Terrorists don’t kill and die for a cause. They actually kill and die for each other.
In this rigorous and challenging work, renowned social scientist Scott Atran traces terrorism’s root causes in human evolution and history, touching on the nature of faith, the origins of society, the limits of reason, and the power of moral values. He has interviewed and investigated Qaeda associates, including Jemaah Islamiyah and Lashkar-e-Tayibah, as well as other non-Qaeda groups like the Madrid train bombers, Hamas, and the Taliban, and their sponsoring communities, from the jungles of Southeast Asia and the political wastelands of the Middle East, to New York, London, and Madrid. His conclusions are startling, important, and sure to be controversial.
Terrorists, he reminds us, are social beings influenced by social connections and values familiar to all of us, as members of school club, sports teams, or community organizations. When notions of the motherland, a family of friends, a band of brothers are combined with the zeal of belief, amazing things are possible: the U.S. Olympic hockey team’s victory in 1980; the passage of civil rights legislation; the destruction of 9/11 and 7/7.
Atran corrects misconceptions about suicide bombers and radical Islam, explains how our tolerance for faith enables extremists to flourish, and shows why atheism and science education have little effect. Going beyond analysis, he offers practical solutions that can help us to identify terrorists today, prevent the terrorists of the future, and ultimately make the world safer for us all.