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The Creation of a Terrorist

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Many people who commit acts of terror fundamentally consider themselves to be altruists, believing that the acts of violence they carry out are truly for the greater good. This distorted view of blind ‘selfless devotion’ stems from many factors; therefore, raising the question, how are ordinary people indoctrinated into believing the atrocities of terrorism are their moral obligation? Scholars have cited a multitude of possible explanations for this. The most prevalent is the role of the internet. Thousands of ordinary people are driven by terrorism through extremist websites and social media, consisting of constant propaganda and justification. Violent extremists often target people who are frustrated with society, this can be because of painful experiences, feelings of anxiety and displacement or the personal need for power, importance, and purpose. In this chapter, I will assess the reasons that motivate terrorism, as well as the different ways in which the violent attacks are carried out.

Terrorism researchers Michael Taarnby[1]and John Berry[2]have theorized that alienation and discrimination could be possible precursors to radicalization. An example of this can be seen through a study carried out in 2013, in the Netherlands, focusing on Muslim youth; it found that when these young people felt disconnected from Dutch society, they were at a higher risk of developing a radical belief and becoming indoctrinated into the system. This highlights how the feeling of ‘not fitting in’ due to being marginalized by society, is an important factor in the descent into a world of terrorism. Those who face prejudice and feel marginalized by their environment are then vulnerable and welcome a sense of belonging. Ultimately, they can become susceptible to the influences of people who appear to respect and care for them– they’re seeking to please and be accepted. Once they feel valued within a group, it is extremely natural for these people to succumb to the expectations of the organization.

The alienation of an individual can entice them towards many different kinds of terrorist groups – one of which being ISIS, who have recently been responsible for countless acts of terrorism mainly in the Middle East but also in western society. The form of the terrorism that the Islamic State participate in, is religious terrorism. They purport to be acting on behalf of the true‘Islamic faith’ and anybody who opposes them is an enemy and infidel/non-believer and deserves the ultimate punishment of death. This group has a far-reaching appeal to Muslims throughout the world, including those who have enjoyed the benefits of western education and freedom, yet, somehow their call to join them proves alluring and they leave all that is familiar to them to face possible death in the name of the cause. So committed, are they, that they are sometimes prepared to offer themselves up in sacrifice as they become the literal human bomb, based on the absolute belief that they will be rewarded for their dedication in ‘paradise’. Failure to do so will result in punishment, according to ISIS. This is made evident in an official statement given by al-Adnani, the appointed spokesperson of ISIS. This is a man who represents the group and threatens those who refuse to conform with the ideals saying: “Therefore, O Muslim youth, join the caravan of the mujahidin if you do so you will be the honored, dignified kings of the earth who rule the Dunya. And if you refuse, you will be the humiliated, miserable, contemptible losers.”[3]

Terrorism can also stem from deep-rooted feelings of resentment and hatred, created by the sense of displacement. An example of this is the IrishRepublican Army paramilitary organization, also known as the IRA, a dedicated movement with the belief that all of Ireland should be an independent republic and that political violence has necessary means to achieve this. The Green Book of the IRA, a training and induction manual, states that “The IRA, as the legal representatives of the Irish people, is morally justified in carrying out a campaign of resistance against foreign occupation forces and domestic collaborators.”[4] Many of the Irish people felt subjugated by the English occupation which led to their involvement in political terrorism, using force, fear, and intimidation. They used methods such as bombing, shooting, torture and threatening behavior both in Ireland and the UK to attempt to achieve their goal of freedom. This can be seen in the Manchester bombing of 1996, in which the IRAs main goal was to target the city’s infrastructure and economy and cause devastating damage. Subsequently, they hoped the British government would withdraw from NorthernIreland. Even today, despite the Good Friday agreement – where they agreed to lay down arms – there is evidence that the IRA is still active.

Other forms of terrorism include dissent terrorism, state-sponsored terrorism, and criminal terrorism. It is clear that terrorists are motivated by the aforementioned factors, as well as fear, victimization and abuse, justice and revenge and monetary and socio-economic gain. Renowned social psychologist Albert Banduraconcludes that “It requires conductive social conditions rather than monstrous people to produce atrocious deeds. Given appropriate social conditions, decent, ordinary people can be led to do extraordinarily cruel things.”[5]

However, Raffaello Pantucci (Director of International Security studies) believes from his research that, a number of terrorist attacks are used as a method to excise personal demons, rather than being ideologically committed.[6]He argues that in many cases it seems apparent that many of the “lone wolves”are not entirely bought into the ideology they claim to be fighting for. It may, in actual fact, just be an outlet for potentially confused sexuality, confused religious identity, anger management issues and family disputes. For example, Man Haron Monis, a man who held hostage ten customers and eight employees of a Lindt chocolate caf? located at Martin Place in Sydney, was an only recent convert to Sunni Islam and brought the wrong flag with him to his allegedly Isil-inspired attack. Ultimately, Pantucci says that terrorism will provide a socially awkward individual with violent tendencies a way to punish the world around you whilst also giving meaning to your act.

