Brainwashed Terrorists: Are Terrorists Crazy?
Climate change has been a number one issue for the past several decades. The world has been preoccupied with the concern of its further existence in case if the glaciers start melting and the Earth will be flooded by the oceans. However, the priorities have changed slightly at the beginning of the 21st century. The problem of climate change has become less concerning because there is no sense worrying about the world’s population if there is nobody to save. The rates of terrorism are growing with each day and every new attack takes away the lives of innocent people who just happened to be in the wrong place and at the wrong time. If terrorism is not stopped, the problem of climate change will be impossible to solve because a world “distracted by major wars or outbreaks of terrorism will not be able to stay focused on the more distant future. And just such a focus is needed to prevent future changes in climate and adapt to the ones already occurring” (Worldwatch Institute 11). Terrorism is an evil that is almost impossible to fight. It cannot be predicted and can hardly be prevented. The main reason why terrorist attacks are so frightful is that they are organized by people who are not afraid to die, people who die for their faith, or what they think to be their faith. Religion has been the most powerful tool of convincing people in what they are fated to be or to do, as well as it has been long used for brainwashing. And, of course, religion has been used as a motive in terrorism (Al-Khattar 114). Society tends to believe that terrorists are extreme and fearless people pursuing their own goals, while in reality they are simply brainwashed by their religion because they are trained to be violent from childhood and convinced that their religion is the only existing one; this, however, had precedents in the past when the ancient religious wars were fought by people who blindly followed their religious leaders.
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To begin with, religion is often used for brainwashing, which is why the terrorists accept death readily hoping for a better life in heaven. Contrary to the general belief, the main motivating force behind terrorism is hope, “the hope of terrorists systematically brainwashed by their ideologies that manipulate them that their savagery will break the will of their enemies and help them achieve their objectives” (Cain 126). Brainwashing has been used as a tool for indoctrination by the militaries who wished to change the allegiance of the captured soldiers. This process begins with controlling the information accessible to the subject, as well as a person’s social environment. Then it requires “the full-time ministrations of trained interrogators and collaborators … with about a one-to-one ratio of indoctrinators to subjects” (Karawan, McCormack, and Reynolds 64). Brainwashing an indifferent population is hardly possible this is why loyalty to religion is often used for these purposes. Whether or not people are brainwashed (or socialized) depends on the administrative apparatus which is focused on training the volunteers to kill and commit suicides in a way that would take away as many human lives as possible. The main idea which is imposed on such a volunteer at this is that taking away the lives of other people is necessary for his life after death:
In socializing their subject into believing this, terrorist leaders may easily capitalize on the already mature suicidal and aggressive tendencies in their subjects. With their orientation toward their leaders, after whom they also model themselves, terrorists will not find it difficult to believe this kind of “fantasy” … Although this aspect of their beliefs has a religious undertone, terrorist leaders often use it to galvanize subjects into action. (Stout 28)
The brainwashed terrorists are also united by the spirit of collectivism this is why they sometimes carry out attacks on behalf of their entire group. In this case, terrorists organize plans and put them into life even if they have to die for this. This is the idea which is impressed them together with different precepts for many years. Therefore, terrorists are socialized with the ideas of violence and taking away the lives of their victims being imposed on them by religious and administrative leaders of their countries.
What else should be mentioned is that terrorists are brainwashed from their childhood. They are taught the peculiarities of their religion as soon as they learn to talk or at least understand something. As noted by Tseng, “some of the terrorists were socialized to violence from childhood through special circumstances, such as in refugee camps, so that violent acts toward others is a part of their personalities and unswerving belief regarding the solution to problems” (466). Religious families give the corresponding education to their children and quite often the children do not know much about the world and other religions, which makes them focus on only their one. In most cases, children do not have the right to contradict their parents this is why they are forced to absorb any information which comes from them, irrespective of whether it is right or false. Then, based on this religion, children are convinced that everything possible should be done to please their God; they are further brainwashed to be violent and merciless and, finally, to sacrifice their lives to deserve better lives in heaven. At the age of seven and even fifteen a child cannot yet make rational decisions as to which religion to choose and how loyal to be to it. Somewhere at the age of twenty most people experience a certain crisis of their faith because this is the age when a person becomes fully responsible for his/her actions. This, however, is not the case with children who are religiously brainwashed. Even the idea of having doubts in their faith or their God is punishable, let alone the idea of changing the religion or violating the precepts. If brainwashing includes violence together with imposing religious beliefs, then children grow up into who we today know as terrorists or people who are committed to their religion, who will follow their spiritual leaders anywhere, and who see no value in their lives if they need to be sacrificed for religious awards. This shows that terrorists are not extreme people who have no fear of death; they are simply religiously socialized from their childhood and are unable to bear responsibility for their actions.
