’ is clearly a misleading misnomer, propergatederpetuated particularlymainly by the media. (Salib, 2003).16 It is not ‘suicide’; it is an act of faith and martyrdom inbued and permeatedsuffused with religious and/or political motives’. According to Pape (2005)17 over 95 per cent of suicide terrorist attacks have resulted as a part of a strategic campaign to compel the withdrawal of foreign military forces from an occupied territory where religious differences exist between the occupier and the occupiedd.
Alexander and Klien identified some of the common realities about the terrorist:
Most terrorists are not mentally ill, and most do not have violent or psychopathic personalities (such individuals would find it very difficult to remain covert as part of a ‘sleeping cell’)
Not all terrorists come from impoverished or disadvantaged backgrounds (e.g. Osama bin Laden and the Badder-Meinhof group). Disadvantaged environments are more likely to produce sympathisers than terrorists
Not all terrorists are religious fanatics, and many belong to secular groups (those who do belong to ex tremist religious groups may be motivated by the prospects of immortality and the rich rewards following their ascendancy)
Terrorists are not typically ‘brain-washed’ or coerced into terrorist activity, although there is often a charismatic and inspira tional leader
There is now a move to involve females. Also, children as young as 12 years have been recruited by the Tamil Tigers of northern Sri Lanka . (A recent survey31 alarmingly confirmed, from a survey of school children in Gaza, that 70% wished to become a shahid in a self sacrificing act of martyrdom)
Regularly found among terrorists are: poor self esteem, a sense of hopelessness, shame, a need for revenge, and a sense of vulnerability . “
Most of the research data does no t support the concept that suicide bombing is primarily a result of T hus, the idea that the cause of suicide bombing is religious fanaticism.There is ample authentic research evidence that suicide bombing ,is also used as a tactic by several secular groups. does not stack up with the data; many groups adopting suicide-bombing tactics, including those in the Middle East, are entirely secular. Specifically, the idea that Islamist belief is the root- cause of suicide bombing is false and misleading; the majority of suicide bombings in the last two decades of the 20th century were conducted by the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, from a predominantly Hindu culture (Pape, 2003).17
Equally disingenuous is the portrayal of suicide bombers as typically young single men, disenfranchised, unemployed and uneducated. Suicide bombers can be men or women aged anywhere between early teens to late-forties, religious or secular, unemployed or employed, destitute or privileged, educated or uneducated, married or single, socially isolated or socially integrated (Pape, 2003).17
The other common media explanation is that suicide bombers, particularly the young, are somehow brainwashed or coerced into such attacks. However, virtually all would-be suicide bombers are volunteers. ‘The problem today for groups employing suicide attacks is not recruitment; it is managing the over-supply of volunteers.’ (Hassan, 2001).18 A recent survey of schoolchildren in Gaza found that 70 per cent wished to become a shaheed in a martyr operation. Eyad Sarraj, psychiatrist and director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, concludes:
“If you ask a little child in Gaza today what he wants to be, he doesn’t say doctor or engineer, or businessman. He says he wants to be a martyr. (Hawley, 2002;19 Marsden & Attia, 2005).20”
Theoretical Models
Following are the main psychological theories that have been applied to understanding violence:
Instinct Theory
Psychoanalytic Model: ‘The most widely recognized theory that addresses the roots of all forms of violence is the psychoanalytic model. Despite its influence on writers in the political science, sociology, history, and criminology literature, this model has weak logical, theoretical, and empirical foundations’ (Beck, 2002).21
Freud considered aggression generally as an innate and instinctual human trait, which is generally cultivated in the normal course of human development. A later development in Freud’s theory was that humans had the energy of life force (eros) and death force (thanatos) that required internal balance. Violence was seen as the ‘displacement’ of thanatos from self and onto others. (Corrado, 1981).22 Freud wrote:
“One has, I think, to reckon with the fact that there are present in all men destructive, and therefore anti-social and anti-cultural, trends and that in a great number of people these are strong enough to determine their behaviorbehaviour in human society. (Freud, 1927, p. 7). “
Early writings on psychological dimensions of terrorist behaviorbehaviour were dominated by psychoanalytic formulations, reflecting, in part, the prevailing theoretical orientation in clinical practice at the time. The two themes consistently at the center of these formulations were: (1) that motives for terrorism are largely unconscious and arise from hostility toward one’s parents: and (2) that terrorism is the product of early abuse and maltreatment.
