Add To Cart

Ethical and Cultural Issues Arising from the Psychology of Terrorism

Section 11
Why the U.S. is a Target of Middle Eastern-Based Attacks and a Brief Look at Islam
By Marc Miller and Jason File

Question 11 | Test | Table of Contents

The three features of U.S. policy in the Middle East which attract disfavor in Arab and Islamic communities consist of U.S. policy towards Israel, U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia and U.S. policy towards Iraq.

The U.S. is viewed as the major facilitator of Israel’s military attacks on its Arab neighbors, since it offers Israel hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military aid and high technology weaponry. Were it not for the U.S., Israel would not have nearly the military capabilities it does, and its policy potentially would have been less aggressive; at the same time, this could have made the prospect of a successful Arab invasion greater. At any rate, U.S. commitment towards Israel is partially due to its post-World War II history, and largely a result of the “Jewish Lobby.” With a large and influential Jewish population in the U.S., American foreign policy towards Israel has historically had very little room for flexibility. As a result, the U.S. is often viewed with exactly the same contempt held for Israel in extreme Arab and Islamic circles.

From this, it is possible to see the version of events which results in anger against the U.S. First, the Saudi regime is perceived by more fundamentalist Muslims as a “sellout,” and the U.S. is seen as the tempting force which, with its money, has compelled the Saudis to permit the U.S. military to use its bases and exert influence over the region. Second, the simple fact of a U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia is viewed by some Muslims as trampling on sacred territory. Since Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Muhammed, and consequently, of the Islamic faith, a U.S. military presence is especially desecrating. Saudi Arabian rules say that non-Muslims may not even enter the country, unless it is for business. Thus, Muslims around the world may feel this presence to be a personal affront.

But if Saudi Arabia is perceived to be a corrupt regime, Kuwait certainly falls into a similar category for some Muslims. And if Kuwait is corrupt, then the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 may not be perceived as wrong; in fact, it could be perceived as “saving” it from harmful Western influences. If this is true, then it would be the U.S., whose military operations at the beginning of the 1990s repelled the Iraqi invasion, who would be wrong. This kind of tortured logic may seem outrageous to Western observers who believe in the inherent justice of saving a sovereign country from being invaded, but to some members of extremist Islamic groups, it is an additional reason to despise the U.S. As a result, the so-called “facts” of history can be perceived in radically different ways, and can be the sources of significant grievances. (From Terrorism Factbook, by Marc Miller and Jason File. c. 2001. Bollix Books.)

In the book “American Jihad,” author Steven Emerson interviewed Salih, a Palestinian working in Pakistan. “The problem, Salih said, was that the United States supported tyrannical regimes in the Arab world. He also objected to America’s immorality, specifically its sexual promiscuity. It’s a commonly heard charge; at times it appears to be the Islamists’ principal problem. Their main criterion for good and evil in this world is marital fidelity, with virginity as a precondition to marriage. Some of the ‘Arab Afghans’ migrated to Pakistan because they saw their own societies succumbing to sinfulness. On arrival, however, they soon discovered that sinfulness exists here as well, especially in large cities such as Karachi and Lahore. Peshawar was a little more acceptable but still declining. For these pilgrims, Pakistan—which literally means the ‘Land of the Pure’—was not the Shangri-la they anticipated. In 1996, when the Taliban began to take power in Afghanistan, many of them moved across the border.”

“Most conversation with jihadists turns sooner or later to children’s behavior. In Islam, respect for elders is essential in a way that Westerners can barely imagine. For the Islamist, it is essential in establishing proper relations between the sexes. America can hardly hope to win approval on that score.”

Islam is the second-largest religion in the world after Christianity. Over one billion people are Muslim, and six million of those reside in the U.S. By 2050, Islam is predicted to be the world’s most-practiced religion. A Muslim is simply a follower of the religion of Islam. Islam was founded in the year 622 by Muhammed the Prophet. Mecca (Saudi Arabia) is the holiest city of Islam, because it was there that the angel Gabriel revealed the first revelation to Muhammed in 610. Islam is closely related to Judaism and Christianity. Muslims recognize a series of prophets who came before Muhammed, including Abraham, David, Moses and Jesus. In Islam, Muhammed simply had the “final word.” Christian and Muslim doctrine generally agree on some important ideas about Jesus life, including the concept of miraculous birth, and his abilities to cure illnesses and raise the dead. Muslim doctrine does not, however, generally hold that Jesus was killed during his crucifixion; rather, it holds that he escaped and reappeared to his disciples without first having died.

