Violence has been a central political issue in many Middle Eastern countries during the past two decades, either episodically (Syria, Iran) or continually (Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel/Palestine). This groundbreaking new study sheds light on the dynamics of this phenomenon by going beyond factors usually cited as the root causes - economy, religion, and culture - and investigating the political structure that actually triggers this violence. Violence seems to be treated by some groups during their initial stages as a rational instrument for changing contested power relations. In their later stages, these movements often weaken and spawn fragmented and privatized forms of violence - warlords are one example - and in some situations the violence metamorphoses into nihilistic, sacrificial, and/or messianic forms. This book explores the ways in which the criminalization of political, ethnic, and sectarian identities has contributed to the formation of a ""tragic mind"" that perceives violence as the surest provider of justice and hope. The author's in-depth analysis, which combines approaches from the cognitive, social, and religious sciences, can help us to understand the logic behind these forms of violence.