Examples of what can be called religious brainwashing can be found in world history as well. The brightest examples are the Crusades, the French Wars of Religion, Muslim Conquests, and the like events. Those were the wars of different religions, which proves that religious brainwashing is present in all the world religions, rather than in any separate one. The biggest value of these events is not that they left a certain memory trace in history, but that they have also entailed the loss of human lives and could be characterized by extreme violence. They can serve as an example of terrorism; the likeliness is, of course, remote but certain similarities can still be found. It is hard to argue with the fact that the Crusades and French Wars of Terrorism took away the lives of innocent people, just like the tragedies which take place in the world today. These lives were lost for the sake of ideologies that were imposed on the soldiers by their leaders who, in their turn, based their ideas on religion. This is why the parallels between the ancient religious wars and the current situation with terrorism in the world are evident. The difference in religious beliefs was what caused those wars and this remains a sufficient reason for the fomentation of religious hatred. This is what makes terrorism so difficult to stop; as long as the world is concerned with the idea of which religion is better or more realistic, terrorism will prosper. If at least some animosity is displayed by one religion, the representatives of the other ones will respond to this animosity. People whose relatives and friends died during the September 11 attack thought of nothing other than revenge; they were united by their grief and they never stopped hating those who caused this grief. The fact that America, a country “with secure borders, a formidable nuclear deterrent, and no military rivals” (Jackson 140), is vulnerable to terrorism shows how hard it is to fight with it. Thus, religious brainwashing is not new; it was practiced in the past during the ancient religious wars and the terrorism which is present in the world today has common roots with these wars.
In sum, it has been proven that terrorists can hardly be brave by their nature. Instead, they are born to be violent and they are taught to murder and to feel no remorse for this. Brainwashing, the tool which used to be applied in the military, is also applicable in religion. The terrorists are brainwashed, or socialized, by their religion and they are hardly aware of the harm which they do to society. What they see is a particular goal which they are simply obliged to fulfill because otherwise, they will not deserve to live. This is what most of them are impressed on from childhood and this is what they absorb with the teachings of how to eat and dress. Murdering is a routine for them and they are not the ones to be called to account for this. They are driven by the ideology, just like the participants of the ancient religious wars, which can be now regarded as precedents of terrorism for they as well took away the lives of innocent people to prove that their religion is the strongest. Perhaps, the ancient religious wars cannot repeat in modern times, but terrorism can be regarded as their analog, as their substitution, as an evil that is going to take away millions of human lives before anybody succeeds in stopping it.
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Al-Khattar, Aref M. Religion and Terrorism: An Interfaith Perspective. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003.
Cain, Herman. They Think You’re Stupid: Why Democrats Lost Your Vote and What Republicans Must Do to Keep It. Macon, GA : Stroud & Hall Publishers, 2005.
Jackson, Robert M. Global Issues. New York: McGraw Hill, 2009.
Karawan, Ibrahim A., McCormack, Wayne, and Reynolds, Stephen E. Values and Violence: Intangible Aspects of Terrorism. London: Springer, 2008.
Stout, Chris E. The Psychology of Terrorism: Programs and Practices in Response and Prevention. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002.
Tseng, Wen-Shing. Clinician’s Guide to Cultural Psychiatry. Boston: Academic Press, 2003
Worldwatch Institute. State of the World 2009: Confronting Climate Change. London: Earthscan, 2008.