Terrorist Ideology And Religious Perception
Martha Crenshaw observed, "The actions of terrorist organizations are based
on a subjective interpretation of the world rather than objective reality." The
variables from which their belief systems are formed include their political and social
environments, cultural traditions, and the internal dynamics of their clandestine groups.
Their convictions may seem irrational or delusional to society in general, but the
terrorists may nevertheless act rationally in their commitment to acting on their
Kristen Renwick Monroe and Lina Haddad Kreidie have found perspective - the idea that we all have a view of the world, a view of ourselves, a view of others, and a view of ourselves in relation to others - to be a very useful tool in understanding fundamentalism, for example. Their underlying hypothesis is that the perspectives of fundamentalists resemble one another and that they differ in significant and consistent ways from the perspectives of nonfundamentalists. Monroe and Kreidie conclude that "fundamentalists see themselves not as individuals but rather as symbols of Islam." They argue that it is a mistake for Western policymakers to treat Islamic fundamentalists as rational actors and dismiss them as irrational when they do not act as predicted by traditional cost/benefit models. "Islamic fundamentalism should not be dealt with simply as another set of political values that can be compromised or negotiated, or even as a system of beliefs or ideology, such as socialism or communism, in which traditional liberal democratic modes of political discourse and interaction are recognized." They point out that "Islamic fundamentalism taps into a quite different political consciousness, one in which religious identity sets and determines the range of options open to the fundamentalist. It extends to all areas of life and respects no separation between the private and the political."
Existing works that attempt to explain religious fundamentalism often rely on
modernization theory and point to a crisis of identity, explaining religious
fundamentalism as an antidote to the dislocations resulting from rapid change, or
modernization. Islamic fundamentalism in particular is often explained as a defense
against threats posed by modernization to a religious group's traditional identity.
Rejecting the idea of fundamentalism as pathology, rational choice theorists point to
unequal socioeconomic development as the basic reason for the discontent and alienation
these individuals experience. Caught between an Islamic culture that provides moral values
and spiritual satisfaction and a modernizing Western culture that provides access to
material improvement, many Muslims find an answer to resulting anxiety, alienation, and
disorientation through an absolute dedication to an Islamic way of life. Accordingly, the
Islamic fundamentalist is commonly depicted as an acutely alienated individual, with
dogmatic and rigid beliefs and an inferiority complex, and as idealistic and devoted to an
austere lifestyle filled with struggle and sacrifice.
Terrorism has always seemed to have some form of political backing. Many countries have signed bilateral and multilateral extradition agreements, but extradition for political offenses is often explicitly excluded.
This makes it impossible to extradite individuals wanted for terrorist activities.
Many countries like Pakistan, France and even U.S. have refrained from extraditing
terrorists, adducing political motives. In June 1988, a Brooklyn judge rejected the plea
of a federal prosecutor requesting the extradition of Abed El Atta (an American citizen
suspected of participating in an attack against a bus in the West Bank in April 1986, in
which four people were killed). The judge stated that this attack was a political
act, part of the uprising in the occupied territories, and instrumental in the
attainment of the PLOs political aims. In the West Bank,
todays rebels could be tomorrows rulers. According to the judge, this is
a political charge, excluded from the category of crimes included in the
extradition treaty between Israel and the United States.