The Mind of Peace

The Mind of Peace


by Tass Saada


In today’s seething caldron of attacks and counterattacks, we can drive ourselves crazy trying to understand what motivates the mind of a terrorist. But sooner or later, we need to take a deep breath and raise a contrasting question: What motivates a mind of peace? What wires the brain of a person who leans toward harmony and reconciliation rather than hostility and revenge?

As any psychologist will say, we almost never accomplish that which we do not first envision in our heads. Our words and hands (and guns) only follow what is in our minds. First we think; then we do.

Here are five vital elements of a solution-oriented person, as expressed in the words of Scripture:


  1. A decision (no doubt risky) to trust divine wisdom rather than human reasoning. The apostle James drew a sharp contrast between the way our world thinks and what God recommends:


Where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

(James 3:16-18, emphasis added)


As we watch the daily news, it is hard—I admit it—to take this passage at face value. The urge to strike back against violence and mayhem is powerful. It takes an act of faith to say that God knows better, that he has a better way in mind for us.

It won’t pay off immediately. The passage uses a gardening metaphor when it talks about sowing in peace. The time when we get to “reap a harvest of righteousness” doesn’t happen overnight. We have to wait for the crop to ripen. But when it does, the “good fruit” is delicious.

There is no such thing as a chemical formula for “instant peace.” But as God is allowed to work through us, permanent changes can grow.


  1. An admission that human force usually isn’t forceful enough. The heaviest artillery, the most fearsome arsenal seems as if it should be able to bring in a new world order of peace—except that it doesn’t.

For a large stretch of my life as a young freedom fighter, I thought it would. If my comrades and I could just put enough hot lead into the Israelis, they would back off and give us what we wanted. Unfortunately, it didn’t work.

Whenever someone asks me how many enemy soldiers I killed in my days as an al-Fatah sniper, I answer, “The truth is, I don’t know; it’s impossible to say, given the long distances from which I was shooting. What I do know is that I deeply regret every one of those deaths. I caused overwhelming grief in numerous Israeli families. I feel terrible about that. And I didn’t achieve the goals for which I was fighting, anyway.”

The last time I saw Yasser Arafat, just six months before his death in 2004, I told him, “Enough blood has been shed. Enough hatred has been sown. Enough is enough! Let us come to peace. And that peace comes only through Jesus, the Christ.” He studied me with a careful gaze for several seconds then adroitly changed the subject.

In saying this, I hoped to echo what Jesus had said in the midst of his trial before Pontius Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36). The Roman magistrate—like Arafat—couldn’t quite figure out what to do with that mentality.

Since I left the life of violence many years ago, I can no longer think of retaliating violently to any action against myself or anyone else. I can’t go back to my old ways.

The great Mahatma Gandhi of India, though a lifelong Hindu, read much of the New Testament gospels and thought about their meaning. He is often quoted as saying, “In a system of ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,’ the whole world ends up blind and toothless.”

Weaponry can force a person to move his body, but it cannot change his mind. The adjustment toward peace happens at a deeper level than bullets can penetrate.


  1. A desire for God’s smile. Or to use Jesus’ term, blessing. Isn’t that what he told the crowd on the mountainside that day long ago? “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). People who engage in the hard work of peacemaking may be mocked, criticized, or called unflattering names (“naïve,” “idealistic,” “a bleeding heart” “a Don Quixote tilting at windmills”). But God watches their efforts and is pleased. In fact, he even calls them his children. They bear his likeness.

One of the first-century apostles we greatly admire was Barnabas. The book of Acts tells how, not long after a fiery vigilante (terrorist?) named Saul was converted to Christ, the man arrived in Jerusalem and


. . . tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.

(Acts 9:26-28)


The gentle words of a peace-oriented man soothed the fears of many and opened the way for Saul (Paul) to flourish thereafter in ministry.


  1. A taste for personal joy! This probably isn’t the most important motivation for the mind of peace, but it is real nonetheless, according to Proverbs 12:20—“Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy” (emphasis added). Few rewards in life can compare with bringing reconciliation to two parties who have been fighting each other. When misunderstandings are cleared up, when walls come down, when channels of communication open up after years of blockage, one can’t help but feel a warm sense of gratification on the inside.


  1. A recognition that peace is more than just a nice theory; it is our calling. It’s our mission assignment in the world. It’s the job we, as followers of Christ, have been given to do.

How else can we interpret the words of Colossians 3:15? “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (emphasis added). The mind that is filled with Christ’s peace is thereby equipped to disseminate it in an argumentative world. People who have spent their lives fighting and resenting their adversaries can be brought to a whole new understanding of life’s purpose. This work is our vocation, commissioned by our Savior.

