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hafez- Dying to be martyrs

hafez- Dying to be martyrs - DYING TO BE MARTYRS THE...

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1 of 54 DYING TO BE MARTYRS: THE SYMBOLIC DIMENSION OF SUICIDE TERRORISM BY MOHAMMED M HAFEZ University of Missouri – Kansas City Department of Political Science 213 Haag Hall 5100 Rockhill Road Kansas City, MO 64110 [email protected] (913) 908-0785 Biographical Summary Mohammed M. Hafez is a Visiting Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. He earned a B. A. in Political Science from the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA); M. A. in International Relations from the University of Southern California (USC); and Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Mohammed Hafez was a Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation fellow and a United States Information Agency fellow during 1998-1999. He authored Why Muslims Rebel: Repression and Resistance in the Islamic World (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2003) and Manufacturing Human Bombs: The Making of Palestinian Suicide Bombers (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2005). He teaches courses on Terrorism and Political Violence, Islam and World Politics , Religion and Politics , Politics of the Middle East, and The Arab- Israeli Conflict . His research on suicide bombers has been presented in conferences hosted by the National Institute of Justice, the Counterterrorist Center, the Center for Naval Analysis, and NATO.
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2 of 54 INTRODUCTION The phenomenon of suicide bombings has so far produced many studies that aim to explain why ordinary young men and women sacrifice themselves in order to kill others. Some point to rational calculation of insurgent organizations 1 ; others point to the religious fanaticism of militants, organizers, or societies 2 ; still others use a multi-level approach that looks at individual and organizational variables that produce suicide bombers. 3 We have yet to encounter many studies that seek to understand the social meaning of martyrdom for the actors involved. 4 How do suicide bombers view their actions? What meaning do they give to their sacrifice? What meanings do sympathetic observers give to acts of suicide terrorism? The act of seeking to understand is a controversial one because it requires a degree of empathy with the human bombers that kill and maim civilians, including women, children, and the elderly. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 on the United States have complicated attempts to understand suicide bombers because the act of empathy can easily be confused with outright sympathy for murderous attacks. However, one cannot get into the mind of suicide bombers to discover the layered or interwoven meanings of their sacrifice without immersing oneself in their grievances, religious rhetoric, and symbolic universe. Understanding and explaining are not necessarily opposed methodological positions, although their research requirements can differ significantly. I argue that to explain suicide terrorism, at least as they relate to why individuals become human bombs, we need to first understand the social meaning given to these acts of
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3 of 54 extreme violence by their perpetrators. Thus, we must, first and foremost, seek to
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