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Talking to the enemy: violent extremism, sacred values, and what it means to be human

Causes of radicalisationIdeologiesRadicalisation

Cover: Talking to the EnemyThis interesting and important book sets out the argument that strong group cohesion is more important than religion in explaining why terrorists act violently.


This book charts the author’s attempts to understand why terrorists act violently. Through recounting events in conflict zones around the world, it shows the exciting side of academia whilst at the same time developing an important argument showing how religion is not the cause of wars. Atran’s argument is that strong group cohesion (even from people who play football together, for example) is more important than ideological promises of virgins, or heaven. He demonstrates the importance of sacred values to those groups, but is careful to point out that these values need not be religious. This is an important book, grounded in serious anthropological research, for people looking to find out what it is that matters for violent terrorists.

Publisher’s description

Scott Atran has spent years talking to terrorists - from Gaza and Afghanistan, to Indonesia and Europe. Here he argues persuasively that to understand religious violence we need to consider terrorists' close relationships, with family and friends, as much as the causes they espouse. He delivers a fascinating journey into the mindsets of radicalised people in the twenty-first century, and deep insights into the history of all religions.

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