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Unfinished Psych of Terrorism

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By lisamaio
Words 2016
Pages 9
PSY 487: Final Paper
Lisa Maiorana
Spring 2014

What is terrorism and why is it a part of our global society? Terrorism is often the result of some type of social or economic injustice, such as poverty, the unemployment rate, government-imposed restrictions on individual freedoms, and a lack of order or morality. For most Americans, the words “terrorist” or “terrorism,” instantly triggers a flashbulb memory of where they were when the Twin Towers fell on that fateful day, September 11, 2001. Many people continue to struggle with the notion that there are groups out there, brought together by their unanimous hatred for Americans. The 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon is arguably the most disastrous act of terrorism of all time, forcing Americans and the rest of the world to see the threat of terrorism in a new light (Borum, 2003). The 20th and 21st centuries saw new developments in technology that may have changed the game of terrorism, however, extremist ideology and justification of violence, is not a new political strategy (“Terrorism in the,”). Rebel groups have been establishing roots and sprouting up all over the world since the beginning of human history (*CITE #3).
The formation of such groups has occurred across centuries, but the term “terrorism” wasn’t coined until the 18th century, during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror. Revolutionary officials—referred to as terrorists—and their subordinates, enforced the policies of “The Terror,” but the first recognized terrorist organization was established well before the French Revolution. This rebel group was known as the Zealots and they were founded approximately around the first century. They sought and killed Roman forces and any Jews that collaborated with Rome, in defense of the true dictates of Judaism that they believed were not being fulfilled by Roman subjects. The Zealots had some success until their mass suicide at the fortification of Masada. They chose to kill themselves rather than die by the hands of their Roman enemies (“Early History of,”). The terrorist activity performed by the Zealots had clear, religious motivation, and the same can be said for much of the terrorism that occurs today. The religious extremists of Islamic fundamentalist groups pose a particularly enduring threat to Western nations (Reiss, 2004). One’s perspective of terrorism can be largely dependent on one’s national government, religious practices, culture, and/or available media outlets with accurate reports (Perl, 1997). As Parliament Member George Galloway said during an August 2006 interview, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” Since terrorism is a global phenomenon, the definition of terrorism, to a certain extent, can be left to cultural interpretation (*CITE?).
The American government defines terrorism as the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group, against people or property with the intension of intimidating and coercing our nation’s people, generally for ideological or political reasons (*9/11?**CITE #1). A member or supporter of a terrorist organization, however, would not consider his practice to be ‘terrorism,’ but a necessary means of warfare intended to send a message that benefits the advancement of his group’s ideals (Borum, 2003). Terrorist groups often lack the political or financial resources that would allow them to display their message in a less aggressive, more conventional way (Hudson, 1999). The goal of a terrorist attack is to unfold the destruction of its target audience/population to make a statement about their ideologies. Due to the illicit nature of their activity and limited access to resources, terrorists must utilize the most drastic and efficient ways of gaining public attention. The easiest way to shock and frighten their enemy is to commit large-scale attacks against the public (*CITE #2).
More often than not, the terrorist organization performs such acts of violence in the name of their religion. Although there are other models to consider when examining terrorism, like nationalism and ideology, religious extremism has proved to be the dominating force in the terrorist movement (*CITE?). Religion and religious oppression has been a source of conflict for centuries. Some historians even believe it to be the number one cause of war(*Top 10?**CITE). The Israeli-Pakistani conflict, the Crusades, the War on Terror, and the Thirty Year War are just some examples of wars related to religion. Numerous countries throughout the course of history have been affected by religious-based conflict, like Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, England, France, Spain, and more (Nielson, 2012).
Religious extremists have been known to commit acts of terrorism in defense of their social, political, and/or religious beliefs (Borum, 2003). The Torah, Bible, and Koran all contain instances of justification for the killing of non-believers (Nielson, 2012). Religion gives its believers the justification to commit volatile acts that normally would be considered sin, and rewards martyrs who kill for their beliefs, even in the case of suicide missions (Borum, 2003). Many of the most threatening terrorist organizations today use religion as a primary or secondary motivating factor for action. These religious terrorist groups seek to pursue a reconstruction of society based on their extremist ideals.
In recent history, the focus of religious-based terrorism has been put on the Islamic fundamentalists. The al Qaeda, led by the notorious Osama bin Laden, is the Islamic fundamentalist group believed to be responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks (*9/11?**CITE). The relationship between capitalistic Western nations and Islamic fundamentalists in the Middle East has, without a doubt, developed into a serious rivalry. This rivalry provides a strong foundation for conflict between Western and Middle Eastern powers (*CITE).
Islamic fundamentalism is an Islamic ideology based on religious notions that advocate for the return to the fundamentals of Islam, the Quran, and the Sunnah. This extremist group expresses a deep hatred and disgust for Western culture. They view our modern advances in technology and other revolutionary accomplishments as sinful. The events of September 11, 2001 provide an obvious example of their disdain for Americans. Islamic fundamentalists look to the United States as the leader of the modern Western world, only intensifying their hatred for our nation (CITE THREAT TO WEST).
