Scientists believe they have a clearer idea of what makes a terrorist after interviewing a group of Islamic extremists in Pakistan. The project constructed psychological “profiles” to describe how Jihadists were led into their violence…
The picture that emerges is of largely intelligent people finding direction in the networks of associates they keep.
Professor Canter’s group conducted a series of interviews with 49 terrorists – people convicted of bombing and killings. The work was done outside of the UK because of the refusal of the British authorities to facilitate the research at home.
The team used an interview technique known as the “repertory grid” – a method that allows an individual to express their understanding of themselves and the world around them by indicating who is important in their lives.
“The work on pathways into terrorism indicates that it comes out of a social process; it comes out of a series of contacts that terrorists have with other individuals,” Professor Canter told BBC News.
“These may be friends and associates; they may be members of their family. But more typically, they will be some sort of person they look up to, who may be a senior individual within a terrorist organisation, or maybe a teacher that they feel provides them with some feelings of self-worth and significance if they will take part in violent activity.”
Truly interesting ideas and analyses – no less because I’ve spent a significant portion of my life with fighters for national liberation, dedicated anti-colonial freedom fighters, just as likely to be called “terrorists” by Establishment fearmongers.
I don’t think Professor Canter identifies a clear difference between armed resistance and terrorism. The classic definition – acceptable to military theoreticians unencumbered by ideology is resolved by who is the target: military, police, those who function directly on the battle line on behalf of occupying and colonial bodies vs. indiscriminately attacking a civilian population.
But, the article – and I will get round to reading the complete research paper – seems to mirror exactly my personal, admittedly-subjective experiences.