Believe it or not, terrorists who commit violent acts believe they are making the world a better place. However, while it’s common to label them as brainwashed or psychologically disturbed, ISIS fighters, suicide bombers and Islamic fundamentalists are not usually drawn from the ranks of the mentally ill, as evidence shows. So why do people become terrorists? Why is the jihad’s bug so contagious for so many youngsters? And what role does religious education or faith play in motivating them? Anthropologist Scott Atran has spent much of his career interviewing terrorists of various ages, social and geographical backgrounds, and he has come to some simple but startling conclusions. Hear from him how ordinary people become terrorists and what we can do about it.
Scott Atran is Director of Research in Anthropology at France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (NCSR), as well as Research Professor at the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan. He is among the most innovative thinkers in the field of terrorism and radicalisation. Scott Atran promotes theory-based field research and consequently done fieldwork with terrorists, Islamic fundamentalists, political leaders, as well as disaffected youth. Atran’s work on the ideology and social evolution of transnational terrorism (based on fieldwork with mujahedin and supporters in Europe, the Middle East, Central and Southeast Asia, and North Africa) has challenged common assumptions. He is co-founder of Artis International, a scientific research group dedicated to improving understanding of violence and conflict through on-site research, and founding fellow of the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict at the University of Oxford, which facilitates research and training on situations of political violence. He has worked with the UN Security Council negotiating conflicts in the Middle East and looking at Islamic extremism, the ways in which it functions and how to best act against it.
L’Etat Islamique est une révolution (2016)
Talking To The Enemy: Sacred values, violent extremism, and what it means to be human (2011)
In Gods We Trust: The evolutionary landscape of religion (2002)
Read Scott Atran's articles in The Guardian here
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