Allowing our minds to be infused with divine peace, regardless of outward circumstances, and then radiating that peace toward others as the opportunity arises—this is one of the great joys of life. It is what God asks of his children. It is not usually a simple, one-step process. And the results are not always quick to appear. We have to remain patient, trusting that God will water the seeds we plant and bring forth his harvest in his time.


What Makes a Terrorist?

What Makes a Terrorist?

 by Tass Saada


The craziest, most psychotic people in the world consider themselves to be entirely rational and logical. Inside their fevered brains, things make perfect sense. Their reasons are felt to be entirely valid. The rest of society may not “get it,” but they are quite sure they are on a coherent track.

So it doesn’t work for us to shake our heads and say terrorists are just “stupid,” “insane,” or “a bunch of animals.” Here are six motivations that drive them.

You can become a terrorist because . . .

You Are in Anguish over the Violent Loss of an Innocent Loved One, Friend, or Group Member

This is the most straightforward reason, the easiest to understand. When a 500-pound bomb or a drone strike takes out your beloved father, brother, cousin, nephew—or even worse, your precious mother, sister, your own wife, your innocent child—you are overwhelmed with grief and rage. And within seconds, you want to retaliate . . . especially if you live in a society where the police are weak or and underequipped—or worse yet, biased against you for some reason. In many parts of the Middle East, the national government treats justice issues lightly or is beholden for business reasons to the force that dropped the bomb in the first place.

In such a moment, the counsel to “stay calm and try to forgive” will be hard to swallow. You are much more likely to take matters into your own hands.

You Firmly Believe Your Opponent’s Faith Is Wrong, or at Least Corrupted

This is the religious motivation for terrorism, and the one most quickly cited in the West. Terrorists, it is said, are rabid Muslims who hate Christians and Jews and seek to destroy them every chance they get.

Without question, this is true in many cases. Islam at its core (like Christianity) considers itself the only way: “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.” Islam doesn’t accept other religions. It was never built to be “tolerant.”

Well-meaning politicians try to ignore this aspect. They call Islam “a religion of peace.” Well, yes and no, depending on what you mean by “peace.” Islamic scholars have for centuries articulated two opposite conditions: the Dar al-Salam (“house of peace”) and the Dar al-Harb (“house of war”). The first describes any country or region under full Muslim rule. The second is any country where Muslim law is not yet in force. Bringing such areas into the Dar al-Salam is what the faith is all about—starting in the Middle East and eventually stretching across the entire planet. War is a necessary tactic toward that end.

When criticized by the West for being cruel and barbaric, the Muslim response to Christians and Jews is, “Wait a minute—what did your hero David do to the infidel Goliath? He beheaded him! Go back and read the rest of 1 Samuel 17 . . .”

I point out this case, among others, not to denigrate the Old Testament accounts, but simply to recognize that bloody action in the name of God has been around for a long time. And some of today’s terrorists are astute enough to notice that. They are quite willing to employ the same methods on behalf of their religion.

You Are Sickened and Disgusted by Western Society’s Decadence

I cannot tell you how many times I have tried (and often failed) to convince my Muslim friends that what they see on cable or satellite television (which is now in nearly every home, poor as well as rich) is a distortion of daily life in the real West. Not every European or North American is obsessed with alcohol, pornography, and gun violence. Some of them actually do get up in the morning, go to work, keep their promises, and live responsible lives within ethical boundaries. It is hard, though, to make that case in the face of the Western media torrent.

The cultural clashes are more than most Westerners would ever imagine. Middle Eastern people don’t bother to point them out. They simply observe, wonder, and talk among themselves. They understandably conclude that their culture is the superior one, with its propriety, self-control, and respectfulness. Why should they take lessons from the West about how to reorganize their society or its government? No, thanks.

You Want Your Homeland Back

A motive that drives some terrorists is the deep wound over loss of ancestral land. In the Arab culture, no land means no honor. This is what drove my former group, al-Fatah, from its earliest days. Yasser Arafat’s passion was not religious, to fight for the Islamic cause. It was always secular: to regain the Palestinian homeland.

Early Zionists, on the opposite side, imagined that the land they wanted was more or less sitting empty and available. Chaim Weizmann, who would become Israel’s first president, told to a French audience in 1914, “There is a country [Palestine] without a people, and on the other hand, there exists the Jewish people, and it has no country. What else is necessary, then, than to fit the gem into the ring, to unite this people with this country?” Jews as far away as Bulgaria read in their newspapers the handy slogan “A land without people for a people without land.”

