Posted by: religionthink | September 10, 2009

Terror in the Mind of God Reviewed by R. Wilcox

Sociology Professor Mark Juergensmeyer compiled a wonderful primary source book on the subject of terrorism entitled Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence.  I say primary source because the author has traveled around the world interviewing terrorists and documenting their motivations.  Among those interviewed in the first half of the book were:

  • Reverend Michael Bray: He was a convicted abortion clinic arsonist and publisher of the militant Christian newsletter “Capitol Area Christian News.”  He is also suspected of writing an underground do-it-yourself instruction manual on destroying abortion clinics entitled “Army of God.”
  • Tom Hartley: He was a Catholic Irish leader of the Sinn Fein Party.
  • Yoel Lerner:  He was as a Messianic Zionist who was convicted of trying to blow up the Dome of the Rock.
  • Rabbi Meir Kahane:  He was the founder of Israel’s right wing Kach Party and the American Jewish Defense League.
  • Mahmud Abouhalima: He was accused of driving the get-away car used in the assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane in 1990.  He was also convicted of the 1996 World Trade Center truck bombing.
  • Abdul Aziz Rantisi: He was the founder of Hamas and coordinator of their suicide bombings.
  • Simranjit Singh Mann:  He was affiliated with India’s militant Sikhs and is the suspected ringleader of the assassination of Indira Gandhi and other government officials.
  • Takeshi Nakamuril: He was a former member of Aum Shinrikyo, the cult that released sarin gas in Tokyo’s subway, killing a few but injuring thousands.

The second half of the book is Juergsmeyer’s analysis and conclusion on terrorism.  One striking conclusion was on the symbolic aspect of terrorist targets.  Since the motive is terror, there is no other goal to be obtained.  Therefore a constant cycle of violence is created with no “end” to justify the “means.”  Another interesting conclusion Juergensmeyer came up with was that sexual frustration was a factor in Hamas suicide bombings because in traditional Palestinian society a young man gets a job before he gets married.   With a constant 50% unemployment rate, young men must think those promised virgins in Heaven are more obtainable.
Out of the interviews, I found the fact that Asahara giving his cult members of Aum Shinrikyo L.S.D. and acted out driving away demons to program his followers very interesting because it is a similar M.O. that Charles Manson used.  Manson gave his followers L.S.D. and acted out the crucifixion to program them.  Also out of the interviews I found it interesting that the convicted World Trade Center truck bomber Mahmud Abouhalima justified his attack by seeing America as entirely secular, yet in the video clip we saw in class of Usama bin Ladin’s training camp, the terrorists were practicing building raids and shooting silhouettes with crosses painted on them.  Do Muslim terrorists view Americans as Christians or secular?  This is something I think should be examined closer.
I highly recommend this book, and I only found the chapter on the Sikh/Hindu/Punjab conflict a little confusing.  I am sure this is because I lacked the background knowledge I had when dealing with the other terrorist groups.

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