What motivates terrorists and assassins?
The U.S Department of Defence defines terrorism as the use of force to inculcate fear. The intended goal is to coerce individuals, societies or governments to meet religious, ideological or political agendas. Terrorists are the persons that carry out the acts of terrorism. This paper evaluates factors that influence terrorist and assassins to engage in terror attacks. These include socioeconomic, psychological, and ideological.
Ideological perspective remains a major motivator of individuals to engage in terror activities. Ideology encompasses political or religious philosophies that one or a group identify with. An example is the Baader Meinhof group in Germany that were opposed to capitalism thus, destroyed capitalist infrastructure. Religious motivation, especially in Islam-related terror groups, has been a key aspect. It is a justification for the violent acts for an ultimate reward in the afterlife. Groups such as Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda, and ISIS specifically identify with Islamic views as their motivation to carry out terror attacks. Additionally, cultural and communal perspective, norms and values impact the tendency of a person to engage in terrorism. Communities are breeding grounds for socialization and child development. If the majority agree to violence then the social organization pressures influence one to engage to fit in with other peers. For instance, martyrdom is not only an Islamic view but also a cultural concept. The group psychology creates persuasive tactic for individuals to join in violence.
Psychologically, a person engages in terrorism to gain personal satisfaction. It would be due to the desire for power, the quest for significance or hate. Such desires may arise from prior humiliation or purely a personal incentive. This integrated with a weak personal identity makes one conform to a collective identity. For example, someone may opt to seek revenge for injustices served against him. On the other hand, one would seek identity, thrill, or status.
Socioeconomic factors such as unemployment and poverty also motivate assassins and terrorists. In most instances, the terror recruits come from poor background. The yearn to alleviate their poverty status influence their involvement with terror groups. Also, committing attacks comes as an employment opportunity for the unemployed poor individuals. Low educational levels also make people vulnerable to controversial teachings and recruitment to terror groups hence, becoming assassins and terrorists. Low educational levels breed extremist attitudes.
Technological advancement and modern use of social media escalate socialization across extremists, assassins and terrorists creating a motivation channel to carry out terror activities. Due to modern technology, there is ease in access to diverse channels of communication. The internet with models such as websites, email servers, blogs and twitter is an asset to terror groups. New members are recruited and aid in deepening ideological socialization. Also, televisions and films with violence scenes would influence especially the youth to identify with such celebrity characters.
Political mistrust either due to non-recognition as a people group or caused by government dealings is also a motivating factor for assassins and terrorists. They use terrorism as a political agitation tool for structural and strategic reforms to governments. On the other hand, the need to stand up for one’s country would justify involvement in terrorism. For example, Zionists needed to create a Jewish state thus, bombed British targets in Palestine in 1930s. Osama bin Laden in fighting for Saudi Arabia declared war on America in the 1990s also gives an illustration on the same. According to Osama, America’s presence in Arabia represented an abomination to the Islamic country. Thus, initiated attacks to bring change to the Arabian Peninsula.
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