Riaz Hassan AM, FASSA

ARC Australian Professorial Fellow and Emeritus Professor, Flinders University, South Australia
Riaz Hassan
RIAZ HASSAN is an Australian Research Council Professorial Fellow and Emeritus Professor in the Department of Sociology, Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia.

In his academic career spanning over 40 years he has conducted research in a number of areas including sociology of housing, sociology of suicide, organizational culture and Muslim societies.

He has recently completed a 10 year multi-country study of Muslim religiosity in which he explored key aspects of Islamic consciousness. The findings from this study have been published in, Faithlines: Muslim Conceptions of Islam and Society and Inside Muslim Minds.

He is currently conducting research on "Suicide Terrorism: The Use of Life as Weapon".


Recent coverage of Riaz Hassan's research on Islam and suicide terrorism.

Refugee camps a breeding ground for terror
ABC Radio Australia, Sept 17, 2010

Suicide Bombers - Why Do They Do It?
Riaz Hassan talks to Anthony Frangi about the theme in his latest book Life as a Weapon: The Global Rise of Suicide Bombings, ABC Radio, Oct 26, 2010

The trouble with being Muslim Australian
Article by Maralyn Parker
The Daily Telegraph, February 17, 2009

Interview on ABC News Breakfast,
November 19, 2008

Muslims More Disadvantaged
Article by Dewi Cooke
The Age, November 18, 2008

Support for terror research
Article by Guy Healy
The Australian, August 6, 2008

Legal barriers still in place
Article by Guy Healy
The Australian, August 6, 2008

Islam revealed as a tree with many branches
Article by Waleed Aly
The Australian, July 2, 2008

Researcher takes a look inside Muslim minds
Flinders Journal, vol 19 num 2, April 11, 2008

Islam: From Heretics to Believers
The Spirit of Things, ABC Radio National
March 16, 2008
Dedicated investigator of extremist phenomena
Article by Jamie Walker
The Australian, March 1, 2008

Suicide bombings are effective - so expect more
Article by Tom Allard
Sydney Morning Herald, August 15, 2007

Suicide attacks: a grim toll set to grow
Flinders Journal vol 18 num 9, August 13, 2007

Book ban a bomb
Article by C.R. Pennell,
The Australian, July 4, 2007

Research council hits back at critics
Article by Justine Ferrari
The Australian, September 16, 2006

Scholar Revises Terrorism Research Plan
Briefing by Raymond Bonner
The New York Times, September 14, 2006

Professor warned off terrorist trip
Article by Verity Edwards and Cameron Stewart,
The Australian, September 13, 2006

Terror research under threat from Aust law
Transcript from Lateline,
ABC Television, September 11, 2006

WOCMES tackles global rise in suicide attacks
Article by Paul Tate,
Jordan Times, June 16, 2006

New Publications

Suicide Bombings, Routledge, April 2011

In an age when the Western world is preoccupied with worries about weapons of mass destruction in terrorist hands, terrorists across many parts of the globe are using a more basic device as a weapon - life itself.

Suicide Bombings provides a short but incisive insight into this much publicized form of terrorism, and as such is an informative and engaging resource for students, academics, and indeed anyone with an interest in this topic.

Life as a Weapon: The Global Rise of Suicide Bombings, Routledge, August 2010

Professor Hassan's new book, Life as a Weapon, uncovers a cocktail of motivations that drive suicide bombers, and explains how their actions achieve multiple purposes - community approval, political success, liberation of the homeland, personal redemption or honour, refusal to accept subjugation, revenge, anxiety, defiance.

Suicide bombing has become a weapon of choice among terrorist groups because of its lethality and ability to cause mayhem and fear. But who carries out these acts, and what motivates them? By undertaking analysis of the information in the most comprehensive suicide terrorism database in the world, Life as a Weapon seeks to question and in turn undermine the common perception that the psychopathology of suicide bombers and their religious beliefs are the principal causes.

Life as a Weapon is a pivotal text in the discussion surrounding suicide bombings, and as such it is of relevance to undergraduate students, postgraduates, and researchers working in areas such as Security Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, Terrorism, Criminology and Political Science.

