What causes Middle East terrorism?

September 20, 2014 | By | 6 Replies More

I’m often hear Americans state as undeniable fact that Middle East terrorism is caused by religion. Their claim is that Islam is an extraordinarily violent religion, much worse than Christianity. I’m highly suspicious of this claim, recently made by Sam Harris. Anyone who has read the Bible knows that it contains hundreds of episodes of violence, many of them seemingly gratuitous. It is difficult for me to see how the Koran is any more violent than the Bible. Yet there is much violence in the Middle East and numerous commentators will thus conclude, simplistically, that Islam is especially violent and that therefore, Islam is the cause.

This analysis by C.J.Werleman provides some raw numbers and some history to work with.

The Suicide Terrorism Database at Flinders University in Australia, which documents all suicide bombings committed in the Middle East between 1981 and 2006, demonstrates that it is politics, not religious fanaticism that leads terrorists to blow themselves up. This is supported by research conducted at the University of Chicago’s Project on Security and Terrorism, which was partly funded by the Defense Department’s Threat Reduction Agency. The authors, Robert A. Pape and James K. Feldman, examined more than 2,200 suicide attacks across the world from 1980 to present. Their research reveals that more than 90 percent of suicide attacks are directed at an occupying force.

We’ve spent the last half century waging and funding wars in the Middle East, playing one side off against the other, stoking ethnic rivalries, and arming regimes that inflict economic oppression upon their people. We’ve encircled the entire region with nearly 50 U.S. military bases and parked an aircraft carrier group permanently at their shores. The 17 Saudi 9/11 hijackers made their intent clear; they wanted the U.S. out of Saudi Arabia.

The belief that Islam is the root of terrorism doesn’t explain how Western-targeted terrorism coincides with the period post oil being discovered in the Middle East during the 1930-’60s and the establishment of the Jewish state on Arab Palestinian land. Harris also ignores the fact that Palestinian Muslims welcomed Zionist Jews in the 19th century. It was only when Jewish settlers began taking their land, and when Jews made it clear they did not wish to share the remaining land, that violence ensued.


Category: Religion, Violence, War

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (6)

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  1. Tige Gibson says:

    While it is true that terrorism is a response to American stomping around in the Middle East resisting “Commies” and occupying oil fields, it is naive to ignore part of the reason the United States is strongly motivated to be in the Middle East: what Christians call the Old Testament is an appropriation of the Jewish Torah and therefore contains the obvious political message to preserve the nation of Israel. It is blatantly nationalistic. The Christians supplement this with their own Revelation in which Israel must be completely restored so that Jesus can Return.

    To presume that politics and religion are independent is absurd and foolish.

  2. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    I feel vindicated.
    For years, I’ve said it’s not the religion.

  3. Sami Joseph says:

    Makes perfect sense apart from the reference to 9/11 which is now known to all was a false flag operation. Besides, no Bedouin could have possibly carried out the destruction of steel structures without expertise in the use of thermonuclear explosives in addition to having undetected access to the structures to plant the the devices!

  4. grumpypilgrim says:

    Terrorism occurs when people have no other way to vent. When people have military power, they will use that. When people have political power, they will use that. When they have neither military nor political power, they will use terrorism. Pick anyone you want: Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIL, Mujahideen, Taliban, Tamil Tigers, Guy Fawkes, Osama bin Laden…the list goes on and on. Even the instigators of the U.S. Revolutionary War were terrorists, from the British perspective. There’s an inverse correlation between access to real power and the use of terrorism. When you lack the first, and you see no way to get it, you’ll resort to the second.

  5. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    “no Bedouin could have possibly carried out the destruction of steel structures without expertise in the use of thermonuclear explosives”

    Arrrghh!!! [face palm]

    The hijackers were not Bedouins, and most of them had college educations.

    Second, a thermonuclear explosive is an atomic bomb. An a-bomb would have vaporized a sizable chunk of Manhattan. Perhaps you were thinking of nano-thermite, which also does not exist. There is a mixture called thermite, which is not an explosive, but an exothermic mixture of aluminum and rust used to repair cracks in railroad tracks

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