Barry Cooper: “Jihadists” and the War on Terrorism

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An old edition of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s Intercollegiate Review arrived in my mailbox this morning. The article, “’Jihadists’ and the War on Terrorism,” by political scientist Barry Cooper immediately caught my eye (PDF available here). Professor Cooper teaches courses in political theory and Canadian politics, political thought and public policy at the University of Calgary. I don’t agree with all of Cooper’s findings, for example, the notion that Hamas and Hezbollah are pursuing traditional “national liberation objectives” as opposed to the transnational goals of Al Queda. As Efraim Karsh and others have argued, all three organizations envision a reestablishment of the caliphate. That criticism aside, the article explores some interesting psychological motivations (“pneumopathology”) for terrorism.

Here is an excerpt:

On September 10, 2005, a report in the Toronto Globe and Mail described a document produced by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). This document expressed the opinion that “individuals who have attended terrorist training camps or who have independently opted for radical Islam must be considered threats to Canadian public safety for the indefinite future.”

The story goes on to indicate the central problem: these people believe “it is actually moral to commit acts of violence to fulfill one’s religious obligation and the highest morality is that of a martyr.” In his book about a nineteen-year-old Canadian, Mohammed Mansour Jabarah (Sammy to his friends), Stewart Bell noted: “For a terrorist to confess is not to admit to sins: it is the opposite, to say proudly before God that he is not only a believer but one who has acted on his faith.”2 Sammy had been arrested in Oman in March, 2002, and eventually was returned to Canada. Before that, he had trained at the Al Farooq camp near Kandahar where a senior Canadian diplomat was recently killed. Sammy had also pledged bayat, personal allegiance, to Osama bin Laden in the summer of 2001.

Kandahar is, today, the theatre of operations for the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, on its second deployment to Afghanistan. Previously, the Patricias had fought alongside the U.S. 101st Airborne and the 10th Mountain divisions in Operation Anaconda. Canada’s special operations unit, Joint Task Force Two, has also been deployed in Afghanistan pretty much continuously since December 2001.

Parochialism alone does not dictate beginning this essay with reference to Canadian sources and actions—though it is probably fair to say that most Canadians, like most Americans, are unaware of what the Canadian military has done in support of the United States. Rather, it is to draw attention to the most significant practical feature of the story of Sammy Jabarah and the problem to which the CSIS report and Stewart Bell direct our attention. Specifically, some terrorists are of the opinion that acts of violence against civilians are “moral” and that martyrdom, even including the suicide of the alleged martyr, is “the highest morality.” Both of these matters carry implications that extend far beyond the borders of North America.

[read it all here]

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