Behind Terrorism: Who, Why

5 myths about who becomes a terrorist

The stereotypical terrorist, as portrayed by the media and exemplified by previous high-profile incidents, is a young, socially alienated, and deeply religious male probably from the Middle East. However, over the years, studies have shown that five typical stereotypes about who becomes a terrorist are untrue. Not all terrorists are spoiled rich kids, from repressive Middle Eastern countries, “religious zealots”, motivated by a strong belief in their cause, and “alienated loner[s].”

Stern, Jessica. “5 myths about who becomes a terrorist”. The Washington Post. 10 January 2010. 2 August 2010.


Terrorism — Terrorist Organizations

Terrorism is a global problem with active terrorist organizations around the world. This article provides a list of known organizations considered by the U.S. State Department to be active in the last five years. The groups are listed by alphabetized country of origin.

Hellman, Christopher. Huang, Reyko. “Terrorism — Terrorist Organizations”. Center for Defense Information (CDI). 2 August 2010.


Drugged and dressed to kill

Female suicide bombers – although a minority, are gaining in numbers. Due to the fact that women may pass security more easily than men, more terrorist organizations are employing female suicide bombers.

Mohammed, Ali. “Drugged and dressed to kill.” Asia Times Online. 10 August 2010. 10 August 2010.


Terrorism: Why They Want to Kill Us

What causes terrorist organizations to form in the first place? In this article, Mr. Bandow explains that the majority of terrorist organizations aren’t driven by religion, instead, they seek to drive foreign, modern democratic military forces out of their homeland. Over 95% of all major suicide-terrorist incidents had the goal of forcing a democratic state to withdraw. In the case of the United States’ war on terrorism, he says that the increase in anti-U.S. suicide-bombers and other terrorist attacks is due to anti-U.S. policies; the more that the U.S. interferes with other countries’ situations for its own interests, the more terrorists will attack the U.S. Therefore, the U.S. should do less, not more, abroad if it wants to decrease anti-U.S. terrorism.

Bandow, Doug. “Terrorism: Why They Want to Kill Us”. Cato Institute. 1 July 2010. 3 August 2010.


Addressing the Causes of Terrorism, The Club de Madrid Series on Democracy, and Terrorism Volume 1

What causes certain people to become terrorists? In March 2005, a group of terrorism experts and other notables in the concerned field met in Madrid at the International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism, and Security to discuss terrorism, including this question. The result of their discussion and work was a three-volume response to terrorism. The first volume, “Addressing the Causes of Terrorism”, deals with the psychological, political, economic, religious, and cultural roots of terrorism. In addition, the report offers recommendations on how to deal with the causes of terrorism. The report is rather lengthy, so I recommend skimming it, skipping over large paragraphs, and reading the italicized, bold, and bullet points.

Club de Madrid. “Addressing the Causes of Terrorism: The Club de Madrid Series on Democracy and Terrorism Volume 1”. Club de Madrid. 2005. 6 August 2010. (pages 8-40)


What Terrorists Really Want: Terrorist Motives and Counterterrorism Strategy

This article argues that social solidarity, not political zeal, is the cause of terrorism. According to the author, terrorists join and participate in terrorist organizations because they seek social interactions and close friendships and bonds with others. The political causes are only secondary or, in some cases, even unknown to the terrorists. For this reason, the author proposes changing current counter-terrorism policies to accommodate this conclusion by targeting vulnerable groups of people, assimilating them into society, and dissolving current terrorist organizations by breaking apart their social structures.

Abrahms, Max. “What Terrorists Really Want Terrorist Motives and Counterterrorism Strategy”. International Security, Vol. 32, No. 4. Spring 2008. 2 August 2010. (pages 1-3, 17, 24-28)


Why Youth Join al-Qaeda

Why do youth join al-Qaeda? In a study of 2,032 “foreign fighters”, it was found that “rather than be recruited, young men actively seek out al-Qaeda and its associated movements.” Al-Qaeda fulfills a need in potential recruits. There are four major personality types that are inclined to seek out and join al-Qaeda: the revenge seekers who are frustrated, status seekers that need recognition, identity seekers who want a group to join, and thrill seekers who want adventure. Instead, al-Qaeda recruits are not crazy or mentally unstable, able to be generalized into an economic profile, come from many different economic backgrounds, from strong religious backgrounds, nor actively approached by an al-Qaeda recruiter. Al-Qaeda appeals to certain developmental needs in youth.

Venhaus, John M. “Why Youth Join al-Qaeda”. United States Institute of Peace. May 2010. 4 August 2010. (1-6, 8-11, 18)

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