"Hassan argues that suicide terrorism uses life as a weapon for altruistic purposes and is a global phenomenon which has seen more suicide bombings in Iraq alone since 2003, than in the whole world in the preceding 25 years. He shows this with the meticulous scholarship that has characterized his impressive scholarly work for decades."
- Adam Graycar, Professor, Rutgers University, USA

"This is a marvelous book by an extraordinary and courageous scholar. Throughout Life as a Weapon Professor Hassan challenges a number of taboos and if his data lead him that way he is ready to take politically incorrect positions."

- Ivan Szelenyi, William Graham Sumner Professor of Sociology and Professor of Political Science, Yale University, USA
Listen: Riaz Hassan talks to Anthony Frangi on ABC Radio about his new book

Recent Presentations

Defence Human Sciences Symposium, Defence Science and Technology Organization

12 October 2010
Keynote Address 'Life as Weapon: Making Sense of Suicide Bombings'

2009 TASA (Sociological Association of Australia) Public Lecture, Adelaide, South Australia

18 August 2009
'Suicide Bombings: Homicidal Killing or a Weapon of War?'   Read paper »

NCEIS International Conference: Challenges to Social Inclusion in Australia: The Muslim Experience, Melbourne University

19-20 November 2008
Paper presented, "Social and Economic Conditions of Australian Muslims: Implications for Social Inclusion". Read paper »

First International Conference on Psychotrauma, Islamabad, Pakistan

30-31 August 2008
Keynote address, "Suicide Bombings: An Analysis of Global Trends (1981-2006)"

Melbourne Writers Festival

22-31 August 2008
Hanifa Deen, Arnold Zable and Riaz Hassan present "A Clash of Civilisations", a discussion on whether the tensions and fault-lines in Australian society are the result of increasingly polarised religious and cultural values. More »

Byron Bay Writers Festival

25-27 July 2008
In Conversation: "People like us: inside Muslim minds". A dialogue with Waleed Aly & Riaz Hassan with Margaret Simons. More »

'Courting Controversy', Melbourne Law School Public Lecture Series

20 May 2008
Professor Hassan gave the inaugural presentation, entitled 'War on the West: Changing Ideas of Jihad'.    Synopsis »     Read paper »

National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies Australia (NCEIS) Public Lecture Series, University of Melbourne

8 May 2008
Professor Hassan discusses the findings of his new book, Inside Muslim Minds.

"Security, State and Subject Formation" Conference, University of Alberta

26-27 October 2007
Professor Hassan conducted a workshop entitled "Islamism: The Rise of a New Enemy?".

20th Annual ANZSOC Conference, Adelaide, South Australia

24 September 2007
Professor Hassan was a keynote speaker at the 2007 Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology (ANZSOC) Conference in Adelaide. He delivered a paper, "Suicide Attacks: Homicidal Killing or a Weapon of War?" in which he addressed the neglected but important question of whether suicide terrorist attacks are homicidal killing or a weapon of war. Using ethnographic studies about the nature of war and homicide, his paper concludes that suicide terrorist attacks could be regarded as a weapon of war but given that they are characterised by the wilful killing of civilians they could be regarded as 'War Crimes' under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

ICT 7th International Conference, Herzliya, Israel

8-11 September 2007
At the International Institute for Counter Terrorism's 2007 International Conference in September, Professor Hassan gave a paper entitled "Observations on the Sunni-Shia divide and its global implications".

Adelaide Festival of Ideas

5-8 July 2007
Professor Hassan was a guest speaker at the 2007 Adelaide Festival of Ideas, where he delivered a well attended public lecture entitled "Islamism: The Rise of a New Enemy?". Professor Hassan argues that the genisis of modern Islamism is located in the historical, social, political and material conditions of Muslim countries and the imperialistic policies of Western nations.
Listen: Introduction by Morag Fraser

Lahore School of Economics International Conference on Globalization and Governance

23 April 2007
At the International Conference on Globalization and Governance Professor Hassan gave a paper entitled "Religion and Governance in a Globalizing World: A comparitive study of Muslim countries".

