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Understanding Islamic suicide bombers.

Old 04-29-06, 12:48 PM
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Understanding Islamic suicide bombers.

Interesting article. Of course there's no secret recipe but I do think it's important to try and understand the sociological background and motivations of people who embrace Islamic extremism.

Seeking out the suicide bombers

By Paul Reynolds
World Affairs Correspondent, BBC News website

Anti-terrorist experts are floundering about trying to understand Islamic suicide bombers in the UK and the rest of Europe.

The experts came together and argued together at a conference in London organised by the Centre for Defence Studies at King's College and the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment.

The conference sought to assemble "the puzzle that will help us better understand what determines and motivates the actions of individual jihadists."

The puzzle however remained frustratingly in pieces.

One major argument was about the issue of psychological profiling. This seeks to understand the motives of one group of terrorists in order to predict who might be the next.

To a layman it sounds quite reasonable - and indeed there was a fascinating analysis of the 7/7 London bombers - but it came under sustained attack from one of the speakers, Dr John Horgan, a psychologist at the University of St Andrews, which has specialised in anti-terrorist studies.

"I believe the psychological profiling of Islamic terrorists is a complete waste of time," he said.

"It will not work. It means different things to different people and there is the wrong assumption that if we can identify the traits of known terrorists we can move into predictions.

"The terrorists are not a homogenous population and we simply do not understand why some move from legal activities to illegal."

"Too much is based on a limited range of people and we are seeing only the tip of the iceberg."

I asked Dr Horgan afterwards what should be done instead.

Social profiling

"Psychological profiling is beguiling," he said. "Social profiling, looking at the social background, is more useful.

"It's also important to look at the ways in which a person gets drawn into terrorism and from that to develop counter -terrorism strategies. There is an "IED" progression, from involvement to engagement and then, in some, to disengagement from terrorism.

"At points along this line, we can try to stop them. For example in Northern Ireland, the racketeering that went on in paramilitary groups was exposed. That undermined the idealism of some who thought they might join."

'Al Capone approach'

Others at the conference suggested the "Al Capone" approach, in which the financial dealings of activists could be targeted.

Despite Dr Horgan's comments, there was a good deal of profiling on display at this conference.

Peter Nessen of the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment had analysed the London suicide bombers and came up with a typology, which, he said, provided important lessons.

He identified four types of terrorist in the four young men who blew themselves and others up:


. the entrepreneur
. the protégé
. the misfit
. the drifter.

'Sense of injustice'

The entrepreneur, or leader, was Mohammed Siddique Khan. This figure, said Peter Nessen, is the crucial one, who makes things happen. He is often an idealist as Khan was. Khan had an "activist mindset." He had been active in protests on behalf of the Kashmiri community before. He had a strong sense of injustice on behalf of Muslims around the world.

"But this figure often needs contacts with a radical imam for religious guidance and, for practical purposes, contacts with the jihadi infrastructure, though instructions can also be got from the internet," said Nessen.

The second figure, the protégé, he identified in this group as Shezad Tanweer.

"The protégé might be younger and certainly looks up to the leader. He is also activist minded, also educated and is sometimes skilled. He might be used for bomb making. Tanweer went to Pakistan with Khan in 1994, so was close to him."

The third type, the misfit, was Hasib Hussain.

The misfit, according to this theory, is someone with a troubled background, not an idealist. He joins because of personal problems, which he thinks will thereby be solved. He might even join out of loyalty to his friends. He is streetwise but not well educated and might have violent tendencies.

The fourth type, the drifter, was said to be Jermain Lindsay.

"This kind of person drifts into the group through circumstances or contacts. He might not have been an activist before and might not be entrusted with key details of the group's activities," said Nessen.

The lessons, Nessen said, were that there were different ways into terrorism, that the role of the "entrepreneur" was crucial, but that this was not enough. There had to be connections outside the group, to religious leaders and jihadi structures.

Converts

We were also given a glimpse into the phenomenon of converts, some of whom, like the shoe-bomber Richard Reid, then went onto to violence.

Alison Pargeter, of King's College pointed to similarities between 34 converts she had identified. They were often fragile individuals from deprived and broken homes, looking for a way out. They were also vulnerable to influence as they were not able to distinguish between moderate and more extreme branches of Islam and were drawn into "purer" forms from which the leap to violence was easier.

As for social profiling, there was an interesting account of the background in Spain, which suffered in the Madrid bombs in 2004.

Professor Fernando Reinares of the Elcano Royal Institute in Madrid, said that, unlike the situation in the UK, there was no mature second or third generation of immigrants in Spain yet, so most of the 188 jihadists arrested since 2001 had been from abroad, mostly Morocco and Algeria. The Spanish authorities were now looking closely at the influences on the upcoming generations.

