College Media Network

The Observer

The Student Newspaper of Case Western Reserve University
  • Home
  • News
    • Name That Place
  • Sports
    • Spartan Spotlight
    • Basketball
    • Wrestling
    • Pro Sports
  • Fun Page
  • Opinion
    • Cornerstone Epiphanies
    • State Your Case
  • Focus
    • Sex and Dating
    • Worst Case Scenario
    • The Buzz
  • About Us
    • Info
    • Staff
  • Archives
  • Options
    • Login
    • Register
    • Write to the Editor
    • Syndication
    • Advertise
    • Search
  • New Features
    • Plan Spring Break!
    • Learn about your Finances
    • New! Classifieds
    • Observer Blog

What makes a terrorist do what they do?

Sultan Ahmed

Issue date: 2/12/10 Section: Opinion
  • Print
  • Email
  • Page 1 of 2 next >
This March 2008 bombing in Karbala, Iraq killed more than 40 people. Another suicide bombing there last week killed at least 20. Many wonder precisely where terrorists get the motivation to commit such atrocities.
This March 2008 bombing in Karbala, Iraq killed more than 40 people. Another suicide bombing there last week killed at least 20. Many wonder precisely where terrorists get the motivation to commit such atrocities.
[Click to enlarge]
The following conversation took place this past week between a friend and me.

Friend: Hey, what classes are you taking this semester?

Me: Well, I'm taking three independent studies and bio.

Friend: Oh, what are you doing your independent studies on?

Me: Islamic bioethics, Indian philosophy, and the psychology of terrorism.

Friend: Terror psychology, going back to your roots huh?

Me: Yeah, very funny.

Friend: Hey, I'm just sayin' man, it's in your blood.

Another day, another joke about terrorism. This time, however, I thought it prudent to use this conversation to discuss terror psychology with the greater CWRU community. Amidst the modern political climate, it has become vitally important to understand precisely what motivates a terrorist and how a culture of terrorism develops. A feverish conversation has begun among academics and politicians about this very issue, and there are many variables which can affect the psychological development of an individual. Some theories, however, have proven to be particularly common.

One is that the cause of terrorism is the religion, Islam, itself. Proponents of this theory include Rush Limbaugh and Daniel Pipes. The basic argument is that there exist verses in the Quran, in particular 9:5, which condone the killing of nonbelievers. These verses are claimed to inspire terrorism. Upon closer consideration, however, it is clear that this theory presents several problems. First of all, it infantilizes human psychology. Can we really assume that people will effectively do whatever a book instructs them (assuming that it does tell them to kill) without questioning it? How can we attribute this mentality to otherwise educated, intelligent, and wealthy people? Furthermore, that would mean that all Muslims are terrorists, which is clearly not the case. There are scholars such as Zakir Naik and Mohamed Elmasry who interpret those same verses in a different way, arguing that the verses do not condone terrorist actions or unwarranted aggression. If this extreme theory is true, then we ought to attribute the label of 'Catholic terrorists' to the IRA and say that Christianity is the root cause of their actions. It may very well be that incomplete and inappropriate interpretations of the text are used to convince people to commit acts of violence. However, it is not appropriate, in my opinion, to say that the religion is the sole cause.
Continued...
Page 1 of 2 next >

Article Tools

Viewing Comments 1 - 2 of 2

    anon

    posted 2/11/10 @ 8:06 PM EST

    Robert Pape has researched the subject and written a book called "Dying to win" about suicide terrorism.

    Details   Reply to this comment

    Jason Goodrick

    posted 2/12/10 @ 11:49 AM EST

    Would you be able to recognize potential terrorist activity in the campus community?

    Find out about the 7 signs of terrorism here:
    http://www.neorfc. (Continued…)

    Details   Reply to this comment

    Post a Comment

    In This Issue

    News

    • Bon Appétit inaugurates new compost program
    • CWRU copes with broken water main
    • Fair trade benefits explained at upcoming expo
    • Have you heard about Alpha Kappa Psi?
    • SEC referendum completed; student salaries no longer to be paid from the student activities fee
    • Tuition to jump four percent

    Spartan Spotlight

    • Spartan Spotlight: Roxanne Leyshon

    Sex and Dating

    • Finding the perfect V-Day gift

    Sports

    • Clutch goals, big fight highlight final two games
    • Gobies get third at home tourney

    Fun Page

    • Combo Scramble Solution
    • Killer Sudoku Solution
    • Sudoku Solutions

    Worst Case Scenario

    • Just another day

    Opinion

    • Letters to the Editor: Cultural competence and women's center
    • Relationships amid senior year
    • What makes a terrorist do what they do?

    Basketball

    • Basketball Gameday: Case vs. Rochester
    • Offense checks out early against NYU
    • Throwback thrill

    Cornerstone Epiphanies

    • Modern conservatives should reassess social stances

    Focus

    • Another round at Cleveland's renowned Gateway District
    • Boulez leads Cleveland Orchestra through grand performances of Messiaen, Ravel, Debussy classics
    • Editorial: SEC referendum showed disregard for CWRU's media organizations
    • Eldred's Ballyhoo tells story of Jewish identity with stellar student cast
    • Fashion of love: Valentine's Day do's
    • Four CWRU alumni launch social networking website for musicians

    Name That Place

    • Can you name this place?

    Wrestling

    • Wrestling takes last in UAA

    Pro Sports

    • For Cavs, keeping chemistry is key

    State Your Case

    • What are your plans for St. Valentine's Day?

    The Buzz

    • The Buzz
    National College Advertising and Marketing | Privacy Policy (9/9/09) | Terms of Use (9/9/09)
    Content Submission Agreement (8/23/07) | Copyright Compliance Policy (4/27/09) | RSS Terms of Use

    Advertisement

    Poll

    This Week's Front Page

    Download Print Edition PDF

    Advertisement