Press & Journal Articles

Why Do Terrorists Blow Themselves Up?
Nine years after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the world shares a perception that suicide attacks are unusual acts committed by the poor, the psychologically impaired, the morally deficient, the uneducated or the religious fanatics. Yet analysis of more than 1500 suicide attacks between 1981 and 2008 by author Riaz Hassan reveals far more complex motivations.
Yale Global, September 9, 2010

What Motivates the Suicide Bombers?
Suicide bombing attacks have become a weapon of choice among terrorist groups because of their lethality and ability to cause mayhem and fear. Though depressing, the almost daily news reports of deaths caused by suicide attacks rarely explain what motivates the attackers. Between 1981 and 2006, 1200 suicide attacks constituted 4 percent of all terrorist attacks in the world and killed 14,599 people or 32 percent of all terrorism related deaths. The question is why?
Yale Global, September 3, 2009

The Reality of Religious Labels: A Study of Muslim Religiosity
The meaning of the religious labels used by people to describe themselves and others is often problematic. Religiosity, religious behavior and experience vary in the way they are reported and understood. This study presents a methodological approach to investigating the relationship between self-reported religiosity and an objectively constructed index of religious intensity. The data were obtained from a multi-country study of Muslim religiosity in which over 6000 Muslim respondents were surveyed through a structured questionnaire. The survey questionnaire included questions on the self-reported religiosity of the respondent and forty four items to ascertain respondents’ attitudes toward key Islamic beliefs and practices.
Australian Religion Studies Review, Volume 21, Number 2, 2008

Global Rise of Suicide Terrorism: An Overview
Suicide attacks are the targeted use of self-destructing humans against a perceived enemy for political ends. After reviewing terrorism and suicide terrorism trends between 1980 and 2003 the paper shows that suicide attacks have increased dramatically between 2004 and 2005 and have become a global phenomenon. Three main sites of suicide terrorism namely, Iraq, Israel and Sri Lanka are examined in some detail including information about the main terrorist groups responsible for sponsoring suicide attacks and some profiles of individuals involved. The paper then examines the main sociological explanations of suicide attacks, including a description of the strategic logic behind these atrocities, and the notion of life being a weapon. It concludes with an overview of the recommendations emerging from studies that seek to prevent suicide terrorism.
Asian Journal of Social Science, Volume 36, Number 2, 2008

Cracks appear in the monolith
ISLAMIC consciousness - Islamic identity, doctrines and religiosity - is a multidimensional phenomenon. Interpretive communities have emerged to contextualise the meanings of the sacred texts and these communities have developed explanations of existential conditions to reinforce the moral foundation of the group.
The Australian March 1, 2008

Interrupting a History of Tolerance - Part II
The roots of anti-Semitism in the Middle East are based not in Islamic traditions, but in practical opposition to external intervention, argues Riaz Hassan.
Yale Global July 25, 2007

Interrupting a History of Tolerance - Part I
Anti-Semitic rhetoric, literature and films emerge from modern Middle Eastern society, and yet Arab nations do not have a long history of intolerance. Riaz Hassan explains how there is little evidence of deep-rooted anti-Semitism in classical Islamic society.
Yale Global July 19, 2007

The Jihad and the West - Part I
Before defining or reacting to the word 'jihad', the meaning must be considered in its historical context. Riaz Hassan cautions that any interpretation that dismisses jihad as merely a violent manifestation of religious fanaticism strips the term of its complexity.
Yale Global September 21, 2006

Islamic thinking in limbo
Is the Islamic world intellectually stagnating? One way to answer this is to ask how many world-class universities there are in Muslim countries. The 2006 rankings of the top 200 universities by The Times Higher Education Supplement show the poor state of academic institutions in Muslim countries.
The Australian, October 25, 2006

