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Writer explores why people turn to terrorism

‘Understanding Terrorism’ by Yaser Esmailzadeh explores the reason why people embrace terrorist acts. (Muhaimin Marwan @ FMT Lifestyle)

PETALING JAYA: The spectre of terrorism is something that Malaysians thankfully do not have to deal with on a daily basis.

Yet, it is said that eternal vigilance is the price of safety; and just because something has not happened here does not mean it never will.

A recent publication by Gerakbudaya aims at shining some light on the complexities of terrorism, as well as helping readers understand its root causes.

“Understanding Terrorism: Concepts, Theories, and Causes” was published just this September and it is quite the intriguing and deep read.

Its author, Yaser Esmailzadeh, a University of Tehran researcher, has been studying terrorism for years and much of the book are the conclusions of his research.

Yaser Esmailzadeh

While “Understanding Terrorism” is written by an academic, its 150 pages are quite accessible by an educated layman.

At the end of every section, basically chapters, a summary of its content is compiled and arranged in tables.

However, it is better to forgo this summary and to read instead the longer text detailing the author’s findings, for his book is quite an eye-opening and perspective-changing piece of work.

“Understanding Terrorism” is made up of four sections, each dealing with a different aspect of terrorism. Section 1, for example, introduces and defines terrorism. Did you know that terrorism is arguably much older than you realise? According to Yaser, terrorism has roots tracing back to ancient and medieval times.

Section 2, “Concepts of Terrorism”, deals with how the groundwork of terrorism is formed from a psychological point of view. People who are fascinated by the human psyche are likely to be drawn to this highly theoretical section.

What causes terrorism? Section 3 answers this question and as it turns out, there are many, many reasons why people resort to terrorism. Yaser names politics, economics, psychology, society and culture as possible causes and breaks down each to explain them in great detail.

The final section deals with how terrorism is likely to evolve in the future. Alarm bells are likeliest to go off reading this part.

While it may be frightening to contemplate how to resist a new form of terrorism, the author ends on an encouraging note, proposing ideas on how to counter these new threats.

The 2002 Bali bomb attack left 202 people dead and 209 others injured. (AP pic)

After all, it is not just a simple explanation of what terrorism is and how to counter it, but an in-depth exploration of the circumstances which allow terrorism to take hold.

Speaking with FMT Lifestyle from Tehran, Yaser said that his study of terrorism was driven by both academic interest and real-world events.

“I have been specialising in the field of terrorism and political violence studies for the past 12 years,” he said.

“As a scholar in political science at multiple levels, I found myself naturally drawn to this critical area of study.”

Being a devout Iranian Muslim, Yaser also cited the misuse of religion by extremist groups. He also said that the human cost of terrorism has profoundly impacted him.

“Understanding Terrorism” is thus his part in helping to educate people on terrorism. “In doing so, I hope to play a part in shaping a more peaceful and secure world.”

To address terrorism, Yaser said that understanding its complexities is necessary and his book helps readers do just that.

While confirming his book best benefits policymakers, security professionals and fellow academics, he added that the general public can also learn a thing or two from it.

“By fostering a deeper understanding of terrorism, it empowers readers to engage in informed discussions and contribute to the societal discourse on this critical issue.”

He also emphasised that while religious extremism can result in terrorism, it is not the sole cause and such oversimplifications are counterproductive.

While terrorism in Malaysia is largely a non-entity, Yaser still recommends caution as terrorism “is a global issue that transcends geographical boundaries”.

Referring to how some Malaysians have been radicalised online, he said the government ought to be concerned by the unlimited reach the internet offers extremist groups who are recruiting new terrorists.

“It’s crucial for governments, including Malaysia, to be proactive in monitoring and combating this threat.”

“This includes promoting digital literacy, investing in cybersecurity, and developing counter-narratives to extremist ideologies.”

“Understanding Terrorism: Concepts, Theories, and Causes” can be ordered directly from Gerakbudaya here. Alternatively, visit a Gerakbudaya outlet to purchase your copy.

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