The facts, however, are that when Jews set up the modern state of Israel in 1948, some 800,000 non-Jews were already living in Palestine, according to a U.N. estimate—including my parents and grandparents. In other words, the Holy Land was far from vacant.

This homeland motive is larger than just Palestine. At the end of 2014, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that fully 40 percent of the Syrian population (7.6 million people) had been displaced internally. Another 3.6 million Iraqis had left their homes. Lebanon was trying to absorb 1.1 million refugees from its neighbor, while Jordan had at least 650,000.

The human yearning to have a home—and keep it—is among our most basic drives. Without it, terrorist responses only grow.

You Grow Weary of Day-In, Day-Out Discrimination and Maltreatment

Forget for a moment the history involved. Focus instead on the present daily life of any people group that feels it’s being treated unfairly.

If you’re sitting in the hot sun day after day with little to do, the notion of striking back against the dominant power—even if you know you won’t succeed—carries a tantalizing appeal. It is simply unrealistic to put human beings in confinement and tell them to “behave.” Some of them are going to misbehave, and out of this reaction comes terrorism.

In the words of three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas L. Friedman, “The humiliation is the key. It has always been my view that terrorism is not spawned by the poverty of money. It is spawned by the poverty of dignity. Humiliation is the most underestimated force in international relations and in human relations. It is when people or nations are humiliated that they really lash out and engage in extreme violence.”

Thomas Friedman, by the way, is Jewish.

You Can’t Stomach America’s Rock-Solid Backing of Israel

Finally, a large number of Muslims watch the United States’ unwavering support for the modern state of Israel and feel aggrieved. Year after year, they see resolutions in the United Nations Security Council that, in their eyes, seem just and fair get vetoed by America. They know that much of Israel’s fearsome arsenal of weaponry has been bought with dollars.

Please understand: I do stand for the right of Israel to be a nation. I have no appreciation for the old Arab battle cry of “Push the Jews into the sea.” The Jewish people should be as welcome in this land as anyone else. Their needs for safety and security are fundamental.

The question is rather how to balance these needs with other legitimate claims. Current U.S. aid to Israel each year comes to more than $3.1 billion—the largest amount America gives any nation on the face of the globe.

I point this out not to criticize how the U.S. government spends its money. It is also true that the United States gives money to the Palestinian Authority. But the sums are nowhere near as much as what is flowing to the Israeli side. And so it has been for decades.

Not every terrorist holds all six of these motivations. Some are consumed by just one, or two. But across the landscape of terrorist groups, these are the main factors that drive the horrific violence we see each week on the world scene.

These people are not “just crazy.” They are not out looking for cheap thrills. They are on their own personal and group campaigns to bring about major changes, even if that means using tactics that shock and horrify us. They earnestly want to see a future that is not the same as the past.

The Mind of Terror

Chapter 3, What Makes a Terrorist?

Terrorism’s Top Ten, excerpt from The Mind of Terror

Terrorism’s Top Ten

by Tass Saada


Across the Western media, ISIS (Islamic State) captures the big headlines on most days. But it is far from being the only player on the terrorist field.

To get a fuller picture, check this list drawn from Forbes magazine’s “The World’s 10 Richest Terrorist Organizations”—money being a key indicator of any group’s ability to impose its will. As you will quickly see, these are not just ragtag groups of outlaws running around in the shadows. These are sizable business operations.

Here is the countdown:


  1. Boko Haram (translation: “Western Education Is Sin”), now rebranded as the Islamic State’s West African Province. Annual turnover: $50 million. Source: kidnapping and ransom, fees and taxes, bank robberies, looting. Goal: To set up Sharia law across all of Nigeria (which is roughly half Muslim, half Christian), thereby defeating secular/Western influences.


  1. Real IRA, a split-off from the Irish Republican Army (IRA) that signed a peace agreement with the U.K. in 1998. Annual turnover: $50 million. Source: smuggling, illegal trade, donations. Goal: Keep using terror to get the British out of Northern Ireland altogether.


  1. Al-Shabaab (“The Youth”). Annual turnover: $70 million. Source: ransom from kidnapping/pirating of ships; donations. Goal: To drive all foreigners (including African Union troops) out of Somalia so it can establish an Islamic caliphate.


  1. Lashkar-e-Taiba (“Army of the Righteous). Annual turnover: $100 million. Source: donations. Goal: To force India to return all of Jammu-Kashmir state back to Pakistani (Muslim) governance . . . and then to overthrow the Indian government.


  1. Al-Qaeda (“The Foundation” or “The Base”). Also, branches such as “Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb” (northern Africa), “Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” (Saudi Arabia, Yemen). Annual turnover: $150 million. Sources: Saudi donations, kidnapping and ransom, drug trafficking. Goal: a unified Islamic front against the West.