Suicide Attacks - Life as a Weapon
Suicide attacks have increased dramatically in the Middle East over the past year with the war in Iraq and the escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This rise in suicide attacks is remarkable given that the total number of terrorist incidents worldwide fell from its peak of 665 in 1986 to 190 in 2003 alone, whereas the incidents of suicide attacks increased from 31 in the 1980s to 98 in 2003. There is growing evidence that current American domestic and foreign policies may be further contributing to an acceleration of this trend.
ISIM Newsletter 14, June 2004

Globalization's Challenge to Islam
The telephone, satellite television, and the Internet have connected the Islamic community of 1.2 billion people across the globe. This connectivity has strengthened Muslims' sense of belonging to one community, which Islamic scholars call ummah.
Yale Global April 17, 2003

Terrorists and Their Tools - Part I
The weapon of mass destruction that seems to be favored most by terrorists is their own lives. But, though most suicide bombers are Islamic youths, sociologist Riaz Hassan argues that there is no direct link between suicide attacks and Islamic fanaticism. Suicide attacks, Hassan says, are motivated more by politics than religion.
Yale Global April 23, 2001

The Ethical, Social and Legal Implications of the Human Genome Project
The public awareness and curiosity about the ‘New Genetics’ or Genomics have been galvanised by the debates emanating from the scientific achievements of the Human Genome Project (HGP). The increased availability of genetic information will have many ethical, social, economic and legal implications which will profoundly affect human societies. Some of the ethical issues raised relate to the proper and fair use of genetic information by insurers, employers, courts, schools, adoption agencies, law enforcement bodies and the military. It raises questions about the confidentiality and privacy of genetic information, who should have access to individual genetic information, who owns it and how it will be used.
ASSA-Flinders University sponsored workshop, December 2000

Social consequences of manufactured longevity
The signs are that advances in biomedical sciences will add more years of "manufactured time" to life expectancy in industrialised countries, resulting in unprecedented rates of survival into older ages. Increasing longevity will force economic and social changes and the 20th-century revolution in social roles looks set to continue into the 21st century.
The Medical Journal of Australia 173 2000

The euthanasia debate
The end of life: We need a humane and informed framework, not only a medical model, to deal with death and dying.
The Medical Journal of Australia 165 1996

View all publications »


Suicide Bombings
Suicide Bombings
Riaz Hassan
Routledge 2011
Life as a Weapon
Life as a Weapon - The Global Rise of Suicide Bombings
Riaz Hassan
Routledge 2010
Müslüman Zihinler
Müslüman Zihinler
(Turkish Translation of Inside Muslim Minds)
Riaz Hassan
Dogan Kitapçilik 2010
Inside Muslim Minds
Inside Muslim Minds
Riaz Hassan
Melbourne University Press 2008
Keragaman Iman: Studi Komparatif Masyarakat Muslim
Keragaman Iman: Studi Komparatif Masyarakat Muslim
(Indonesian Translation of Faithlines)
Riaz Hassan
PT RajaGrafindo Persada 2006
Faithlines: Muslim Conceptions of Islam and Society
Faithlines: Muslim Conceptions of Islam and Society
Riaz Hassan
Oxford University Press 2002
The Cambridge Handbook of Social Sciences in Australia
The Cambridge Handbook of Social Sciences in Australia
Ian McAllister, Steve Dowrick, Riaz Hassan (Eds) Cambridge University Press 2003
Local and Global: Social Transformation in Southeast Asia
Local and Global: Social Transformation in Southeast Asia
Riaz Hassan
Leiden, Brill 2005
Suicide Explained: The Australian Experience
Suicide Explained: The Australian Experience
Riaz Hassan
Melbourne University Press 1995
A Way of Dying: Suicide in Singapore
A Way of Dying: Suicide in Singapore
Riaz Hassan
Oxford University Press 1983
Ethnicity, Culture & Fertility
Ethnicity, Culture & Fertility: An exploratory study of fertility behaviour and sexual beliefs
Riaz Hassan
Chopmen 1980
Singapore: Society in Transition
Families in Flats
Riaz Hassan
Singapore University Press 1977
Singapore: Society in Transition
Singapore: Society in Transition
Riaz Hassan (Ed.)
Oxford University Press 1976