The Verstehen Approach|
March 23, 2011
Suicide Bombing, the Verstehen Approach
This paper will explore suicide bombing through the verstehen approach, a look at the bomber from his point of view, by stepping into his shoes. We will look into Durkheim’s view of suicide and attempt to relate Durkheimian thought to the bombings in the Middle East. In addition to Durkheim’s view a glimpse will be taken into the conditions that might prompt suicide bombings and how they are excusable under Islamic religion.
To begin, one must define Durkheim’s view of suicide. According to his theory, there are two major causes of suicide: (1) Social integration, individuals voluntarily attaching themselves to a group or society of which they are members and (2) social regulation which involves individuals being restrained, constrained, or controlled by a group or society of which they are members. Individuals with too little or too much social integration or with too little or too much social regulation tend to be more likely to kill themselves. Durkheim sees too little social integration leading to egoistic suicide and too much leading to altruistic suicide. Too little social regulation leads to anomic suicide while too much leads to fatalistic suicide. (Thio, 2010) This paper will delve into altruistic suicide, the sacrificing of life for the good of the culture, in the context of a suicide bomber.
Imagine three generations born in the same cramped room. Their only alternative is to survive or not to survive. This will to survive comes from being under the weight of being a people without a land and without a promise of tomorrow. Palestinian refugees are the world’s longest suffering and largest population. They have lived in exile for decades, most of them within 100 km of their original homes. The homes in which they live are buildings crammed
together, often with no sanitary conditions. Because of the sheer number of the buildings little natural light makes its way into the camps and there is inadequate temperature control. Life is not easy growing up in a refugee camp. Poverty, limited access to education and few opportunities outside the camp leave these people full of hopelessness and despair. (Lendman, October 24, 2010) As a means to extricate themselves from poverty and despondency, politically active young people with nothing to lose risk their life or even give up their lives in order to escape. They witness violence rising at school every year, student against student, student against teacher, and even teacher against student. Their hatred builds on a lack of freedom, mounting drives of vengeance. This is a “generation of tongue less people who in the end will speak with fire”. (Hanafi, 2008) What prompts an individual to kill himself/herself while taking the lives of countless innocent people as well? Suicide bombers are not crazed, cowardly, apathetic or unsuited to society. Such alienated individuals would not make effective and reliable bombers. Some studies show that bombings carried out by suicide are not about dying and killing, but rather a search for significance on the part of the individual himself/herself. In a highly collectivist society a perceived threat to one’s group may cause a person to go to extremes in the furtherance of protecting the interests of the group as a whole. Not only a quest for significance, but also personal trauma or a personal loss of significance may come into play with regard to the motivations of the suicide bomber. A family member being killed, having disappeared, or having been tortured may lead a party to seek out ideological inspiration. Deviating from a highly traditional society, an infertile woman wanting to show she still has pride, an individual labeled with the social stigma attached to divorce,...