Ideologies at War

A Statistical and Philosophical Examination of Jihad in the 21st Century

by Kristen Moller

The road to peace in the Middle East is hidden in a wilderness of conflict—conflict so thick, so wide, and so shady that it takes on the form of an impenetrable all-encompassing fog.  And within this fog-consumed wilderness, people are suffering, bombs are exploding, innocence is dying. Bright lights of explosive blasts burn up the sky above, and violent rumbling tremors shake the earth bellow. Voices of all frequency escape from within the fog.

In striving to fight through the forest to save them, there comes a point where one realizes simply yelling “Peace! Peace!” will do no good. Instead, the responder must be as familiarized as possible with the emergency at hand in order to do the most good.

And so, through careful examination of voices and lights, the analysis of jihadi ideology and the tactics and application of suicide bombing around the world, together we may be better equipped for the journey through the world stage, faithfully contributing to the restoration of our current age.

Ideology of Jihad

Upon examination of the jihadi ideology, what becomes clear right away is that people who join jihad are indeed people. They come from different backgrounds, different locations on the globe, from different educational levels as well as different financial histories. Many have families that they love—spouses, children, and parents that they miss. And they share a uniting belief in one God, and the responsibility to do his will.

Jihadis are representative of an extreme minority within Islam. While all jihadis view themselves as fundamentalists, only a small number of fundamentalists are jihadis.[1] Still, the flame under jihadis feet that prompts them to action is often political issues similar to those that also concern non-violent Muslims. One such example is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Despite the offensiveness of the jihadis response, their actions do come from an advanced knowledge of the West and its involvement in the Middle East and around the world.[2]

Historical Beginnings

In David Aaron’s book, In their Own Words: Voices of Jihad, he outlines eight of the most significant writers that have contributed to the jihadi ideology over time. The first of these writers is Sheik Ahmad Ibn Taymiyya.

Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328) may be one of the most widely referenced scholars of jihadi historical thought. He lived during the Mongol invasions of the Muslim world, and believed Muslims were suffering conquest for acting unfaithfully to the ways of the four “rightly guided” caliphs. When the Mongol leaders converted to Islam, Taymiyyah doubted the authenticity of their conversion. He declared the Mongols heretics and urged jihad against them. Jihad, as he defined it, was an offensive holy war obligatory to be taken up by Muslims in order to urge right and prohibit wrong. His views were not at all popular with the rulers of Cairo and Damascus. As a result, he was jailed repeatedly and died in prison.[3]

Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792) was also an important shaper of jihadi ideology. Al-Wahhab was greatly influenced by Taymiyya’s writings during his time in Barsa. He was disgusted by the lack of morality practiced by the general community around him and sought to revive the fundamentalism that Taymiyya had pushed for hundreds of years earlier. Al-Wahhab’s ideology was organized around the ideas of tawhid (the oneness of God) and shirk (idolatry). His beliefs lead him to destroy many revered tombs and, like Taymiyya, become significantly unpopular for his teachings. He left Barsa and found refuge in a village northwest of Mecca. Here he formed an alliance with Muhammad ibn Saud—Wahhab swore allegiance to Saud, and Saud pledged to make Wahhab’s version of Islam that of his domain in his attempt to unify the tribes of Arabia. Wahhab was eventually convicted of murder and apostasy by a Shari’a court in Istanbul, where he was executed and denied a Mulim burial.

In 1932, with the help of the British, Saud’s descendants finally succeeded in unifying the peninsula into what we know now as Saudi Arabia. They used the fundamental Islamist teachings of Wahhabi (now Wahhabism or Salfism) as the state religion, as it remains to this day.

Wahhab is attributed with creating the puritanical vision of Islam that jihadis profess to be their aim. Still, not all Islamic fundamentalists consider themselves followers of Wahhab.[4]

Hassan al-Banna (1906-1949) founded the Muslim Brotherhood at age 22. After the fall of the Ottoman Caliphate he attributed the crumbling of Muslim society to the abandonment of fundamental Islamic beliefs. He wanted to expel Western secular ideas and recapture the purity of Islam in its earlier days. Like Wahhab and Taymiyyah, al-Banna believed jihad to be a proper means of proselytizing society. Under his leadership, the Muslim Brotherhood spread internationally to places like Syria and Jordan. Originally the group focused primarily on religious and moral issues, but later expanded into political aspirations. Because they increasingly radicalized the public and created offshoot terrorist groups, the Muslim Brotherhood was eventually banned. But they were legalized again in 1948 and soon assassinated the current Egyptian Prime Minister for his unsatisfactory efforts to deal with what they called the “Zionist threat,” or Israel. Supporters of the late Prime Minister then retaliated against the Muslim Brotherhood by killing al-Banna.

During his life, al-Banna claimed Islamic revival was needed in response to the decline of family values and rise of individualism spawned by westernization. He saw that modernity ultimately led to emptiness and man crying out for freedom from his self-constructed material prison. Al-Banna believed the return to Islam would come about when people realized again how Islam was the most detailed, complete and all-encompassing social philosophy of all time. He expressed his conviction of the hypocrisy of modernity when he wrote,

“It was not long before people realized that individuality and unlimited liberty can lead to chaos and many other shortcomings, which ultimately led to the fragmentation of the social structure and family systems, and the eventual re-emergence of totalitarianism.” [5]

Other distinctive statements al-Banna wrote that set him apart from other jihadi philosophers include,

“If war is for the sake of stopping an aggressor, aiding truth and achieving justice, then it is a virtue since it encourages goodness and prosperity for the people.” [6]


“It is forbidden to slay women, children, and old people, to kill the wounded, or to disturb monks, hermits, and the peaceful who offer no resistance. Contrast this mercy with the murderous warfare of the ‘civilized’ people and their terrible atrocities! Compare their international law alongside this all-embracing, divinely ordained justice!” [7]

Mawlana Abu a’la Maududi (1903-1977) is considered by some to be the most important Islamist philosopher of the 20th century. He founded the political party Jamaat-e-Islami in 1940. A resident of India, he opposed nationalism and was against the creation of Pakistan, saying the Islamic community should be transnational (Ummah). However, he did move to Pakistan in 1947 after the separation. Somewhat inconsistently, in years prior to this shift he had been part of an anti-British group (Tahrik-e Hajrat) that called for mass migration of Muslims out of India to Afghanistan. Once in Pakistan in 1947, he insisted its new rulers create an Islamic state. His opinions won him long periods of time in jail. Unlike his predecessors, he died of health related causes in New York where his son was a doctor.

In his writings, Maududi attempted to apply Islamic teachings to modern politics, economics and culture. He wrote,

“In reality Islam is a revolutionary ideology and program which seeks to alter the social order of the whole world and rebuild it in conformity with its own tenets and ideals…Islam wishes to destroy all States and Governments anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and programme of Islam regardless of the Country or the Nation which rules it… for the well-being of mankind.” [8]

Sayyid Qutb (1906-1996) was the leading thinker of modern Islamism. He blended Islamic fundamentalism with anti-westernization. His anti-western radicalism was likely enflamed by his experience studying education in the United States from 1948 to 1950. During that time he was disgusted by the sexual promiscuity, materialism, and racism of Americans. Upon returning home to Egypt he became the most powerful advocate of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and 1960s. In his writings he rejected the idea of national borders and nationalism, and instead addressed his message to the entire ummah. He saw fundamentalist theocracy as the answer to Western materialism and the social inequalities that marred his community in Egypt. He also encouraged jihad against non-believing authorities.

