***** From the Terrorists’ Point of View: What They Experience and Why They Come to Destroy. By Fathali M. Moghaddam; published by Praeger Security International, www.greenwood.com/psi (Web); 185 pages; $39.95.
Among the plethora of recent books on terrorism, many deal mainly with the threat of al Qaeda, and reasonably so, due to the organization’s global reach and considerable resources. But most focus on the movement’s manifestations and little on its philosophical and ideological foundation. It’s like a doctor treating an illness’s symptoms to the exclusion of its underlying cause. So it is refreshing to have a book that examines what makes Islamist fundamentalist terrorism tick.
Fathali Moghaddam, a psychology professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., who has studied the phenomenon since the 1970s, brings his insight to bear to explain why “For some groups of Muslims, terrorism is becoming a ‘normal’ response to what they see as injustice.” The author uses a “staircase to terrorism” construct to describe the path by which disaffected individuals eventually become terrorists, describing the roles to be filled within Islamist terrorist organizations.
Moghaddam also explores a number of commonly held perceptions and misconceptions of terrorism. Especially effective is his argument refuting the often-repeated bromide that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” This pseudo-justification has been a major obstacle toward effectively dealing with terrorism of all sorts, and Moghaddam quickly demonstrates its fallacy, focusing instead on social conditions and other justifications for terrorism that must be addressed to deal with this threat.
In terrorism, as in so many other security threats, understanding one’s enemy is the critical foundation for effectively dealing with the manifestations of the threat. From the Terrorists’ Point of View is a helpful resource in this regard, and it is highly recommended for anyone concerned with today’s terrorist threat.
Reviewer: Mayer Nudell, CSC (Certified Safety and Security Consultant), is an independent consultant on crisis management, contingency planning, and related issues. He is a member of ASIS.