Why Do Arab Terrorists Kill Themselves?

in Varieties of Muslim Experience

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2008 | ISBN: 9780226726168
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226726182 | DOI:
Why Do Arab Terrorists Kill Themselves?

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When Westerners attempt to explain why Arab terrorists engage in acts of self-destruction, their arguments usually emphasize religious devotion, unspecified anomie, solidarity with their fellows, or nationalistic fervor. They correctly note that most Arab “suicide bombers” are young men from a full range of economic and educational backgrounds, sometimes with experience living abroad but more frequently home grown. Whatever the roles of “unit solidarity,” social disaffection, or otherworldly promise, Arabs who kill themselves in terrorist acts—as opposed to those who send them out on such missions—may actually be trying to hold the world together, to confirm by their acts, with a certainty and permanence not normally available, that they have created a network of relationships that alone assures a mature person's identity. But if, instead of limiting analysis by applying the label of “suicide,” we see this self-destruction through the categories available in Arab culture, quite a different ordering suggests itself. Two elements may be important here: the idea of sacrifice and the idea of reciprocity.

Keywords: Arabs; terrorists; self-destruction; religious devotion; sacrifice; reciprocity; suicide; Arab culture; unit solidarity

Chapter.  3464 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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