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Young, R.M. (2017). Fundamentalism and Terrorism. Free Associations, 18(2):65-85.

(2017). Free Associations, 18(2):65-85

Fundamentalism and Terrorism Related Papers

Robert M. Young

Under what circumstances and with what rationale do people kill and maim one another and, in particular, innocent people and children, in the name of a higher cause? This occurred in Oklahoma City, Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, former Yugoslavia and, of course, New York and Washington. If we cast our net more widely we can add Rwanda (where about a million died) and Iraq, and if we broaden our scope again we can include world wars, civil wars and dictatorships, for example in Uganda, Chile, Argentina and the history of pogroms, the Spanish Inquisition, slavery in the Americas, the genocide of the native Americans.

In Oklahoma City the higher cause was the Militia movement in America, seeking to preserve a special reading of individual rights in the face of the federal government, Jews and the United Nations. In Dar es Salaam, Nairobi and probably in New York and Washington it was Moslem fundamentalism under the sponsorship of Osama Bin Laden, while in the Balkans it was ethnic cleansing.

The killings in each of these settings had the keynote of purification, the elimination of enemies who were considered evil. Extreme terrorists seek to wash the impure world clean with the blood of innocent victims. The broader examples I mentioned have that theme, too, whether in tribal terms in Africa, anti-communism in South America, the persecution of Jews as infidel non-Christians, the rooting out of heresy from Catholicism, the mastery of blacks and the conquering of Indians in the name of European and putatively higher civilization.

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