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Resisting Indoctrination to Violence by Religion-Based Terror Groups with Social Marketing

Posted: 27 Mar 2010 Last revised: 1 Aug 2013

Paromita Goswami

Shiv Nadar University

Date Written: May 7, 2009


‘Imagine there's no Heaven…No hell below us…Imagine there's no countries…Nothing to kill or die for…And no religion too…Imagine all the people Living life in peace’ - John Lennon, 1971.

If you are in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan or Israel, the next time you go shopping for your groceries, you might be dead in a terror attack: no matter whether you are rich or famous, or poor and unknown. An act of violence derided as terrorism by some, may be respected as a martyr in a liberation struggle to another (Turk, 2004). In this proposal, I shall focus only on religion-based terrorism. As far as religious reasons for violence are concerned, the source of violence is more than perception of threat to religion and could range from issues such a power dynamics in terrorist organizations, ethnicity and political power (Witte, 2007). Most major religions sanction violence in the form of animal sacrifice for therapeutic reasons by evoking and venting violent impulse in general (Freud as quoted in Juergensmeyer, 2008, Staal, 1983). Such ritual violence performs a positive role in society by spending violence on victims whose death shall not provoke reprisals but in the process releasing the hostile feelings of individuals towards members of their own community and achieving greater social cohesion (Girard, 1977). Indiscriminate killing of innocent people for religious reasons rarely involve psychopathology or material deprivation and perpetrators of terror are likely to be respected individuals from stable family and community ties who are likely to be honored in their communities rather than be condemned for their violence (Silke, 1988; Turk, 2004; Hassan, 2002; Sageman, 2004; Taylor and Qualye, 1994; Rasch, 1979). Terror attacks are likely to be a response to feelings of indignity and frustration developed in repressive political environments (Krueger and Maleckova, 2003) and strategic, religious, political and other objectives act on the mind of a terrorist to transform humiliating defeat into victory over victimization and assumption of the divine (Prof J.S. Piven as quoted by Hill and Kinney, 2007/08). Terrorists do not see themselves as instigators of harm but rather as individuals reacting to the provocative abuses and injustices of others (Silke, 2003). Terror organizations systematically target individuals who might get indoctrinated to violence and are likely to target shy, serious youth, slightly aloof from the crowd and like the sacrificial victim of religious rituals, perceived as a symbol of disorder, from an uncertain category, and sublimely wacky in order that their sacrifice is seen as pure, their almost un-human holiness making them right candidates for martyrdom (Krammer, 1991; Juergensmeyer, 2008; Hawley, 1994). The sacrificial victim is said to represent destruction in a battle of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ and war organizes social history in a storyline of persecution, conflict and the hope of redemption, liberation and conquest (Juergensmeyer, 1991). Although there is no way to know how exactly the process of indoctrination to violence takes place, Juergensmeyer (2008) estimate that after targeting a prospective terrorist, terror organizations identify their enemies, subhumanize them by denying them personhood and preferably give them a faceless collective enemy to target, and lastly satanize/humiliate/belittle the enemy through a process of delegitimization (Sprinzak, 1991). The role of persuasion in the struggle against terrorism is an under-researched area as pointed out by RAND researchers Cragin and Gerwerhr (2005). My research vision is to devise a social marketing intervention to resist the attempt of terror groups to turn individuals into terrorists.

Keywords: Terrorism, Religion-based violence, social marketing

Suggested Citation

Goswami, Paromita, Resisting Indoctrination to Violence by Religion-Based Terror Groups with Social Marketing (May 7, 2009). Available at SSRN:

Paromita Goswami (Contact Author)

Shiv Nadar University ( email )

NH-91, Village- Chithera, Tehsil-Dadri,
Dist. Gautam Buddha Nagar, UP
Gautam Buddha Nagar, Uttar Pradesh

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