The enigma of Islamist violence



The enigma of Islamist violence

Amélie Blom, Laetitia Bucaille, Luis Martínez, editors ; translated by John Atherton, Ros Schwartz and William Snow

(The CERI series in comparative politics and international studies / [edited by] Jean-François Bayart and Christophe Jaffrelot)

Hurst & Company , In association with the Center d' Etudes et de Recherches Internationales, c2007

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Includes bibliographical references (p. 193-196) and index



The debate surrounding Islamist violence remains locked in oppositional sterility. Are such attacks perpetrated by Islamists as a matter of belief or do they reflect socio-economic realities? Is the suicide bomber a pathological case, as the psychologist maintains, or a clever strategist, as those steeped in the geopolitical approach claim? This book aims to transcend both the culturalist or underdevelopment explanations by focusing on the highly variegated nature of the phenomenon. For example, suicide attacks are relatively common in Kashmir and Israel/Palestine but almost non-existent in Algeria and Yemen, both of which have experienced long-running campaigns by violent Islamist groups. However a more nuanced reading, based on a series of case studies, reveals a less obvious set of meanings for suicidal political violence. These bring us closer to the Islamists' political mindset: a quest for purity in the next world that replaces the justice here on earth of which the militant despairs; the distress caused by the degeneracy of a failing ethno-nationalist rebellion, which encourages a shift in the struggle to the timelessness of death; or the paradoxical desire to assert one's individuality when the wider group is powerless by carrying out an 'exemplary' act of war against an enemy that is increasingly imagined rather than real. These are among the complex motivations of suicide attacks that this book brings to light.

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