On Terror

Interview with Amjed Rasheed:

Amjed Rasheed

Amjed Rasheed

Interviewed by Aras Ahmed Mhamad

AAM: How do you define terrorism? Who is a terrorist?

 AR: The term ‘terrorism’ or ‘terrorist” is ‘problematique’and relative. For instance, the states, as social structures, exercise what Weber calls it “a legitimate violence”, but why are states’ aggressive actions labelled as being “legitimate violence”? I am just raising the concern. Besides this, non-state organizations, such as Al-Qaeda, and other terrorists groups across the world, use violence to pursue their aims. To put it simply, Terrorism is “a violent act against the mass of civilians through violent means to acquire harmful aims”. Yet, this definition does not mean I am justifying violence that seeks justice and good. For instance, the liberation movements used violence against tyrannies for the sake of freedom, but their violence acts against ‘the civilians’ is also a sign of terrorism.

 AAM: How would you identify the most obvious characteristic features of a terrorist, physically and psychologically?

 AR: Physically, anyone could be a terrorist today. Terrorism does not necessarily mean that a person has to be affiliated to a terrorist organization any more. For example, Al-Qaeda is not a group of people any longer. It turned to become a radical ideology against the social system instead.

However, there are cases that show some disabled people, such as a person with one hand, or one leg, or any part of his body, join terrorist organizations. Because of the depression and the mistreatment by the society, they are ready to do anything to improve themselves. Thus, the easiest way to do it is to join the terrorist groups. They are the ones who will give them the space to act.

A man with one hand could still be a smart bomb, and suicide himself in a public place. You could easily see this phenomenon in the places that have suffered from prolonged conflicts such as Iraq, Afghanistan and some other places, I assume. Landmines, the availability of massive arms…  I point out here the need for a social comprehensive policy to care of the disabled people and reduce the social gap of neglecting them at a societal level.

But a terrorist may not necessarily be a suicide attacker. These two categories are different. Terrorists are different: there are some who recruit, others do field activities, and other are suicide bombers. I’m interested to explore the latter.   Cases show that some madrassas in Pakistan were recruiting children and creating violent narratives in their minds against the West as a civilization that opposes and humiliates Islam. The recruiters use the religious rhetoric that touches youths’ hearts. They make the Muslim youths believe that suicide attacks are only the price of the promise of virgins and rivers of wine and honey.

Other suicide attackers are those youth who have been sexually abused. The daily sexual abuse reaches these youths to a point that they have nothing to live for. Therefore, suicide attacks are the escape from their fearful life.

Other suicide attackers are those who are given drugs that make them feel unconscious of what are they doing. These three categories existed in Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to an official insider. Surely, the suicide attackers in Iraq and Syria or elsewhere are not so different from these three categories. The last reason is economic. Several documents show that suicide attackers were promised that their families will get money following their deaths.

Psychologically, it is hard to identify the terrorist. I’m not an expert in crime studies. But I know that criminals can be very educated and smart people. Therefore, it is not necessary for a terrorist to be mentally ill or suffer from poverty. For example, those who carried out the most famous suicide attacks had strong educational background from western countries.

The Godfather of Al Qaeda, Al-Zawahiri, has a degree in medicine. Ramzi Yousif who carried out the attacks of World Trade in 1993 studied engineering at Swansea Institute, Wales. Mohammed Atta, Waleed Al-Shehri,, Marwan Al-Shehhi, Ziad Samir Jarrah, Hani Hanjour … they were all educated in Western Countries. All of these people could have decent lives through their qualifications. Thus, the claim that poverty and unemployment is behind terrorism is not concrete.  An observer will easily find that the most famous terrorists attacks involved mostly engineers educated in Western countries.

AAM: What are the top five reasons for people conducting acts of terrorism?

AR: I will answer this question from the perspective of the Islamic terrorist groups. Beside terrorism being as a crime, like any other crime, the socio-economic resentment, the accumulation of animosity against the west, and the nostalgia for an Islamic Caliphate are all dynamics of the radicalism of these groups.

The Muslims in general, and those who live in MENA in particular, are very keen in History. Thus, I strongly agree with Bernard Lewis when he said that the question Muslims always ask themselves is: After centuries of rule and development, what went wrong? The Islamic empire failed to converge with Modernity. This is because of the social and historical interactions that have produced constraints, I argue. Yet, there is almost no official statement as such to declare the historical defeat of the Islamic civilization.

The Muslim World refuses to admit the defeat. Some of them attributed the defeat to colonialism. But if you look at the history, you will find that colonialism is indeed behind the defeat because they DID NOT stay longer that they should – Malaysia is the example.

