Suicide Bombing, the Verstehen Approach

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Suicide Bombing, the Verstehen Approach

Islamophobia has emerged as one of the biggest challenge facing interreligious coexistence in many nations. The socio-political aspect has been contributed by increased incidences of atrocities where Islam-linked terror groups have been killing innocent citizens in recent days as well as the rise of radicalism. The events have strained the social relationships with many people perceiving Muslims as murders and suicide bombers. Many governments and agencies have thus directed vast resources to military intelligence, media coverage, and academic research with the focus being to understand Islamism as well as elements of jihadism (Morrison, 2007). The focus of the interventions is to prevent youth from the corrupt education they go through as well as economic challenges in a bid to reduce susceptibility to religiosity. This paper thus focuses on evaluating the aspects that expose youths to be recruited to suicide bombing. The discussion will utilize Durkheim’s view on suicide as well as Islam’s justification of suicidal acts to explain why Palestinians employ the verstehen approach of suicide bombing as well as joining terror groups.

Durkheim Views

According to Durkheim's theory, suicide is a conscious act where individuals participate in activities they are fully aware will claim their lives (Montuschi, 2003, p.56). However, he notes that the underlying factors are social events and not geographical, genetic, psychological, climate or biological forces. Suicide is a social condition that is influenced by powers beyond private and personal controls (Pickering & Walford, 2000, p.4). In his sociological realism, Durkheim argues that some people are more vulnerable when compared to the general population. In explaining the difference in susceptibility, he notes that the main causes of disparities are the level of social regulation and social integration. Individuals who are more integrated into a harmonious society have a increased likelihood of committing suicide. For instance, if persons were experiencing a common problem in the social setups, they could commit suicide as they have a voluntary attachment to the cohort facing the challenge. Social regulation entailed the feeling of being controlled, restrained, or controlled. Durkheim notes that having too much or too little social control or integration increases the likelihood of suicide. When social inclusion is inadequate, it contributes egoistic suicide, and when excess results to altruistic suicide. Lack of social regulation leads to anomic suicide and when too much, the outcome is fatalistic suicide (Gunn & Lester, 2015, p.63).

Durkheim arguments can be adopted to explain suicide bombing among the Muslim-linked terrorists. One case is an extreme social integration of individuals with their history, culture, and faith. The strong identity makes people sacrifice their lives to attack people they believe are enemies leading to altruistic suicide bombing. Excessive social integration has been used in recruiting youths through corrupt education as the case of radicalism. They engage in terrorism in the belief they are fighting oppression of their religion, culture, as well as preventing insubordination. Another aspect that explains suicide bombing is excess social regulation. Most of the Arabic nations have pluralist, totalitarian, or egalitarian authoritarian political systems that have total control over populations. Some areas are also under extreme and brutal control of terror groups such as the some parts of North Africa under Ansar al-Sharia, Northern Nigeria under Boko Haram, West Bank under Hezbollah, Gaza under Hamas, Afghanistan under Taliban, Southern Somalia under Al Shabab, and some parts of Iraq and Syria are under ISIS. Individuals living in these areas become hopeless and are likely to engage in the fatalistic suicide bombing to end phenomenological experiences of brutality.

Islamic religion as Excuse for Suicide Bombing

Martyrdom is one of the critical links between religion and terrorism. Perpetrators believe that inhumane operations are holy acts as killing non-Muslims is fulfilling a call of faith. Families and relatives are also expected to show pride in sacrificial deeds of their daughters and sons as it is an expression of Islamic spirituality. The Qur’an also promises people who exhibit the willingness to die for the sake of Islam rewards such as sexual intercourse with seventy-two virgins while those who tolerate infidels are promised eternal hellfire. The Qur’an also instructs believers to be always willing to die and kill for the Allah. The Shahid also justifies the killing of both Muslim and non-Muslims to remove all barriers to establishing Islam as the religion of the globe; Qur’an (17:33)"And do not kill the soul that Allah has forbidden, except by right." (Guidère, 2012, p.317) The Qur’an sets four approaches in which Muslims can fulfill their Jihad obligation: 1) proselytize and preach with tongue, 2) show good deeds with hands, 3) express faith in the heart, 4) confront infidels with the sword (Noorani, 2002, p.4).

Conditions in the Palestinian Homelands that May Promote “Jihad

Occupants of the Palestine live in extreme poverty with the median income of the population being estimated at $25 per month. People experience persistent suffering with most people living without basic needs. Continuous conflicts and lack of a stable government have also contributed to the poor state of infrastructures, lack of sanitary systems, inadequate water supply, and food shortages. The state of hopelessness has made people develop a strong attachment to the religion, an aspect that fits Durkheim’s observation of altruistic suicide. Upon achieving their mission of killing infidels and enemies, families are rewarded with $25,000, an amount that can take a lifetime to earn in Palestine. The fund is always available where rich countries such as Iran have been supporting developing countries in a bid to promote both Muslim unity and jihadism. Families praise individuals who perpetrate inhumane acts by celebrating and immortalizing them upon death as they have accomplished the highest goal of a Muslim (Asad, 2007, p.57).

Another aspect that is promoting Jihadism in Palestine is the culture. They perceive Jews and their supporters as their enemies, and this has resulted in a collectivistic culture where Palestinians denounces individualism and focuses on fighting the common enemy. More so, life in Palestine is very hard because of lack of opportunities leading to high rate of unemployment, which had made many people believe their destiny is leading an impoverished life. The challenges and religion have thus created an optimum environment for Jihadism (Israeli, 2008, p.79). Despite the political and economic difficulties, religion offers hope as Muslims believe that true life begin when one dies. The reward for martyrdom is an incredible honor that makes people be suicide bombers choose death as it has the double advantage of avoiding worldly hardships and attaining honor. The argument is supported by Durkheim’s views of fatalistic suicide and willingness to join terrorist groups.


Suicide bombing falls under Durkheim’s views of fatalistic suicide and altruistic suicide. Perpetrators of terrorism are deeply integrated into the collectivist culture as well as religious beliefs as a source of hope and escape route from prevailing conditions in ordinary life. Religion thus offers a course for a better life after death where the Qur’an endorses martyrdom. The society also lives under intense social regulation where individuals experience oppression. Suicide bombing has thus been the only avenue poor Palestinians have to bring honor, glory, as well as respectable status to their families.