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Most suicide bombers secular?
Posted: 23 February 2009 06:34 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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I may have missed a discussion on this some time ago, but I was hoping to get some reactions here.  I find it hard to believe that most suicide bombers are not religious, especially Middle East suicide bombers.

According to “dave” posting on google:

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“Robert Pape of the University of Chicago ran a study that analyzed every suicide bombing from 1980 to 2003. The study was conducted by the Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism, funded in part by the Pentagon Defense Threat Reduction Agency. The intial results were published in a paper in the American Political Science Review, and the complete results in a book called “Dying to Win”. Pape studied 461 suicide attacks overall, which is every suicide attack from 1980 to 2003. He ascertained the religious or ideological affiliation of 384 of them:

“Of the 384 attackers for whom we have data, 166, or 43%, were religious, while 218, or 57%, were secular.”

57% = most

These results were mirrored by work published in a book called “Making Sense of Suicide Missions”, edited by Deigo Gambetta, who found that “contrary to a widespread belief, the majority of [suicide missions] have been carried out by secular rather than religious organizations.”

The most prolific suicide bombers are the LTTE. They are not Muslim.

Let’s look at suicide bombing in Lebanon. Pape’s database contains data on 41 attackers. From the book:

“…at least 30 of the 41 attackers do not fit the description of Islamic fundamentalism. 27 were communists or socialists with no commitment to religious extremism; three were Christians. Only 8 suicide attackers were affiliated with Islamic fundamentalism; the ideological affiliation of 3 cannot be identified.”

Maybe your reaction is that Pape is a lying anti-Semite. Ariel Merari is head of the Center for Political Science at Tel Aviv University. He has a chapter in the book “Origins of Terrorism:Psychology, Ideologies, Theologies, States of Mind”, edited by Walter Reich and Walter Lacquer. He counts suicide bombing in Lebanon by incidents, and not individuals. Going by incidents, he finds that 7 out of 31 suicide bombings in Lebanon were committed by religious fundamentalists. Here you can actually use the internet. This book is searchable on Amazon. The info is on page 204. Simply search “204”, and go to that page.
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I admit I haven’t researched this yet myself so I apologize for using this forum as my personal notebook.

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Posted: 23 February 2009 08:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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I’d be interested in hearing what Sam Harris thinks of this.

By secular, do they just mean non-religious and doing the bombing for political or social (class) warfare?

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Posted: 23 February 2009 10:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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This is the complete nonsense Scott Atran has been espousing for a few years.
True enough, the majority of actual suicide bombers have been recruited among marginal youth groups, often with minimal formal contact with established religious communities.
However, they then undergo a period of a few months’ time with radical religiofication, seclusion from the outside world and undergoing a fanaticization process.

Thus, you can regard suicide bombers as overcompensating religionists, as much atoning for their previous “sinful life” as for furthering a religious agenda.


To call FORMER, and repentant, secularists for “secular” is just nonsense, they are (have become) religious through and through.


Furthermore, to use the term “secular” about radical leftist/communist groups like the LTTE is an abuse of that word. They are as much in love with a totalitarian phantasy life as any old-fashioned religionist..

[ Edited: 23 February 2009 10:40 AM by arildno]
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Posted: 25 February 2009 12:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Note what he says “at least 30 of the 41 attackers do not fit the description of Islamic fundamentalism.”

They are religious, just not fundamentalist religious.

Stupid article.

I was listening to an interview with an Israeli writer who interviewed the terrorists in Palestine and they quite clearly told him that the more land that Israel withdraws from the further into Israel they will launch rockets. They won’t stop until Islam rules.

Those are the sad facts.

Dom

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Posted: 26 February 2009 08:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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I accept that if we choose to define “religious fundamentalism” as “the willingness to pick yellow flowers and give them to a stranger”, then obviously, suicide bombers are not religious fundamentalists.

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Posted: 15 May 2009 07:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Is this data really that pressing in order to begin making claims about suicide bombing? If you don’t believe something good is going to happen after you die, blowing yourself up along with others is a pretty bankrupt career move.