One of the earliest examples of the former was Feuer’s (1969)23 ‘conflict of generations’ theory, ‘which is based on a Freudian interpretation of terrorism as a psychological reaction of sons against fathers, a generational phenomenon rooted in the Oedipus complex and, thus, in maleness’ (Crenshaw, 1986).24 The idea that terrorism is rooted in childhood abuse (often unconscious squealae) is a relatively common theme, and is still held by some contemporary analysts. (McCormick, 2003).25 The premise was that terrorist behaviorbehaviour was rooted in a personality defect that produced a damaged sense of self. The essence of pathological narcissism is an overvaluing of self and a devaluing of others. It is not difficult to see how one might observe these traits among terrorists. In fact, political scientist Richard Pearlstein concluded: ‘the psychoanalytic concept of narcissism is the most complete and thus most intellectually satisfying theory regarding the personal logic of political terrorism.’26
Crayton (1983), for example, posed the ‘psychology of narcissism’ as a framework for understanding terrorist behaviorbehaviour, using Kohut’s concepts to guide his argument. According to Clayton, the two key narcissistic dynamics are a grandiose sense of self and ‘idealized parental imago’ ( ‘If I can’t be perfect, at least I’m in a relationship with something perfect’). With regard to the effect of groups, he argues that narcissistically vulnerable persons are drawn to charismatic leaders and that some groups are held together by a shared grandiose sense of self. As others have posited, he suggested that narcissistic rage is what prompts an aggressive response to perceived injustice.
Indeed ‘narcissistic rage’ has been posed by more than one observer as the primary psychological precipitant of terrorist aggression. In developmental context the way in which this evolves is that as children the budding terrorists are deeply traumatized, suffering chronic physical abuse and emotional humiliation. This creates a profound sense of fear and personal vulnerability that becomes central to their self-concept. To eliminate this fear and create a more tolerable self-image, such individuals feel the need to ‘kill off’ their view of themselves as victims. These viewpoints have obviously evolved from Western school of thought and thus they can be partially applied to the terrorist groups in the Muslim world. There are clearly other significant social, political and religious factors which also contribute to the profile of a terrorist emerging in the Muslim Word.
Ethology: Ethology is defined as ‘the scientific study of animal behaviorbehaviour, especially as it occurs in a natural environment and as the study of human ethos, and its formation.’ (American Heritage Dictionary, 2000).27 According to Konrad Lorenz, cited in Borum et al. (2004):28
“Aggression arises from a very basic biological need —- a ‘fighting instinct’ which has adaptive value, as humans have evolved”.
He proposed that the drive from aggression is innate and that, in humans, only its mode of expression is learned through exposure to, and interaction with the environment.
According to this theory, the instinctual drive for aggression builds up over a period of time, and is fueledfuelled by emotional or psycho-physiological arousal, and it is consequently discharged by a process of release, which presumably decreases drive. Significant differences were observed by social scientists, anthropologists and experimental research, in the nature and level of aggression in different cultures, They argue that aggression can be environmentally manipulated, which is an argument against universality of this human instinct.
Drive Theory
Frustration Aggression (FA): The basic premise of the frustration-aggression (FA) hypothesis is twofold: (1) Aggression is always produced by frustration; and (2) frustration always produces aggression. Thus it is not reasonable to view frustration alone as a necessary and sufficient causal factor. In an important reformulation of the FA hypothesis. Berkowitz (1989)29 hypothesized that it was only ‘aversive’ frustration that would lead to aggression. In a classic work, Ted Gurr was among the first to apply a systematic FA analysis to the problem. Berkowitz (1989) postulated that it was only ‘aversive’ frustration that would lead to aggression. The newly proposed progression was that frustration would lead to anger, and that anger – in the presence of aggressive cues – would lead to aggression. While subsequent research findings have, at times, been inconsistent or contradictory, ‘it is reasonable to conclude that aversive stimuli do facilitate, but probably not instigate, aggressive behaviorbehaviour’. (Tedeschi & Felson, 1994).30
Social Learning Theory: Social learning theory is a simple addition to a basic idea, suggesting that behaviorbehaviour (e.g., aggression) is learned not only through one’s direct experience, but also through observation, of how such possibilities occur in one’s environments:
“If aggression is a learned behaviorbehaviour, then terrorism, a specific type of aggressive behaviorbehaviour, can also be learned.(Oots & Wiegele, 1985).31”
Aggression can be emotional and instrumental. Emotional aggression does not foresee consequences and its reward is only by hurting someone who has hurt the person. On the contrary, the instrumental aggression is calculated and the aggression is the means to other ends. Terrorist aggression may involve emotional aggression particularly for those who do the killing rather than those who plan terrorist acts.
