The Hindu Lit for Life 2018

Humanising terrorists

We have never written about terror per se. Right from the beginning, we have tried to write about people, trying to understand what they do, how extraordinary their stories are. Unless you find out the psychological reality, domestic reality, you won’t be able to understand their actions,” said Adrian Levy, author of The Exile: The Stunning Inside Story of Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda in Flight, on the last day of The Hindu Lit for Life 2018.

This session titled The Face of Terror’’ featured Levy and S. Hussain Zaidi, author of Dangerous Minds, and was moderated by Mukund Padmanabhan, Editor, The Hindu.

Levy explained how a personal crisis changed things in al Qaeda. He said, “Osama Bin Laden gets his fourth wife, a 17-year-old girl from Yemen, which pitches his family into crisis. It led to the head of security quitting the organisation… It threatened al Qaeda.”

He added, “Knowledge of personalities and individuals… of al-Qaeda tells us more about the organisation than press releases by intelligence agencies.”

Speaking about why he chose to write profiles of homegrown terrorists, Zaidi said, “We [Zaidi and Brijesh Singh, co-author of Dangerous Minds, who is a police officer in Maharashtra ] wanted to understand the terrorists’ mind. Do we go to a psychoanalyst or to police files for this? Going through their back stories helped us find their motivations…”

While Zaidi said that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were important players in funding and training terrorists, Levy named Qatar as one of the important bases right now. “Terror costs nothing these days. Ideas are more problematic. It is the cult of death which is very difficult to address, and very attractive,” Levy said.

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Printable version | Aug 6, 2021 9:56:43 AM |

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