There are two main texts in Islam: the Koran and the Hadith. The Koran are the words of God as revealed to Muhammed, which constitute the essential text of Islam. The Hadith is a collection of Muhammed’s sayings, which is considered more as a guide to living. A Muslim’s duties are described in the Five Pillars of Islam. These are:
1. To recite at least once during one’s lifetime the shahadah, or holy creed: “There is no God but God and Muhammed is His Prophet.”
2. To perform the salat (prayer) five times daily. This is performed while facing in the direction of Mecca in the morning, at noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and bedtime.
3. To donate to charity via the zakat, a form of charity tax.
4. To fast during daylight hours in the month of Ramadan, which is believed to be the month that Muhammed received the first revelation of the Koran.
5. To make at least one hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca, if financially and physically possible.

Common beliefs include a belief in Heaven and Hell, forgiveness of sins, and the existence of a Devil which drives people to sin. Other common beliefs include a rejection of alcohol, drugs, gambling and the eating of pork.

Also, the word “Fundamentalist” is sometimes associated with “terrorist,” which is an abusive interpretation of the term. Although the word is often used loosely, fundamentalist Islam is more akin to “conservative Islam” in that fundamentalists strictly follow Islamic rules, promote the general idea of Islamic Law, and probably view the West as secular and decadent. Yet terrorist groups which invoke Islam for their foundation constitute the extreme, radical fringe of fundamentalists. The distinction is in the belief held by terrorists and the Taliban that Islamic Law must be imposed in its most rigid sense without a choice, and with violence if needed. This is not a belief held by most fundamentalists. (From Terrorism Factbook, by Marc Miller and Jason File. c. 2001. Bollix Books.)

Al Qaeda: Individuals who join the Al Qaeda terrorist network are almost always young Muslim men who hold an Islamic ideal close to their hearts, along with a number of grievances. They come from around the world to be trained in Afghanistan to fight a holy war wherever they are needed. Psychologically, these are generally desperate young men who attain a sense of freedom, self-importance, power and group camaraderie from membership in Osama bin Laden’s loosely-knit organization. A 21-year-old recruit once said: “When you have a gun, you feel invincible.”

Taliban: The Taliban had set out as an Islamic reform movement. Throughout Muslim history, Islamic reform movements have transformed both the nature of belief and political and social life. This political change has always been made possible through the concept of jihad. Western thought, heavily influenced by the medieval Christian Crusades, has always portrayed jihad as an Islamic war against unbelievers. But essentially jihad is the inner struggle of a Muslim to become a better human being, improve himself and help his community. Jihad is also a testing ground for obedience to God and implementing His commands on earth. Jihad is the inner struggle of moral discipline and commitment to Islam and political action.
- From Terrorism Factbook, by Marc Miller and Jason File. c. 2001. Bollix Books

Personal Reflection Exercise #4
The preceding section contained information about why the U.S. is a target of Middle Eastern-based attacks. List two case studies regarding the possible applications of this material for clients who are asking “why.”

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Brugh, C. S., Desmarais, S. L., Simons-Rudolph, J., & Zottola, S. A. (2019). Gender in the jihad: Characteristics and outcomes among women and men involved in jihadism-inspired terrorism. Journal of Threat Assessment and Management, 6(2), 76–92.

Salman, N. L., & Gill, P. (2020). A survey of risk and threat assessors: Processes, skills, and characteristics in terrorism risk assessment. Journal of Threat Assessment and Management, 7(1-2), 122–129.

Tschantret, J. (2021). The psychology of right-wing terrorism: A text-based personality analysis. Psychology of Violence, 11(2), 113–122.

QUESTION 11: In the book “American Jihad,” author Steven Emerson interviewed Salih, a Palestinian working in Pakistan. Salih states, “The problem” is what? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

Section 12
Table of Contents