Though terrorism inflicts instant damage by destroying lives and material possessions, but a terrorist hopes that the long-term costs would be miles greater. They create fear and uncertainty far beyond the victims and those close to them. Subsequently,a large amount of financial resources are wasted on unnecessary security measures. Consequently people out of fear spend enormous amounts of money on security, thereby leading to an enormous tax burden on every aspect of the enemy’s society, a tax that transfers resources from productive purposes to anti-productive security measures. Such costs for security hit countries like US, where an open society is the basis of economic and high-tech success.
Cognitive Theory of Aggression: The core elements in a ‘cognitive theory’ of aggression derive from ‘social cognition’. The basic concept is that people interact with their environment based on how they perceive and interpret it. That is, people form an internal (cognitive) map of their external (social) environment, and these perceptions — rather than an objective external reality — determine their behaviour.
Two common cognitive/processing deficits found among people who are highly aggressive are: (1) an inability to turn out non-aggressive solutions to conflicts; and (2) a perceptual hypersensitivity to hostile cues in the environment, particularly interpersonal cues.11
Crenshaw suggests that the principles of social cognition apply both to terrorists and to their organizations. She notes: ‘the actions of terrorists are based on a subjective interpretation of the world rather than objective reality. Perceptions of the political and social environment are filtered through beliefs and attitudes that reflect experiences and memories.’ (Crenshaw, 1988).32
Biological Approaches
Biological approaches are an important element in a comprehensive bio-psychosocial understanding of behaviour. Oots, Kent and Wiegele (1985)33 argue that, “‘social scientists who seek to understand terrorism should take account of the possibility that biological or physiological variables may play a role in bringing an individual to the point of performing an act of terrorism.”‘ (p. 17). Yet, it is rare that any biological studies are conducted on terrorists.
Neuro-cChemical Factors: Serotonin (5-HT), of all neurotransmitters in the animal studies, has received the most research attention and has shown the most consistent association with aggressive behaviour. Low levels of 5-HT may heighten one’s sensitivity or reactivity to cues of hostility or provocation. ‘In the absence of provocative stimuli, decreased 5-HT functioning may have little effect on the level of aggressive behaviour exhibited by humans.’ (Berman, Kavoussi, & Coccaro, 1997).34 Because Serotonin is primarily an inhibitory neurotransmitter, it is possible that deficits in 5-HT reduce inhibition of aggressive ideas/impulses that would otherwise be suppressed — there is no real evidence that it creates them.
Neurotransmitters, Norepinephrine (NE) may affect arousal and environmental sensitivity, and Dopamine (DA) may affect behavioural activation and goal-directed behaviour. Berman et al (1997) stated: ‘Compared to serotonin, the relationship between both dopamine and norepinephrine and human aggression is less clear.’ (Berman, Kavoussi, & Coccaro, 1997, p. 309).35
Psycho-physiological Factors: Lower than average levels of arousal (e.g., low resting heart rate) and low reactivity are consistently found in studies of people who engage in aggressive and antisocial behaviour (Raine, 1997).36
Neuropsychological Factors: Cognitive abilities relating to self-awareness and self-control are referred to as ‘executive functions’. The frontal lobe of the brain and the prefrontal cortex in particular, has been identified as the primary neuro-anatomic site of these functions:
“Evidence of the relation between executive deficits and aggression has been found among incarcerated subjects, among normal subjects in laboratory situations, and among unselected populations. Effect sizes are small to moderate, but consistent and robust 18. Theoretical and empirical evidence suggests that dysfunction or impairment in the prefrontal cortex may be responsible for the psycho-physiologic deficits found in people who engage in antisocial and aggressive behaviour. (Raine, 1993, 97). “
Specifically, brain-imaging, neurological, and animal studies suggest that prefrontal dysfunction may account for low levels of arousal, low (stress) reactivity, and fearlessness.
Hormonal Factors: The effects of androgens/gonadotropic hormones on human behaviour – particularly aggressive behaviour – are weaker and more complex than one might expect. Testosterone has, at best, a limited role. There is not enough empirical evidence to support ‘testosterone poisoning’ as a cause of disproportionate violence in males. A meta-analysis of the relationship between testosterone and scores on the Buss-Durkee Hostility Inventory. (Archer (1991)37 showed a ‘low but positive relationship between T-levels and the overall inventory score of 230 males tested over five studies.’ (Brain & Susman, 1997).38
Raw Empirical Approaches
Researchers also have attempted to apply statistical models to explain violence and to identify its predictors. This mode of inquiry has resulted in some positive findings on risk factors for violent behaviour. The use of risk factors in the Behavior Behaviour al Sciences is a concept borrowed from the field of Public Health, specifically the discipline of epidemiology (the study of causes and course of diseases). Technically, a risk factor is defined as “‘an aspect of personal behaviour or lifestyle, an environmental exposure, or an inborn or inherited characteristic which on the basis of epidemiological evidence is known to be associated with health-related condition(s) considered important to prevent”. Applied to this study, it is any factor, that when present, makes violence more likely than when it is absent.
