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Published in the 1-15 Aug 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

"Terrorists are not mad": British psychologist

By M. Ghazali Khan

London: A forensic psychologist has said that terrorists are not crazy and that they are driven by a wish to punish the State for previous violent incidents.
Presenting his findings at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dr Andrew Silke, a UN advisor and forensic psychologist at University of Leicester (UK), said that "There is substantial evidence that people decide to join a terrorist group when they have been involved in a demonstration where police used excessive violence."

He rejected the myth that terrorist are psychopaths. "Many psychiatrists and psychologists have written that terrorists suffer from delusions and are psychopaths, but the people who make these claims have never met a terrorist face to face." 

Dr Silke claimed that analysis of transcripts of legal proceedings against 180 members of Al-Qaeda and interviews with other terrorist groups dispelled the "widespread view that terrorists are isolated, vulnerable young men with paranoid or borderline personality disorders". 

He said that this view is, "entirely perpetuated by experts relying on second-hand reports".

Dr Silke revealed that psychologists who have met a terrorist didn't find any evidence of this. On the contrary, he said that psychologists who have met terrorists face to face found them "..fairly ordinary" people who "certainly aren't mad."

He also said, "TV footage increasingly acts as a catalyst. Footage of a father and son cowering in a house immediately before the boy was shot dead by Israeli troops in Netzarim…in 2000 triggered a staggering increase in violence."
One wonders how the anti-terror crusaders will receive Dr Silke's diagnosis. To date anyone who has dared confess that he/she understood the anger of Palestinians has not been treated kindly. Among them is the British member of Parliament, Ms Jenny Tonge. In January this year she was sacked by her party leader Charles Kennedy from Liberal Democratic Party’s front-bench for her comments that "if she was a Palestinian she would have considered becoming a suicide bomber."

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