Dr. Ali S. Awadh Asseri
(Former Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon)
Some terrorists use divine revelation as justification for racial, ethnic or religious terrorist attacks. Other terrorist attempts to spark a general uprising by a single strategically placed devastating attack designed to shatter the will of their enemies. Many terrorists argue that they are the victims of political and economic oppression and, because of the strength of the opposing state entities, they have no choice but to resort to bombings and random assaults.
Terrorists have varying reasons or motives for their acts. Many politically motivated terrorists, whether of the left or the right, want to bring down an existing government or regime. Many religious terrorists want to attack those that they perceive as attacking their religion. Others want publicity for their cause. Suicide terrorists, almost always, have had one relative or close friend killed, maimed or abused by an enemy. There is also no single profile of terrorists. Most, but not all suicide terrorists, come from poor backgrounds, but some have university degrees. Most are male aged between 16 and 28 years, but 15 per cent are female and this percentage is rising. Culture in general and religion in particular seem to be relatively unimportant in the phenomenon of terrorist suicide. Terrorist suicide, like any other suicide, is basically an individual rather than a group phenomenon: it is done by people who wish to die for personal reasons. The terrorist framework simply offers the excuse (rather than the real drive) for doing it and the legitimization for carrying it out in a violent manner.
It is, therefore, amply clear that the reasons of terrorism are diverse and complicated. It may only be possible to delineate a set of reasons why individuals indulge in committing this heinous act, with or without the support of a group or organization. The origins encompass a multitude of social, cultural, political, religious, ethnic and economic factors. The one factor that is common to all acts of terrorism is that, whenever perpetrated, they cause untold suffering and misery among those who are targeted.
(To Be Continued)
 Harvey W. Kushner, 'Suicide Bombers: Business as Usual,' Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Vol. 19 (1996), pp. 329-337
 A. Merari, 'The Readiness to Kill and Die: Suicide Terrorism in the Middle East,' in W. Reich, ed., Origins of Terrorism: Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies and State of Mind (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998). P. 206