The Role of Anti-Terror Measures in the Development of ‘Islamic’ Terrorism
Post-September 2001, academic attention on ‘Islamic’ terrorism is increasingly concentrating upon national and global security, political instability within majority-Muslim nation-states and perceived civilizational conflict between religio-cultural entities. Attempts to explain contemporary ‘Islamic’ terrorism within social science have tended to focus upon processes associated with increasing globalization and interlinked forms of cultural, economic, political and social changes. Clearly these are important, but many predate the emergence of the terrorist groups under investigation, failing to account for the prominent role of relatively highly educated and wealthy terrorists. Underlying these accounts is an assumption that the rectification of poverty, introduction of democracy, universal education and improved proactive security arrangements will eradicate terrorism. However, the measures being implemented by national and international actors to improve security and address militancy and terrorism are contributing to an amplification of the beliefs and behaviour they are seeking to prevent and change. In other words, recent terrorism is in part an unintended consequence of intentionally preventative measures.
This paper focuses on the impact of anti-terror measures on identity formation and in particular the relationship between such measures and the development of al-Qa’ida and associated groups. The impact of government policies designed to undermine the appeal of radical Islam within nation-states and actions undertaken in association with the American-led war on terror are assessed. The sociological concept of the ‘unintended consequences’ of intentional action is invoked here to help identify the social processes underlying recent terrorist activity. These processes are contributing to the ongoing creation and maintenance of ‘Islamic’ terrorism across a range of different nation-states.
Keywords: Al-Qa’ida, Identity Formation, ‘Islamic’ Terrorism, Militant Islam, Unintentional Consequences, War on Terror
Dr Stephen Vertigans
Sociology lecturer, School of Applied Social Studies, Robert Gordon University
Dr Philip Sutton
Lecturer in Sociology, Applied Social Studies, Robert Gordon University