Literally hundreds of studies in psychology, criminology, sociology, and other behavior behaviou r albehavioural sciences have identified certain significant risk factors for violence. Risk factors have been classified as broadly falling into two categories: static and dynamic. Static risk factors are those that are historical (e.g., early onset of violence) or dispositional (e.g., gender) in nature, and that are unlikely to change over time. Dynamic factors are typically individual, social or situational that often do change (e.g. juvenile delinquency, family problems, antisocial traits, hospitalization, violent history, adult criminal history, unmarried).
While it may be tempting to apply these risk factors to determine risk for terrorism, they are unlikely to be useful predictors. Although terrorism is a type of violence, risk factors tend to operate differently at different ages, in different groups, and for different — specific types of violent behaviour.
Trans-Generational Effects of PTSD
Certain life experiences are commonly found among terrorists. Histories of childhood abuse and trauma appear to be widespread. For instance, in terrorist biographies and personal histories, themes of perceived injustice and humiliation are often prominent. None of these contribute much to a causal explanation of terrorism, but may be seen as markers of vulnerability, as possible sources of motivation, or as mechanisms for acquiring or hardening one’s militant ideology. They struggle against past psychological wounds from early childhood betrayals. It is not simply a political injustice that hurt these individuals but it is intellectual and emotional deceit which damages them. And the wounds caused by this deceit and betrayal, if not properly healed, can project a subtle resentment into the world as subversive, and it is the bitter heart that pulls the trigger of a gun.
Just as there is no single terrorist personality or profile, a specific constellation of life experiences is neither necessary nor sufficient to cause terrorism. The role of life experiences in understanding a pathway to terrorism is based mainly on certain emotional and behavioural themes; in the contemporary literature three experiential themes appear to be robust: Injustice, Abuse, and Humiliation. They often are so closely linked that it is difficult to separate the effects and contributions of each. By definition, most abuse is unjust. Humiliation often results from extreme forms of abuse (often involving the anticipated judgments of others). Moreover, those experiences may have different effects when they present in different forms (e.g. parental abuse vs. prison abuse) or at different points in one’s development (e.g., during childhood vs. during adulthood).
Field (1979)39 spent more than eight years studying terrorism and the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland, where she found that:
“the children there have suffered severe disruption in the development of moral judgment—a cognitive function—and are obsessed with death and destruction about which they feel helpless, and against which they feel isolated and hopeless.”
She apparently was not surprised by the findings:
“Common sense and experience can tell us that people who are badly treated, and/or unjustly punished, will seek revenge. It should be not be surprising, then, that young adolescents, who have themselves been terrorized, become terrorists, and that in a situation where they are afforded social supports by their compatriots reacting against the actions of an unjust government, the resort to terrorist tactics becomes a way of life. (Field, 1979).39 39 “
Certain life experiences tend to be commonly found among terrorists. Histories of childhood abuse and trauma appear to be widespread. In addition, themes of perceived injustice and humiliation often are prominent in terrorist biographies and personal histories. None of these contribute much to a causal explanation of terrorism, but may be seen as markers of vulnerability, as possible sources of motivation, or as mechanisms for acquiring or hardening one’s militant ideology. (Last, 2001).40
Many researchers and terrorist case-histories have noted that periods of imprisonment and incarceration often facilitated experiences of injustice, abuse and humiliation. (Ferracuti & Bruno, 1981),41 Della Porta, 1992).42 Post and colleagues (2003, p. 119) offer a rich account of the impact of such experiences among the 35 incarcerated middle-eastern terrorists whom they interviewed. They found that the prison experience was intense. It further consolidated their identity in the group or organizational membership that provided the most valued element of personal identity. (Post, Sprinzak, & Denny, 2003).43
The childhood trauma, adult injustice and humiliation, taken together, if present in most of the terrorist’s histories, do not contribute much to a causal explanation of terrorism.
