The change in Tamil strategy came when the Sri Lankan army forced their collective backs against the wall, arresting most of the LTTE leadership in and making significant military inroads. While the Tigers initially provided their fighters with a poison capsule in order to enable them to avoid interrogation, between and , they began to attack targets with explosive-laden trucks, the driver exiting the vehicle moments before the explosion. Such attacks were imprecise and so, between and , some Tamil terrorists, 30 percent of whom were women, conducted suicide bomb missions.
The PKK only began using suicide-bombing tactics in , targeting government and military installations rather than populated areas. Suicide bombing was never a major component of its terrorist operations; it launched only fifteen suicide attacks between and , some of which were particularly deadly;  gunfire, land mines, and delayed fuse bomb attacks account for the majority of its operations, which have killed thousands since Again, suicide attacks have been the exception rather than the rule.
Too little is known about the motivation of the attackers, here. Some may have been terminally ill or promised significant financial reward to support their families; others may have believed they could escape alive. Paris-based sociologist Farhad Khosrokhavar's Suicide Bombers: Allah's New Martyrs  has been at the forefront of efforts to emphasize the tension between religious motivation and more rational and temporal strategic considerations.
Khosrokhavar, perhaps because of his greater familiarity with Islamic tenets, is correct to see it as a function of jihad. There has been an evolving and, perhaps, dominant strand of modern Islamist thought which finds Western culture to be inimical to Islam and, therefore, a legitimate target for jihad. Qutb, for example, revived the Qur'anic term jahiliya , the pre-Islamic age of ignorance in which paganism flourished, to describe the state of any society not by his definition Islamic.
In the former, where Muslims ruled, Jews and Christians could convert or accept second class status while Muslims conducted violent jihad to bring minorities under their control. While traditional theologians might argue that Muslims had a duty to protect dhimmi s so long as they continued to pay inflated taxes and adhere to special codes, 'Azzam, bin Laden, and their fellow travelers have argued that Jews and Christians have gone astray from their "original religions," and are agents of the modern West, undeserving of any protection.
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Arab Sunnis returning from fighting the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan as well as various Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad inaugurated a new phase in religion-inspired terrorism. One of his most famous slogans during the Afghan war was, "Jihad and the rifle alone. No negotiations, no conferences, no dialogue"  On March 6, , Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmad Yasin declared that any suicide bomber who had received the blessing of a certified Muslim cleric should be considered a shahid martyr who had fallen in the service of jihad rather than one who had committed suicide by personal intent,  something forbidden in Islam.
Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an influential Sunni cleric based in Qatar, affirmed Yasin's approach the following year. While Qutb provided the theoretical basis for modern Sunni Islamism, Khomeini provided the exegesis to legitimize Shi'i theocracy in his essay, "Hukumat-i Islami" Islamic government. Permeating Khomeini's writing is a perception of the West as an opponent to Islam, the concept of martyrdom, and the self-identification of Shi'a as oppressed people. Khomeini's linkage between asceticism and suicide is crucial to understand the rise of suicide bombing into the principal tactic by Islamic terrorist organizations.
Khomeini, in fact, goes to the extreme of justifying the deliberate giving of one's life for the Islamic cause insofar as death is the ultimate denial of one's material self. While martyrdom has long been a theme of Shi'ism, Khomeini's teachings and charisma led many Shi'a to rationalize the justification of suicide on religious grounds. The major Islamist terror tactic has, since the early s, been the suicide bomber. In contrast to secular terrorists, Islamist suicide terrorists need not escape; their planning focuses instead on how to deliver the perpetrator to the target area.
Suicide bombers are walking smart bombs, able to position themselves among crowds or in restaurants to achieve maximum carnage. During the terror wave in Israel, Hamas and Islamic Jihad bombers, for example, made last minute target selections in order to bolster the number of civilians they could kill.
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While the Marxist groups of the s might have threatened hostages against concrete demands, Islamists seek to kill first and lecture later. Islamists do take hostages but, in such cases, their goal is as likely to be to draw out terror in a hour news cycle than to win concessions.
The hijackers, for example, resisted U. Al-Qaeda's decision to launch the attacks cannot be disengaged from ideology and the dream of renewing a lost caliphate. One of bin Laden's most important objectives was to accelerate recruitment of new volunteers for global jihad and Islam. Bin Laden said that the "war in Afghanistan has exposed America's weakness. Despite the clear technological advantages of its war machine, it cannot defeat the Muslim mujahideen…. The number of people who embraced the Islamic faith after the campaign was greater than the number who had grasped Islam in the past eleven years.
There remains much controversy, at least in the United States and Europe, about the origin and motivation of religiously justified terrorism. But, despite the popularity of their theses in a field which seeks to mitigate if not exculpate the influence of religion, their arguments fall short. Pape makes two major assumptions about suicide bombing: first, that it is motivated primarily by resistance to foreign occupation and, second, that religious ideology has only a minor role in suicide attacks perpetrated by Muslims.
But religion, rationalism, and strategic planning are not incompatible. The Tamil Tigers may have embraced suicide bombing in their separatist fight against the Sri Lankan army; however, suicide bombers in Casablanca and London were not motivated by occupation but rather by jihadist ideology. While Western scholars may have internalized the separation of church and state legislated in the United States and practiced in Europe, for Khomeini, Hezbollah's Hasan Nasrallah, bin Laden, and Qaradawi, no such separation exists.
They are rational but see the world differently. Unlike Pape and Bloom, Khosrokhavar looks for the deeper, individual rather than organizational motivations behind suicide bombing. With comparative analysis of martyrdom in Christianity and Sikhism, Khosrokhavar argues that it is particularly Islamic to sanction sacred death for the sake of the community umma. Both individuals and terrorist organizations see suicide bombing as a rational and integral aspect of ideology, strategy, and tactics.