“Okay Khalid, you’re going to strap the bomb on, then board the bus, then detonate the bomb.”

“Why can’t I leave the bomb on the bus and then detonate it? This way I can detonate a second, possibly third bomb-”

“Well, ehm, you see…”

The next best explanation is they successfully recruit suicidal murderers with no religious influence. This explanation fails horribly.

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Posted: 05 August 2009 01:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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arildno - 23 February 2009 03:21 PM

This is the complete nonsense Scott Atran has been espousing for a few years.

That’s because Scott knows what he is talking about…unlike you.

True enough, the majority of actual suicide bombers have been recruited among marginal youth groups, often with minimal formal contact with established religious communities.
However, they then undergo a period of a few months’ time with radical religiofication, seclusion from the outside world and undergoing a fanaticization process.

And as anyone who looks at the background of these ppl would have guessed beforehand, they don’t buy into that crap very often.  They aren’t killing thamselves because of their religion, they are killing themselves in that particular manner because they are told it’s their last opportunity to make a difference in the world and they buy into that. 

Thus, you can regard suicide bombers as overcompensating religionists, as much atoning for their previous “sinful life” as for furthering a religious agenda.

You are completely ignorant of reality.  You are literally just pulling this from your ass.  The real world data shows your delusino is just that, delusion.  Such a shame Sam shares your delusion.

To call FORMER, and repentant, secularists for “secular” is just nonsense, they are (have become) religious through and through.

What the article is referring to is indviduals who aren’t wholeheartedly influenced by religious doctrine to guide their actions in life (or death).  And no, it’s not ‘nonsense’, it’s reality.  The CIA has done extensive research into suicide bombers for the past 20 yrs and came to the identical conclusion.  There are socioeconomic and psychological conditions that get ppl to blow themselves up.  It’s not religious in the sense you think of it being religious.  The vast majority of these ppl want to kill themselves before they have any religious background. 

Furthermore, to use the term “secular” about radical leftist/communist groups like the LTTE is an abuse of that word.

Only ebcause you are too dim to understand what the word means and too lazy to bother yourself with reading what actual scientific study of the real world data tells us.  Or maybe it’s not laziness, just cowardice.  Pick your poison.

 

 

Some of you in this thread need a swift kick in the head.  You aren’t thinking with your brain, you are forming conclusions based on what you would find ideologically convenient.  Facts are stubborn things.  And the field data from the CIA is patently undeniable.  Despite what Sam Harris tells you, on this issue, he is 100% ass backwards.  And so are some of you.  If you’d like to see some of the CIA’s dtat on this just lemme know.

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Posted: 06 August 2009 06:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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‘There are socioeconomic and psychological conditions that get ppl to blow themselves up.’

I think this is only obvious. This is not an either/or scenario. People with suicidal tendacies obviously have psychological issues to begin with, and perhaps the fundamentalist religious aspect, later introduced, acts as a catalyst towards the end result.

Religion and faith play a part in this, but they are not the entire answer generally. They in the end may provide the justification for a person already sliding down a slippery slope, in some cases anyway.

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Posted: 08 August 2009 10:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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There is zero evidence whatsoever suggesting that reglion catalyzes suicidal tendencies.  Again, there has been remarkably thorough studies on this and again and again and again the data shows ebyond any doubt that religion has nothing to do with getting these ppl to wanna kill themselves to begin with.  These ppl are disturbed for a variety of socioeconomic reasons and have already decided to kill themselves.  The issue isn’t whether their mind is made up at this point.  It is.  Period.  And religious views didn’t contribute to virtually any of these cases in getting to that point.  The role religion does play is to give these an opportunity to die in a way where they feel they are making a difference in the world with their death. 

Don’t think of it as a catalyst somehow.  It isn’t.  It is an opportunity in the minds of these disturbed individuals.  It’s their way out in their mind.  And most importantly, it’s a way out that necesseitates their death being impactful on the world they have become disallusioned with in life.

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Posted: 09 August 2009 07:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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I am afriad that I agree more closely with Sam Harris on this issue than people like Scott Atran and my friend Tavish.

