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  • Author: Aisha Ahmad
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: In recent years, jihadists across the world have transformed their gendered violence, shocking the world by breaking from prior taboos and even celebrating abuses that they had previously prohibited. This behavior is surprising because jihadists represent a class of insurgents that are deeply bound by rules and norms. For jihadists, deviating from established Islamist doctrines is no easy feat. What then explains these sudden transformations in the rules and norms governing jihadist violence? An inductive investigation of contemporary jihadist violence in Pakistan and Nigeria reveals a new theory of jihadist normative evolution. Data from these cases show that dramatic changes in jihadist violence occur when an external trigger creates an expanded political space for jihadist entrepreneurs to do away with normative constraints on socially prohibited types of violence. As these jihadist leaders capitalize on the triggers, they are able to encourage a re-socialization process within their ranks, resulting in the erosion of previously held taboos, the adoption of proscribed behaviors, and the emergence of toxic new norms.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Gender Issues, Islam, Terrorism, Women, Gender Based Violence
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Middle East, West Asia
  • Author: Valerie M. Hudson, Bradley Thayer
  • Publication Date: 04-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Security
  • Institution: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: Theoretical insights from evolutionary psychology and biology can help academics and policymakers better understand both deep and proximate causes of Islamic suicide terrorism. The life sciences can contribute explanations that probe the influence of the following forces on the phenomenon of Islamic suicide terrorism: high levels of gender differentiation, the prevalence of polygyny, and the obstruction of marriage markets delaying marriage for young adult men in the modern Middle East. The influence of these forces has been left virtually unexplored in the social sciences, despite their presumptive application in this case. Life science explanations should be integrated with more conventional social science explanations, which include international anarchy, U.S. hegemony and presence in the Middle East, and culturally molded discourse sanctioning suicide terrorism in the Islamic context. Such a consilient approach, melding the explanatory power of the social and life sciences, offers greater insight into the causal context of Islamic fundamentalist suicide terrorism, the motivation of suicide terrorists, and effective approaches to subvert this form of terrorism.
  • Topic: Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East