In 1954 the Muslim Brotherhood attempted to assassinate Nasser. As a result Qutb was arrested and spent ten years in prison, where he wrote Milestones—the third most important text for jihadis. In 1964 he was released from prison, but was soon recaptured and hanged.[9]

Mohammed Abd al-Salam Faraj (1952-1982) was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but after Qutb’s death the group split in two. Both resulting groups rejected the Muslim Brotherhood for seeking to work with the government to fight Israel rather than overthrowing the government itself. Faraj formed one of these groups named Jama’al al-Jihad. The group assassinated Sadat in 1981 and had planned to take over the government in a coup, but they were ill prepared and unequipped. The Egyptian security forces subdued them, and Faraj was arrested, tried, and executed within the year.

One of Faraj’s most striking proposals had been to elevate jihad to the 6th pillar of Islam. He believed the decline of the Muslim world was in part due to their neglect of jihad, and that jihad itself was not merely defensive, but offensive as well. Unlike Qutb, his predecessor, Faraj believed that Islam was spread by the tip of the sword. Debate over this issue continues to be a difference among jihadis today.

Faraj also believed that Islamists should not form political parties. He thought the aim of such parties seeking to destroy infidel states and replace them with Islamic theocracy was commendable, but to go about reaching the ideal ends in such a manner would require collaboration with pagan states that enacted laws without consideration for God’s laws, and this was unacceptable.[10]

Abdullah Yussuf Azzam (1941-1989) was also a follower of Qutb. Palestinian born, during the 1967 war he fled to Jordan where he joined the Muslim Brotherhood and participated in PLO attacks against Israel. Later in life Azzam rejected the PLO for its secular, socialist, nationalist agenda. One of his primary desires was to destroy the colonial boundaries imposed on the Middle East by the West. He moved to Saudi Arabia in 1970, where he taught at King Abdul Azziz University and likely met the student Osama bin Laden. Later he moved to Pakistan to train foreign recruits for the Afghan war against the Soviet Union, and set up his own guerilla group in Afghanistan with bin Laden’s support. During this time he also toured Europe and fifty American cities seeking recruits and financial aid for the war that was supported by the West. After the Soviets had pulled out of Afghanistan, Azzam was killed by an IED in Peshwar. Bin Laden was among the suspects for his assassination, as the two men had come to disagreements about whether al-Qaeda should focus on Palestine or the global movement.

Azzam is attributed with calling for jihad’s global initiative. He also held that jihad was an individual obligation for all Muslims, not just the collective responsibility of the Muslim community.[11]

Ayman al-Zaawahiri (1952-Present) is widely considered Osama bin Laden’s top aid and ideologist. He has been the principle spokesman for al-Qaeda since 9/11. He joined the Muslim brotherhood at the young age of 14 in Cairo, and was also a follower of Qutb. By age 28 he had joined the Egyptian Islamic Jihad where he became a prominent leader. Soon after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan he moved to Pakistan and joined Osama bin Laden as Azzam’s assistant. Al-Zaawahiri later joined bin Laden to form al-Qaeda. He is responsible for the direct link between al-Qaeda and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad.

Al-Zaawahiri is attributed with stressing the importance of a secure base for jihad to launch attacks against enemies near and far. He also insisted that fighting far enemies (specifically the U.S. and the West) was just the same as near enemies (or secular Muslim governments) because he believed the U.S. controlled the Middle East through a puppet system he referred to as “veiled colonialism.” [12]

Everyday Ideology

The beginning of jihadi ideology reaches members at different times of their lives. Often individuals are introduced to it by moving inspirational sermons. Other times children are raised with the idea instilled into them. Jihadi wives are supposed to encourage their husbands in seeking martyrdom, for to do otherwise would be considered selfish opposition to the will of Allah. Jihadi operatives who are injured in the act but then recover may experience remorse and ask questions like whether they were unworthy to complete the task of martyrdom, or not competent enough to please God. A successful martyr’s family, on the other hand, is honored with praise, and their children often receive instruction to follow in the ways of their parent. The overarching theme of the lives of jihadis and their families is that of unexpected death and everything that that entails.

The Qur’an and the Sunnah are often used by jihadis to legitimize their ideologies. While it is possible that leaders consciously and maliciously mold religious texts in order to support their political motives is debatable, [13] more likely than not they operate under sincere beliefs for their interpretation’s authenticity. The passages selected from the Qur’an are typically those recorded from the time the pagans, Byzantines and Persians drove Muhammad and his followers out of Mecca to Medina. While earlier Surahs encouraged peace and tolerance, it was during this time that they became more militant. Of the 114 Surrahs in the Qur’an, chapters 8 and 9 can be referred to as the “War Suwar”—where rules of warfare are described. All things considered, most Muslims hold that jihadis use this literature out of context and frequently distort its meaning.

Possibly the most quoted Surrah by jihadis is Surrah 9:5, also known as the Verse of the Sword. It reads, “Kill the idolterers (polytheists) wherever you find them… lie in wait for them at every place of ambush…” however the Surrah goes on to say, “But if they turn to [God]… let them go their way.” This last part is left out by jihadis, and is just one example of the misuse of text.[14]

Jihadis also see no separation between religion and worldly affairs, and as such, they accept only Shari’a law to be the rule of the land. For how could the law of God be subjected to the rule of man? They make the observation that in non-Islamic systems, such as capitalism and secular democracy, people are not truly free. Instead they are subject to serving other people within a system of oppression. Jihadis believe that under the implementation of the Islamic system men will finally be free from servitude to other men, and they will serve worship and receive guidance from God alone.[15]

For this cause jihad is implemented in order to expel the U.S. and other Western occupiers, commonly referred to as Crusaders, from Muslim territories, overthrow the apostate rulers within, and engage in a global war to establish a global Islamic caliphate.[16]

The jihadi martyr is a key pawn in fighting to accomplish these goals. Suicide bombers in particular are seen as the “ultimate smart bomb” because their consciousness ideally allows them to act with precision and hit targets more accurately than the most high-tech western technology.[17] While the use of suicide tactics constitutes a minority of the actions terrorist implement for the cause, suicide bombing comparatively results in a majority of terrorist-inflicted casualties.[18] According to data collected by WITS, between 2004 and 2008 there were 52,321 total terror attacks. Of these attacks 3% were carried out using suicide tactics. Suicide attacks were responsible for 19% of the dead, 24% of the wounded, and over 17% of the total victims.[19]

