Perhaps the most known terrorist in the world is Osama Bin Laden. Just as other terrorists of his ilk, there are certain psychological features that are inherent in him. Though it is impossible to study the psychological profile of a single terrorist, researches by psychologists identify a certain trend in their way of thought and actions (Kaplan, 1981). This paper outlines the psychological makeup of terrorists, traits that are observed in Osama Bin Laden. There are certain risk factors that make one highly likely to become a terrorist.
These factors combine to give a profile that is general to terrorist the world over. Although a terrorist’s profile can be narrowed down to individuals, there is always a generational transmission of extremist beliefs that starts in early life. A terrorist also feels alienated or oppressed by others in the society. This perceived alienation could be from the locality or at more extended levels as global perspective. A terrorist also has a psychology of being victimized for the ills of the society. Terrorists also believe that any violations by the enemy should be retaliated by equal measure of violence (Post, 2008).
The response meted out to the enemy affords the terrorist higher moral standings among his/her peers who regard him/her as a hero. In addition to the above, terrorists believe their ethic, class or social group is special and superior to others and are targeted by others for destruction. Terrorists in most cases lack the political powers to initiate and carry out their plans to success. They therefore turn to violence as the only means of attaining their goals. Terrorists would not carry out their activities if they had no criminal mentality.
Moreover, terrorists do not have any fear for death and believe the high esteem from peers is more important than the legacy left behind by dying in the process of carrying out an attack (Hoffman, 1999). Terrorist will always identify with a certain group where the members share the course, suffering, and trauma. At the same time, the group may provide camaraderie and a sense of significance to its members. Historical and Socio-Cultural Antecedents to September 11. Different opinions have been voiced on the most likely antecedents of the 9/11 attacks.
These range from religious animosity between Christians and Muslims to the US Occupation of Arab countries and the perceived foreign policies of the American Government. While it is apparent that Al-Qaeda was responsible, theories have been proposed to explain the causes of 9/11 attacks. Some researchers have blamed the Muslim madrasas for instilling a simplistic view of Jihad in young Muslims. Poverty has also been cited as a cause of the 9/11 attacks by a section of world scholars. There have been theories relating the attacks to the democratic principles of the American society, a position vehemently denied by Osama himself.
He asked why he did not attack other free-countries such as Sweden. There is also a feeling that efficient funding from wealthy Saudis supported the terrorists in the planning and execution of the attacks. The historical aggressiveness of the U. S towards certain countries due to their oppressive governance and weak systems and institutions has made these countries terrorists’ haven. Decline and stagnation in the Middle East and the humiliation of the Islamic world also led to the attacks. These weak and falling states have been terrorists’ bases from where they plan attacks on real and perceived enemies (Simonsen et al, 2000).
In addition to U. S occupation of Arab countries, the clash of civilization between the Arab and American world also led to the attacks. The differences in ideologies such as communism between the U. S. and the Arab world also played a role in causing the attacks. Radicalism resulting from Afghan Jihads against the Soviet Union contributed to the attacks. The generation that participated in the war was radicalized and developed criminal mentality as well. Mental Illness and Terrorism There has been an on-going debate on the role of mental illness in terrorism among scholars.
Most studies have dwelt on expert opinions instead of involving the community directly to study the causes of terrorism (Sageman, 2004). This trend has resulted in different conclusions on the role or mental illnesses in terrorism. Most of the studies have failed to factor in on the human vulnerability of the isolated groups and focused on the belief that a terrorist must be mentally unstable to conduct such cruel acts. While some mental experts believe that one should not blame mental illness for terrorist attacks, others feel the mental stability has a role in terrorism.
The root causes of terrorism are social factors and not mental illnesses. Mental experts of this line of thought think that psychiatry is not the tool to counter terrorism. Psychiatrists who have tested failed suicide bombers have diagnosed little psychiatric illnesses in violent or mild terrorists. Certain studies have only concentrated on individual instead of the larger terrorism set. Studies should focus on the collective societal needs that compel a group of people to become violent and not on individuals.
People become terrorists because of the feeling of being marginalized, oppressed, or targeted by others whom they henceforth consider enemies. Any means to carry out a revenge on such enemies is thus justified. Conclusion Studies have shown a certain mind-set that is inherent in terrorists, albeit in different proportion. Terrorists always see their society to be threatened by others for extinction or victimization based on ideological differences. They react to these notions by violent means that they consider justified provided the intended goals are achieved.
They are motivate by the social ills they feel target their society. References Hoffman, B. (1999). Inside Terrorism. NY: Columbia University Press. Kaplan, A. (1981). The psychodynamics of terrorism: Behavioral and quantitative perspectives on terrorism. New York: Pergamon Post, J. M. (2008). The mind of the terrorist: The psychology of terrorism from the IRA to Al-Qaeda. Palgrave Macmillan. Sageman, M. (2004). Understanding terror networks. University of Pennsylvania Press. Simonsen, C. , & Spindlove, J. (2000). Terrorism today: the past, the players, the future. NJ: Prentice Hall.