Professor Adam Lankford: Parallels Between Suicide Terrorists and Rampage Shooters
Criminal Justice Professor
The University of Alabama
I read an interesting IHT opinion piece a couple of days ago by Adam Lankford, "What Drives Suicidal Mass Killers" (New York Times, December 17, 2012), an article in which he reports finding surprising parallels between suicidal mass killers and Muslim jihad 'martyrs':
Over the last three years, I have examined interviews, case studies, suicide notes, martyrdom videos and witness statements and found that suicide terrorists are indeed suicidal in the clinical sense . . . . Although suicide terrorists may share the same beliefs as the organizations whose propaganda they spout, they are primarily motivated by the desire to kill and be killed -- just like most rampage shooters . . . . [W]e should think of many rampage shooters as nonideological suicide terrorists. In some cases, they claim to be fighting for a cause . . . but, as with suicide terrorists, their actions usually stem from . . . [a] deeper and more personal . . . . triad of factors that sets these killers apart. The first is that they are generally struggling with mental health problems that have produced their desire to die . . . . The second factor is a deep sense of victimization and belief that the killer's life has been ruined by someone else, who has bullied, oppressed or persecuted him . . . . The key is that the aggrieved individual feels that he has been terribly mistreated and that violent vengeance is justified. In many cases, the target for revenge becomes broader and more symbolic than a single person, so . . . . the urge to commit suicide becomes a desire for murder-suicide . . . . The third factor is the desire to acquire fame and glory through killing . . . . Attackers who commit murder-suicide in public are . . . brazen and unusual. Most suicide terrorists believe they will be honored and celebrated as "martyrs" after their deaths and, sure enough, terrorist organizations produce martyrdom videos and memorabilia so that other desperate souls will volunteer to blow themselves up . . . . [R]ampage shooters have often been captivated by the idea that they will become posthumously famous.This is interesting, and not insignificant, for it undercuts the Islamist position that 'martyrdom operations' are not suicide missions and thereby entails that these are forbidden by sharia . . . not that I expect Islamists to accept the findings of an 'infidel' scientist.
One question, however, remains for me: Are the causes of the 'mental illness' also parallel, or does Islamist ideology perhaps drive some individuals insane? Islamism is a grievance ideology, forever blaming external foes for Islam's problems. Anyone who's taken the trouble to look into the matter will attest that Islamists typically blame the Jews, primarily, for all the evils in the world, and they invariably cite the forged documents known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as if these fakes were proof of Jewish aims to dominate the world. Islamists certainly encourage "a deep sense of victimization" among their followers, and I happen to think that Islamism gives rise to extremely frustrated, unhappy individuals "struggling with mental health problems." Moreover, Islamist ideology not only promises that suicide bombers will be "honored and celebrated as 'martyrs' after their deaths," it also promises an eternal afterlife of endless sensual pleasure of drinking and whoring. In effect, these 'suicide' killers get to keep on living, even living it up!
I therefore think that Professor Lankford needs to take his investigation at least one step further and determine if Islamism produces the clinical state of mind that he describes . . . or perhaps he has already, in his book.