This is from Sam during his debate with Atran about this very subject in 06-

‘What may appear, to the untutored eye, as patent declarations of religious conviction are, on Atran’s account, nothing more than “sacred values” and “moral obligations” shared among kin and confederates. What Atran ignores in his interpretation is the widespread Muslim belief that martyrs go straight to Paradise and secure a place for their nearest and dearest there. In light of such religious ideas, solidarity within a community takes on another dimension. And phrases like “God will love you just the same” have a meaning that is worth unpacking. What is God’s love good for? It is good for escaping the fires of hell and reaping an eternity of happiness after death. To say that the behavior of Muslim jihadis has little to do with their religious beliefs is like saying that honor killings have little to do with what their perpetrators believe about women, sexuality, and male honor.’


It is hard for me to believe that there is ‘zero’ influence from religious belief on the suicidal convictions and actions of Islamic Jihadists.

As I stated above, faith or belief may not be the only reason for such behavior, but it is a factor, as the Jihadists themselves claim.

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Posted: 09 August 2009 09:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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eudemonia - 09 August 2009 11:49 AM

I am afriad that I agree more closely with Sam Harris on this issue than people like Scott Atran and my friend Tavish.

This is from Sam during his debate with Atran about this very subject in 06-

‘What may appear, to the untutored eye, as patent declarations of religious conviction are, on Atran’s account, nothing more than “sacred values” and “moral obligations” shared among kin and confederates. What Atran ignores in his interpretation is the widespread Muslim belief that martyrs go straight to Paradise and secure a place for their nearest and dearest there….’

The problem with Sam’s assertion is that it’s completely wrong.  None of us are ignoring that.  The difference between Sam and Scott (and the CIA analysts and myself and any terrorism scholar on the planet) is that we aren’t willing to see terrorism through the lens of what Islam teaches about martyrdom or paradise etc without the field data forcing such points of view upon us. 

You have to base your conclusions on the facts and the facts tell us that many of these people aren’t particularly religious, even when they commit suicide.  Many of them behave almost verbatim with how young, socially disallusioned people do here in the US.  They become disallusioned and seek to meet new people and find comradery in evangelical church groups or a wide array of other socially conveneient organizations. 

Many of these people (and I know lots of them personally) are perfectly willing to play the part of a religious nutjob depending on their present company because it serves their emotional needs of connecting and developing friendships with other people not BECAUSE OF shared particular religious convictions but instead on the basis of the human need to meet and be around other human beings.  THAT is what is really being shared here.  Having a meeting place every week and a set of common causes between them is serving to facilitate the progression of that personal agenda, but it’s not the nuanced content of those shared causes that got them to be disallusioned with society to begin with.  Some people do it through sports.  Others do it through religion (unfortunately).  Some do it through other groups be it Boy Scouts, the military, etc. 

Lots of the individuals in question have already tried to kill themselves in the past before they got involved in religious groups according to CIA interviews and field data.  One time on a debate I heard Sam Harris say something astonishingly stupid.  He once claimed that he found it nearly impossible to imagine that people would gladly blow themselves up and kill themselves UNLESS it was for a deeply seated ideological goal with the promise of some religious reward in the afterlife.  It’s as if Sam imagines that people kill themselves only for religious reasons or even ideological reasons.  Clearly his thought son the issue of suicide in general, elegantly spoken as his words always are, aren’t up to the polish and research as his views on other topics.

‘...In light of such religious ideas, solidarity within a community takes on another dimension. And phrases like “God will love you just the same” have a meaning that is worth unpacking. What is God’s love good for? It is good for escaping the fires of hell and reaping an eternity of happiness after death…’

Here Sam is assuming, again and without merit, that suicide bombers want to kill themselves BECAUSE OF some sort of religious reward awaiting them on the other side.  But the actual data proves that isn’t true for the overwhelmingly vast majority of them.  Sam has this ignorant idea in his head that because there is radical Islamic rhetoric coming from these suicide bombers on the issue of rewards in the afterlife, that therefore it is conclusive that these people are wanting to kill themselves for that reward instead of the more common real world motivations of individuals who go into these groups as secular, often fairly well educated casual moderate muslims whose socioeconomic conditions in their personal lives has already convinced them suicide is the answer. 