Professor Reinares also pointed out the problems of prediction and said the Madrid bombers were very varied, with both university graduates and illiterates in their ranks.

I felt that the conference rather ignored some of the political influences on suicide bombers, like the world events -Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East, Chechnya, Bosnia and others - that provide a basic motivation for many of them.

In one off-the-record session there was a reference to this from a contributor who did call for a better Western approach on a global scale, arguing for patience and a clear human rights framework for policies.

Perhaps this was felt to be too intangible for such a meeting. Certainly some of the policemen there were more interested in what they could do in practice.

'No silver bullet'

One of them, Chief Inspector Mick Gillick of West Midlands police, who works with Muslim and other communities in his patch, said there was "no silver bullet."

"I am a little bit sceptical about profiling being the answer to predicting terrorism," he told me, "though I recognise the concept of the entrepreneur. However, because Khan became a terrorist after being an activist, it does not follow that other activists will become terrorists.

"I know that intelligence agencies these days are looking "upstream" to see who might be shaping up as suspects, but my role is to develop relations with the communities and this is vital because they will be the ones who tell us if something is suspicious."

One speaker who had made a grimly successful prediction was a ZDF German television journalist Elmar Thevessen. He made a documentary in 2004 about a possible attack on the London Underground.

The German authorities were on high alert because of the World Cup this summer, he said, worried because a jihadist pamphlet called "The Unfulfilled Duty" had recently appeared.

It was, unusually, written in German, not Arabic or English, a sign that those behind the pamphlet were now appealing to young people who were deeply embedded in German society.

Michael Taarnby of the Danish Institute for International Studies, who has analysed jihadists across Europe, predicted what everyone fears.

"There will be more bombers," he said.
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Old 04-29-06, 01:05 PM
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"There will be more bombers," he said.
Thank God for experts.
Basically what I got from it is that you have problems once there is a large enough Islamic population in your country. At that point it becomes hard to track them and just by sheer number, a small percentage will cause problems. As the article pointed out in the case of the London problem, economic opression and poverty had nothing to do with it
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Old 04-29-06, 02:26 PM
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I prefer "Homicide Bomber".
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Old 04-29-06, 02:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Vandelay_Inds
Jews were subjected to extreme forms of oppression in Europe for hundreds of years, FAR worse than anything seen today in Palestine, yet they turned to finance, industry, science, philosophy, art, and culture rather than indiscriminate violence, insatiable hatred, and dehumanizing ideology... people ought to be recognized and held accountable for the moral choices they make.
Arabs like to use that as an excuse for their failures. Look at China, Vietnam, India, & Japan were under colonialism back then and look where they're at now.
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Old 04-29-06, 03:39 PM
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This is the best text I have read about suicide bombers---and not just those who follow Islam:

Dying To Win by Robert A. Pape

Jews were subjected to extreme forms of oppression in Europe for hundreds of years, FAR worse than anything seen today in Palestine, yet they turned to finance, industry, science, philosophy, art, and culture rather than indiscriminate violence, insatiable hatred, and dehumanizing ideology... people ought to be recognized and held accountable for the moral choices they make.
It is worth nothing that many Muslims have also turned to finance, industry, science, philosophy, art, and "culture" as well. You seem to be only recognizing the Islamic fringe---the "puritans," "fundamentalists," or "extremists"---rather than the majority, which is more moderate.

Arabs like to use that as an excuse for their failures. Look at China, Vietnam, India, & Japan were under colonialism back then and look where they're at now.
History is infinitely complicated, and I don't think you can just point to countries who have who have asserted their independence successfully and use that as the benchmark for where other countries should be. One can just as easily point to any number of mismanaged countries to counter your point.

Moreover, be careful in your use of "Arab." Arabia refers to the Arabian peninsula, a geographical area. Arabs are people living in that area. It should go without saying that not all Muslims are Arabs, and not all Arabs are Muslims (although a large majority are).
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Old 04-29-06, 03:51 PM
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Originally Posted by bhk
As the article pointed out in the case of the London problem, economic opression and poverty had nothing to do with it

I see not such conclusion drawn from that article, only that these individuals seem to come from a wide range of backgrounds. Some might be poor and deprived, some might be relatively well off and educated. I would assume that all of them felt alienated, had little sense of purpose and lacked a strong cultural identity. You see the same traits in people who join weird sects or cults because they are perfect candidates for brainwashing.

Last edited by eXcentris; 04-29-06 at 03:55 PM.
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Old 04-29-06, 06:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Corvin

It is worth nothing that many Muslims have also turned to finance, industry, science, philosophy, art, and "culture" as well. You seem to be only recognizing the Islamic fringe---the "puritans," "fundamentalists," or "extremists"---rather than the majority, which is more moderate.
Right, but I think it's also important to understand that the VAST majority of German citizens would certainly not have supported the idea of physically killing Jewish men, women and children in death camps. However, a significant percentage of Germans who would not have supported killing jews, did, however, fully believe that jews were a "problem", that needed to be dealt with.

