The phenomenon of suicide terrorism is perhaps one of the most lethal issues in contemporary politics, and although numerous publications in recent years have addressed the topic, there is no comprehensive work that summarizes its causes. Pedahzur's edited volume attempts to fill this void, but the results are disappointing. The book features a wide range of articles, but only one of them (by Muhammed M. Hafes) actually tries to address the roots of suicide terrorism.
Pedahzur and Arie Perliger's chapter is misleading and even indicative of an ignorance of the phenomenon of what they call suicide terrorism. The computerized figures and data they marshal do not lead us to an understanding of the issue since such information deflects us from asking the right questions. Rather their data leads us to a dead-end and inaction. This approach is one of the malaises of academia today as it is embodied by the postmodernist and relativist approaches, which put the blame on the victim and not on the aggressor.
The origins of Islamic terrorism are mainly religious and cultural and rooted in a combination of the Islamic religion, based on the Qur'an and the Hadith—which supply the motivation and the justification—as well as in Arab cultural traditions. But, except in the article by Mohammed M. Hafez, these causes are absent. The origins of suicide terrorism are not social or economic, brought on by humiliation or by "brutal occupation and state terror," as Mia Bloom writes in her essay, but rather by the political-ideological characteristics of the populations that support the use of the tactic.
That much should be obvious from the simple observation of the societies in which suicide terrorism remains so popular. The occurrence of a declaration like that of Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, that "We are going to win because they love life and we love death" is inconceivable in Western culture—and it has nothing to do with the greater affluence of Westerners versus the Lebanese Shi‘a. The case of India and Pakistan is a crystal-clear illumination: Both were under British imperialist rule, but one has become democratic and is thriving economically, and the other is a terrorist-jihadi state and backward politically and economically. If one simply reads, listens, and watches what terrorist and religious leaders write and say, the root sources become obvious. Unfortunately, Westerners tend to ignore, deny, rationalize, and appease, instead of correctly defining and fighting back.
Root Causes of Suicide Terrorism has other problems: The absence of page numbers in the footnotes is problematic, even unacceptable, as is the absence of an introduction (to give a framework to the chapters that follow) and a summary (to offer forward-looking proposals).
Our knowledge of the root causes of suicide terrorism, unfortunately, has not been enriched by this book.