These people want to die already.  Period.  The question in their minds is then about what opportunities does suicide allow them to pursue in death.  Most people who are suicidal imagine there will be great emotional reward for them even without postulating any form of an afterlife.  They just imagine how the world would change based on their death and they want to maximize that effect.  Militant groups formed on large scale political and economic ideologies serve this end perfectly. 

‘...To say that the behavior of Muslim jihadis has little to do with their religious beliefs is like saying that honor killings have little to do with what their perpetrators believe about women, sexuality, and male honor.’

We can all agree their behavior leading up to their suicide is often based on religion.  That’s not the counter argument anyone is making.  Here Sam is conflating two different arguments; one suggesting that religion has no part in how these people act AFTER they have become somewhat religious (which is by definition contradictory)...and another aruging that they didn’t become suicidal due to their religious beliefs in the first place and that religious ideology is merely the rationalization and justification for their violent actions, NOT the motivation. 

It is hard for me to believe that there is ‘zero’ influence from religious belief on the suicidal convictions and actions of Islamic Jihadists.

Then what you are really telling me is that it is hard for you to believe the field data from several hundred suicide bombings spanning the last 40 years of sophisticated scientific study.  You are really telling me that your mind was made up before you looked at the actual data and you aren’t willing to bend your conclusion around the facts.  There are clear holes in Sam’s thoughts on this issue.  I’ve pointed to some of them just based on the excerpt your posted.

As I stated above, faith or belief may not be the only reason for such behavior, but it is a factor, as the Jihadists themselves claim.

You can’t hold a rational pov on this topic without being able to explain the field data.  And the field data tells us these people went looking for terrorist organizations seeking a means for suicide to begin with, predominantly in small, secular groups of friends.  This is happening PRIOR to any religious ‘brainwashing’.

Also, just like ANY suicidal individual, they will say anything they can think of to try to justify to themselves the reasons they have for committing suicide.  Just as a teenage girl in Seattle who is about to slit her wrists will leave a note desperately trying to justify her forthcoming actions not truly to the audience reading the note, but really to herself.  You have to be able to distinguish between motivations for suicide bombers and rationalizations for taking their own life and the lives of others (predominantly other muslims). 

The simple truth is Sam comes off as if he has never read any sophistiacated research literature on the psychology of terrorism.  He makes his arguments based only on his own interpretations and conclusions of what suicide bombers say in interviews or what terrorist groups proudly tout as their religious convictions. Sam draws the conclusions based ONLY on words, and not on any other criteria as if Sam has no understanding of human psychology (which is a shame since Sam is working on finishing a doctorate in Neuroscience iirc). 

You need to reset your thinking on this.  Consider the difference between motivations, and rationalizations/justifications on the personal level.  It’s an important distinction that Sam is unwilling to make.  Hopefully you don’t fall into the same intellectual rut Sam has.

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Posted: 10 August 2009 08:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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Well here is what Scot Atran says, from his book, ‘In Gods We Trust’-

‘The religious path to martyrdom is a cultural path that is deeply grounded psychologically and socially. It is usually accompanied by a profound sense of injustice whose reversal requires violent death in this life to realize the promise of peace and justice in the afterlife. In and along this path, personal and religious identities may have completely fused-often in the social camaradarie of adolescence, when unsettled identities become stabilized and institutionalized, detonated in a way that propels those willing to bear the costs of ultimate vengeance to the end of the garden path, in paradise,’

Apparently Atran ultimately also accepts that faith and religion are factors in martyrdom and suicide bombings, and I wonder if Harris, Dawkins or Dennett would disagree with this paragraph from him?

[ Edited: 10 August 2009 09:23 AM by eudemonia]
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Posted: 10 August 2009 03:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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I think you slightly misunderstood my post.  I completely agree with Atran’s paragraph there.  I’m not saying religious views are completely independent of the behavior of these ppl once they come into the fold in their terrorist communities.  What I’m saying is that these ppl were NOT convinced to kill themselves based on any form of religious rewards in some sort of afterlife, be it an Islamic version or otherwise. 

