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Updated on October 23, 2011
Gavrilo princep who assassinated Archduke Ferdinand of the Austria Hungarian empire resulting in the outbreak of World War I
Gavrilo princep who assassinated Archduke Ferdinand of the Austria Hungarian empire resulting in the outbreak of World War I
Ajmal Kasab the lone terrorist nabbed in Mumbai terror attack
Ajmal Kasab the lone terrorist nabbed in Mumbai terror attack
America under terror attack
America under terror attack
woman and child terrorists
woman and child terrorists


Once again terrorism has raised its fearsome head in Mumbai. Terrorism is the social cancer afflicting modern society. No country in the world seems immune to it. Basically it is a modern phenomenon. Up to the nineteenth century there may have been assassination attempts against people in authority, but nothing similar to the movements we have today, ever existed. In other words organized terrorism is a modern offshoot of social conflicts.

So what really causes terrorism? The factors contributing to it are many. First of all the socio-economic divide in society is a major factor. People the world over divided by ethnic and religious lines. As modern society becomes increasingly complicated due to globalization and economic uncertainty, people seek the comforting certainty of religious beliefs and ethnic unity. So whether people are Bosnians, Chechens or Kashmiris, their socio-cultural background differentiates them from their compatriots.

But there are other factors too that alienates minorities from the mainstream. Foremost is the feeling of perceived injustice. The feeling that they have been subject to humiliation or persecution is a very potent factor. Palestinians for example feel that they have been cheated of the land which was rightfully theirs after the formation of the state of Israel.

If we add to this dangerous brew the potion of unemployment and economic disparity we have a situation ripe for terrorism. Gainful employment for the youth is needed not only for a decent living but to lend meaning to life. In many societies minorities get a raw deal when it comes to employment. They get sidelined either due to their religious or ethnic identity. This naturally creates discontent which is compounded by economic disparity.

So we have a situation ideal for political machinations. Ambitious and unscrupulous opinions leaders exploit this for political gains. The rapid growth of Al Qaida in many countries is due to this. They exploit the feeling of perceived injustice amongst the educated and semi-literate youths in countries where they are a minority and create a siege mentality. All that is needed is a little bit of religious indoctrination to goad them to action.

Finally there is also the absence of conflict resolution mechanisms contributing to terrorism. Minority terrorism creates a violent backlash amongst the majority, which is precisely what the opinion leaders amongst the minorities want. This provides fodder to feed the genii of hate. Here the media unwittingly play into the hands of terrorists. By providing extensive coverage the terrorists not only get the publicity that they want, but also sympathies of their silent compatriots.


We are all potential terrorists. Deep inside us lurks this genii which society wraps up for our own and society’s good. The process of socialization from childhood to youth is a long journey in this civilizing process. But for a few, somewhere down the lane, things go wrong. The big question is how and why?

Basically man is violent by nature. That is why we say, scratch a man and you will find a savage. All our civility evaporates the moment we are rubbed on the wrong side. If you watch children you will be shocked by their propensity for violence. All that we do is to suppress this urge in order to conform to society’s dictates. But like the other primeval instinct sex, there has to be an outlet, and that explains the popularity of boxing or WWF. The other outlet is acts of terrorist violence, which we try to justify as the reactions of the dispossessed and humiliated.

But what aggravates this violent streak is our fanatical outlook. Our belief systems are not based on reason but emotion. This is what makes religion such a heady brew. So if for our acts of violence have religious sanction; terrorism becomes a sacred duty rather than an inhuman act.

Primitive man lived in tribes, isolated from other similar ones, who were aliens in all respects. In such society xenophobia was a natural outcome and intolerance our second nature. The anomaly in the civilizing process is that, despite living in an interdependent society, intolerance is ingrained in us. We still nurture notions like, my religion is true, yours is false, or my country is right and yours wrong. It is this intolerance that you find in every terrorist.

Lastly there is also this craving for attention; and a terrorist thrives on this. 9/11 was not only shocking and revolting but also spectacular. For the news hungry media, there was nothing bigger than this; and for days harped on it. It is a dream which all terrorists fondly cherish, that the world will sit up ask …’but why all this’? Terrorism is in our mind, waiting to be unleashed.


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