The Holocaust experiences supposedly continue to adversely effect survivors and their children.had and still has a deep effect on the survivors and their children. ‘They grew up in the shadow of psychic conflicts stemming from bereavement, mourning, guilt-feelings and anxiety, which often resulted in overprotection and over expectation.’ (Wardi, 1992).44
Danieli (1985) said:
“Children of Holocaust families feel the presence of the Holocaust at home verbally, nonverbally, and in some cases, having absorbed the menacing experience of the Holocaust through osmosis.’ (cited in Orlander, 2003).45 “
Clinical research indicate s that the negative effects continue to have an impact on of concentration camp exposure are passed down through future the generations.( Baracas and Barocas, (1973) (as cited in Williams-Keeler et al., 1998).46 These symptoms resemble the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms like intrusive images, nightmares, difficulty containing anger, restricted emotional range, fear of death, and other associated symptoms such as depression and guilt over surviving the Holocaust. This research findings have grave implications for the mental health of Palestinians in Gaza and the West bank regions; for more than six decades Palestinians have been incarcerated and persistently suffered destruction deprivation and humiliation. Consequently, the next generation acquires symptoms very much like to that of the survivor generation.generation. Perhaps to a lesser extent similar situations are developing in Afganistan and Pakistan. The drone attacks in northern Pakistani territories are commonly perceived by population at large as an infringement of their territorial boundaries,are thus considered an act of aggression. Starting from the Afghan war, Pakistan has continually suffered in multiple ways. Particularly the drone attacks the, influx of IDP’s, all have severe traumatic impact on the psyche of common man. The consequent effect of these traumatic events are likely to continue for generations
Th ese symptoms resemble the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms like intrusive images, nightmares, difficulty containing anger, restricted emotional range, fear of death, and other associated symptoms such as depression and guilt over surviving the Holocaust.
Vulnerability to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD ) ha s been associated with red R educed cortisol levels have been linked with vulnerability to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and considered a the risk factor of parental PTSD in adult offspring of Holocaust survivors. Rachel Yehuda, et al. studied the ‘Trans-generational Effects of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in Babies of Mothers Exposed to the World Trade Center Attacks during Pregnancy’. The findings of this study indicate that effects of maternal PTSD on cortisol can be observed very early in the life of the offspring and emphasizes the relevance of in utero effects as contributors to acknowledged biological risk factor for PTSD. The findings suggested that effects of maternal PTSD related to cortisol can be observed very early in the life of the offspring and underscore the relevance of in utero – contributors to putative biological risk for PTSD. Lower cortisol levels of cortisol were significantly most apparentnoticeable in babies born to mothers with PTSD exposed in their third trimesters. (Yehuda et al., 2005).47
This trans-generational study, somehow reminds one of an analytic term what Carl Jung called the ‘collective unconscious’ Jung stated, in his book Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (p. 43), Jung, Carl. (1959).
” in addition to our immediate consciousness, which is of a thoroughly personal nature and which we believe to be the only empirical ps yche — , there exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals. This collective unconscious does not develop individually but is inherited. It consists of pre-existent forms, the archetypes, which can only become conscious secondarily and which give definite form to certain psychic contents .”
Jung distinguished the collective unconscious from the personal unconscious, in that the personal unconscious is a individual reservoir of experience unique to each person, while the Collective Unconscious collects and organizes those personal experiences in a similar way with each member of a particular species. —tThe events and our response to them can be transmitted through and seem to have a genetic expression in behaviour. One cannot be sure how the neuronal traces and limbic system arousal of PTSD could alter DNA expression into a disorder. Even though growing up in a PTSD affected family would certainly have its deleterious effects, these findings alluded to above are quite a radical departure and are compelling!
There are four prevailing theories of trauma transmission that can explain how trauma is transmitted. A review of the literature suggests that there are a large number of different terms that describe trauma transmission. Emphasizing the generational interchange, particularly from parent to child, the transmission process is delineated as trans-generational (Felson, 1998), inter-generational (Sigal and Weinfeld, 1987), multi-generational (Danieli, 1998), or cross-generational (Lowin, 1983, all cited in ( (Kellermann, 2001).48 And finally, the suggestion is that as the trauma is passed on from one or both parents, perhaps ‘parental transmission’ would be a much better term. (Kellermann, 2001).49
Though trauma may be transmitted but the children are still able to become healthy effective adults (Albeck, 1994, as quoted in Williams-Keeler et al., 1998).50 He uses the term ’empathic traumatization’ to explain the off-springs’ attempts to understand their parents’ wartime experiences and pain as a means of establishing a connection with them. This second generation born from the traumatized parents, may thus bear ‘the scar without the wound’, since they are only indirectly affected. The children also may literally maintain their familial ties by integrating their parents’ experiences. Several questions arise in this context; for instance how does the transmission occur ? What was actually transmittedin fact passed on from parent to child? DHow does the transmission occur? do parents invariably transmit traumatic experiences to their offspring’s? And and are these children children equally susceptible to their parental trauma? After a brief description of that which was transmitted, F four prevalent theories of trauma transmission arewere described:, including the psychodynamic, socio-cultural, family system, and biological points of view .In In conclusion, an integrative view is suggested that attempts to describefine the pplausible or reasonableossible influence of biological predisposition, individual developmental history, family system and social situation on trans-generational influence of trauma.