All jihadis operate under some aspiration of achieving utopia or prosperity, either in the projected future or their present time as a result of their actions.[20] The rewards of martyrdom specifically include painless death, posthumous prestige, instant paradise, intercession on behalf of family members, and the wedding of 72 virgins.[21]

A man by the name of Abu Hafs expressed such beliefs in the following message to his mother upon seeking martyrdom in 2004,

“My dear mother, you who have cared for me, today I sacrifice my life to be your intercessor [on Judgment Day]. O my love and soul, wipe your tears, don’t be saddened. In the name of Allah, I’ve achieved all that I’ve aspired. Don’t let me see you sad on my wedding day with the Maidens of Paradise. So be happy and not sad, because in the name of Allah, after death is merciful Allah’s paradise.” [22]

Those deemed non-Muslims are the targets of such attacks.  When presented with the truth, it is said they are given three options: convert to Islam, pay the poll tax for non-believers, or engage in war. Because jihadis see non-believers as people who have freely chosen for themselves one of these three options, jihadis do not see themselves as wielders of coercion. Those who claim to refuse to choose from the options are in actuality insisting on maintaining obstacles between Islam and the minds of men. Therefore, such obstacles must be removed by force.[23]

Today, within the jihadi community it is widely believed that individual violent jihad is the responsibility of every believer. For those who cannot or should not participate in fighting jihad, there are other options for participation. Those with physical disabilities can engage in financial jihad (or boycotting) and “jihad of the tongue” (or propaganda).[24] While women have participated in suicide bombing, their primary role is to raise future jihadis. Their contribution to the cause may be why jihadi men often view women as their equals more often than non-violent Salfis do.[25]

Political Mobalization

Within the key concepts of jihadi ideology, Islamist writers often advance the belief that Islam is under attack from the West by frequently drawing parallels between modern day conflict and the crusades.[26] The conflict in Israel-Palestine is also central to jihadi ideology, along with a hate for democracy and secularism. However, not all jihadis claim this last part as a considerable motive. Osama bin Laden, for example, joking stated that if he simply hated democracy and freedom why wasn’t Sweden being attacked?[27] Figures that do emanate a self-stated hate of democracy include men such as al-Zarqawi, al-Ayerri, and al-Maqdisi.

Al-Maqdisi wrote,

“Democracy is the vile fruit and illegitimate daughter of secularism, because secularism is a heretical school of thought that aspires to isolate religion from life or separate religion from state… and democracy is the rule of the people or the rule of the tyrants. But in any event, it is not the rule of Allah the Exalted, and it does not take the unswerving legislation of Allah into account at all unless it is first compatible with all the articles of the constitution, and then with the desires of the people, and even before that with the desires of the tyrants or the masses.” [28]

Jihadis also tend to see natural disasters as the cleansing wrath of God on unfaithful peoples.[29] Those deemed unfaithful also fill the role of the enemy. Such enemies scorned by jihadis include Christians, Jews, the West, the United States, and apostates. The following are a handful of quotes from various jihadi leaders about their enemies:

“The truth is that all spiritual religions—and Christianity most of all—are opposed equally to European and American materialism…But Christianity, so far as we can see, cannot be reckoned as a real force in opposition to the philosophies of the new materialism; it is an individualist, isolationist, negative faith. It has no power to make life grow under its influence in any permanent or positive way. Christianity has shot its bolt so far as human life is concerned; it has lost its power to keep pace with practical life in succeeding generations, for it came into being only for a limited and temporary period, between Judaism and Islam.” Qutb (1949)[30]

“My message to the loathed Jews is that there is no god but Allah [and] we will chase you everywhere! We are a nation that drinks blood, and we know that there is no blood better than the blood of Jews. We will not leave you alone until we have quenched our thirst with your blood, and our children’s thirst with your blood. We will not leave until you leave the Muslim countries…” Abu-Jandal (2006)[31]

“In addition, we must acknowledge that the west, led by the United States, which is under the influence of the Jews, does not know the language of ethics, morality, and legitimate rights. They only know the language of interests backed by brute military force. Therefore, if we wish to have a dialogue with them and make them aware of our rights, we must talk to them in the language that they understand.” Al-Zawahiri (2001)[32]

“Every Muslim the minute he can start differentiating, carries hate towards Americans, Jews and Christians, this is part of our ideology. Ever since I can recall I felt at war with the Americans and had feelings of animosity and hate towards them.” Osama bin Laden (1998)[33]

“The rulers of the countries of Islam in this age are all apostate, unbelieving tyrants who have departed in every way from Islam. Muslims who proclaim God’s unity have no other choice than iron and fire, jihad in the way of God, to restore the caliphate according to the Prophet’s teachings.” Al-Zahrani (2004)[34]

“What do you think about the [secular] rulers’ polytheism? They made the United States a god. Does anyone doubt the fact that the rulers of the Muslim countries believe that the United States is the god? They abide by the orders that come from the United States. They obey the United States and also force the people of Muslim countries to do so. My brothers, this is what we call the polytheism of living gods that Allah does not tolerate in any case.” Saeed (2005)[35]

Among these apostate countries Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, and Jordan receive special attention. Saudi Arabia is distinct in that jihadis want stricter rule of the state, but to attack its leaders or citizens would be especially controversial since the kingdom is already run under Shari’a law. Instead, jihadis tend to focus their attacks predominantly on foreign targets within the state. Bin Laden is especially enraged at the Saudi leadership for their collaboration with the United States.[36]

In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood attempted several times to establish Islamic rule ever since Nasser’s presidency. They have repeatedly been unsuccessful and suppressed by the government. Under Mubarak, the Brotherhood has recently been allowed to regain some of its strength. In 2005 Mubarak allowed them to run in the legislative elections. He was shocked when they won 20% of the seats. And so before the 2007 elections for the upper-house came around, Mubarak cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood arresting hundreds of its members.[37]

In Pakistan, al-Qaeda is supposedly based along its Afghan border. Two attempts by jihadis to assassinate President Musharraf have been unsuccessful. Al-Zawahiri announced his grievances against Pakistan in 2005 when he said,

“Musharraf wants a Pakistan without Islam. This is why they destroyed the Islamic schools, and they are inventing a new religion, which they composed for him in America. They call this fairy-tale ‘enlightened moderation.’” [38]

Jordan holds special disdain from jihadis for signing a peace treaty with Israel in October 1994. Al-Zarqawi addressed Jordan’s King Abdullah II in 2005 when he said,

“Your star is fading. You will not escape your fate, you descendant of traitors. We will be able to reach your head and chop it off.” [39]

It is widely held that all of this judgment and striving for power comes from an underlying sincere belief that their actions are pleasing, just, and good in the eyes of Allah. Such belief may be the case, however it seems that jihadis might be more influenced by the world than they would like to accept or admit. Aaron summed up this point nicely when he said, “Jihadis regard themselves as an elite vanguard. They see the concept of a vanguard leading the people as having roots in the Qur’an, but ironically, they also draw on Western concepts of a revolutionary vanguard developed by communist and fascist strategists. Jihadis have learned that to make such an approach work, they must mobilize the masses—a lesson which, again ironically, they learned from secular anti-colonial national-liberation struggles.” [40]


By delving further into the ideology of jihad, it emerges that competing ideas do exist within the movement. This controversy takes on many forms.