These are deeply troubled and disturbed ppl on the outset who are usually survivors from prior attempts at suicide.  They aren’t coming to terrorist cells based on religious views.  They are coming to them for an opportunity to kill themselves in a way taht fofers them some emotional rewards rarely based on an afterlife, but instead almost entirely based on revenge or desires to drawn up empathy for them in their communities etc. 

All Atran is saying is that these ppl will often go on to rationalize and convince themselves that they are doing it for noble reasons and as such radical Islamists provide helpful propaganda for them to meet that end.  But again, my point is that rationalizations =/= motivations or causes.  If you want to stop suicide bombings, don’t waste your time trying to undermine religion.  It’s not the cause nor does it play any significant, mutually inclusive (aka unique) role in pushing anyone to perform these acts.  If you want to undermine terrorism, you have to address the social, economic, and political conditions that are truly at the heart of brewing angry, disallusioned young men who seek to end their lives for social unjustices.

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Posted: 11 August 2009 06:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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I think we have found some agreement here Tavish. I agree with Atran and yourself that religious belief affects at least some of these people from an early impressionable age and later in life socioeconomic and geopolitical problems fuse together with their belief system to cause suicidal behavior and martyrism.

I called religion a ‘catalyst’ but perhaps it’s the other way around. Maybe the other contemporary issues are in fact the catalysts.

Either way, religious belief and faith are factors in this scenario. How big a factor is anybodys guess with any particular individual.

I guess the part that Harris and Atran disagree about is that most or some of these people have a sudden transformation into zealotry and martyrdom at a terrorist training camp at 25 years of age, or something to that effect. On that idea, it appears that the evidence is indeed weak.

I do however wonder about the socioeconomical aspect being what should be addressed here and not religious faith. Most of the 9-11 hijackers, the ‘leaders’ so to speak, were not poverty stricken ignorant young men. Neither is Osama Bin-laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri and many others. These men are educated and have money.

For people with above average sustenance and affluence where does the violence and martyrdom come from? The 9-11 hijackers were living high on the hog in the US for several years, enjoying our secular and free society until the day that duty called upon them. They obviously were not socioeconomically oppressed. They made their collective decisions based on many factors. Apparently faith and religion were some of them.

When talking about Islamic fundamentalism and suicide bombings and religous martyrdom, zealotry etc., I always think of Seneca’s dictum, which is one of my favorite all time statements-

‘Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as foolish, and by the rulers as useful’

This is probably the fundamental bottom line with describing religion and politics. This very simple quote is 2,000 years old now and still very pertinent to and in our modern world.

When will we figure this out species wide. My guess is… probably never.

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Posted: 11 August 2009 10:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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eudemonia - 11 August 2009 10:01 AM

I think we have found some agreement here Tavish. I agree with Atran and yourself that religious belief affects at least some of these people from an early impressionable age and later in life socioeconomic and geopolitical problems fuse together with their belief system to cause suicidal behavior and martyrism.

These people aren’t religious prior to entering the terrorist group in the vast majority of cases.  so there is no religious component of their lives to fuse together with the group dynamics of terrorist cells they operate within. 

The typical story for these young men has no years spent in mosques (or even midrassas) or otherwise religious organizations.  They are SECULAR when they join the terrorist groups.  They aren’t joining them to learn about religion.  They are joining them to have the emotinoal support of the fellow group members to help them better achieve their goal of ending their life in a way they feel is meaningful to sending a message to the world, not based on promises of the afterlife in Paradise or anywhere else. 

I called religion a ‘catalyst’ but perhaps it’s the other way around. Maybe the other contemporary issues are in fact the catalysts.

Religion is the rationalization these ppl use to help convince themselves that suicide is welcomed and will be seen as heroic after the bomb goes off. 

