Friday, May 20, 2005

Regarding "Blowing up an assumption" by Robert A. Pape, IHT, May 19, 2005: Professor Pape's theory should definitely be taken into account by all those who deal with suicide terrorism. Still, it focuses too much on one of the answers that explain why suicide terrorists do what they do, while ignoring or downplaying all other explanations. After reading the article I ask myself: how come that of all foreign military forces particularly those in the Near and Middle East have become the target or the pretext for suicide terror attacks; why is it that Jewish and Christian fanatics rarely turn to this brand of terror, but hardly anyone raises an eyebrow when we hear about a Muslim ( or better: Islamist ) suicide bomber; why is it it that so few suicide terrorists appear to have come from a background that is firmly rooted in democracy? When Mr Pape writes that of 315 suicide bombings and attacks in 23 years, 76 were carried out by the ani-religious Tamil Tigers, "more than Hamas ( 54 ) or Islamic Jihad ( 27 )". He forgets to mention that the main differences between the latter two groups have to do with their sources of financing, not their ideologies, both of which are Islamist-nationalist. 27 + 54 is more than 76, and if we consider the fact that in all eulogies of the murderers who carried out bombings for secular Palestinian-nationalist organizations Islamic phrases and justifications took up a central part, it will be hard to deny that Islam(ism) plays a vital role in today's suicide terrorism. That "nearly all suicide terrorist attacks [...] took place as part of organized political or military campaigns" is hardly a convincing argument in favor of Mr Papes theory: in Islam - and in particular in its Islamist version - there is no separation between religion and politics, and military or terrorist campaigns can serve both. Again, the article contains valuable information. Nevertheless, its title is a bit too ambitious: rather than blowing up an assumption, the article replaces one assumption with another one. Many more assumptions like these, together with interdisciplinary research and actually inter-national cooperation are needed for the various governments that are facing suicide terrorist threats to be able to find appropriate answers.

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