One such example of this involves loyalty pledged to ones group and the practice of excommunication. These become especially controversial among jihadis when groups declare certain peoples to be non-Muslims that other jihadis do consider Muslim. At the heart of the issue is the Qur’an’s forbidding the attack of other Muslims.[41] When those considered to be true, innocent, Muslims are victims of an attack they are deemed “collateral damage,” “human shields,” or otherwise unavoidable casualties in the greater cause of jihad.[42] The Shi’a of Iraq have often been a prime issue in this debate. In Iraq, Shi’a make up more than 60% of the population, but they are often not believed to be true Muslims by the predominantly Sunni jihadis.

The attack of Iraq’s majority Shi’a population was a controversial and risky combat strategy developed by jihadist al-Zarqawi. He believed that dragging the Shia into sectarian warfare in Iraq would awaken a renewed vigor within the Sunnis for fighting jihad and multiply their attacks against “the infidels.” [43]

However, other jihadi leaders starkly disagreed with al-Zarqawi. One of those opposed was Mustafa of Tikrit, who adamantly proposed,

“We strongly reject Al-Zarqawi’s ideas and regard them as a crime which aims to [undermine] the unity of Iran and to generate internal sectarian strife among the people of the united homeland… The party that targets Shi’ites in [their] mosques is the same party that targets Sunnis, assassinates ulama, preachers and imams of the mosques, and targets innocent civilians.”[44]

Bin Laden also disagreed with al-Zarqawi, but still promoted him within the ranks of al-Qaeda. Even though decent for al-Zarqawi’s strategy was substantial, attacks on the Shi’ite population continued. Shi’a backlash against the Sunnis soon created the sectarian warfare al-Zarqawi had planned for despite the great descent of many jihadi leaders.[45]

Throughout the Middle East and around the world, jihadis’ targeting of mass civilians, such as the attacks on 9/11 or the Madrid train bombings, outrages the wider Muslim community. However, jihadis respond that the divine decree requires attacking unbelievers, their targets are in fact not innocent (because for example they vote or pay taxes in support of heretical governments), and under Islamic law there is no such thing as an infidel civilian.[46] Still, this reasoning is not expressed by all jihadis.

Osama bin Laden is one such example that seems to apply a more defensive-oriented legitimacy to his actions against America and the West. His sympathies can be seen in the following two statements:

“Not all terrorism is cursed; some terrorism is blessed. A thief, a criminal, for example feels terrorized by the police. So, do we say to the policeman, ‘You are a terrorist’? No. Police terrorism against criminals is a blessed terrorism because it will prevent the criminal from repeating his deed. America and Israel exercise the condemned terrorism. We practice the good terrorism which stops them from killing our children in Palestine and elsewhere.” [47]

“Which religion considers you killed ones innocent and our killed ones worthless? And which principle considers your blood real blood and our blood water? Reciprocal treatment is fair and the one who starts injustice bears greater blame.” [48]

Even still, suicide bombing itself is controversial amongst jihadis for the reason that suicide is forbidden in Islam. The act of martyrdom therefore, if not seen as suicide, must be seen instead as one fighting to the death. This tweaking of rational allows the tactic of employing human suicide bombers.[49] Jihadis opposed to suicide bombing argue that if the enemy can be attacked using any other method these alternative methods should be used, leaving suicide bombing as a last resort for the success of a mission.[50] For example, one advocate of this position, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, wrote the following:

“Six months ago, every day, we would read news in the newspapers and see on television tens of killed Iraqi civilian woman and children, while no more than one or two of the American occupiers were killed. There must be reservations about this matter, and it must be reconsidered.” (2005) [51]

Such a proposition appeals to the sympathies of human beings, but has been unsuccessful in turning the tides of suicide bombing.

Broader Ideology

So far the issue of terrorism and suicide bombing has been contained within the ideology of jihad, however there are actors who do not conform to this ideology that carry out similar strategic acts. In general, there are two categories of suicide terrorists: jihadis and secular nationalists. There are a variety of ideological and operational distinctions that make the two groups distinct. Similar to many jihadi groups, the primary concern for secular nationalists is the expulsion of occupiers from their land. However, while jihadi suicide bombers are often self-recruited, secular nationalist operatives are often selected for service.[52] The common link between all such terrorist groups is their use of suicide bombing.

Strategic Suicide Bombing

Yoram Schweitzer, Director of the ICT Educational Project, defined the phenomenon of suicide bombing as, “a politically motivated violent attack perpetrated by a self-aware individual(s) who actively and purposely causes his own death through blowing himself up along with his chosen target. The perpetrator’s ensured death is a precondition for the success of his mission.” [53]

The Japanese kamikaze, as well as the 18th century Muslim acts against western colonialism, both differ from what here is considered to be contemporary suicide attacks. The difference lies in the intentions of the attacker. While previous campaigns targeted only the direct victims of an attack, today’s individuals participating in the act of martyrdom aspire to cause the greatest possible physical, economic, and political damage, as well as to inflict the greatest amount of fear and trepidation into an entire population as possible. Victims may seem indiscriminate and receive little to no warning of the impending attack.[54]

Weapons used by suicide bombers include explosives, Vehicle-Born Improvise Explosive Devices (VBIEDs), and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). VBIEDs can be mounted on transportation units such as cars, motorcycles, plains, and trucks as well as pack animals. They are then activated when the operator flips a switch. Other IEDs can be fitted in a body suit, vest, or belt and are activated by the wearer. Some of these devices have two switches or strings—one for activation and the other for detonation.[55]

Suicide operations are often more easy to plan than other strategic militant operations due to their lack of need of an exit strategy. Operations are typically carried out either by individuals or small groups. Also, the target of a suicide mission is often classified as either “soft,” or “hard.” Soft targets are more places more accessible to the general public, examples would be schools, shopping malls, markets, etc. Hard targets would refer to facilities with higher security, for example military bases or capitol buildings.

Previous studies seem to suggest that suicide targets have been increasingly focused on softer, smaller, more frequent attacks, with a larger emphasis on economic impact, rather than large scale, mass casualty operations.[56] If this is indeed a strategy, it may be employed by groups in order to attain more of an omni-present grasp on society, or it may be a response to heightened security in high clearance or populated areas.[57] It has also been suggested by some that the frequency of attacks in places like Iraq are in effect, undermining the shock value suicide bombers rely on to influence broader society.[58] One last suggestion to that may explain this shift in activity attributes the change to the weakening of larger networking and defined leadership of terror organizations.[59]

According to as study done by Rand Corp, three specific factors can contribute to altering the plans of a terrorist group. The first of these is counter attacks performed by security forces. Second is the external support from states or other militant organizations. And then third is the gain or loss of popular support for the group or its tactics. One additional factor may include shifts in the international security environment in general.[60]

As a result of such influences terror organizations are continually evolving. While suicide bombings and other terrorist activities could once widely be attributed to congealed groups such as al-Qaeda, today these groups are less likely to be structured chains of command than they are to be loose networks of influence. Never the less, over the past thirty years several groups stick out as significant contributors to the warfare of suicide bombing. In order to better understand the loose network as a whole, five groups will be briefly discussed.