Think of it like someone who wants to stop drinking so they go join a support group.  Their goal, which is emotionally based for addicts of a drug, is to stop drinking in this case.  They have pressures from their life be it internally or externally from friends or family or employers encouraging them to stop drinking.  So they join a group who operates on the philosophy that stopping drinking and becoming sober is a transcedental, spritual, almost religious goal.  They read books and talk and do interventions.  They have sermons and read the Bible in many cases (speaking of the typical 12 step program that is based on the Bible).  Often the people entering into these groups are secular going in.  And upon coming out, after months or years of hearing religious parables and sermons and lectures on drinking that paint it as sinful and whatnot, coupled with the group’s emotional support, meetings, activities, etc, these all help push towards the goal.

But it’s not the religious elements that are doing the job here.  It would work every bit as well if you didn’t use Christian holy books.  You can use muslim holy books, or Jewish holy books.  You can drop the religious component ENTIRELY and it’d still work just fine.  Just replace it with some other ideology, be it politically, economically, or socially based.  The idea is taht you need a strict set of rules to govern how you think and if you concentrate on adhering to those rules (assuming the rules somehow cater to pushing you towards your end goal of course) then that is your roadmpa to acheiving your end goal od stopping drinking or smoking or even suicide depending ont eh context.  It’ll be difficult, but that’s why these are group entities to ensure emotinoal support from fellow members to help keep them on the path towards their goal.  The important part is that there is a doctrine to help guide these ppl towards their desired end goal.  NOT the details of that doctrine. 

It’s not common knowledge, but the VAST majority of targets these radical groups attempt to blow up are OTHER MUSLIMS.  Blowing yourself up and killing numerous other muslims is strictly forbidden in Islam.  Core Islamic religious philosophy is NOT a good road map to follow if you want to blow up a group of muslims in an attempt to send them a message to their communities.  That’s why Ayman Zawahiri had to change the rules to try to create a philosophical rationalization for allowing suicide bombings in al Qaeda and its affiliates or any other groups who seek to emulate them ideologically.  He had to bend his religious views around his political ideological views (based on an Egytpian philosopher from the 1950’s) so he could form a rationalization for killing other muslims.  His answer was to just find erasons to label any muslim outside their terrorist groups as non-muslim, and then it was ok.  This was his rationale for arguing that all true muslims must fight to vilently overthrow the govt in Egypt and Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East in the 1980’s.

So Islam can’t be the catalyst for this.  Nor is the ideology at the center of these support groups, be it religious, social, political, or even ecoomic in nature, responsible for catalyzing people to stop smoking, or to stop drinking etc.  There is no shortage of smokers who have no desire to quit and yet are religious.  Same goes for alcoholics or drug addicts of any kind.  Likewise, there are well over 1.2 billion non-violent, non-radical muslims out there.  So logically we can rule taht out as being the catalyst. 

The social, economic, political, and emotional conditions that get people to want to kill themselves in the first place is the catalyst.  THAT is what gets these young men (and increasingly women) to see martyrdom via Isalmic radicalism as a way to acheive their goal of suicide in a way that they feel can send a meaningful message to the world in hopes it will convince others to work to reverse some of those social, economic, and political conditions that people from that part of the world have to suffer through day in and day out. 

Either way, religious belief and faith are factors in this scenario. How big a factor is anybodys guess with any particular individual.

They aren’t factors in so much as to say they are meaningful.  They aren’t.  The fact they are ideological doctrines that have social groups built around them is what is important.  Nor the religious context of the ideology itself, even when it is as distorted as Zawahiri has made it.

I do however wonder about the socioeconomical aspect being what should be addressed here and not religious faith. Most of the 9-11 hijackers, the ‘leaders’ so to speak, were not poverty stricken ignorant young men. Neither is Osama Bin-laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri and many others. These men are educated and have money.

...nor were they Muslims.  That’s also not common knowledge, but the 19 hijackers were mostly non-muslims with non-muslim backgrounds, who never attended madrassas growing up in their secular households.  And you are right, it’s not AT ALL erlated to lack of education or ignorance on the part of most of these people.  Nor is it due to their personal lack of income.  But these are people who think of themselves as freedom fighters and heroes for the oppressed masses in thaat part of the world and there is cutlural support for that in many countries building such an image of suicide bomers there.  As such, ‘heroes’ and/or ‘freedom fighters’ aaren’t typically acting only out of their own self interests, but instead out of the interest of those in their broader communities (meaning beyond just the terrosit cells).  They operate on the basis of a large scale moral outrage as opposed tos mall scale moral outrage.  They add to taht individual, personal vengeance as they almost always have had someone in their lives be it family or friends of those they look up to who have been victims of such social, economic, or political conditions. 

