Letter to the Editor - a different slant on terrorism
William provides a refreshing review of the causes of terrorism
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The Village Pump
August l5, 2005
In your last issue a number of people commented on the suicide bombings in London. They found it difficult to understand how people could do such a thing, and they put the blame largely on religious fundamentalism.
Robert Pape, a professor from Chicago, has made the only study of the causes of suicide bombing (Dying to Win), and he has analysed 315 attacks between 1980 and 2003. He writes, "What nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modem democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland. Religion is rarely the root cause, although it is often used as a tool by terrorist organisations in recruiting."
He goes on to say: "If Islamic fundamentalism were the pivotal factor, then we should see some of the largest Islamic fundamentalist countries in the world, like Iran, which has 70 million people - three times the population of Iraq and three times the population of Saudi Arabia - with some of the most active groups in suicide terrorism against the US.
"However, there has never been an Al Qaida suicide terrorist from Iran, and we have no evidence that there are any suicide terrorists in Iraq from Iran.
"Sudan is a country of 21 million people. Its government is extremely Islamic fundamentalist...Yet there has never been an Al Qaida suicide terrorist from Sudan."
"I have the first complete set of data on every Al Qaida suicide terrorist from 1995 to early 2004, and they are not from some of the largest Islamic fundamentalist countries in the world. Two thirds are from the countries where the US has stationed heavy combat troops since 1990."
Nearly 20 years ago the UN identified that terrorism was the result of denying a voice to a people who have a coherent identity. The more extreme the denial, the more extreme the efforts to be heard. Since suicide bombing, like other forms of terrorism, is a result of people being denied a hearing. The answer is not to refuse to listen, but to admit being wrong about not listening. The best way to stop terrorism is more freedom, not less, and more freedom and openness especially for those communities from which terrorists are drawn.