Prominent Groups

The first incidents of modern suicide terrorism occurred in the early 1980’s with Hezbollah’s attacks against western forces in Lebanon.[61] From 1983 to 1999 Lebanon saw around 50 attacks, half from Shiite Hezbollah and Amal, the other half from non-religious national groups inspired by Hezbollah’s success.[62] These beginnings have spurred the suicide terrorism phenomena of the twenty-first century. Hezbollah is further unique in that it is a Shi’ite organization. Unlike Faraj’s stance against operating from within a nation’s political framework, Hezbollah today has taken on the form of a political party and has a national oriented agenda.

Hezbollah significantly influenced Hamas (otherwise known as The Islamic Resistance Movement) and the Palestinian Liberation Front during the early 1990’s when Israel deported hundreds of Hamas operatives into Lebanon.[63]

Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni group. Like Hezbollah, Hamas has a national oriented agenda and has often worked within the socio-political system to gain power. The group has also been known for its attacks against Israel.

Well known organizations within the secular nationalist movement including the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The LTTE are a minority separatist group of Sri Lanka. Their suicide regiment, the Black Panthers, is unique from other movements in that it members wear capsules of cyanide on their bodies at all times for personal use in the case of capture. Women are often exploited into service by way of emotional manipulation and are encouraged to prove their worth to society by carrying out suicide missions.[64]

The PKK carried out their campaign against Turkey from 1996 to 1999. The goal of their campaign was to unite all Kurds into a larger Kurdistan.[65] The group was greatly characterized by the rural-traditional culture of its members. As such they were significantly opposed to intellectualism, and members submitted absolute loyalty to their leader, Abdullah Ocalan. Both coercion and cultural emancipation (from a common tyrannical family structure) played a role in influencing female operatives to carry out suicide attacks. As a result, females carried out about 75% of the group’s total suicide missions.[66]

Finally, one of the most widely recognized groups within the global jihad movement is al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda can attribute their global renown to the attacks on 9/11. To date, the group in particular is not so much of a structured terrorist organization as it is an ideology-based movement.[67] Only two groups that have explicitly made known their direct connection to al-Qaeda: the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and the Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat. Saudi jihadists are also largely influenced by their ties to the group’s leader, Osama bin Laden.[68] Unlike Hamas and Hezbollah who have political agendas, al-Qaeda style groups are less likely to submit themselves to political rules and the acceptability of social norms when it comes to their religious-political action.[69]

As mentioned earlier, classification and identification of terrorist affiliation is less concrete today than it has been in the past. A large part of this may be due to the global “crackdown on terror.” Groups that were previously solidified identifiable structures with traceable hierarchies now operate on a smaller, more fluid scale. Groups are more dispersed. Direct connections to big name affiliations are less likely. Operations are more entrepreneurial. Funding for group activities, instead of coming from large business donors, comes primarily through grassroots methods, resulting in smaller budgets, shorter planning times for operations, and training sites and targeting locations being more local.[70]

While terrorist training camps have largely been struck down, this has not prevented the recruitment and training of future suicide operatives. A large factor in the spread of the jihadi movement has to do with media and accessibility of related information and propaganda via the Internet. In 1999 US intelligence obtained knowledge of the 11th volume of the Encyclopedia of the Afghan Jihad, a do it yourself manual that has been widely used to supplement terrorist training camps or substitute for them altogether when training camp is not an option.[71] Other online resources have also been accessible. In 2005 the number of websites identified as carrying Islamist messages grew from 20 to 3,000 sites, with about 70 confessed militant sites collectively forming somewhat of a virtual jihadi university.[72]

Al-Battar Training Camp is one such Internet source. In 2004 Mansour described it in the following manner,

“The basic idea is to spread military culture among the youth with the aim of filling the vacuum that the enemies of the religion have been seeking to expand for a long time. Allah willing, the magazine {al-Battar Training Camp} will be simple and easy, and in it, my Muslim brother, you will find basic lessons in the framework of a military training program, beginning with programs for sports training, through types of light weapons and guerilla group actions in the cities and mountains, and [including] important points in security and intelligence, so that you will be able… to fulfill the religious obligation that Allah has set upon you…” [73]

The magazine advertised itself in 2004 by putting forth the following message,

“Oh Mujahid brother, in order to join the great training camps you don’t have to travel to other lands. Alone, in your home or with a group of your brothers, you too can begin to execute the training program. You can all join the Al-Battar Training Camp.” [74]

So training material is online, however, locating and reading much of this information is difficult. This is primarily because information is moved frequently by jihadis in order to remain under the radar.[75] Furthermore, many sites, once located, require a password or are written in Arabic, making them quite difficult to read for non-Arabic speakers.

News media also plays a role in the spread of terrorist activities. Clips and sound bites are often chosen by the media to selectively portray dramatic and extreme nature. These choices have the effect of showing radicalism without the depth of the larger historical and religious nuances at hand. According to Atran, this can have the adverse effect of flattening and homogenizing religious beliefs around the world in ways that have little to no semblance to with actual Islamic tradition save for the emphasis of ummah.

Terrorist organizations also strategically use news media to spreads their message to the wider world. News of a successful attack can foster greater fear among peoples, increase supporter moral, draw in more donations for the cause, inspire new recruits, and be further used as propaganda. This is an increasing necessity to the global cause, as groups are increasingly less organized by worldwide-structures and more so by self-mobilizing individuals.[76] For this reason, operations are often planned for maximum media exposure.[77]

Along with media coverage, terrorists often enjoy the loss of autonomy that global exposure brings with it. Even if a group formed, planned, and carried out attacks of their own accord without receiving orders or direction from better known organizations, by attributing one’s attack to a group such as al-Qaeda the incident receives greater attention, and the actual group involved enjoys greater legitimacy for their act.[78]

Analysis: 2004-2008

The occurrence of suicide attacks has grown exponentially over the past century. To date September 11, 2001 has marked the most brutal of all suicide attacks with the highest loss of life. According to a study done by Rand Corp, of all suicide attacks recorded from 1968 to 2005, 80% have occurred after September 11th. Out of the thirty-five identifiable groups involved in the attacks, thirty-one are of the jihadi movement.[79]

Three years later, more suicide attacks occurred in 2004 than ever before. Then year 2005 bore witness to more than the preceding three years combined. To date, the current highest rate of attacks has occurred during year 2007 with 535 attacks total. That is more than an average of ten attacks per week.[80] It is now evident that the frequency of these attacks has grown exponentially over the years. This is partially captured by the chart above.

Much of the remainder of this report will now be an analysis of data provided by the Worldwide Incidents Tracking System, on suicide attacks from 2004-2008.

