Hitting the target in the war on terrorism
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Hitting the Target in the “War on Terrorism”. The case for introducing the term “RIF” into modern vocabulary. Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. Department of Psychology State University of New York Buffalo, New York 14260-4110 www.PsychologyofTerrorism.com. The Problem.

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Hitting the target in the war on terrorism l.jpg

Hitting the Target in the “War on Terrorism”

The case for introducing the term “RIF” into modern vocabulary

Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D.Department of PsychologyState University of New YorkBuffalo, New York 14260-4110www.PsychologyofTerrorism.com


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The Problem

  • Radical Islamic fundamentalist terrorists are constantly in the media undeniably posing one of the greatest threats to world peace and stability

  • Reference to this type of terrorist is usually shorted to “Muslim terrorist” or “Islamic terrorist” rather than using the full, more accurate descriptor

  • This promotes inappropriate generalization that has adverse consequences for Muslims and for non-Muslims alike

Copyright 2008 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. www.PsychologyofTerrorism.com


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Identifying the Real Target

Muslims

active and tacit supporters of terrorist activities

Conservative Muslims

Islamic Fundamentalists

Radical Islamic Fundamentalists

Radical Islamic Fundamentalist Terrorists

Copyright 2008 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. www.PsychologyofTerrorism.com


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  • Radical Islamic Fundamentalists willing to use terrorism to achieve their goals represent a very small portion of the Muslim population

    • Muslims ≈ 1.6 billion worldwide

    • Conservative Muslims ≈ 70%

    • Islamic Fundamentalists ≈ 1/3 or < 25%

    • Radical Islamic Fundamentalists ≈ 1/3 or < 10%

    • Radical Islamic Fundamentalist Terrorists ≈ 1/3 or < 3%

That’s still 48 million possible Muslim terrorists!

But that leaves 1,552,000,000 non-terrorist Muslims!!!

Copyright 2008 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. www.PsychologyofTerrorism.com


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  • It is important to maintain the distinction between the religion of Islam and the relatively few whose radical interpretation of their religion leads to terrorist activities

  • Obvious parallels exists with various “Christian” groups

    • KKK “defending the Christian way of life”

    • violent antiabortionists “saving the souls of the unborn”

    • these terrorist groups represent a very small proportion of those claiming to be “Christian”

    • the vast majority view their actions as non-Christian

Copyright 2008 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. www.PsychologyofTerrorism.com


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What’s in a word? religion of Islam and the relatively few whose radical interpretation of their religion leads to terrorist activities

  • Words have very powerful symbolic meaning

    • not only cognitive meaning

    • but also emotional meaning and impact

  • Conditioning effects can lead to inappropriate generalization at an emotional level even when the cognitive level maintains the appropriate distinction

Muslim Terrorists = Terrorists = Muslims

Copyright 2008 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. www.PsychologyofTerrorism.com


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Simple Associative Conditioning religion of Islam and the relatively few whose radical interpretation of their religion leads to terrorist activities

  • Muslim terrorist – boom!

  • Muslim terrorist – boom!

  • Muslim terrorist – boom!

  • Terrorist = boom!

  • Muslim = boom!

media reports

private discussions

nightmares

Conditioned Emotional Response (CER)

CERs change reactivity, e.g., increase tendency to overreact

CERs change reactions, e.g., increase tendency to react aversely

CERs generate motivation, e.g., act to terminate or reduce the anxiety

Copyright 2008 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. www.PsychologyofTerrorism.com


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  • The terrorists would like to blur the distinction between Muslims and extremists

    • it helps alienate Muslims from the West

  • But many Muslims resent this prejudice

    • and it is counterproductive in fighting terrorism

      • it reinforces the notion of a Western anti-Muslim bias thereby ‘recruiting’ more terrorists and terrorist sympathizers

      • it dilutes the impact of counter-terrorism efforts

“Kill them all and let Allah sort them out!”

Copyright 2008 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. www.PsychologyofTerrorism.com


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Copyright 2008 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. www.PsychologyofTerrorism.com


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A New Word describing the problem

  • Perhaps one of the most important words added to the English vocabulary in the New Millennium

  • RIF: Radical Islamic Fundamentalist

  • Communication often demands a succinct method of describing relationships and events

  • Rather than use the term “Muslim terrorist,” the term “RIF terrorist” is preferable to minimize inappropriate conditioning and the development of counterproductive CERs

RIF terrorist = boom! Muslim boom!

Copyright 2008 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. www.PsychologyofTerrorism.com


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Non-RIF Islamic Terrorists? describing the problem

  • A few other exclusively or near-exclusively Muslim terrorist groups exist who are not fundamentalists or who have geopolitical rather than socio-religious goals

    • Hamas for the “liberation of Palestine”

    • Chechen separatists for “homeland independence”

    • Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for an independent “Kurdish state”

  • Because these groups have primarily secular objectives with limited geographic impact, the use of the term “Islamic terrorists” to describe them adds little to an understanding of the nature or motives of their terrorist activities

  • Therefore, the term “RIF terrorists” remains descriptive of the predominant group-profile threatening peace and stability worldwide

Copyright 2008 Michael A. Bozarth, Ph.D. www.PsychologyofTerrorism.com


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