Similarly, while most Muslims worldwide disagree with the methods of the terrorists, a significant number, much more than a fringe, share the terrorists world view that Israel should not exist, that the Jews and the Westerners are responsible for the ills of the Muslim world, that Sharia law is preferable to "Western human rights", and that an Islamic society is far superior to a secular, liberal, mulitcultural western-style society.
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Old 04-29-06, 09:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Ky-Fi
Right, but I think it's also important to understand that the VAST majority of German citizens would certainly not have supported the idea of physically killing Jewish men, women and children in death camps.
The Holocaust was not perpitrated by a small cadre of motivated, anti-Jewish Nazis. Germans, for the most part, knew what was happening and did nothing about it (with exceptions, of course). It took a large effort to round up and murder the Jews. I feel little sympathy for the Germans of that generation.

I've never believed the argument that became popular after the war about how "We knew nothing, just that they were being 'relocated'". Even the folks living near these camps bought into this fantasy.

I feel a similar situation occurs with the mainstream Islam population and it's radical fringe. The 'sense of injustice on behalf of Muslims around the world' is total bullshit. Islam is as much to blame for it's problems as anything else combined. The 'oppression' of the west is just a convenient excuse for these acts.

For example in Northern Ireland, the racketeering that went on in paramilitary groups was exposed. That undermined the idealism of some who thought they might join."
The difference here is that the dark underbelly of suicide bobmings matters not to recruits since anybody caught in the wake is expendable or 'traitors' anway. What galled me was a quote from a USA Today article about the bombings in Egypt and how mainstream Islam is now realizing that a majority of casualties are innocent Muslims, terrorism becomes a liability. So only when Musilms are killed does the mainstream realize 'uh-oh'. Of course if the casualties were 100% Jewish or Westerner, the reaction is one of indifference or quiet acceptance.

Last edited by Nazgul; 04-29-06 at 09:24 PM.
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Old 04-29-06, 09:43 PM
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Originally Posted by eXcentris
I see not such conclusion drawn from that article, only that these individuals seem to come from a wide range of backgrounds. Some might be poor and deprived, some might be relatively well off and educated. I would assume that all of them felt alienated, had little sense of purpose and lacked a strong cultural identity. You see the same traits in people who join weird sects or cults because they are perfect candidates for brainwashing.

Are you referring only the London murderers, or all fundamentalist killers? Sorry in advance if the answer can be found in the original post.
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Old 04-29-06, 09:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Corvin
This is the best text I have read about suicide bombers---and not just those who follow Islam:

Dying To Win by Robert A. Pape



It is worth nothing that many Muslims have also turned to finance, industry, science, philosophy, art, and "culture" as well. You seem to be only recognizing the Islamic fringe---the "puritans," "fundamentalists," or "extremists"---rather than the majority, which is more moderate.



...

Also worth noting that an incredibly fewer numbers of Muslims have turned to these pursuits, especially relative to the Western world. It is estimated, for example, that there are fewer than four to five thousand scientists in the Muslim world. That is out of over one billion people. That is amazing.
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Old 04-29-06, 10:07 PM
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Originally Posted by MartinBlank
I prefer "Homicide Bomber".
But it's inaccurate. A homocide bomber runs away. Tim McVeigh was a homocide bomber. Just because some right wing shithead on TV keeps saying homocide bomber doesn't make it right.
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Old 04-30-06, 01:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Nazgul
I feel a similar situation occurs with the mainstream Islam population and it's radical fringe. The 'sense of injustice on behalf of Muslims around the world' is total bullshit. Islam is as much to blame for it's problems as anything else combined. The 'oppression' of the west is just a convenient excuse for these acts.
Blaming the West and Israel for all their problems is a convenient excuse but this misplaced feeling of oppression is compounded by a war on terror which they see (not entirely wrongly) as a war against Islam.
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Old 04-30-06, 01:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Jason
But it's inaccurate. A homocide bomber runs away. Tim McVeigh was a homocide bomber. Just because some right wing shithead on TV keeps saying homocide bomber doesn't make it right.
Ok...so we can agree that they're not commiting homicide then?

The whole point between the homicide/suicide bomber thing, while really just semantics, is to emphasize that the homicide(s) is much more tragic than the suicide.
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Old 04-30-06, 01:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Pharoh
Are you referring only the London murderers, or all fundamentalist killers? Sorry in advance if the answer can be found in the original post.
The original article is referring to Muslims living in Europe so that's what I was referring to. However, what I posted can (to various degrees) also apply to fundamentalists living in Arab nations. For example, the film "Paradise Now" addresses similar issues of alienation of disenfranchised youth.
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Old 04-30-06, 05:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Goldblum
Ok...so we can agree that they're not commiting homicide then?