Suicide terrorism has been responsible for just over 3% of all terrorist attacks. That means over 1,6700 attacks occurred between 2004 and 2008. This percentage may seem insignificant in the scheme of terrorist activities until it is also learned that these attacks account for just about 20% of all terrorism related deaths and 24% of all wounded victims. Well over 51,000 people were victims of suicide bombings in this time period alone.

The weapons employed in suicide attacks have consistently been IEDs and VBIEDs. While it is common to hear talk about the danger in jihadists using or acquiring CBRNs (chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapons), instances in which these are used are extremely rare. While suicide bombers may desire to use such weapons, developing them takes time, money, and expertise that often terrorists do not have, making CBRNs both inconvenient and difficult to acquire.

For all the people involved as suicide terror operatives, there is little variety in the political or “religious” affiliation. Most identified suicide bombers are Sunni. The next greatest identifiable group is that of the secular, political or anarchist. Very few Shia participate in suicide bombing, with the exception of groups like Hezbollah. The vast majority of suicide bombers remain unidentified. This information can be seen in the chart bellow.

When surveying the number of attacks by country, some patterns immediately develop. The following pie chart arrangement describes the percentage of global suicide attacks that occur by country each year.

The first thing that jumps out is Iraq’s dominance in activity. This is largely attributed to the US military presence there along with the War on Terror. While Iraq’s global percentage of attacks does fluctuate over time, Iraq’s activity is continually representative of over 50% of global suicide attack incidents.

The next noticeable factor in the pie chart arrangement is Afghanistan’s continuous significant presence from 2005 on, along with Pakistan’s ever-growing ratio of attacks. Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq make up the heart of suicide activity. As more US troops exit Iraq and enter Afghanistan, it is probable that much of Iraq’s suicide attack activity will shift over to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

One more observation from a general overview of the data from the Worldwide Incidents Tracking System reveals that there is not an overall increase of effectiveness in suicide strategy. The media seems to stress often the increasingly developed tactics and weapons put the free world at an ever-increasing risk of being victims to terror. While the number of attacks has increased, the number of victims claimed shows no such development. There are several possible reasons for this.

First, the increased decentralization and ostracism of terror organizations has lead to a rift in strategy development. If the movement of jihad is increasingly made up of self-starters, then attacks are increasingly being carried out by individuals without built up knowledge of what works and what does not work—their strategy starts from scratch over and over again.

A second possibility is that the reduced amount of funding terror organizations receive now has limited their financial capability to get hold of progressive weaponry.

A third, and most likely possibility is that the goal of suicide bombing is less about mass casualty as it is about mass anxiety. The cost-benefit analysis may read: spend less on each explosive in order to use more of them in increasingly unexpected, strategic, and precise locations.

Still mass casualty does occur around the globe. From 2004 to 2008 some of the most devastating suicide attacks have occurred in the United Kingdom, Iraq, and Pakistan.

July 7th, 2005 marked one of the largest catastrophes caused by suicide violence in the past five years—the 7 July 2005 London Bombings. On this day, three underground trains were bombed at 8:50 AM, along with a double-decker bus one hour later. 52 people died. 700 were wounded. Responsibility for the attack was unclaimed, although authorities believe it’s synchronized character suggests the attack was related to al-Qaeda. The four bombers were male jihadis—ages 30, 22, 19, and 18. Two of the men left behind pregnant wives. Video recordings by two of the attackers stressed the reason for their attacks to be for the British to essentially get a taste of their own medicine. They denounced Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war as well as their support of the United States. The attackers believed themselves to be standing up for the unheard and oppressed people of the global ummah.[81]

One of the deadliest suicide attacks in Iraq since the beginning of the Iraq war occurred on the 27th of March 2007. The attackers responsible used two trucks bearing VBIEDs to target Shia areas of Tal Afar.  One of two trucks involved was loaded with wheat, which the bomber used to lure civilians toward the truck before he detonated the device. The second bomber detonated his truck in a used car lot.[82] 152 people were killed. 347 people were wounded. In response to these attacks, Shia-affiliated police entered Sunni neighborhoods and opened fire on the population. This resulted in 70 additional Sunni deaths.[83] This is but one example of the sectarian violence opened up in Iraq.

By far the bloodiest attack in Pakistan occurred on October 18th, 2007, the day of Benazir Bhutto’s return from an eight-year self-imposed exile. The 2007 Karachi bombing was an attempt on former Prime Minister Bhutto’s life. Having just arrived back in Pakistan, Bhutto was on her way to a rally when two IED blasts targeted her motorcade. Bhutto was unharmed, but 125 civilians, 20 policemen, and 9 political affiliates were killed. 250 people were injured. Most victims of the attack were affiliated with the Pakistan People’s Party. Bhutto believed four of General Pervez Musharraf’s senior military officials and politicians to be responsible for the attack. Musharraf’s regime blamed al-Qaeda and the Taliban to be responsible, neither of which accepted responsibility. Bhutto was assassinated two months later before the Pakistani general elections.[84]

An analysis of 100 sequential Afghanistan attacks from 2004 to 2006 reveals some noteworthy trends. The use of weapons was split evenly: 50% IED, 50% VBIED. Individuals carried out 92% of the operations, while only 8% were performed with a pair or a group. And there were no recorded instances of female participation as suicide operatives.

The 100 attacks resulted in 1,150 victims (dead and wounded). Of these victims 61% were civilians, meaning that more than half the time the victim of a suicide bomber’s attack is a fellow Muslim from the same country. Then 14% of the victims are police or security (foreign and domestic). Only 9% of victims are actually military personnel, the often-intended target. 8% of the victims are children, 2% are political employees or contractors, and less than 1% are diplomats, journalists, or religious leaders.

There were also instances where the bomber himself was the only victim. Premature detonation occurred in about 8% of all operations, where the weapon malfunctioned before its time or the bomber accidentally activated the explosive early. Strikingly, no terrorist group or cause claimed responsibility for any prematurely detonated attacks. Operations whose targets were “unknown” also remained unclaimed. Another 5% of operatives in fact wound up running away from their pursuers (such as security/military personnel) and detonating themselves without their target. That adds up to a suicide bomber having a 13% likelihood of missing his target, resulting only in the bomber’s death and an unsuccessful mission.

This data raises some questions that potential operatives themselves may be interested in. If every intended attack against the enemy is supposed to be a successful martyrdom whether substantial damage was inflicted upon the target or not, why are groups so hesitant to associate their name with a politically “failed” attack? If suicide bombers knew that more than one out of ten of their number would be swept under the rug by their peers would they still feel the same bonding and group commitment to the cause?

There is a possibility that self-motivated autonomous individuals were responsible for the failed attacks, but the likelihood of al-Qaeda or the Taliban never missing a target or its operatives never making a mistake is highly unlikely. It seems clear that when it comes to the face of global terror, the political front is much more important than the religious.

All in all, of the 100 attacks less than 50% were claimed by greater terror organizations: the Taliban claimed 45%, and 55% remained unclaimed (though some were suspected to be Taliban related).

