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Terrorism is a product of strategic choices and psychological forces: Prof. Adam Dolnik

There is something more than mere psychological forces which motivates people to become terrorists. Terrorism is a strategic choice opted by the terrorists to correct their perceived [and stated] sense of the deprivations, grievances and injustices. This was stated by Prof. Adam Dolnik while addressing a session on “What do we know about why do people become terrorists?” organized by the Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) on January 15, 2009. Prof. Dolnik is Director Research Programs and Senior Research Fellow at Center for Transnational Crime Prevention (CTCP) at the University of Wollongong in Australia.While explaining the limitations in terrorism research Prof. Dolnik said every researcher uses a different definition of terrorism, which makes it essentially very difficult to build on other peoples’ conclusion, and also confuses the ‘concept’ and its causative factors. Secondly most of the studies related to this field are very descriptive and event-driven in their nature.

Meanwhile the ‘fire-fighter approach’ to study the subject and the western bias are also a hurdle to lead to the study of how and why people become terrorists. At the same time enclosed circular research system, difference in statistics and limits of retrospective account of the events create hurdles in the field of terrorism research.

Professor Dolnik also elaborated the typology of the approaches, used to study the factors of terrorism, in terms of psychological approaches, physiological approaches, root-causes narratives, organizational/group study approaches and social network analysis. “Organizational approaches argue that terrorisms is a “group phenomena”. It does not occur in isolation, it’s not individual people, it’s not a question that why individual become terrorist, its about the group dynamics that facilitates the radicalization. Sageman also tried to study the terrorism at group level in his ‘Social Network Analysis’ focusing on ‘how’ people become terrorists instead of studying why they do so”, he commented.

Throwing light on homegrown terrorism in some western countries, Mr. Dolnik mentioned four stages: First pre-radicalization period, secondly cognitive openings, thirdly self-radicalization and finally the concept of Jihadization. “Pre-radicalization is a stage before becoming radical. Cognitive opening is a situation where we are ready to take another look at what we believe and it completely changes our perspective. It is frequently triggered by thematic events that happen.

It could be events from television reports or divorce of your parents and so on. So cognitive opening is really a key for people to become radicalized. Self-radicalization mostly happens at home when people watch different web sites, videos, profiles etc., at computers and on Internet. Finally the self-radicalization leads to jihadization”, he concluded.