Skip to content

Terrorism and the Law of Supply and Demand

Interview With Massimo Introvigne, Sociologist of Religion

TURIN, Italy, JAN. 21, 2005 (Zenit) - The terrorist who immolates himself does not see his act as suicide but rather as a meritorious act, contends an expert on religions.

"Terrorist organizations do not carry out attacks just because they like to or because they are moved by an apocalyptic will to destroy," says Massimo Introvigne, founder and director of the Center of Studies on New Religions. "They operate as 'industries' of terrorism according to the normal cost-profit business logic."

With Lawrence Iannaccone, Introvigne is author of "Il Mercato dei Martiri. L'Industria del Terrorismo Suicida" (The Martyrs' Market: The Industry of Suicide Terrorism), published in Italy by Lindau.

In this interview with us, Introvigne focused on the book, which analyzes the phenomenon of suicide terrorism from the viewpoint of the so-called religious economy, namely, a market in which supply and demand come into play.

Q: Is a terrorist, therefore, not a martyr?

Introvigne: "Martyres non facit poena sed causa," the Fathers of the Church said. They are martyrs not because of the way they die, but because of the cause for which they die.

Given that, as the magisterium of the Church teaches, and as the solemn declarations of the United Nations confirm -- endorsed by almost all the countries of the world -- terrorism is always an illicit means -- regardless of the terrorist's objective. It is an evil cause and those who serve it are not martyrs.

Even from the Muslim point of view, it is, in fact, very doubtful if the suicide terrorist has the right to the title "shahid," martyr.

In "The Martyrs' Market" we have published as an appendix a "fatwa," religious edict, of Saudi circles close to Osama bin Laden, which tries to show that it is martyrdom. But in the book we have emphasized that, to come to this conclusion, one must force the sources of the Koran and the Sunna.

Q: Why do they commit suicide?

Introvigne: Although objectively, for the reasons I have just explained, suicide terrorism is not martyrdom, subjectively, it is so for the terrorist.

What is more, interviewing years ago exponents of Hamas in the West Bank, I noted that their main concern was to be really sure that what they proposed to do was not suicide, as it is a gesture that is prohibited by Islam and would send them to hell.

Their leaders encourage them with theological arguments that convince them, even if they are doubtful and derived from originally Shiite sources and translated, not without difficulty, to the Sunni doctrinal environment.

So the "martyr," who is not so for us, really thinks that he is carrying out a meritorious act from the religious point of view.

Q: If poverty and despair are not the causes that lead terrorists to immolate themselves, what moves them?

Introvigne: In the book we say that explanations based on poverty and socioeconomic despair make no sense: Many suicide terrorists are well-off.

Of course, one can speak of "cultural despair," but it is such a vague category that it explains everything and nothing.

Others speak of "brainwashing" and mental manipulation, categories that in general I don't share, as I explain in my book "Brainwashing, Myth or Reality?" which is difficult to apply to someone like Mohammed Atta, the head of the September 11, 2001, commando, a university student, with an honor's degree from Hamburg, who never lived in a training camp or in a Muslim fundamentalist environment. Was he brainwashed only with Friday sermons in the mosque?

Iannaccone and I are convinced that all these "explanations" are the result of an anti-religious prejudice and of political or psychological reductionism by which phenomena that appear as religious cannot have religious causes. According to this view, religion, as Marx said, is only a "superstructure" of the real structure, which is economic for Marx himself, and psychological for Freud.

Of course, no phenomenon should be reduced to a sole cause, and to pretend that the motivations of the suicide terrorist are only religious would also be a caricature. But religion plays a big role.

Q: Is there an "industry of suicide terrorism," as you indicate?

Introvigne: Yes. We distinguish between the motivations of individuals, of which I have spoken, and the motivations of organizations.

In many cultures there are people for whom the way of interpreting religion -- Islam in particular -- predisposes them to acts of violence including suicide terrorism. But there are not "businesses" [and] "industries" everywhere, which respond to a possible desire, offering recruitment and the possibility to become authentic terrorists.

There is no Muslim terrorism in Senegal or Mali, countries with many fervent Muslims, who are also poor. There is terrorism, although not extensive, in Turkey, where Muslim terrorists hit foreigners or terrorists of a Communist or Kurdish separatist vein, whose motivations are not religious.

There is terrorism in Saudi Arabia, a rich country, in Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, in the Italian, Spanish, French [and] German diaspora, because in these countries there are organizations capable of recruiting potential terrorists.

Of course, there is also terrorism in Chechnya, Palestine, Kashmir. But al-Qaida recruits almost all its members in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Muslim immigrants in Europe -- hence, not in war zones.

Q: You say that it is better to address the "supply" of terrorism rather than the "demand." Can you explain what you mean?

Introvigne: Whoever thinks that suicide terrorism is born of poverty believes that Marshall Plans to eliminate poverty in Palestine or elsewhere will solve the problem. While making it clear that these plans are useful and precise -- but for other reasons -- our hypothesis is that they have little to do with the solution of the problem of terrorism.

As we have pointed out, most but not all terrorists come from well-off families and also from rich countries.

In fact, the solutions that are often proposed are limited to removing from the terrorist's head the idea of becoming a suicide "martyr." It is possible to do something at this level, but very slowly and with results that will have to be assessed long-term.

Our hypothesis is that during many years young people will continue to be born who interpret Islam in such a way that in their minds and hearts a demand for extremism will be born, which could even lead to terrorism.

This will happen even in the best socioeconomic conditions and in areas where there is no war and in which there are no terrorist demands or Western occupations such as Saudi Arabia and Indonesia -- I am not speaking here of the islands or separatist areas of the Indonesian archipelago, where many terrorists come from Jakarta.

What is possible to achieve in a shorter time is that this demand not find a supply; that is, it is possible to uproot the organizations that give formation and training to terrorists. They can be blocked at the military level, a fact that cannot be neglected, as some "nice souls" of pacifism would like.

And it is imperative to limit them at the financial level, as they continue to receive sums of money too easily, generally from "humanitarian" organizations that serve as cover for terrorists.

The book attempts to demonstrate, in particular, that terrorist organizations don't organize attacks for the sheer pleasure of carrying them out, or because they are moved by an apocalyptic will to destroy. They work as "industries" of terrorism, according to the typical business logic of cost-profit.

Political benefits are proposed and are sometimes obtained. Hamas has made more than one peace plan fail in Palestine. The March 11 attack had an effect on the Spanish elections, etc. The moment they realize that suicide attacks are not "appropriate" and give no results but, instead, are counterproductive, terrorist organizations change their strategy.

However, the answer to suicide terrorism at the level of supply is, in the ultimate sense, a political problem.


Catholic Online CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000



Terrorism, Religion, Suicide, Muslim, Martyr, Arab

More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb

Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
Inform - Inspire - Ignite

Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained

Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need

Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online

Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

The California Network
Inspiring streaming service

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Catholic Online Singles
Safe, secure Catholic dating

The California Studios
World-class post production service

Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

School Teachers
Teacher lesson plans & resources

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2018 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2018 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.