News

Psychologists Examine What Makes a Person Become a Terrorist - 2002-08-23

Since the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington last year, scientists have stepped up research into what makes a person become a terrorist, and why some are willing to undertake suicide missions. Terrorism is among the main topics at this year's meeting of the American Psychological Association.

Scientists have various theories as to why some people become terrorists. Some say terrorists are often members of groups who see themselves as oppressed and want to do something about it. But, clinical psychologist Ibrahim Kira of Michigan says the theories do not fully explain why a person would be willing to take his or her own life in pursuit of a certain aim.

"Why do people feel this? Kill themselves? Commit suicide, individually or collectively. Why does this happen. The theory really does not explain this, why terrorism happens," he said.

Some theories have suggested that most suicide terrorists are people of low socioeconomic status, who have little to lose by giving up their own life for a particular cause. University of Pennsylvania psychologist Clark McCauley says that is not always the case.

"So a lot of people were surprised that especially the leadership element on 9/11 were by no means the poorest and least educated and those with the least prospects from amongst the Arab population they came from. They were way above average. They were some of the better off, the better educated and had the best prospects," Mr. McCauley said.

Mr. McCauley and Mr. Kira were among a group of scientists talking to reporters about terrorism, at this year's American Psychological Association meeting in Chicago. Mr. McCauley, and Richard Rubenstein, a professor of conflict resolution at George Mason University in Virginia, say terrorism is usually not the result of one individual's anger or hatred.

"People are not born terrorists. And it does very little good to explain terrorism when it happens as acts of expressive acting out, acts of emotional passion, acts which are essentially irrational," Mr. Rubenstein said.

Mr. Rubenstein says most terrorists identify themselves as members of a group or class of people who have been oppressed and humiliated by an outside power. He says often, the terrorism is the result of a desire to end that perceived oppression, but also a way to give more meaning to their lives.

Mr. McCauley believes this is what motivated the leaders of the September 11 attacks. "They would like to be the apex of a pyramid of a billion Muslims against the West in general and the U.S. in particular and the trouble is, most of the Arabs and Muslims are not interested so how are they going to solve that problem?" Mr. McCauley said.

Mr. McCauley believes the terrorists hoped the United States would respond to the attacks with military force, sparking widespread Muslim anger and violence against the United States. While this backlash has not happened yet, Mr. McCauley believes the al-Qaeda terrorist network is still hopeful of a widespread Muslim uprising against the West if the U.S.-led war against terrorism spreads into other Muslim countries.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs