Academic journal article Journal of Behavioural Sciences

Causes of Suicide Terrorism in Pakistan as Perceived by Media Personnel

Academic journal article Journal of Behavioural Sciences

Causes of Suicide Terrorism in Pakistan as Perceived by Media Personnel

Article excerpt

There has been an unprecedented rise in the number of suicide attacks in the last decade (Syed, 2010). Despite this fact, the phenomenon of suicide terrorism remains widely unexplored. It is, therefore, the need of the hour to make attempts to understand the different perspectives of terrorism as an effort to combat it. "Terrorism emerges as what is called an 'essentially contested concept', debatable at its core, indistinct around its edges, and simultaneously descriptive and pejorative" (Smelser & Mitchell, 2002, p. 4). Terrorism is among the gravest of threats in the current national security environment. The 1983 suicide attack on the U.S. embassy in Beirut is considered as the beginning of a modern era of terrorism by the contemporary researchers (Borum, 2004) motivated by religious beliefs which are even fanatical, deadly and pervasive.

According to Johnson (2003) and Ruby (2002), no attempt is made to give comprehensive definitions of the concept of terrorism; the available definitions are restricted in defining the concept. However, Hoffman (1998) offered a wide-ranging definition of terrorism. He organized twenty-two definitional elements of terrorism into a table and stated that the most useful and commonly used definition is the one contained in Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f(d): "Premeditated politically-motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience" (p. 38).

Suicide terrorism, the widely-debated aspect of modern terrorism, can be defined along a continuum ranging from minimum to maximum definitions. The minimum definition describes suicide terrorism as a diversity of violent actions that necessitate the death of the terrorist to ensure the success of the action (Pedahzur, 2005). In an expanded definition, Bloom (2004) says that the terrorist undertakes the violent action to achieve a political goal with the complete awareness that the odds he/she will return alive are close to zero. The broadest or maximum definition brings to light the goals of suicide terrorism stating that the attacker's intention is to cause harm to a large number of people, mostly civilians, with the ultimate purpose of bringing some type of political change. Although suicide terrorism is aimed at a specific audience, its basic intention is to build psychological pressure not only on the primary audience but secondary audience as well. The primary difference between suicide terrorism and other types of terrorism, thus, lies in the tactical perspective (Pedahzur, 2005).

The effort to find a general theory to explain the causes of terrorism is futile because the nature of terrorism has changed over time and so have the motivations of terrorists (Laqueur, 2003). Researchers differ in the kind and variety of motives they consider to be of significant importance behind terrorism (Kruglanski, Chen, Dechesne, Fishman, & Orehek, 2009). Some researchers have emphasized upon the singular motivation behind suicide terrorism, whereas, others focus their attention on the potpourri of motives responsible for driving an individual towards terrorism. Coherent with this, three motivational themes behind terrorism have been found to be consistent across literature (Borum, 2004). According to Hacker (1976), the basic motivation for terrorism is injustice. Injustice prompts a desire for vengeance, particularly to avenge others. Grievances-social, political, economic, religious, ethnic, racial, and/or legal-may be viewed as a form of injustice and are the most important cause of terrorism (Ross, 1993). Secondly, individuals with flawed sense of identity may acquire personal identity through membership in a terrorist group and their personal identity gets merged with the group identity (Crenshaw, 1986). Terrorist groups also provide a sense of belonging and affiliation to the members. Crenshaw (1988) states that for active terrorists; the initial attraction is often to the group, rather than to an abstract ideology or violence. …

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