Day: November 16, 2015


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Let me preference by saying that the face of Terrorists/terrorism and violence know no race, color, creed, nationality or even religion. Especially in the wake of the recent ISIS terrorism attacks in Paris.   Why do they do these horrendous acts? DO they really enjoy killing and seeing others suffer at some lunatics’ hand?

It has been reported that The Islamic State claimed the attacks were in response to France’s campaign against its fighters and insults against Islam’s prophet. The group warned that France would remain one of its top targets. Many of the world’s Muslims are not members of this or other extremist organizations; they remain true to their faith and their faith’s teachings.   Unfortunately these members of such extremist groups are doing their religion a disservice as well as giving it a bad name. It’s a little disconcerting to hear that there may have been some home grown terrorists in France that were (or potentially) communicating with the factions that actually were behind the terrorist attacks all around the country.

These attacks by these extremists have been deemed a crime against humanity. And the organizations recruited members from all over the globe.      In an effort to combat their efforts, all peoples and nations to stand together to fight the machinations of these groups.   Tighter the right will persevere against hate and violence.   The causes of terrorism seem almost impossible for anyone to define. Here’s why: they change over time. Listen to terrorists in different periods and you’ll hear different explanations. Then, listen to the scholars who explain terrorism. Their ideas change over time too, as new trends in academic thinking take hold.

Many writers begin statements about “the causes of terrorism” as if terrorism were a scientific phenomenon whose characteristics are fixed for all time, like the ’causes’ of a disease, or the ’causes’ of rock formations.

Terrorism isn’t a natural phenomenon though. It is name given by people about other people’s actions in the social world. Both terrorists and terrorism’s explainers are influenced by dominant trends in political and scholarly thought. Terrorists—people who threaten or use violence against civilians with the hope of changing the status quo—perceive the status quo in ways that accord with the era they live in. People who explain terrorism are also influenced by prominent trends in their professions. These trends change over time.

Although many people today believe that that religious fanaticism “causes” terrorism, it isn’t true. It may be true that religious fanaticism creates conditions that are favorable for terrorism. But we know that religious zealotry does not ’cause’ terrorism because there are many religious fanatics who do not choose terrorism or any form of violence. So there must also be other conditions that in combination provoke some people to see terrorism as an effective way of creating change in their world.   These terrorists and potential terror cells have no place in society and the world today.

There are two more reasons why asking, “What conditions create a favorable climate for terrorism?” is better than asking about causes The first is, it makes it easy to remember that there are always at least several conditions. Terrorism is a complex phenomenon; it is a specific kind of political violence committed by people who do not have legitimate army at their disposal. A second reason that has been useful for me, as I ask questions about terrorism, is that thinking in terms of ‘conditions’ helps me remember that people have a choice about whether to use violence.

There is nothing inside any person or in their circumstances that sends them — like a monopoly piece headed directly to “Go”— directly to terrorism. Instead, there are certain conditions, some of which make violence against civilians seem like a reasonable, and even necessary, option. Despite this, and some of the deeply unforgivable circumstances that foster terrorism, people always have the free will to seek another course of action.

Viewing terrorism as the extreme edge of mainstream trends helps us understand, and thus seek solutions, to it.  When we view terrorists as evil or beyond explanation, we are inaccurate and unhelpful. We cannot ‘solve’ an evil. We can only live fearfully in its shadow. Even if it is uncomfortable to think of people who do terrible things to innocent people as part of our same world, I believe it is important to try. You will see in the list below that people who have chosen terrorism in the last century have been influenced by the same broad trends that we all have.

In the early 20th century, terrorists justified violence in the name of anarchism socialism and communism. Socialism was becoming a dominant way for many people to explain the political and economic injustice they saw developing in capitalist societies, and for defining a solution. Millions of people expressed their commitment to a socialist future without violence, but a small number of people in the world thought violence was necessary.

In the 1950s through 1980s, terrorist violence tended to have a nationalist component.   Terrorist violence in these years reflected the post-World War II trend in which previously suppressed populations committed violence against states that had not given them a voice in the political process. Algerian terrorism against French rule; Basque violence against the Spanish state; Kurdish actions against Turkey; the Black Panthers and Puerto Rican militants in the United States all sought a version of independence from oppressive rule.

Scholars in this period began seeking to understand terrorism in psychological terms. They wanted to understand what motivated individual terrorists. This related to the rise of psychology and psychiatry in other related realms, such as criminal justice.

In the 1980s and 1990s, terrorism began to appear in the repertoire of right-wing, neo-Nazi or neo-fascist, racist groups. Like the terrorist actors that preceded them, these violent groups reflected the extreme edge of a broader and not-necessarily violent backlash against developments during the civil rights era. White, Western European or American men, in particular, grew fearful of a world beginning to grant recognition, political rights, economic franchise and freedom of movement (in the form of immigration) to ethnic minorities and women, who might seem to be taking their jobs and position.

In Europe and the United States, as well as elsewhere, the 1980s represented a time when the welfare state b had expanded in the United States and Europe, the agitation of the civil rights movement had produced results, and globalization, in the form of multi-national corporations, had gotten underway, producing economic dislocation among many who depended on manufacturing for a living. Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building, the most lethal terrorist attack in the U.S. until the 9/11 attacks, exemplified this trend.

In the Middle East, a similar swing toward conservatism was taking hold in the 1980s and 1990s, although it had a different face than it did in Western democracies. The secular, socialist framework that had been dominant the world over—-from Cuba to Chicago to Cairo-—faded after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and the death in 1970 of Egyptian president Gamal Abd Al Nasser. The failure in the 1967 war was a big blow—it disillusioned Arabs about the entire era of Arab socialism. Economic dislocations because of the Gulf War in the 1990s caused many Palestinian, Egyptian and other men working in the Persian Gulf to lose their jobs. When they returned home, they found women had assumed their roles in households and jobs. Religious conservatism, including the idea that women should be modest and not work, took hold in this atmosphere. In this way, both West and East saw a rise in fundamentalism in the 1990s.

Terrorism scholars began to notice this rise in religious language and sensibility in terrorism as well. The Japanese Aum Shinrikyo, Islamic Jihad (holy war) in Egypt, and groups such as the Army of God in the United States were willing to use religion to justify violence. Religion is the primary way that terrorism is explained today.

New terrorism forms and new explanations are underway, however. Special interest terrorism is used to describe people and groups who commit violence on behalf of a very specific cause. These are often environmental in nature. Some predict the rise of ‘green’ terrorism in Europe–violent sabotage on behalf of environmental policy

No matter the location around the world, we are all one family and need to stand strong and support where ever the violence occurs that meaning the victims and countries. The little things matter, like donating blood that would help those that need it.

Kathy Kiefer