It is interesting to note that groups who have been through well-recognized traumatic Holocaust-like situations are perpetrators of trauma’s even at a much higher intensity, on other populations.
The surge of corticotropic hormones released during a significant psychological trauma, produces substantial changes in the brain and the body. Specific structures in the brain shrink and alter in volume and function. This occurs within 1/1000 of a second immediately after the event. PTSD is considered by mental health directives mandates (such as the DSM) as a single ‘event-related condition’. The problemdilemma here arises when people present with consequences of exposure to prolonged, multiple traumatic experiences (such as those of the Vietnam War which was over 13 months per person, on average). The body gets the message to survive in this hostile environment. The body It must make rapid, organism-wide physiological changes,for instance to adapt, or it may expire.die. Mechanisms or processes which are are activated for the ‘Survival of the species’ tomechanisms are activated which ensure that the next generation is also well-equipped with the psychological, neurological and physical survival requirements in the same hostile environment as their parents. SuchThis is genetic transference is equavalentl to evolution. However, when a soldier returns home to their passiveinactive, non-hostile environment, thethey bring these adaptations continue with them…insidiously lurkingcreating a place in beneath the DNA. Thus any response that would have ensured survival in the environment in which it was created, is considered inappropriate, problematic and even disabling in a distant environment. Yet these adaptations to this antagonistic environment are emerging in subsequentsucceeding generations and, becausesince this generation had no direct experience of the original trauma, athey cannot be diagnosed ofwith the same condition as their forefathers, cannot be made. So they are given labels that describe the symptoms but not the condition, nor its origins. Thus neglect or ignorance or both, result in problematic situation.
Trauma following torture can be intensely terrifying and shocking; it often leads to complex emotional harm (recently reviewed by Turner, 2004;51 Eitinger (1964),52 following the Holocaust survivors, drew notice to the differences between the immediate effects of extreme violence and the tearing-up of a whole social fabric of the world, leaving many survivors without any form of ‘anchorage in the world’. Undoubtedly, there are often significant existential issues for survivors of torture to confront, which may be miles beyond the problems of PTSD.
An important study by de Jong et (2001)53 strongly predicted that even in low-income settings, where there has been a violent civil conflict such as Algeria, Ethiopia Ethipoia and Gaza, besides PTSD, the responses of traumatic events are more complex. This significant study helps to confirm that PTSD is not restricted to Western communities and cultures. It highlights the need for culturally appropriate and sustainable services in many parts of the world—a topic on which an International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) task force has produced some international training guidelines. (Weine et al., 2002).54
No single theory has gained ascendance as an explanatory model for all types of violence. Perhaps the diversity in behaviours regarded as violent poses an inherent barrier to such a global theory. Social learning and social cognition approaches have received some of the most extensive empirical attention and support, but not necessarily for terrorism specifically. Terrorist violence most often is deliberate (not impulsive strategic, and instrumental; it is linked to and justified by ideological (e.g., political, religious) objectives and almost always involves a group or multiple actors/supporters. These issues all add complexity to the construction of terrorism as a form of violence and challenge the emergence of a unifying explanatory theory. No single theory has gained ascendance as an explanatory model for all types of violence. Perhaps the diversity in behaviours regarded as violent poses an inherent barrier to such a global theory.
Social learning and social cognition approaches have received some of the most extensive empirical attention and support, but not necessarily for terrorism specifically. Terrorist violence most often is deliberate (not impulsive), strategic, and instrumental; it is linked to and justified by ideological (e.g., political, religious) objectives and almost always involves a group or multiple actors/supporters. These issues all add complexity to the construction of terrorism as a form of violence and challenge the emergence of a unifying explanatory theory.