In addition, prolonged conflicts increase the tendency of criminality and terrorism. This reminds me of the old saying: In love and war, everything is fair. Plus, if you look at the world map, and explore the conflicts all over the Islamic countries, you will find that conflict and instability creates safe havens for Al-Qaeda to penetrate and recruit local groups to carry out terrorist attacks.

Bear in mind the Western intervention and  mismanagement have led to an increase the terrorist tendencies too. The humiliations and the violation of religious and cultural values were adequate incentives for fundamentalism. Professor Victoria Fontan wrote an exclusive book on how humiliation led to radicalism in Iraq, the title of the book is ‘Voices from Post-Saddam Iraq’.

AAM: 9/11 has changed the political equation and split humanity, to a large extent, into two separate sides. One condemns the attack, while the other supports it indirectly. How would you comment on that?

AR: Again, some Muslims reject the triumph of Western civilization. Thus, they use violence and terrorism to show their opposition to this civilization. Now, historically speaking, I can understand the resentment, but I cannot understand using violence against the mass of civilians to show this resentment. This reminds me of Hitlerism in Germany against the Jews.

Thus, I refuse to justify terrorism and violence based on these situational conditions. Otherwise I could justify Hitlerism because of the economic conditions and World War One humiliation and defeat.

AAM: What are the most notable changes in acts of terror in recent years?

AR: First, I don’t see much different neither is terms of methods, nor in terms of aims. In fact, the terrorist groups copy-paste the same tactics almost everywhere. Therefore, the best way to prevent such attacks is to study previous terrorist attacks. For example, the tactic of the ambulance bomb that was used in Erbil was the same tactic used in Afghanistan several times.

Second, the issue of beheading is becoming a fashion.

Third, the use of social media to spread videos of beheading and other horrible acts via Youtube, FB and Twitter.

Amjed Rasheed Research Scholar, SGIA-Durham University. He has previously been educated in Glasgow University and the UN affiliated university the University for Peace. His research on the role of Individuals in shaping States’ behavior. The context he works in is Iraq, Iran and Syria.  His research is on the role of Individuals in shaping States’ behavior in world politics.

Aras Ahmed Mhamad is a freelancer. He is the Founder and Deputy Editor of SMART magazine, an independent English magazine that focuses on ‘Literature, Language, Society’. He is the Top Student of College of Languages at the Department of English/ University of Human Development, 2012. He is a columnist for the Kurdistan Tribune and a contributing writer for the ekurd.net and doznews.com. He is the Cultural Analyst at the Kurdish Review Newspaper, the only Kurdish-American newspaper in print. He is also the Editor in Chief of the Sorani section at the doznews.com

Copyright © 2013 Kurdistantribune.com

4 Responses to On Terror
  1. Dr. M. Koohzad
    October 15, 2013 | 13:30

    Apparently, you guys have not seen/read my article, “Faulty Approaches to Orientalism-Determinism Explaining Kurdistan’s Future.” Kurdistan Tribune, June 26, 2013. http://kurdistantribune.com/2013/ faulty-approaches-orientalism-determinism-explaining-kurdistans-future-part-1/& Part-2, Kurdistan Tribune, June 29, 2013.
    I explained that MENA is “a lazy-loaded shorthand of colonialism”, and a meaningless toponym. Please do not use it in your writings. Thanks. Dr. Koohzad

  2. Kuvan Bamarny
    October 15, 2013 | 14:01

    For some people terrorism becomes type of guerilla fighting to confront their enemies that are much stronger than them.They use terrorist tactics to fight back such as car bombing, suicide bombers, IDF ,etc especially when it becomes impossible to open a war front with a powerful and high technologically advanced military,and confront them face to to face. Iraqi-USA war is one example.

  3. Amjed
    October 17, 2013 | 10:46

    Dear Dr. Koohzad
    I just skimmed your article and I found it interesting. Thank you very much for the wonderful piece.

    Yet, I didnt understand why you said that we should not use it. Does it mean that I will plagiarise your thoughts? If this is the case, a per-judgment leads to misunderstanding.

  4. Dr. M. Koohzad
    October 17, 2013 | 14:50

    Sorry Amjed! I apologize for the misunderstanding. Perhaps, I did not clarify my comment. The long address to my article created a short distance, a gap. As a reference to the Middle East and North Africa, MENA is a wrong toponym. I should have said, “Please do not use MENA in your writings.” Dr. Koohzad

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL https://kurdistantribune.com/on-terror/trackback/