A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

Secure in their Beliefs: Personal Security, the Quest for Personal Significance, and the Psychology of Extremism


“We may die at any minute. The Indian troops know the routes we use and maybe they are lying in wait. We are going in the dead of winter when only crazy people would go because maybe they will not be watching. It is impossible to cross the mountains. We are crossing the mountains. We are impossible. We are invisible and impossible and we are going over the mountains to be free.”

The speaker is Shalimar the Clown, the eponymous character in Salman Rushdie’s (2005) novel, and he is addressing the Kashmiri wife who left him for an American lover as he crosses the mountains to join a militant Islamist group. The fictional Shalimar’s trajectory from personal grievance, through extremist violence-justifying ideology, to the sacrifice of security and safety in the name of a religiously sanctioned goal reflects that of many real-world extremists. Rushdie’s novel is a work of fiction, of course, but all too often we learn of individuals who make similar choices: who gladly trade not only their personal security but the safety and lives of others in the service of radically violent ideologies. The consequence of such choices is the rising death toll from terror attacks in the past decades, begging the question of why some individuals are motivated to sacrifice their safety, if not their lives, while perpetrating terror in the name of a cause. We address this question in the pages that follow.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

Schori-Eyal, Noa and Arie W. Kruglanski. 2015. "Secure in their Beliefs: Personal Security, the Quest for Personal Significance, and the Psychology of Extremism." In Handbook of Personal Security, eds. Patrick J. Carroll, Robert M. Arkin, and Aaron L. Wichman. New York: Taylor and Francis, 339-352. https://www.routledgehandbooks.com/doi/10.4324/9781315713595.ch21

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