Understanding suicide terrorism: Insights from psychology, lessons from history

Book chapter


Silke, A. 2015. Understanding suicide terrorism: Insights from psychology, lessons from history. in: Pearse, John (ed.) Investigating Terrorism: Current Political, Legal and Psychological Issues Chichester Wiley Blackwell. pp. 169-179
AuthorsSilke, A.
EditorsPearse, John
Abstract

History and psychology give us some powerful tools for understanding suicide terrorism. History quickly teaches that this tactic is not the reserve of any one religion and there are many examples from the past of individuals with very different motivations who are willing to sacrifice their life in an effort to kill others. Thus it is a mistake to see modern suicide terrorism as inherently an ‘Islamic problem’. Similarly, history also teaches us that perspective is important. The more you sympathise with the perpetrators’ cause, then the more you tend to explain the perpetrators’ decisions and motivations in very different (and usually much more positive) ways. If we disagree with the aims, then explanations begin to cluster around issues such as brainwashing, indoctrination, grooming, and radicalisation of vulnerable personalities. The truth almost certainly lies somewhere in between. The lesson from psychology is that there is no obvious suicide terrorist personality. Individuals reach the point of carrying out a suicide attack through a process which generally has more to do with social psychology then with the tenets of clinical or abnormal psychology. Used effectively, these insights can be tremendously helpful in stripping away many of the myths and assumptions which surround debates on suicide terrorism and leave us with a more realistic assessment of the perpetrators, who they are, how they see themselves and what forces motivate and drive them. A realistic understanding here is a vital first step in developing more effective approaches for both countering and preventing suicide terrorism.

Keywordssuicide terrorism; history of terrorism; terrorist psychology
Book titleInvestigating Terrorism: Current Political, Legal and Psychological Issues
Page range169-179
Year2015
PublisherWiley Blackwell
Publication dates
PrintJan 2015
Publication process dates
Deposited14 Mar 2017
Place of publicationChichester
ISBN978-1-119-99415-2
Web address (URL)http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1119994152.html
Accepted author manuscript
License
CC BY-NC-ND
Permalink -

https://repository.uel.ac.uk/item/85792

  • 6
    total views
  • 16
    total downloads
  • 2
    views this month
  • 6
    downloads this month

Related outputs

‘Radicalisation’: The Transformation of Modern Understanding of Terrorist Origins, Psychology and Motivation.
Silke, A. and Brown, Katherine 2016. ‘Radicalisation’: The Transformation of Modern Understanding of Terrorist Origins, Psychology and Motivation. in: Jayakumar, Shashi (ed.) State, Society, and National Security: Challenges and Opportunities in the 21st Century Singapore World Scientific. pp. 129-150
Towards an Understanding of Terrorism and the Olympics
Richards, A., Fussey, Pete and Silke, A. 2010. Towards an Understanding of Terrorism and the Olympics. in: Richards, Anthony, Fussey, Pete and Silke, Andrew (ed.) Terrorism and the Olympics London Routledge.
Critical Reflections on Securing the Olympics: Conclusions and Ways Forward
Richards, A., Fussey, Pete and Silke, A. 2010. Critical Reflections on Securing the Olympics: Conclusions and Ways Forward. in: Richards, Anthony, Fussey, Pete and Silke, Andrew (ed.) Terrorism and the Olympics London Routledge.
Terrorism as Altruism: An Evolutionary Model For Understanding Terrorist Psychology
O'Gorman, Rick and Silke, A. 2015. Terrorism as Altruism: An Evolutionary Model For Understanding Terrorist Psychology. in: Taylor, Max, Roach, Jason and Pease, Ken (ed.) Evolutionary Psychology and Terrorism Abingdon, Oxon Routledge. pp. 149-163
Ferocious Times: The IRA, the RIC, and Britain’s failure in 1919-1921.
Silke, A. 2016. Ferocious Times: The IRA, the RIC, and Britain’s failure in 1919-1921. Terrorism and Political Violence. 28 (3), pp. 417-434.
Risk assessment of terrorist and extremist prisoners
Silke, A. 2013. Risk assessment of terrorist and extremist prisoners. in: Silke, Andrew (ed.) Prisons, Terrorism and Extremism: Critical Issues In Management, Radicalisation and Reform Abingdon Routledge. pp. 108-121
The Golden Age? What the 100 Most Cited Articles in Terrorism Studies Tell Us
Silke, A. and Schmidt-Petersen, Jennifer 2015. The Golden Age? What the 100 Most Cited Articles in Terrorism Studies Tell Us. Terrorism and Political Violence.