The rise of suicide attack incidents in Afghanistan is paired with the rise of attacks in Pakistan (figures shown in the chart for 2008 are only representative of January through September). The cause of the increase is likely due to the dramatic rise in military presence in Afghanistan. In 2004, the numbers of US troops in Afghanistan were in the single digits. In 2005 this had risen to 20,350, and by 2008 it had increase to 31,700.[85] It is evident that the rise in suicide terrorism within a country correlates strongly with U.S. occupation.

The primary example of the correlation of suicide bombings and US occupation is Iraq. This is demonstrated by the chart to the right. US troop numbers are based off consecutive September averages. When troops increased from 160,000 to 193,000 on the ground, suicide bombing dramatically increased from 58 to 356 attacks between 2004 and 2005. In 2006 there were 5,000 less troops in the country, and suicide bombings dropped by 35%. Then the 2007 surge increased military presence to almost 220,000 troops, and suicide bombings shot right back up with it.[86]

This direct correlation reveals a paradox: the more US troops sent to stabilize and secure the country of Iraq, the more insecure and bloody it becomes. This will become increasingly evident in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well, as the US government plans for a shift of troops from Iraq to Afghanistan.

However the presence of US troops in a region is not a prerequisite for suicide terror activity. For example, while the US has maintained an average of only 10 troops in Algeria over the past five years, the country has still seen 13 attacks within its borders. Key targets are police and government officials as well as UN employees and internationals. The Al-Qaeda Organization in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), previously known as the Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, has claimed responsibility for each of these attacks. Their aim is to overthrow the Algerian government (currently a democratic republic with universal suffrage) and install an Islamic State.[87] These attacks have resulted in the deaths of over 125 civilians, and 80 political related workers and officials. 752 additional people were wounded.

Another anomaly is Saudi Arabia. With all the rhetoric from al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden against the Saudi government for its collaboration with the United States, only one suicide attack occurred on Saudi soil over the past five years. The attack occurred on the 24th of February 2006 in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, where two suicide bombers detonated two VBIEDs near the world’s largest oil processing facility. The bombers detonated their explosives outside the facility’s gates, under fire from its guards. Two guards were killed in the attack. Output of the country’s oil was not affected by the attack. Despite al-Qaeda’s continuing call for attacks against Saudi oil facilities, this incident has been the first and only attack of its kind.[88]

One reason for the lack of Saudi suicide terror incidents may be that Saudis engaged in the purposes of jihad are highly active in Iraq. According to the Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism, Saudis make up almost 35% of al-Qaeda suicide attackers—by far the largest group, with Moroccans making up just over 10% and all other nationalities being under 5%.[89] It is safe to say that the war in Iraq currently has a polarizing effect that pulls terrorist activity to its core. As America continues its War on Terror, the question seems to be: who is chasing who?

In Robert Pape’s book, Dying to Win, he presents the following chart to explain the pathways and motivations of suicide terrorism:

(not pictured)

In Pape’s chart the solid arrows are used to define the path terrorism takes to develop, while the dotted arrow represents the path terrorist organizations have hoped would occur but has not, and the dashed arrow represents an occasional path for the development of national identity but plays little significance in regard to the development of suicide campaigns.[90]

According to a 2008 Pew Global Attitudes Project (which surveyed people of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Nigeria), support for suicide terrorism in Lebanon, Nigeria, Jordan, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Turkey has gone down over the past six years. In Egypt, support for the justification of suicide bombing has increased slightly. Other Muslim countries have remained virtually static. Polls also show that little to no differences exist between age or gender justification for suicide terror.[91]

Support for Osama bin Laden has also gone down among Muslims in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. 61% of Jordanians voiced some support for bin Laden in 2005, but this number shrank to 19% by 2008. In Lebanon positive views went from 20% in 2003 to 2% in 2008, and in Turkey from 15% to 3% over the same time scale. However bin Laden still receives a good portion of support from Nigerians, Indonesians, and Pakistanis (58%, 37%, and 34% respectively).[92]

In Pakistan, unfavorable views of the Taliban, and al-Qaeda linger around 33%. Confidence in Osama bin Laden himself, and his right-doing in world affairs is down from 51% in 2005 to 34% in 2008. Pakistanis also increasingly believe that the United States opposes democracy in their country, with numbers increasing from 34% holding this view in 2005, to 50% in 2008.[93]

Is There a Struggle between Modernizers and Fundamentalists?
% Saying there is a Struggle in their Country
2007 2008
Turkey               52         68
Lebanon             58         58
Tanzania            32         56
Indonesia            39         48
Pakistan             37         46
Nigeria              36         38
Egypt                33         33
Jordan                17         21

Another poll done by PEW revealed a continually increasing concern among most Muslims over the rise of Islamic extremism at home and abroad.[94] Such a report emphasizes how suicide terrorism is not only a cause of concern for America and the West.


Concern is growing around the world, and rightfully so, over terrorism and suicide bombing. The sheer number of suicide attacks continues to increase. Meanwhile foreign military and political forces, however well intentioned their contributions may be, further instigate much of this rise in violence. What appears to be going on is an increased polarization of the political and religious world.

Just yesterday, on CNN there was a report of a suicide bombing in Iraq—the most devastating so far this year. At least 60 people were killed, and 125 injured when two suicide bombers attacked Muslims as they convened for Friday prayers at a Shia Muslim shrine in Baghdad. Two attacks had just occurred the previous day, claiming the lives of 90 people. Funerals for some of those victims were being held at the time of Friday’s attack.[95]

Where is all of this violence coming from?

The ideology of jihad, as discussed early on, is much less of a return to the origins of the Muslim faith as it is a combination of enlightenment philosophy and the reinterpretation of religious texts through this new lens. Their philosophy is not nihilism, but a relative of the same plausibility structure. The appeal to suicide terrorism and all other types of fanaticism is strong. Aaron wrote, “[Fanaticism] has been described as a fire in the mind whose radiance attracts followers like moths to a flame (Billington, 1980).” Jihadis believe this to be a force from God,[96] but through careful examination it is seen to be a new (and not uncommon) political force of modern ideological totalitarianism.[97]

Globalization has allowed individual actors to influence the world in far greater ways. Through global communication systems, like the Internet and news broadcasting, ideologies circle the globe and permeate cultures with messages of modern rationalism. Cross-cultural experiences also foster the exchange of ideas, as was likely the case of Sayyid Qutb and his experience in the U.S. in the late 1940’s. Ironically, jihad is at war with the very type of ideology it employs.

Modern rationalism, as discovered by the postmodern philosophers of late, is not as rational as the world once believed. The U.S.’s rationalism of security leads to greater insecurity, and jihadi rationalism of expelling foreigners from their homeland (on the simplest level of their goals) is bringing in more foreigners with more artillery. It would not be too much of a stretch to say that these increasingly radical rationalities, whether “religious” or “secular,” are devastating and ripping apart our world.

So what is to be done?

The defeat of radical rational ideologies cannot be achieved through forced implementation of another rationalist structure. This includes the War on Terror. The results seen so far from such attempts are only further imbedded cycles of violence. And so, ideologies have become the global pandemic to which no one seems to be able to construct a cure.

