As of late, the terrorism in the Middle East has been growing to larger and larger peaks. It has broken the shackles of geographic boundaries and has managed to touch the entire globe. The number of people that leave their homes to sign up for the terrorist cause is staggering – over 15,000 people joined up from 80 countries throughout the world in the four short months after ISIS began to mobilize in the June of last year. This number begs the question: what is capable of driving thousands of people, some of whom lead comfortable lives, to drop everything, travel across the world, undergo rigorous combat training, and throw their lives away in a bloody martyrdom?
Many studies have been conducted to better understand this international radicalization process – specifically on the types of people which are most receptive to it. However, the results of these studies end up creating more questions than they answer. Unsurprisingly, certain of the sects of Muslims which feel marginalized or segregated from the rest of society are prone to turn to terrorism. Peculiarly, it has also been observed that most European insurgents are well-off, sociable representatives of the middle class – some of them having only recently converted to Islam. These two groups demonstrate a stark contrast in the kinds of people who give up their lives for terrorism, and it is only logical to assume that there is a similar contrast in their respective reasons for doing so.
Many Muslim communities in the Western World are isolated from the remainder of the society that they belong to. Although this isolation is many times self-imposed, the sentiments of oppression and marginalization that it creates are just as powerful as they would be if it were not. This is not to say that all such communities are spawning grounds for terrorists – only the most extremist of them are. For the disgruntled members of these communities, the life of a terrorist represents the perfect way to strike back at who they see as their Western oppressors. To them, inspiring fear through acts of brutality is the most effective method to draw attention to their cause.
The reasons respectable, middle class people end up joining terrorist organizations are much more difficult to pin down. Much of what is understood at the moment about their motives is still conjecture. The most popular theory is that perhaps they are running away from some aspect of their lives that they cannot bear to face; such as financial or social problems. Or maybe they have some criminal record that they wish to expiate, and they believe the terrorist cause is their vehicle to do so. In some instances, adolescents join up merely because they are at the junction in their lives when living in a camp and shooting guns seems appealing. If these kinds of people suddenly hear about what ‘Islam’ has to offer, then, obviously, they will jump at the chance to convert and realize their own aspirations.
In recent years, the number of people in the Western nations approaching Muslim religious leaders to ask for conversion has significantly increased. What is more telling, however, is the number of people who disappear after being taught what Islam is, and represents, by these authorities. There are people out there, living in our societies, slowly but surely spreading the propaganda that terrorist organizations adhere to.
But, although these reasons offer a somewhat satisfactory explanation for why terrorists choose to be terrorists, they do not explain how terrorists – rational human beings no different from us – can possibly justify the barbarous murders of innocents to themselves.
These men and women have interpreted the teachings of the Quran and applied them to the present world in a certain way – a way that allows them to accept and even relish in the loss of innocent life. According to their interpretation, any government that chooses to oppose them, and take military action against them, can only do so with the support of its people. In this way, every citizen of the nation becomes responsible for the inevitable loss of terrorist life that occurs during combat. Moreover, although terrorists accept that women and children not directly involved in the fighting are innocent, since they sleep and eat in the same countries that house the armies killing terrorists, their deaths too are sanctioned by God. Furthermore, an interpretation of a specific line in the Quran leads one to believe that even Islamic people living in Western nations are not truly Islamic, by virtue of the fact that they accept Christian or Jewish leaders. Through this tangled web of spurious logic, terrorists have managed to rationalize the killing of anybody who so much as is present in a nation warring against them.
These men and women put their religion on a pedestal, and allay any guilt they feel for their actions by telling themselves that they are merely the instruments of God’s design. To these men and women, even logic as absurd as this is acceptable, because what they are looking for is not a reason to kill, but an excuse to kill. The more logical the terrorists’ minds are, the deeper they must immerse themselves in their excuse, to escape the self-recrimination. This excuse is repeated so many times in the minds of terrorists that eventually, they begin to truly believe it; and the product of this mental conditioning are the religious zealots we see now terrorizing the world.