  1. Taliban (“Students”). Annual turnover: $400 million. Sources: “protection and support” fees from every stage of the opium trade (source of heroin); donations. Goal: an Islamic theocracy in Afghanistan, with strict Sharia law in place.


  1. Hezbollah (“Party of Allah”). Annual turnover $500 million. Sources: aid mainly from its Shiite friend, Iran; also, drug smuggling. Two goals: to “liberate” Jerusalem and all Palestine, and to turn Lebanon into a Shiite state.


  1. FARC (“Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia”). Annual turnover: $600 million. Sources: drug processing and trafficking (half the world’s cocaine); kidnapping and ransom; mining of minerals, particularly gold. Goal: to overthrow capitalism in Colombia and replace it with a Marxist-socialist government.


  1. Hamas. Annual turnover: $1 billion. Sources: taxes and fees; strong-armed businesses (everything from banks to fish farms); financial aid and donations (especially from the wealthy Gulf state of Qatar as well as Iran). Goal: to dislodge Israel so that a Palestinian state can stretch from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. Most infamous for: rocket attacks into southern Israel


  1. Islamic State (acronyms “ISIS” in English, “DAESH” in Arabic) and as many as 35 affiliates. Annual turnover, according to Forbes: $2 billion. Sources: oil sales; kidnapping and ransom; collection of taxes and “protection” monies; bank robberies and looting. Goal: to destabilize current Middle East governments, erase the boundary lines of the current map (drawn mainly by the British after World War I), and set up a whole new caliphate across the region that implements serious Islam.


Likenesses and Differences

As can be quickly seen, eight of the best-financed terrorist groups carry some kind of tie to Islam. But it would be a mistake to think that all Muslims think and act alike. With nearly 1.8 billion followers of Allah around the world, stretching from Morocco to Indonesia and even beyond, they are certainly not uniform—any more than the 2.3 billion followers of Christ are. Both faiths are fractured into multiple streams, and both have a wide range of devotional fervor or lack thereof.

The biggest segments of Islam—“denominations,” if you will—are the Sunnis (more than 80 percent) and the Shiites (less than 20 percent). But they are not evenly spread out. Shiites are the majority in countries such as Iran, Iraq, Yemen, and Bahrain, plus have large populations in Lebanon, Pakistan, and India. Sunnis dominate just about everywhere else: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, the Palestinian territories, the Gulf states of Qatar (where my family still lives), and the UAE (United Arab Emirates). You can’t say one country is “all this” or “all that,” any more than you can flatly declare that “England is Protestant” or “Mexico is Catholic.”

This Islamic split is nothing recent. It goes all the way back to a power struggle following the death of Muhammad in A.D. 632. To this day, 40 percent of Sunnis don’t think Shiites are proper Muslims. Shiites aren’t terribly fond of Sunnis, either.


Tricky Politics

What really muddies the water is when a ruler from a minority somehow rises to power in a given nation. President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, for example, is an Alawite (“follower of Ali”), a branch of the Shiite sect. But the Syrian population is three-fourths Sunni, while Alawites are only 12 percent. No wonder the country imploded into civil war in 2011.

An opposite example: Saddam Hussein was a Sunni Muslim running all of Iraq, which is two-thirds Shiite (not to mention another 10 percent Kurdish). Yet he managed to rule with an iron fist. Since his capture and death at the end of 2006, Shiite presidents have been in control—and struggling not to polarize the minority Sunnis.

ISIS is a Sunni organization through-and-through. Shiites have no place in their vision of the future; in fact, they are marked for death. ISIS views itself as the real defender of the Sunni people, unlike most politicians, whom they say can’t be counted on.

You may also have heard the terms Salafi or Wahhabi, name for a movement within the Sunni world that emphasizes purity of religion, a literal reading of the Qur’an, and strict adherence to its rules. Salafists are especially active in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE. (The name Wahhabi means the same people, but is considered a slur.) ISIS is definitely within the Salafi stream of Sunni Islam.


Mind of TerrorThere may have been a time when comfortable Westerners living in North America and Europe could pretend the world had two categories: “safe” places and “unsafe” places. Certain cities and countries would be all right for vacationing, while others would not. That myth was forever shattered on 9/11, when terror came to New York’s financial district and Washington’s military headquarters. The only reasonable conclusion since then has been that the entire globe contains no place to hide. The question “Is it safe?” doesn’t apply anymore.

Our world has a major challenge on its hands. The need for thoughtfulness and godly response has never been greater.


Excerpt taken from The Mind of Terror, Chapter 1, No Place To Hide