The whole point between the homicide/suicide bomber thing, while really just semantics, is to emphasize that the homicide(s) is much more tragic than the suicide.
That's really not the point. The thing is that with suicide and homicide bomber you have two distinctive terms for two distinctive situations. If you change suicide to homicide, you loose that distinction.

You'd argue there's basically no essential difference between a Japanese suicide pilot (kamikaze) and a regular combat pilot, as the main objective of both is to kill enemy combatants?

The point is, everybody knows bombers or pilots are basically there to kill people. The addition of "suicide" is there to make a distinction between two types of people who do this.
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Old 04-30-06, 06:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Jason
Just because some right wing shithead on TV keeps saying homocide bomber doesn't make it right.

Gawd dam man. Did some Right wing man sodomize you as a child? You have so much anger and hatred just because someone doesn't hold your views...

Anyway, "Homicide Bombers" has become the popular term for them. Even with "left wing" news organizations whether you like it or not .
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Old 04-30-06, 07:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Nazgul
The Holocaust was not perpitrated by a small cadre of motivated, anti-Jewish Nazis. Germans, for the most part, knew what was happening and did nothing about it (with exceptions, of course). It took a large effort to round up and murder the Jews. I feel little sympathy for the Germans of that generation.

I've never believed the argument that became popular after the war about how "We knew nothing, just that they were being 'relocated'". Even the folks living near these camps bought into this fantasy.
Nazgul, I am in agreement with you, and thats the very point I was making. Even though most Germans would not have ACTIVELY supported the WORST atrocities of the Holocaust, they were on board with the general program and Nazi world-view, and as such were complicit in the overall German society's march down this path. A majority of Germans were certainly in agreement with the Nazi program enough that they didn't vociferously oppose it, and they often chose to close their eyes to the violent excesses they had to know or at least suspect were happening.

And I'm saying that's why I don't put much stock in the Western apologist's line of "Most Muslims don't support violent suicide bombings". I think it's most certainly true, but it's not that relevant in the big picture, IMO.
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Old 04-30-06, 07:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Goldblum
Ok...so we can agree that they're not commiting homicide then?

The whole point between the homicide/suicide bomber thing, while really just semantics, is to emphasize that the homicide(s) is much more tragic than the suicide.
I thought that's where the "bomber" part came in.
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Old 04-30-06, 08:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Giantrobo
Anyway, "Homicide Bombers" has become the popular term for them. Even with "left wing" news organizations whether you like it or not .
Horseshit. It was coined by Ari Fleisher and is used by fox news and the new york post.

http://www.wordspy.com/words/homicidebombing.asp
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Old 04-30-06, 08:07 AM
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'We must understand reasons for the bombers actions.'

It's sorta like being concerned about 'Johnny's self-esteem.'

I'm more concerned about Johnny's self-discipline than I am his self-esteem.

I'm more concerned with the results of the bomber's actions than I am what drives him/her.

Of course I'm not an understanding sort of a guy.
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Old 04-30-06, 09:28 AM
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Johnny has his feelings hurt. Johnny doesn't like classicman2 any more. Johnny is going to cry in the corner then fly to the middle east and enrole in a terrrorist training camp. Poor johnny. It's all classicman2's fault for not understanding Johnny's feelings. Johnny fall down go boom. Poor poor Johnny.
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Old 04-30-06, 12:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Jason
Horseshit. It was coined by Ari Fleisher and is used by fox news and the new york post.

http://www.wordspy.com/words/homicidebombing.asp
I don't give a fuck who "coined" it and frankly I never said who created it. All I know is I hear it all the time all over the news. I don't even watch Fox's cable news station so I'm talking about local news here in California and other news sources.
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Old 04-30-06, 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
I'm more concerned with the results of the bomber's actions than I am what drives him/her.
I would assume you'd also be concerned with trying to prevent said results from occuring no?
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Old 04-30-06, 02:16 PM
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Originally Posted by eXcentris
I would assume you'd also be concerned with trying to prevent said results from occuring no?
The way you prevent suicide bombers is to strike violently at the folks who 'guide' them in their endeavors. It's not a matter of 'understanding.' Make them understand the consequences of their actions. In other words, show 'em how the cow ate the cabbage. They, unlike the bombers, are not interested in martyrdom.
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Old 04-30-06, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
The way you prevent suicide bombers is to strike violently at the folks who 'guide' them in their endeavors. It's not a matter of 'understanding.' Make them understand the consequences of their actions. In other words, show 'em how the cow ate the cabbage. They, unlike the bombers, are not interested in martyrdom.
That approach is working wonders in Iraq.
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