Can Terrorism Ever Be Justified?

The debate as to whether terrorism can ever be justified can be extraordinarily subjective. For those living in oppressed societies in which they may be facing regular abuse both physical and emotional, fearing for the safety of their not just their own lives but their children too, living in extreme poverty and coping with starvation, with no foreseeable end, they may feel that they have no other choice. Often trying to agitate for change through political and humanitarian processes, many are shut down with no hope for the future in sight, making it very easy to succumb to the ideological extremes of fighting back and reclaiming justice.

It can be argued that in extreme cases, where democracy has been exhausted, resorting to violence to pursue one’s cause and defend one’s people is the only option. For example, Umkhonto we Six, a liberation organization led by Nelson Mandela and associated with the African National Congress in South Africa, turned to violence in 1961 in order to achieve freedom and the end of Apartheid. The reason behind this was was: “The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices: submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa. (…) Refusal to resort to force has been interpreted by the government as an invitation to use armed force against the people without any fear of reprisals. The methods of Umkhonto we Sizwe mark a break with that past.” [7]

However, others say that peaceful and democratic means should always be used and even when democratic rights are denied, non-violent protest is the only moral action. Even when subject populations are weak and vulnerable to reprisals from the attacked state, it is especially important for groups to join together and not resort to terror. Terrorism merely exacerbates a situation and creates a cycle of violence and suffering and this is a conclusion thatNelson Mandela reached himself. Evidence of this can be seen in his statement “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”[8] Within the realms of terror, the possible targets include civilians, political, military or other powerful authorities. First of all, it is immoral and illegitimate to murder innocent people as they have not contributed to the marginalization of the terrorist, and so hurting them will not undo the cause of harm. Secondly, the attacks on authorities that may be responsible for the marginalization often results in a backlash where the supporters of these authorities act against the insurgents, only leading to more harm. This can be seen in the Kurdish revolt against the Turkish authorities, which led to a guerrilla war with over 30.000causalities.[9]

Despite the aforementioned argument, one could claim that the population of a nation is complicit in the crimes that governments commit they support regimes through tax-paying. Osama bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaeda, justifies attacking civilians in his ‘Letter to America’ which states that they are a complicit part in American military actions abroad as they are part of a democracy which has elected its own government and pays taxes to fund their actions.[10]

In many cases, terrorism can lead to the acknowledgment of particular groups, that otherwise would have been ignored, which raises the question, can terrorism ever be justified by its success in achieving results when peaceful means have failed? Terrorists have succeeded in bringing governments to negotiate with them in many countries. Terrorism can compel recognition of a cause, where previous governments have not been willing to concede to rational argument and peaceful protest. Nelson Mandela moved from terrorist to democratically elected President. This is a trend that we can see in other countries too – in Israel, Northern Ireland, Sri Lana and the Oslo peace process that led to the creation of the Palestinian Authority.[11]

Whilst terrorism may lead to discussion, it may have a lower chance of success than other, more peaceful means. Not only can it antagonize and anger the community which it targets, it also polarises opinion, making it more difficult to achieve prevail and compromise. A long-term peace settlement can only be achieved with the freely given consent from both sides of the conflict. Furthermore, the Oslo peace process is the example of diplomatic efforts on an international scale and terrorism does not seem to have contributed directly to this process.

On the other hand, the profiles of neglected causes can perhaps be raised by terrorism. The Palestinian cause was brought publicity through the hi-jackings of the 1970s and 1980s, thus engaging the world. [12]States can use their wealth and media to put across their side of the story; their opponents do not have these resources and perhaps need to resort to terrorism to publicise their cause. In this way, limited and focused use of violence can have a dramatic international impact but the attention that comes from terrorism is not all positive. Following the 9/11 attacks, in Afghanistan and workers were forced to cut off food supplies, despite the fact that approximately 8 million civilians were dependent on them. [13]The terrorist attacks which attract the greatest attention are the violent ones which are most likely to evoke reactions of grief and disgust, meaning that the international community is far less likely to sympathize with their cause. People see acts of violence as a threat and so the fear of escalation prevails. Even more, acts of violence are open to multiple interpretations, which can be used in favor of the oppressing state, that has much more resources to spread its message. Not only can it say it uses violence against these terrorist groups to defend itself, but it can also paint an image of the terrorists as irrational, violent creatures. This plays easily into existing stereotypes of non-Westerners as being violent. In order to counter this scenario, it is wiser to resort to violent actions. This has the benefit of conveying a very clear message to the outside world that the people protesting are the victims and not the perpetrators. For instance, the actions of Mahatma Gandhi were known for their civil disobedience and their political messages that went against the norm, but because of the peaceful nature of his protest, he was able to attract a lot of positive attention and followers.[14]

One point which argues for the justification of terrorism is that if the outcome of an act of terror results in an overall increase in freedom and justice, then the action must be legitimate.

