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Forum on Public Policy Online

Vol 2010 no. 4 (Posted December 2010)

Terrorism || Social Justice|| Religion ||


Iran and Nuclear Terrorism
Shaheen Ayubi, Lecturer, Rutgers University

It is an established fact that Iran seeks to join the ranks of nuclear powers. Since 2003, Western powers have known about Iran’s uranium enrichment program, its heavy water production and its missile delivery system for nuclear warheads. Tehran denies any intention to produce weapons and insists that its nuclear activities are solely for civilian energy purposes. But the international community remains highly skeptical. This paper focuses on Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the threat it poses to its Arab neighbors, Israel and Europe. It also analyzes Iran’s potential for sharing radiological weapons of terror, including both nuclear weapons and radiological dispersion devices with terrorist groups. The study is divided into three sections. Section I investigates why Iran covets nuclear weapons. Moreover, with the recent disclosure of a hitherto secret uranium enrichment facility near Qum and the London Times story on Tehran’s plans to test a neutron initiator (or trigger for an atomic weapon) only confirm Iran’s true intentions. Section II examines Iran’s past uses of terrorism and its links with extremist organizations such as Hezbollah or Hamas and warns of the increased possibility that the Iranian regime could transfer nuclear weapons and radiological dispersion weapons to such groups, thus increasing the risk of a terrorist nuclear attack. Section III concludes by offering recommendations for reducing Iran’s nuclear threat and terrorism.

Religious roots of terrorism: Perceptions of God playing out in world politics
Johannes Hendrik Coetzee, Professor, Department of Religion Studies, University of Johannesburg

The violent god-concepts of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam had probably been one of the main driving forces behind the bloody histories of these three religions and their influence in world politics through history. Although these concepts have changed through the ages, modern religious terrorism in its various forms is still basically influenced by the different violent god-concepts and related rhetoric. The paper investigates this phenomenon by looking at examples of violent god-concepts and rhetoric employed by religious terrorists relating to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. A combination of a cognitive and a body phenomenological approach is implemented to indicate that research in the field of terrorism must take cognizance of human embodiment in order to come to a more comprehensive understanding of the roots of religious terrorism.

On Becoming a Terrorist:  The Transformation of Human and Moral Agency
Phyllis M. Curtis-Tweed, Department of Psychology, Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York

In this paper, the author examines the question of what happens to the individual's sense of human agency and moral perspective-taking in becoming a terrorist.  The author reviews literature on the psychology of terrorism and presents a theory of agency development as a psychological approach that combines aspects of individual and social psychology to understand the personal development of terrorists.  Research on the psychology of terrorism indicates that, beyond commitment to causes or religious agenda, it is the bond between individuals in small groups that disposes individuals to commit themselves to acts that may require their own deaths. However, prior to the development of this bond, transformative life events influence the individual's sense of human and moral agency and lay the groundwork for the commitment to the small group that will perform terrorist acts.  The author argues that an understanding of this phenomenon will contribute to efforts to reduce the development of terrorist affiliations and inform the development of anti-terrorist strategies.  Case examples illustrate theoretical perspectives.

The contemporary ways of waging a war on terrorism: The case of the USA, the EU and the UN
Piotr Czachorowski, Assistant Professor, The University of Gdansk

Almost a decade after the attacks of September 11, 2001, terrorism has become more varied, complicated and difficult to understand. The world faces an array of different kinds of terrorist threat. Some are extremely dangerous, others pose a risk on a smaller scale. Some are genuinely global, others are purely regional or local. The most difficult form to combat is transnational terrorism, especially that connected with radical Islamist extremist violence. These terrorists possess a desire to kill on the grand scale. The violence for them is not a means of forcing an opponent into negotiations and incremental concessions but a sanctified activity that aims at massive change.



Prosecuting Alien Terrorists: Balancing National Security with Due Process for Alleged Terrorists
Daniel T. Gillespie and Alex Devience

The Background
On Christmas Day, 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian citizen, en-route from Amsterdam, is alleged to have attempted to blow up a transcontinental airliner, Northwest Airlines Flight 253, near Detroit, Michigan.  Upon landing, Abdulmutallab was taken into custody by U.S. Customs agents and local police and spoke freely about receiving terrorist training from members of al Queda in the Asian Peninsula and that other jihadists would follow him.  Subsequently, agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) interrogated Abdulmutallab for fifty minutes during which the suspect freely disclosed critical information concerning his terrorist training in Yemen and terrorist operations of al Queda.  After the fifty minutes, the FBI stopped the interrogation to allow Abdulmutallab to receive medical care for burns on his legs and groin caused by the defective bomb sewn in his underwear.  He agreed to further interrogation by the FBI after receiving medical care.
            However, before the interrogation was resumed, the Justice Department made the apparently unilateral decision to extend to the suspect Fifth Amendment rights under Miranda v. Arizona, and to prosecute Mr. Abdulmutallab as a criminal subject in the federal civilian court system rather than as an unprivileged enemy combatant subject to military law.  In response to the U.S. Attorney General’s order, the FBI agents read the suspect the Miranda rights, including his right to an attorney and to remain silent, at which point Abdulmutallab ceased divulging any further information and apparently has since remained silent.

