Terrorism Under The Microscope

26 February 2007

Del Khan and tutor Dr Frank Faulkner

Del Khan with tutor Dr Frank Faulkner

By providing a free and impartial coverage, the media can influence both bystander intervention, and reduce the effect of the dehumanisation process, which in the long run breeds terrorism. 

Delnewaz Khan, University of Derby graduate

University of Derby graduate Delnewaz Khan has scooped First Class Honours for his degree study which seeks to get inside the mindset of a terrorist.

The 34-year-old Muslim, who is now working as a psychology lecturer at Sheffield College, studied dozens of books and journals offering commentary on what consists of a ‘terrorist’ and what motivates them. Crucially – are terrorists ‘born’ or does their behaviour develop over time?

His reading material included:

  • Huntington, P. S. (1996) The clash of civilisations and the remaking of world order. New York, Simon & Schuster.
  • Hoffman, B. (1998). Inside Terrorism. London, Cassel Group.
  • Bjorgo,T (eds) (2005) Root Causes of Terrorism: Myths, Reality And Ways Forward. Oxford, Routledge. 
  • Borum, R. (2004) Psychology of Terrorism. Florida, The University Of Florida. (PDF)
  • Borum, R. (2003) Understanding The Terrorist Mindset. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. (Find Articles.com)
  • Burke, J. (2003) Al-Qaeda- Casting A Shadow Of Terror. London, Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Laqueur, W. (2002) A History of Terrorism. 2nd ed. New Jersey, Transaction.

He concludes in his abstract study that there is no unified theory, explanation or definition of terrorism.

Delnewaz, known as Del, said: “This was a comprehensive study where I examined hundreds of articles about terrorism. It is striking that there is not one concrete definition.

“But the simple fact of the matter is that terrorists are made and are not born. This is achieved through a process that involves interaction of psychological and sociological factors and that are open to manipulation.

“The nature of terrorism is that it is a complex phenomenon, and should be studied by utilizing broad holistic approaches.

“Therefore in the process greater consideration should be given to the interaction between internal psychological factors, such as frustration, anger and resentment; and external sociological factors such as disfranchisement, stigma, and dehumanisation.

“It is these factors that seem to work together to leave individuals, particularly those in their adolescence, vulnerable to the advances of extremist groups.

“The extremist groups, then over time, deliberately erode certain inhibitory mechanisms that govern normal non-violent behaviour. Therefore, the evidence is suggestive of the fact that the ‘terrorists’ are introduced to ‘terrorisms’ over time; within differing stages of their social environment.

“Hence it is these stages that require intervention by bystander influence in order to reduce the initial fertile breeding ground, upon which the terrorists are recruited.”

Del, from Tinsley, in Sheffield, undertook the study as part of his final year dissertation to try to find an accurate picture about today’s terrorist. He said: “I am from the Muslim community and I wanted to explore this subject.

“From the conclusion of my dissertation you will probably realise that religion has only a superficial part to play within terrorism. Part of my research objective was to contribute to the fact that Islam, as a religion and as a way of life has never and never will, endorse acts of violence that involve the loss of life of innocents.

“If I did not believe this fundamental principle then I would not have successfully completed my dissertation.”

Del also says the media has a crucial role, both in preventing and creating terrorism.

He observes: “By providing a free and impartial coverage, the media can influence both bystander intervention, and reduce the effect of the dehumanisation process, which in the long run breeds terrorism.

“However by the nature of its presence, the media, by stressing the sanctity of life, of which the western democratically elected governments continuously claim to the youth and individuals in the world who are less fortunate, and who also aspire for the same goal; could achieve the all important winning of hearts and minds, which is where the real war on terrorism should be based.”  

Del concluded: “My message to those disfranchised individuals who feel that their religion and indeed that their way of life is under siege:

“We have the benefit of living in a society where mechanisms are in place for us to move forward in a positive direction if we so wished, we should take this opportunity to do so and indeed the pen is mightier than the sword, it is with the pen that we should engage in any ‘jihad’.”

His tutor Dr Frank Faulkner, based in the University’s School of Social Sciences, at the University of Derby said: “Delnewaz Khan’s lucid and compelling dissertation on a fascinating aspect of a complex issue like terrorism offers invaluable insight into the would-be terrorist's mind, and makes excellent reading for any student of this high-profile subject area.”


For further media information, contact: Simon Redfern, Senior Press and PR Officer, University of Derby on 01332 591942, or email s.redfern@derby.ac.uk.

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