Challenging the “myth” of Islamic terrorism

Dr Richard Jackson from The University of Manchester and others are calling for a “more truthful portrayal” of terrorism in the media and beyond.

‘The Critical Studies on Terrorism Working Group’, brainchild of Jackson is holding a two day conference in Manchester and launching a new academic journal to bring attention to the issue.

Jackson aruges that the study of terrorism is locked into myths which result in poor policies from Governments. An example, he says, is the assumption from many Government and media commentators that Islamic extremism is a cause of terrorism is damaging.

“It colours peoples’ attitudes towards the Muslim community, even though there is no empirical evidence for any such direct link at all. We want to bring differing perspectives on the study of terrorism to the public so they can be more questioning of what they might hear and see in the media.

“A full and in-depth public debate about how to respond to the threat of terrorism is desperately needed but extremely difficult in a climate dominated by so many myths and misunderstandings.”

He says that one of the main purposes of the conference is to promote a “more realistic appreciation of terrorism” and to provide the government with more accurate information, so it can make fully-informed counter-terrorism policy.

He cites a study by Robert Pape at the University of Chicago that looked at all suicide bombings between 1980 and 2003. The study found that less than half of all suicide bombers are religious.

“Of the 41 Hezbollah suicide attacks in Lebanon, eight were by Muslims, three by Christians and 27 by Socialists.”

He points to Mark Sageman, from the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Philadelphia, who studied 180 Jihadists and found they became radicalised and religious only after they joined terrorist groups.

“That’s important because it shows that their initial involvement was nothing to do with religion. It’s not surprising that people who knew suicide bombers often say they seemed like ordinary people as that’s because in the main, they were.”

The conference starts tomorrow and runs through until Friday.

Marcus adds: There’s an awful lot of court time allocated to this ‘myth’ according to the Times.