Yet we are not without hope.

There have been individuals who find themselves in the midst of radicalism and have turned around and climbed out. Aaron recorded several statements of jihadi recruits who escaped from the path they were on. One such individual said, “I love jihad. Every believer loves jihad, but we chose the wrong path.” Another described, “Saudi youths are targets because many of them are truthful, pious, and ready to help others without hesitation.” And finally one more person said, “I thank God that I was arrested before I could hurt other Muslims.”

How significant these simple statements are.

What causes such a turn in direction? Their eyes were opened to what they previously did not see. Only when we identify the lies that make up our own radical ideologies and see something else more beautiful and true, can we be transformed and made new.

This war may not end soon, but every second of every day is another opportunity for redemption, redemption not just for jihadis and suicide terrorists, but for the opposing side as well—the twin ideology that engages in battle— radicals of every nation, religion, and culture around the world.

And how will we learn this lesson? Humiliation and force only strengthens resistance to learning. Aaron described one way Americans can respond to suicide terrorism by saying,

“The root emotion that seems to drive jihadism is humiliation. The response of the West must be based on a foundation of respect, not for jihadis, but for other Muslims. Every aspect of U.S. policy and action must be informed by the need to demonstrate such respect. This includes our diplomacy, our assistance programs, our cultural exchanges, and the behavior of our military personnel. Too often, U.S. public diplomacy efforts are aimed at telling the Muslim world what good people we are, when the focus should be on what good people we think they are.” [98]

What would American foreign policy look like if its primary engagement were to give dignity to the world? It is only at this point that the world will start to listen (American included), begin to understand, and set out to positively renew relations in our global community.

Work Cited

“7 July 2005 London bombings -.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 25 Apr. 2009. http://en.

“2007 Karachi bombing -.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 25 Apr. 2009. http://en.wikipedia.


“2007 Tal Afar bombings and massacre -.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 25 Apr. 2009.

Aaron, David. In Their Own Words: Voices of Jihad Compilation and Commentary. New York: RAND Corporation, 2008.

“Al Jazeera English – Middle East – Scores killed in Baghdad blasts.” 25 Apr. 2009

“Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb -.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 25 Apr. 2009.

Atran, Scott. The Moral Logic and Growth of Suicide Terrorism. Washington Quarterly: Spring 2006. 01 Apr. 2009.

“BBC NEWS | Middle East | Saudis ‘foil oil facility attack’” BBC NEWS | News Front Page. 25 Apr. 2009.

“ – Bin Laden: Al Qaeda motivated to strike U.S. again – Oct 29, 2004.” – Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. 27 Apr. 2009.

“File:Muslim distribution.png -.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 27 Apr. 2009. http://en.

Ganzor, Boaz. Countering suicide terrorism an international conference : February 20-23, 2000, Herzliya, Israel. Herzliya, Israel: International Policy Institute for Counter Terrorism, 2001.

Hafez, Mohammed M. Manufacturing human bombs the making of Palestinian suicide bombers. Washington, D.C: United States Institute of Peace P, 2006.

The Joint Threat Anticipation Center. 25 Apr. 2009.


“Military Maps |.” Mother Jones. 27 Apr. 2009.

“Military Personnel Statistics.” Statistical Information Analysis Division(SIAD). 25 Apr. 2009.

Pape, Robert. Dying to Win The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. New York: Random House, 2005.

Pew Global Attitudes Project – A series of worldwide public opinion surveys. 01 Apr. 2009

Rabasa, Angel. Beyond al-Qaeda: Part 1 The Global Jihadist Movement. New York: RAND Corporation, 2007.

Rabasa, Angel. Beyond al-Qaeda: Part 2 The Outer Rings of the Terrorist Universe. New York: RAND Corporation, 2007.

“Suicide attack -.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 01 Apr. 2009.


“Tal Afar.” International – Breaking, World, Business, Sports, Entertainment and Video News. 25 Apr. 2009.


[1] Aaron pg. 75[2] Aaron pg. 115

[3] Aaron pg. 45

[4] Aaron pgs. 49-50

[5] Aaron pg. 56

[6] Aaron pg. 56

[7] Aaron pg. 56

[8] Aaron pg. 57

[9] Aaron pg. 59

[10] Aaron pg. 63

[11] Aaron pg. 69

[12] Aaron pg. 70

[13] Ganzor pg. 5

[14] Aaron pg. 74

[15] Aaron pg. 75

[16] Aaron pg. 110

[17] Aaron pg. 87

[18] Atran

[19] WITS

[20] Ganzor pg. 65

[21] Aaron pg. 87

[22] Aaron pg. 91

[23] Aaron pg. 77

[24] Aaron pg. 81

[25] Aaron pg. 93

[26] Aaron pg. 116

[27] CNN

[28] Aaron pg. 145

[29] Aaron pg. 149

[30] Aaron pg. 157

[31] Aaron pg. 159

[32] Aaron pg. 163

[33] Aaron pg. 171

[34] Aaron pg. 173

[35] Aaron pg. 174

[36] Aaron pg. 175

[37] Aaron pg. 186

[38] Aaron pg. 192

[39] Aaron pg. 194

[40] Aaron pg. 196

[41] Aaron pg. 79

[42] Aaron pg. 102

[43] Aaron pg. 241

[44] Aaron pg. 247

[45] Aaron pg. 247

[46] Aaron pg. 105

[47] Aaron pg. 87

[48] Aaron pg. 107

[49] Aaron pg. 87

[50] Aaron pg. 92

[51] Aaron pg. 92

[52] Atran

[53] Ganzor pg. 76

[54] Ganzor pg. 75

[55] Ganzor pg. 100

[56] Rabasa I pg. 36

[57] Rabasa I pg. 38

[58] Aaron pg. 88

[59] Rabasa I pg. 38

[60] Rabasa II pg. xxv

[61] Ganzor pg. 77

[62] Ganzor pg. 78

[63] Ganzor pg. 79

[64] Ganzor pg. 82

[65] Ganzor pg. 81

[66] Ganzor pg. 107-121

[67] Rabasa I pg. xx

[68] Rabasa I pg. 80

[69] Rabasa II pg. xxvii

[70] Rabasa I pg. 65

[71] Rabasa I pg. 41

[72] Atran

[73] Aaron pg. 277

[74] Aaron pg. 277

[75] Aaron pg. 273

[76] Atran

[77] Aaron pg. 268

[78] Atran

[79] Atran

[80] WITS

[81] 7 July

[82] 2007 Tal

[83] Tal Afar

[84] 2007 Karachi

[85] Military

[86] Military

[87] Al-Qaeda

[88] BBC

[89] Joint

[90] Pape pg. 96

[91] Pew pg. 4

[92] Pew pg. 4

[93] Pew pg. 35

[94] Pew pg. 5

[95] Al Jazeera

[96] Aaron pg. 305

[97] Ganzor pg. 67

[98] Aaron pg. 304


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