Millions of people around the world are in constant suffering, due to poverty and injustice. In general, these people have not chosen to suffer in this way and nor was it a result of their action; thus, it can be seen as only logical to believe that it is a good thing to diminish this suffering. If acts of terrorism are used to obtain equality, terrorism can perhaps be seen as an effective weapon in a revolutionary struggle, resulting in progression. Examples of this are the terrorist attacks in several MiddleEastern countries that have led to the Arab spring, such as the attack on Yemen president Ali Abdullah Saleh. [15]

Overall, we have to ask ourselves: does the end justify the means? It can be said that it is much better to persecute your interest through moral and legal means, even in cases of oppression. Whilst there may be cases where only acts of terror will lead to direct improvements of quality of life, these are few and far between. Most often, terrorist attacks are carried out by extremist groups with ideologies that are very different from the majority which they claim to represent. Many people are in favor of non-violent means and the repercussions of violent terrorism will largely worsen the position of those who are marginalized in society. Chapter Three – Is the death penalty an Effective Solution to Combat Terrorism? In this chapter, I aim to investigate whether the use of the death penalty is an effective method in combatting terrorism. The arguments both for and against the practice of execution as a punishment for people who commit acts of terror will be considered, and their evidence can be used to argue either the death penalty justification or destruction of human rights. The main clauses of arguments which are considered in this chapter are regarding the death penalty deterring terrorism, preventing it from happening again and providing justice, and considering whether state-sanctioned killings are against our morality as a human race. Proponents of the death penalty argue that the enacting of capital punishment will save lives through the reduction of terrorism. The fear of execution is one that can play a powerful and motivating role in convincing potential terrorists not to carry out their acts, particularly those who are not ideologically committed but are using ideology as an excuse for their crimes. While the prospect of prison life may not be ideal, the prospect of death is far more daunting. Therefore, the risk of execution is one that could potentially alter the cost-benefit calculus in the mind of the terrorist-to-be,rendering the act no longer worthwhile for them.[16]There are multiple studies which support the deterrent effect of the death penalty. In 1985, a study was done by Stephen K. Layson at the University ofNorth Carolina, providing evidence that a single execution deterred 18 murders.Another influential study, looking at numerous countries over two decades, further found support for the claim that murder rates tend to fall as executions rise.[17] Nevertheless, abolitionist groups and organizations doubt the supposed deterrent effect of the death penalty. Many terrorists may find the prospect of death far better than spending the rest of their lives suffering in prison. As a general rule, death by execution is fairly quick, while a lifetime in prison can be viewed as a far more intensive punishment. In order to be an effective deterrent, it would have to be immediate and certain, whereas in most death penalty cases there are often prolonged appeals and sometimes end in acquittals. [18]In addition to this, the death penalty can be seen as counter-productive through the statement, made by UnitedNations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, “Experience has shown that putting terrorists to death serves as propaganda for their movements by creating perceived martyrs and making their macabre recruiting campaigns more effective.” Ban said that “to be legitimate and effective,counter-terror measures, like all security operations, must be anchored in respect for human rights and the rule of law.” [19]Commission Chairman Justice (Retd) A P Shah, states that “Death penalty can rarely be deterrent for terror-related cases since most of them come on a suicide mission. By giving the death penalty, we play into their hands and vindicate their political motives. We turn criminal into martyrs. WhenBali bombers were being executed, they were beaming as if they have got awards.”In its report, the 20th Law Commission said, “There is no evidence of a link between fighting insurgency, terror or violent crime, and the need for the death penalty. Several countries have abolished the death penalty, or maintained moratoriums on executions, despite facing civil wars, threats of insurgency or terrorist attacks.” The panel cited Nepal and Sri Lanka as examples. Nepal officially abolished the death penalty in 1990 and did Notre-introduce it even in the aftermath of Maoist insurgency while Sri Lanka, despite a long civil war, has maintained a moratorium on death penalty. “Israel has only executed once since its formation. Most European countries remainabolitionist despite facing terrorism within their national boundaries, e.g, the UK, France, and Spain. In fact, it is relevant to note that the UK abolished the death penalty at a time when the Irish Republican Army, a revolutionary military organization, was particularly active in the country,” it said. [20]It is also important to remember that the empirical evidence regarding the deterrence effect of the death penalty is mixed; studies that purport to show deterrence effects are flawed, as the impact of capital punishment cannot be disentangled from other factors such as broader social trends, economic factors and demographic changes in a region.

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