Who Partakes in Political Violence?


Terrorism is a tactic adopted by particular groups for a political objective. The individuals that partake in this violence often exhibit common characteristics. One of these characteristics is impoverishment (Lee 2011). In parts of the world where state capacity to serve the public is low, terrorist group participation is more likely. In other words, these individuals come from poor backgrounds. But contrarily, individuals from higher economic classes, also tend to be involved. This suggests that the middle class is least likely to join in, while the lower middle and upper class are more vulnerable (Kavanagh 2011).

On the other hand, terrorism has a different motive. In this case, terrorism is analyzed from the individual perspective, versus the structural perspective. Concepts like emotion and humiliation are considered here to be powerful motivators towards violence. The underlying belief is that, particularly in the Islamic world, a sense of humiliation drives individuals to terror. This humiliation stems from cultural factors such as shame-based traditions as much as it does from a history of subordination to outsiders such as Europe and America, through arrangements like Sykes-Picot. Humiliation can be exacerbated by internal inequalities within nation-states (Fattah & Fierke 2009). Perhaps a less romanticized perspective argues that existential factors like desire and glory motivate individuals among other factors that are political to engage in terrorism (Cottee et al 2011).

The most compelling argument seems to focus on the political orientation of terrorism through the individual lens. This is because it considers the cultural dimension of politics which drives individuals to retaliation or aggression. Social factors like poverty and authoritarianism cannot be separated from the external powers at play, and their influence historically and in today’s world on regions where terrorism is most prevalent. Equally, we cannot ignore the complicity of national governments in worsening conditions and enabling terrorism.


Cottee, Simon and Keith Hayward. 2011. “Terrorist (E)motives: The Existential Attractions of Terrorism.” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 34: 963-986

Fattah, Khaled and Fierke, K.M. 2009. “A Clash of Emotions: The Politics of Humiliation and Political Violence in The Middle East.” European Journal of International Relations 15(1): 67-93

Kavanagh, J. (2011). Selection, Availability, and Opportunity: The Conditional Effect of Poverty on Terrorist Group Participation. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 55(1), 106-132.

Lee, A. (2011). Who Becomes a Terrorist? Poverty, Education, and the Origins of Political Violence . World Politics , 203-245.



Western countries, particularly the U.S., are directly responsible for the violence and destruction in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Yemen, from which millions of refugees are fleeing:

  • The illegal U.S.-led invasion of Iraq led to the deaths of at least one million people, destabilized the entire region, and created extreme conditions in which militant groups like al-Qaeda spread like wildfire, eventually leading to the emergence of ISIS.
  • In Afghanistan, the ongoing U.S.-led war and occupation — which the Obama administration just prolonged for a second time — has led to approximately a quarter of a million deaths and has displaced millions of Afghans.
  • The disastrous U.S.-led NATO intervention in Libya destroyed the government, turning the country into a hotbed for extremism and allowing militant groups like ISIS to spread west into North Africa. Thousands of Libyans have been killed, and hundreds of thousands made refugees.
  • In Yemen, the U.S. and other Western nations are arming and backing the Saudi-led coalition that is raining down bombs, including banned cluster munitions, on civilian areas, pulverizing the poorest country in the Middle East. And, once again — the story should now be familiar — thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced.

“We have reiterated that the Syrian future will be decided by Syrian people alone,” the Russian foreign minister said, including “the destination of Mr. Assad and any other politician in this country.”


WSJ & Salon



Had an interesting conversation with a dear friend of mine on the issue of the debate between religion and science, atheism and theism. 

While I sought to avoid all the useless rhetoric which leads to no answers – I sought to reconcile what I believe to be two perceptions that are not all quite that different. What I have noticed as a common denominator amongst so-called atheists is a disdain more-so for the morose attributes of religion rather than the philosophy and intellectualism behind it. In reality, even in today’s modern world, religion is a tool for control, power and crime (as expressed through politics), which does nothing to improve the image of the philosophy behind theology in the first place. 

Social liberalism grew largely out of the resistance movements against monarchism, despotism, authoritarianism, and socio-economic control. Since most of these ‘tyrants’ in history were in fact justifying their actions through religious dogma, it only makes sense that individuals would be repulsed by the idea altogether. But just as there have been religiously dogmatic tyrants, there have also been irreligiously dogmatic tyrants. And in the midst of it all, we’ve even had tyrants who could not make the decision for themselves, such as Hitler, who in one angle portrays himself as a God-fearing messiah, and in other, an anti-judaic anti-christ. Stalin and Lenin worked to disenfranchise religion entirely from the socio-political scene. 

Ultimately, each individual ought to be free – atheist or not. In the end it seems to me what matters are the virtues of life that are carried in philosophy altogether. Religious fanatics will claim you cannot be good without obedience to organized religion; atheists claim you can be ABSOLUTELY moral without the help of God. Both seem quite extreme. I sympathize with the atheist however, because religious dogma is terrifying. Yet, I do believe that without God, man falls prey to hubris, which eventually leads to power-grabbing, and an obstruction of human liberty and dignity. 

Ultimately, I must say I am devoted to the Abrahamic God – and I believe all truth and beauty resonates from Him. The wonders of philosophy, morality, existentialism, and secularism as well – all of these resonate from that wonderful truth which is perfection – the Lord of the worlds. No, I do not traditionally welcome the Christian anthropomorphic version of God, and I do reject the evangelical and fundamentalistic zionist interpretation of God – seeing both of these as equally dogmatic and detrimental to individual liberty, dignity, and truth. 

I am a muslim and a jew. I believe in the message of Allah. I do so philosophically, however not ‘religiously’. I submit to God – not to one man’s devious understanding of God.