Who is the Culprit? Terrorism and its Roots: Victims (Israelis) and Victims (Palestinians) in Light of  Jacques Derrida’s Philosophical Deconstruction and Edward Said’s Literary Criticism
Husain Kassim, Associate Professor and Director of Middle Eastern Studies Program, University of Central Florida
Terrorism, however it is defined, has come to be associated with the Middle East and Muslim world without taking into consideration a wider and broader perspective of its origins in the context of Western hegemony of the past, present and future. The entire blame is thrown upon the Middle East and Muslim world rather than looking deeper into the past of the Western history of victimizing people. The case in point is the people of Israel and Palestine. Looking at the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and its history, it becomes clear that the cause of terrorism has very little to do with the violent nature of Middle Eastern countries, including Israel and it’s religious fundamentalism.  This fact is not taken into account even by Jacques Derrida’s and Edward Said. This article revisits Jacques Derridas’ and Edward Said’s discourse on the subject and examines their suggested solution for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Its sole purpose is to find out what is missing in their approaches that makes their solution inadequate. This article is, in its scope, limited as it does not attempt to provide any solution to the conflict.

A psycho-epistemological analysis of terrorist and anti-terrorist moral deliberation
Chogollah Maroufi, Professor of Education, California State University, Los Angeles

Demonizing, dehumanizing, and pathologizing terrorists as “the Other” will neither serve the field of scholarship nor it enhances efforts to reach for possible solutions.  I suggest in this paper that an inclusionary approach instead would be a more beneficial approach.  The latter approach however does not minimize the reprehensive and unacceptable nature of any atrocities committed by either the terrorists or the anti-terrorist in the name of stamping out terrorism.  I further suggest that terrorists and people in general for that matter, devise a two-tiered psycho-epistemological deliberation system by which they maintain and utilize absolutist (deontological) and relativist (consequentialist) moral principles, seemingly working in tandem and cognitive harmony, at least from the agent’s perspective.  Absolutist/deontological principles function as the guiding principles, and contextual/consequentialist principles function as means to the achieve goals and aspirations of the former.  Here I attempt to examine how terrorists and anti-terrorists manage to engage in their respective atrocities while maintaining seemingly consistent and rationally viable narratives.  


Fear and Loathing: The Rhetoric of Fear-Inducing Terrorism
Paul K. Peterson, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, The University of Michigan-Flint

Authoritative works on terrorism give varying accounts of the role of fear in acts of violent terrorism. Some regard the production and exploitation of fear as an essential—even a definitional—component of terrorism. Others give little attention to the role of fear or ignore it altogether. I argue that while fear is normally a natural response to an act of violent terrorism, the exploitation of fear is not necessarily a principal part of the rhetorical structure of violent terrorism. When the use of fear is a primary aim, the nature of the fear and the way it is used will vary with the goals and intentions of its agents. Furthermore, the effectiveness of the production of fear will depend on the nature of the fear produced, including on the extent to which the fear takes a less or a more deliberative form.

Effective Engagement in Anti-Terrorism Starts Within: Quest for a Well-Informed Public
Cheng-chih Wang, Assistant Professor and Head, Department of Sociology and Political Sciences, Bethel University


Anti terrorism is being perceived as a war of ideas, with its end hinges significantly on effective strategic communication. While both sides adopt identical set of principles and similar modes of practices, it is noticeable that “our” side is performing unimpressively. This is because we have been focusing on demising the enemy’s credibility and hoping, by doing so, to undermine their capability of waging both idea and material wars. The rationale is mis-focused, and induces far-reaching policy implications that we cannot afford to ignore.
Foci of strategic communication studies have shifted increasingly from “need to share” information among government agencies, effective targeting of the audience, to due attention on cultural variations and legitimacy engineering. In appearance, we are paying prime attention to the audience. In reality, we rarely consider the public of our host society as the true and active beholder of perspectives about enemies and enmity. This deficiency can be explained by three elements:
1. Inadequate conceptualization of the “audience”;
2. Lack of legitimacy construction; and
3. Inadequate comparative analysis of the effectiveness of information dissemination from the government to the general public. Arguably, it can be remedied with improvements in all three areas.





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