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What makes a terrorist a terrorist?

What a tragedy!  22 dead as a result of another terrorist attack in England!  22 people who were alive yesterday, living out their lives, full of potential, full of significance for this world and for those around them, gone in a day; their dreams and hopes wiped out with them, their potential cruelly stolen.

What is the reason?  Isn't this the question we find ourselves asking?  People ask questions like 'how could anyone do that to another human being', 'what could make someone do something so evil'?  When this level of tragedy strikes we automatically search for answers, struggling to find the meaning and reason behind it.  So, what's the answer?  Most agree that this is not normal behaviour, that there is something terribly wrong with this kind of action - to kill as many other people as you can, even if it means sacrificing your life in the process.  Well, I tend to agree.  Anyone in their 'right mind' would surely believe the same.  

So, if this kind of behaviour isn't the product of someone operating in a 'right mind', what has happened to the psychology of the perpetrator to bring them to the place of carrying out something which is going to create this level of destruction and disaster in the lives of their fellow human beings?

What I have come to see on my personal journey-to understand what makes us 'tick' as human beings- is that the motivation of what drives us is actually, shockingly the same.  We discover when we look closely at the reasons why we do what we do, that it all boils down to this:  Every human heart and soul needs to feel and believe it has significance, in essence to be deemed as important or accepted as being worthy of love and appreciation.  The difference in us is that we all have different beliefs about how we go about finding it.  Some find significance in life by giving their lives away, continually sacrificing their time, money and energy to help others.

Some try to fill that need with things, believing that if they attain enough possessions it will give them the happiness they're looking for.  Some become workaholics, trying to climb to the top of their peer ladder, believing that if everyone around them holds them in respect that this will prove their value, which in itself is a type of slavery.

Some believe they will find significance in their religion, that is that if they fulfil a particular criteria  - as they see it - set out in a holy book, they will attain the pleasure and praise of their Creator.  It is this need and desperation for significance mixed with an inbuilt desire for justice that can and will drive a human being to do...anything.  Don't look for logic or reason to understand the actions of an individual acting on this plane, you won't find it.  Logic or reason plays no part in the thought process of someone set on this course.  When a person comes to believe that the One who gives their lives meaning commands them to perform a particular act and awakens a belief that injustice is being done and needs to be righted, that person will be blind and deaf to any other sense of decency or reason.

In their eyes they are already doing what is 'right'.  They believe their Creator has commanded them to kill the infidels, that is, anyone who doesn't follow their religion and in the way their holy book commands them to follow it.  Therefore any attempt to meet them on grounds of decency or compassion for the lives of other people will have no effect; it is like you are talking to them in a different language.  The language they are 'speaking' is what is 'right and wrong', and what their Creator wants them to do about it - with the added incentive that there will be an eternal reward at the other end of it.  Therefore every other argument (in their worldview) is insignificant.  If they believe that you are deceived and that they are enlightened, what logical reason would they have to listen to your pleas?

How many times have we in the west fought our problems at the 'effect' rather than at the 'cause' level?  Young Muslims making the decision to devote themselves to Jihad (holy war) or long established Muslims who have this mind-set, will not and can not be defeated with bombs and bigger bombs.  It is like continually pulling the fruit off a tree and expect it not to produce more.

It is the Muslim's adherence- as he or she see's it- to the will of their Creator and the sense of significance they gain from it that moves him or her to think and to act the way they do. So, if we want to know 'why' or how someone comes to carry out this kind of evil on the lives of their fellow human beings, we must realise that it is not from a racial or merely political motivation birthed in the heart of an inherently evil individual, but rather it is birthed out of the search for identity and purpose where that person has unfortunately been deceived into believing that a religious belief such as this one is the correct path to attain it, and that it is the 'true' path to follow.   Only engagement and a challenge to them on the level of their beliefs  (the cause of their behaviour) and a presentation of the truth will ever and can ever change their corresponding actions.

Author:  Simon Anderzon