Demystifying the suicide attack

Robert A. Pape is Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago and is well-known in the field of international security affairs. This is what he has to say on religion and suicide terrorism:

“The conventional wisdom is mostly wrong. Suicide terrorism is not mainly the product of Islamic fundamentalism or any other evil ideology independent of circumstance. I have studied 462 suicide terrorists; over half are secular. The world leader in suicide terrorism is the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka – they’re a Marxist group, a secular group, a Hindu group. The Tamil Tigers have committed more suicide terrorist attacks than Hamas or Islamic Jihad. Instead, what more than 95 percent of all suicide terrorist attacks since 1980 have in common is not religion, but a specific secular goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Chechnya to Kashmir to Sri Lanka to the West Bank, every suicide terrorist campaign since 1980 has had as its main objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw combat forces from territory that the terrorists prize.”

“The taproot of suicide terrorism is nationalism, it is an extreme strategy for national liberation”

“Religion is often a component of nationalism, and that is true not only for Muslims. For instance, there are many American Jews who believe that Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel. They view themselves as completely secular, and yet they have no problem also believing that Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel. Why? Because in many national histories religion plays a key role, especially religion associated with territory – that is an extremely common feature. It is not that religion and nationalism are at odds with each other, though they can be; it is often the case that religion is a subcomponent of nationalism.”

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