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.