It is an inherently psychological character of the war on terrorism that remains to be poorly appreciated: The security threats the United States faces can be attributed to the pressures of modernity and globalization. The sheer character of identity, the burden of choice, and the vulnerability of the alienated are the consequences of globalization. Besides other relevant factors Added to this are the socioeconomic, cultural, demographic factors, and other realities. (Mazarr, 2004).55
These material issues become most pertinent, and most hazardous when combined with latent psychological distress. Yet the full repercussion of this insight has not been comprehended by the US national security strategy and policy. The US and the West needs to give special emphasis to the diagnosis which will lead to the cure instead of rushing to strike back at evil. This is fundamentally a psychological phenomenon and requires incisive, thought-out and psychological solutions rather than exhibition of military power or law enforcement tactics. (Mazarr, 2004).55
The glaring example of this fact is the state in Afghanistan at present. The United States used Afghanis with help of Pakistan to fight the Soviet Union; and the poor shattered and destroyed Afghanis were left with bare land, no social support or infrastructure. Clearly, their misery and deprivation made them feel betrayed by the US who apparently were fighting this war for materialistic reasons and power for the new World Order. Poverty, illiteracy, frustration and betrayal provided fertile ground for the ignorant radicals to instigate the innocent civilians into rampant terrorism. (Mazarr, 2004).55
Most people today know the about the human effects of modernization and globalization, and the ways in which frustration, rage, and ultimately terrorism emerges from the collision of the new and the traditional civilizations. Theories connecting radical extremist Islam to a reaction against modernity have been around for decades, which have influenced the present-day dichotomies. (Mazarr, 2004).55
Cultural Factors
Heggy (2005)56 in The Arab Mind suggests that Arab defects are culturally induced. Heggy argues these deficiencies develop over time as a combination of cultural attributes deriving from historical, political, economic, social and educational factors which, like any acquired attributes, are amenable to change. Lloyd deMause refutes Clark McCauley’s statement in that, ‘Thirty years of research finding was very little evidence that terrorists are suffering from psychopathology.’ (cited in Lachkar, 2006, p. 311). To go along with this preposterous ‘research’ as clinicians and psycho-historians would be joining in a collusive bond or folie A  deux.
Evidence does exist that most major players in a terrorist organization are themselves, deeply traumatized individuals. As children, they suffered chronic physical abuse, and profound emotional humiliation. They grew up mistrusting others, loathing passivity, and dreading reoccurrence of a violation of their psychophysical boundaries. Many researchers and terrorist case histories have noted that periods of imprisonment and incarceration often facilitated experiences of injustice, abuse and humiliation.
Finally, twenty years ago, Fried (1982)60 posed the dilemma as follows:
“We are left to ponder what events may be the ones that make a potential terrorist cross the line into actual violence, or possibly even lean to terrorist activity on the part of someone whom one would not have described as particularly terrorism-prone. Such factors may include experiences of profound disappointment because of a personal failure or disillusionment with an ideal; the killing or imprisonment of a family member or comrade; being introduced into a setting where terrorism is a long-standing tradition or a response to current political crisis; or contact with a group that influences the way in which one cognitively restructures and re-evaluates the political situation, with membership in that group being something that meets personal needs and participation in terrorist activities merely one of the conditions one has to fulfill for association. “
We all know that 9/11 changed the world overnight. The effects of the war in Afghanistan effects of the war in Afghanistan have clearly destabilized the entire region. The heavy arms and ammunition left by the previous war made the situation in Afghanistan explosive beyond control. Simultaneously, it is worth mentioning that Afghanistan tragically suffered the aftermath, in terms of destruction, deaths, unleashing of tribal conflicts, due to imbalance created by wars the Afghans endured. The ceaseless psychosocial consequences further, needed urgent humanitarian interventions, which was not forthcoming somewhat unclear. Several considered it a valid response to the 9/11 attacks, but the 9000 civilians who were killed or seriously injured in a US military operation in retaliation was not accepted positively by the Arab worldview.
The war in Iraq, though, may have a very different impact. Even though there was little doubt that Saddam Hussein was once a brutal and violent dictator, but the three reasons given to go to war were vague. The first reason was the fear of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD); the second reason was self defense, as it was notablyfamously claimed that Iraq within 45 minutes ,could have weapons ready for deployment against British and US troops within 45 minutes; and the final reason was humanitarian intervention. We must learn that democracy cannot be imposed from without, and elections do not constitute democracy.