One of Sam’s arguments, which you seem to be hinting at here, is that since the hijackers weren’t poor, uneducated people then therefore those social, economic, and political conditions can’t play a meaningful role in pushing these young men to seek out groups like al Qaeda.  That is a tremendously ignorant argument to make, as one cursory glance at history showed thousands and thousands of years of recorded stories of characters, ficitious AND real, acting not out of their own self interests but out of the interests of what they feel is best for others.  That’s the entire point for having a democracy for intance.  That’s why we had a revolutionary war.  Jefferson and Washington and Paine et al weren’t uneducated, ignorant hobos sitting on the street who jsut decided to have themselves a fun lil revolution to pass the time.

Don’t fall for Sam’s nonsensical argument there.  the 19 hijackers were predominantly NON-MUSLIMS from secular background. 

For people with above average sustenance and affluence where does the violence and martyrdom come from? The 9-11 hijackers were living high on the hog in the US for several years, enjoying our secular and free society until the day that duty called upon them. They obviously were not socioeconomically oppressed. They made their collective decisions based on many factors.

Here, Marc is much more eloquent and considered in his research on this topic than I am.  You may note that his research over the past 30 yrs or so mirrors the results found in every other study of that nature on terrorism, notably the one that spawned this thread among many, many others.  I feel like I’m having to repeat myself to continuously clarify if you are misunderstanding exactly what I’m tryhing to say.  So maybe this video will help get across moreso what I mean.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWcH5sDHzPQ

Apparently faith and religion were some of them.

Faith in the idea that they would be thought of as heroes and freedom fighters in death and be glorified, sure.  But not religious faith specifically.  Again, the 19 hijackers were predominantly secular non-muslims. 

When talking about Islamic fundamentalism and suicide bombings and religous martyrdom, zealotry etc., I always think of Seneca’s dictum, which is one of my favorite all time statements-

‘Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as foolish, and by the rulers as useful’

This is probably the fundamental bottom line with describing religion and politics. This very simple quote is 2,000 years old now and still very pertinent to and in our modern world.

Indeed.  It is a remarkably prescient quote made only more unerving and disappointnig when you replace the word ‘religion’ with ‘ideology’.  People don’t just die for religion, they will just as easily die for social, economic, or political ideologies as well.  I agree quite a bit with Sam on many things, but his thouhths on faith itself (religious or otherwise ideological) are SPOT ON. 

I’ll also note that the role culture plays is vital, but it is also dependent on martyrs are political heroes in EVERY modern culture.  Even in America.  The minute you give your life for a cause that a culture views as legitimately important and honorable you become a hero, no matter what your background was.  This happens in every mdoern culture.  It’s not that Islam glorifies suicide.  Islam looks down heavily on suicide.  It only allows it IF and only IF it is an act of martyrdom. However, EVERY society tends to do this. 

The difference is the social, economic, and political conditions brewing in the Middle East have given more importance in those cultures to such acts of suicide than we have in the west because we tend to not be nearly as educated on the every day conditions those around us live in and in general they aren’t anywhere even remotely similar to the harsh conditions that people over there deal with day by day.  We have a culture over here that sees peaceful protestors as political extremists (not the town hall nutjobs of the anti-abortion freaks, I mean truly peaceful demonstrators of various tripes).  That sort of activism is looked down upon here while over there in politically and socially and economically more desperate conditions the culture views those people as heroric figures fighting for the betterment of society.  It’s taht glory these ppl seek out when leaving to join a terrorist cell.  Not theology.

[ Edited: 11 August 2009 10:15 AM by tavishhill2003]
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Posted: 12 August 2009 06:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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Thanks for this discussion Tavish. Very informative.

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