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Causes of Terrorism


Research studies have shown that reasons why people turn to terrorism is multiple and inconclusive. This topic is highly debatable among the public and politicians. Below are some more common and prominent examples:

Probably the most contested cause of terrorism is an aggrieved group resorting to violence for nationalist or separatist reasons. Thus far, only Mahatma Ghandi and his followers of the freedom movement have managed to liberate themselves from foreign occupation by peaceful means and not terrorism, whereas in most other (previously) colonised states, nationalism movements commonly turned to terrorism, this reveals an extreme nationalism, the main aims, for example to establish or assert language rights, religious beliefs and symbols, but there are also less significant factors like promoting civil and political rights and privileges and encouraging a regional-ethnic parity in the economy. What then generates perceptions of unfairness is competition/rivalry when an ethnic is subordinated or disadvantaged in economic opportunity, social status, political voice and rights, or cultural expressions.
However, the cited factors are not unique for ethnic minorities. To generalize it further, ethnic conflict arises from a "complex combination" of class, inequality, political opportunity, mobilization resources and "ethnic strength". 



A more important factor may be the social stratification Williams is referring to and inequalities in the distribution of scarce resources. Problems usually identified were notions on the lack of exactly defined economic factors influencing the decision to resort to political conflict and the "tolerance for inequality". Say, one dismisses the inconclusive research results and assumes that it is a (major) cause fuelling terrorism - proof by contradiction: roughly 15% of the population consumes 85% of the resources; UN statistics show that citizens in the Third World are worse off now than 30 years ago, while a small faction in those countries enriched themselves. If either one of them is true, the West ought to be continuously subject to terrorist acts by (a small group representing) people from these Third World countries. But there is no huge mass uprising of the vast majority of the world population against the few in Western states, nor continuous terrorist attacks carried out by Third World citizens against the West. In fact, the amount of terrorist incidents declined in the 1990s.
Proving injustice being done by structural violence is considerably more difficult than an overt assault on a country or discrimination of a target group, and even if one succeeds in convincing one's own group, they will likely stumble upon resorting to terrorist methods, not possessing sufficient assets to purchase and develop so-called 'weapons of mass destruction'. Exploration of Globalisation, Inequality and the Third World from another direction and explores the possible links between economic affluence and a stable liberal democracy, thereby assuming that it would reduce incidence of terrorism. However, at the same time asserting the fact that liberal democracy "has proved little more successful than other forms of political systems in overcoming the relative weakness of the state in many Third World societies" and that economic development is a more important factor to maintain law and order.


The factor of democracy as an instigator or facilitator for terrorism deserves further exploration. A democratic government is supposed to represent the people and provide political means to voice grievances, hence essentially providing a sphere where terrorism has no place. Arguably, based on claims, one can say it is exactly absence of a 'correct' implementation of democratic ideals and not democracy sic.
However, a characteristic of democracies is their openness. Some consider this openness a major weakness of the system, and therefore a 'cause'. Openness in itself cannot be a cause, only maybe easing terrorists in their preparations and facilitating publicity in the relative absence of censorship, but not the 'change of mindset' to resort to terrorism as a tool. Likewise the non-cause of the claims of the increase in ease of mobility and technology put forward by. It is conceivable to contend that Western states are as close to the democratic ideology as possible, but it is generally assumed the case. Why then, have Western states not been free from internal terrorism? What might be a cause, is the so-called 'terror of the majority': the minority is represented and allowed to voice their grievances, but this is consistently not translated into desired policies because there are not sufficient votes to pass desired legislation.

Opposite the concept of disaffected intelligentsia is the assertion that it is not intelligentsia, but simpleminded people who are easy to indoctrinate that are perceived to be 'the cause' prevalent in more recent popular literature. They, and others, are essentially trying to dehumanise terrorists, thereby confirming terrorist's core reasons they are fighting for: being heard, recognised and treated as equal human beings. In this context, some people has put forward an interesting explanation for the increased levels of dehumanisation: "a continuation of the frozen, abstract hatreds made possible by the cold war... this suspending of normal human relations is supposed to be just a temporary expedient ... The corrupt thing about the Cold War idea was that it legitimised acceptance of this evil as a normal, permanent condition of life. It domesticated tribal hatred."
Thus obfuscating the distinction between literal and metaphorical wars, where the negative mindset of people caused by the Cold War continues to live on, and feed, terrorism and the violent responses on terrorism, made possible by disregarding the idea that an opponent is a human being too. However, a closer examination of this argument reveals that the implied cause of the violence is within us, having internalised dehumanisation, not the 'illiterate stupid other'.

In line with either dehumanisation, or with previously outlined ethnicity and democracy or both, is religion as a cause for terrorism put forward, 'Muslim fanatics in the Middle East' in particular. Research provides a simplification: democracy is declared un-Islamic by all ideologues of Islamic terrorism, Islamists hate capitalism and believe in a new Caliphate (who will lead the community of Muslims worldwide) and oppose individualism. Statistics reveal two relevant intriguing facets. People believed that the one social factor that does have some detectable correlation with war is religion and nations that differ in religion are more likely to fight than those that share the same religion. Moreover, some sects seem generally to be more bellicose, but these effects are not large.
Bear in mind though, that there are also a 'disproportionate' amount Christians. In turn, it can be argued that there are many Christians exactly because they 'seem generally to be more bellicose'.
Notwithstanding the above, all religions emphasise that one should treat others as we wish to be treated, and that one should not kill another human being. From an Islamic perspective, there are scholars who consider Western society, which is based on Christian theology, as the main cause of terrorism, and Darwinism and materialism in particular, including Malthus' theory of ruthlessness, also known under the definition of social Darwinism. Last, New Age - as a religion - considers the perceived cause of terrorism the "modern society", being "too stressful and uncreative", i.e. a problem within oneself.