All the requisites of international law were not considered, and the reasons behind the war raised objections world over. People demonstrated worldwide, but the powerful political forces of the USA, and UK did not care. The use of force against Iraq was not authorized by existing UN Security Council resolutions. This meant that the Coalition (United States and United Kingdom, primarily) acted on its own initiative, rather than under international cooperation. When the US asserted they were acting in pre-emptive self-defense, they used an application of self-defense which was different from the existing understandings of the self-defense laws. In June 2003, Times journalist Thomas Friedman wrote that:
“The ‘real reason’ for this war, which was never stated, was that after 9/11 America needed to hit someone in the Arab-Muslim world. Smashing Saudi Arabia or Syria would have been fine. But we hit Saddam for one simple reason: because we could, and because he deserved it, and because he was right in the heart of that world. (Friedman, quoted in Lemann 2003).61”
Bidstrup (2003)62 elaborating upon the effects of the fight against terrorism in a global security context said: ‘the terrorists will use the many examples of our continuing hypocrisy in the recruitment of new suicide bombers, technical experts and subversives.’ If we accept that Bidstrup is at tip of the of the real problem, that the cause of terrorism is not that the United States is weak, but that the terrorists feel that the only way to get their point across is to take desperate measures. The prisoners of war in Camp X-Ray, and later Camp Delta in the Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba has raised further questions, not only from the Arab world, but also from America’s closest ally, Great Britain.
Certain life experiences tend to be commonly found among terrorists. Histories of childhood abuse and trauma appear to be widespread. In addition, themes of perceived injustice and humiliation often are prominent in terrorist biographies and personal histories. None of these contribute much to a causal explanation of terrorism, but may be seen as markers of vulnerability, as possible sources of motivation, or as instruments for acquiring or consolidating one’s militant ideology.
The world is now facing the consequences of military action, coalition building, threats and promises, interventions, both overt and covert. But still the innately psychological character to the War on Terrorism remains feebly appreciated. The security threats the United States faces today have everything to do with the pressures of modernity and globalization, the sheer nature of identity, the burden of choice, and the vulnerability of the estranged. These material issues combined by relevant, latent psychological distress can become lethal. (Yahya, 2009).63
In the last two decades in particular, the concept of ‘Islamic terror’ is constantly being discussed, but after 9/11, it has come at the top of the international agenda. Violence has no place in Islam and Islam is certainly not the source of this violence. As pointed out by Harroon Yahyaa in his article that the identities of the perpetrators of the acts of terrorism which targeted the United States are not yet determined. There is strong possibility that these ghastly attackers are linked to quite different centers. It could be a communist group’s vindictive rage and hatred against American values; a fascist organization opposing federal administration; or a secret group in another state. Even though the hijackers have Muslim identities, the question regarding by whom and for what purposes these people were used will probably always remain a mystery.
The fact remains however, that, ‘even if the terrorists have Muslim identities, the terror they perpetrated cannot be labelled “Islamic terror”, just as it would not be called “Jewish terror” if the perpetrators were Jews or “Christian terror” if they were Christians.’
In fact the three theistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam totally condemn murdering of innocent people in the name of religion. In Islam, slaughtering innocent people is a great sin that brings torment in Hell. A number of verses in Holy Quran categorically condemns it. No believer in God will ever commit a terrorist act. The following quotations from Holy Quran elucidate the approach of Islam:
“You who believe! Enter absolutely into peace (Islam). Do not follow in the footsteps of Satan. He is an outright enemy to you. (Surat al-Baqara: 208)
God does not love mischief makers. (Surat al-Qasas: 77) “
Just as the Crusaders distorted and misinterpreted Christianity as a teaching of brutality, some perverted groups emerging in the Islamic world misinterpreted Islam and resorted to brutality. What is common to these sects and the Crusaders was their ‘Bedouin’ nature. That is, they were ignorant, unrefined, uncultivated, vulgar, and isolated people. The violence they resorted resulted more from this social structure, rather than the religion to which they claimed to adhere.
It is a fact that, for the last few centuries, Muslims in all corners of the Islamic world are being subjected to violence by Western forces and their affiliates. However, for Muslims, this is a situation that has to be approached and responded to from a purely Quranic standpoint.
Islam is not peculiar to a particular nation or geography:
“Contrary to the dominant Western perception, Islam is not an ‘Eastern culture’. Islam is the last religion revealed to mankind as a guide to the true path that recommends itself to all humanity. Muslims are responsible for communicating the true religion they believe in to all people of all nations and cultures and making them feel closer to Islam.”
Today, the Western world is apprehensive about the organizations that use terror under the guise of Islam and this apprehension is quite understandable. It is clear that terrorists and their supporters must be punished according to international judicial criteria. However, a more important point to consider is the long-term strategies which must be devised for feasible solutions to these problems.
The assessments above reveal that terror has no place in Islam. They further emphasize the inherently contradictory nature of the concept of ‘Islamic terror’. This provides us with an important vantage point.

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