Islamic fundamentalists do not support the dimension of globalization and believe that the global political system is too influenced by the United States and other Western powers. They fear that exposure to certain themes commonly found in music and film of Western popular culture will corrupt their younger generations. They worry that Western culture will lead their youth to stray from their old-fashioned set of Islamic morals and values (CITE THREAT TO WEST).
Another issue that adds tension to the Western-Islamic fundamentalism relationship is the dispute over oil. This is a factor that cannot be denied. Chandra Muzaffar said it best when he said, “The one commodity which is most important to industrial civilization, Western industrial civilization, happens to flow beneath the feet of Muslims, in the Arab world…” (CITE MUSLIM THEMES WEST). Former US politicians have openly stated that the war in the Middle East can partly be attributed to America’s obsession with the fossil fuel. Former Senator and Defense of Secretary, Chuck Hagel made this remark in 2007 about the war in the Middle East: "People say we're not fighting for oil. Of course we are!" (Juhasz, 2013). Factoring in oil really complicates things further between Islamic fundamentalists and Westerners, adding fuel to a potentially catastrophic fire (CITE MUSLIM THEMES WEST).
Islamic fundamentalism and Western culture appear to be on two opposite ends of the spectrum. Extremist views of fundamentalist Muslims and The United States’ greediness for oil are the main sources of conflict between the two groups (CITE MUSLIM THEMES WEST). However, it is important to note that fundamentalism is not an accurate representation of the Islamic religion as a whole. It is important to understand the differences between Islam—the religion, and Islamic fundamentalism—an ideology. Being able to respect the faith of anti-fundamentalist Muslims, while still opposing the extremist ideologies of fundamentalist Muslims, is an imperative skill when considering the fact that one group practices its religion peacefully, while the other seeks to conquer the non-Islamic world. It is not all Muslims, but the fundamentalists that mean us harm (CITE THREAT TO WEST).
To understand the difference between Muslims, Islamic fundamentalists, and extreme Islamic fundamentalists, refer to the traditions of the Islamic religion. The term Jihad is a fundamental concept of the Islamic religion, as it pertains to “holy war.” It’s important to note, however, that the Jihad understanding of the term has not always been represented correctly. Jihad is the internal struggle (perhaps an internal “holy war”) to live as a faithful Muslim, but the many references to Jihad as a military struggle has led to the interpretation of Jihad as “holy war.”
Practicing Muslims must live by the Five Pillars of Islam as well as follow other faithful behaviors to appease Jihad. Although it is commonly associated with war, there are only specific circumstances in which Jihad can be satisfied. According to the Muslim religion, the only acceptable reasons for engaging in military Jihad are: self-defense, to strengthen the Muslim faith and offer protection from religious oppression, to punish an enemy who has broken an oath, and to right a wrong. The Jihad should never force people to convert to Islam, conquer or colonize other nations, acquire territory for economic gain, settle disputes, or demonstrate a leader’s power. Along with these guidelines, while partaking in Jihad, a set of strict rules must be obeyed to protect innocent civilian lives. The desire of Islamic fundamentalists to take over the world and convert everyone to Islam strongly disobeys the rules of Muslim Jihad. Jihad is alluded to numerous times in the Qur’an, however it also encourages peaceful interaction whenever possible. Unfortunately, certain extremist groups like the Islamic fundamentalists misinterpret Jihad, engaging in terrorist acts that misrepresent the “holy war”(BBC, 2009).
How is it then, that extremist groups like the Islamic fundamentalists, completely disregard the true principals of Islam and Jihad? The extremist views and terrorist actions of Islamic fundamentalists make up a very small minority in the world, but they are slowly gaining support with the spread of their ideologies (CITE BOZARTH). Fundamentalists have no interest in democracy, pluralism, freedom of religion, or freedom of speech. They are only interested in one thing—the realization of their way of life. They interpret the Quran, the word of Allah, and Mohammed’s preaching as justification for religious violence (CITE MOSH). Often in communities where extremists views run high, committing these violent acts of aggression or even suicide is deemed admirable. While most families and friends would be distraught over a loved-one who took their own life, Islamic extremists view their behavior as an act of martyrdom. The family is proud of their terrorists. It is considered an honor to have the opportunity to sacrifice one’s life for the greater good of Islam (Borum, 2003).
There are trends to consider, other than religious background, that can account for one’s decision to support or participate in a terrorist organization. Although there is no universal method to identify why certain extremist ideas come to develop, there is a heuristic four-stage process that can be used by investigators and intelligence analysts to better assess the behaviors, experiences, and activities of terrorist groups. First, an extremist individual or group is likely to have recognized some type of economic or social problem, like poverty or restriction of freedoms. Next, they identify the problem as “injustice.” Now the extremists are able to assign blame to whomever they believe to be responsible for the injustice (Borum, 2003)—like how Islamic fundamentalists believe that Western powers are to blame for the demise of morality. Then, those held responsible become “evil” in the eyes of the extremist, which dehumanizes the target, facilitates aggressive action, and provides justification for such action. In conclusion, the four stages can be summed up as follows: 1) “it’s not fair”; 2) “it’s not right”; 3) “it’s your fault”; and, 4) “you’re evil” (Borum, 2003).

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