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Israel counterterrorism expert Boaz Ganor elaborates on this self-image of the suicide bomber and his supporters. Ganor explains, "The term suicide attack is misleading. In the eyes of the attacker and his community this phenomenon has nothing to do with committing suicide … Committing suicide is forbidden in Islam but instead, he is seen as a shahid —a martyr who fell in the process of fulfilling the religious commandment of jihad. Khomeini's influence on Islamist terror suggests that suicide bombing has a wider ideological and strategic foundation than just opposition to occupation.
Rather, the basis for suicide bombing is threefold: First, suicide for jihad cleanses the perpetrator of the world's evils.
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Second, suicide for the community purifies the umma. Third, suicide bombing serves the goal of opposing Islam's enemies. Pape's interpretation of cause and effect is questionable. He claims that terrorism forced Israel to withdraw twice from Palestinian areas during the s: in April , when Israel withdrew from parts of Gaza, and between October and August , when Israel pulled back from portions of the West Bank. He also credits terrorism with Jerusalem's decision to release Hamas spiritual leader Ahmed Yasin from prison in October Pape neglects to mention that Israeli leaders agreed upon this withdrawal policy in the Oslo accords' "Declaration of Principles.
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By focusing only on occupation and national liberation,  though, Pape overlooks a complicated web of incentives and motivations that undercuts his argument. Marc Sageman, a former CIA case officer, psychiatrist, and University of Pennsylvania political scientist, pursues a different thesis in his book Understanding Terror Networks. Sageman seeks to refute the regular notions regarding causes for terror, such as poverty and brainwashing, and emphasizes instead social bonds and networks.
He argues that the best way both to understand and to counter global jihadism is by mapping and analyzing the Islamists' social structure.
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Although Sageman argues that social bonds among terrorist networks play a stronger role then ideologies, he avoids Pape's mistake of seeking to claim exclusivity for his theory, and so encourages counterterrorist intelligence communities to train case officers versed in Muslim cultures and language and acknowledges the individual dedication of the terrorists, which, as their "martyrdom" videos and Muhammad Atta's last will and testament show, was rooted in religion.
Supporters of Pape's revisionism blur the difference between self-sacrifice and suicide to downplay the dissimilarity between secular terrorism and Islam-inspired suicide bombing, that is, to downplay the distinction between readiness to sacrifice oneself for a cause as opposed to a conscious decision to carry out a suicide attack. Every soldier who enlists to a combat unit knows that he or she could be killed in action; many young men and women are willing to take that risk, not because of a desire to die but rather because of the conviction that under certain circumstances it may be necessary to lose one's life in the line of duty.
Secular terrorists also acknowledge risk without expressing the desire to kill themselves. Guevara writes, for example, "The guerrilla combatant ought to risk his life whenever necessary and be ready to die without the least sign of doubt, but at the same time, he ought to be cautious and never expose himself unnecessarily. All possible precautions ought to be taken to avoid defeat or annihilation. Jamal al-Gashay, one of the three Black September terrorists captured by West German police after the Munich massacre and later released in exchange for the return of hostages on a hijacked Lufthansa jet, gave a television interview subsequent to his release.
Motivation and readiness for sacrifice is not the same as willingness to embrace certain death. There is a huge difference between the Latin American battle cry, Viva la Muerte! Pivotal historical moments have been shaped by personal human action and not necessary systems, plots, or grand schemes. Gerges attests to this, and it is one of the themes he hits upon over and again in recounting the actions of Nasser and Qutb, and the gritty struggle for power between men and political factions.
The experience of minorities was positive, and for the most part good, under colonial rule. But the desire for Islamic and Arab identity was powerful and so the struggle against colonialism held a disparate band of actors together. Moreover, Germany and the Soviet Union took advantage of Arab resentment and hostility toward the West. The Arab lands were fertile soil for political and philosophical ideas coming from these countries fascism and socialism. Nasser is usually portrayed as a secular nationalist, but Gerges gives us a more nuanced understanding of a man who experimented with many anti-hegemonic ideologies, including his connection with the Muslim Brotherhood movement in the s and into the early s.
Through all of his experimentation he learned, especially after the Palestinian war or Arab-Israeli war , that the army is the only way to keep law and order. And that political rivalry has shaped not only Egypt but the region since then. The national secularists—Nasser and his heirs—were politically and philosophically more influenced by German and Russian socialist thought, which they alloyed with Arabism, than by the Anglo-American tradition.
Nasser himself certainly did not believe in democracy. He and the others desired to create socialist Arab nations that could compete economically with Western nations, and attempted to do so by pure authoritarian fiat. Gerges quotes from interviews showing that Nasser stayed a Muslim believer until the end, only that he did not believe that religion should be enforced via state power.
And that brings me to an underestimated point: Middle Eastern Christian and other religious minorities tend to fare better under nationalists. There are two reasons for this: One, the nationalist ideology is more inclusive by default as it takes in all the people living in that particular nation, no matter their religion. This creates social, political, and cultural space for religious minorities of all stripes.
Granted, not to the extent we see in the West. What we should do, as realists, is consider it a good stage in the evolution of the Arab world. This is why Christians cannot survive Islamist states. We saw this with the shah of Iran, and with Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
We do not understand the dynamics of the cultures in this part of the world, their value systems and ways of thinking. The brute fact is that our insatiable desire for oil moves us toward short-sighted decisions. The Islamists talk up democracy and decry the brutality of the dictators to gain Western sympathy and support. This lasts until they gain power. At which point they return to who they really are, enforcers of Islam without any real or lasting ideas for governing a nation or advancing a society.
Gerges returns to that point often.