Dr. Babu Suseelan, a Professor of Clinical Psychology in Pennsylvania, with whom I participated in a panel at the America’s Truth Forum symposium in Washington in April, has kindly sent in this incisive study of that ever-misunderstood topic, the deeper causes of jihad terrorism:
Jihadi terrorism is as old as Islam. Jihad war, death and destruction have followed in the wake of Islam for hundreds of years. Ancient Egypt, Greece, Spain, Persia, India and several societies have
experienced the deadly Islamic conquest. Now Jihadi terrorism has propelled to dangerous proportions and is a major threat to public health and world peace. Jihadi terrorists are said to have the unique ability to perpetuate their deadly terrorism wreaking havoc in every city in the world. It’s destructive impact on the economy, public health and public safety is widespread, and on the increase.
Sensational Jihadi terrorism, mass riots, violence, beheading, suicide bombing and plane hijacking are under constant media scrutiny. Jihadi terrorism is also a compelling subject for terrorism scholars, social scientists and security planners. Nevertheless, agreement on the important underlying causes has been elusive and inconsistent. Liberal left wing social scientists attribute Jihadi terrorism as a product of “labeling” and social causes including economic deprivation and interference of non-Islamic countries. They romanticize Jihadi terrorists as involved in protest against social injustice. In their eagerness to promote the irrational doctrine of “political correctness”, left wing armchair speculators see Jihadi terrorists as victims of reactionary, reductionist “conspiracy theories” that make the terrorists the real victim of unjust society. For phony, left wing, liberal social scientists, suicide bombing, mass murder, riots, arson and public beheading of non-Muslims by Jihadi terrorists are the negotiated product of formal responses to political injustices.
Numerous empirical evidence and case study analysis of Muslim terrorists proves the unbalance of this equation. Such malicious “politically correct” statement is misleading and mischievous. The unified left wing explanation of Jihadi terrorism as a social phenomenon in the changing political, economic context is false and falls far short of explaining reliable and stable psychological and religious variables influencing Islamic terrorism.
In recent years, studies of risk prediction and identification of both static and dynamic factors associated with Jihadi terrorism have provided a clear understanding of the problem. Empirically based investigations of psychological factors on Jihadi terrorists have indicated important cognitive and behavioral variables acting as pathways for Jihadi terrorism. Focused studies have revealed unusual ways of Jihadi’s thinking, asocial attitudes, cruelty, and indifference to the feelings of victims, paranoia and aggressive hostility.
ISLAMIC THINKING ERRORS
Religious, psychological, educational, and historical factors are implicated in Jihadi terrorism. Static variables (age, ethnic religious background) and dynamic variables (cognitive distortions, thinking errors, negative emotions, maladaptive behaviors, deviance amplifying community networks) also specifically lend itself to the identification of dynamic risk factors of Jihadi terrorism.
Muslims think Islam is a perfect and perfected religion. It has perfect answers for science, politics, government, economics, psychosocial problems and human life. As far as the doctrinal tenets are concerned, Islam maintains that Muslims must unquestionably follow those tenets. Muslims should shun everything that is opposed to Islam. Muslims consider the Koran, Hadith and sira, which are called
“Nusoos-e-Qatiyah”, as perfect; they have no place for criticism.
Muslims are indoctrinated at an early age into the rigid, closed, reductionist Islamic dogma, demanding full faith and devotion and separation from all competing philosophies. They are kept ignorant of the world and other rational thought systems. Islamic schools focus on rote memorization of Koran and discourage critical thinking. Islam regards thinking as a part of worship. Questioning Islamic concepts is the biggest crime, punishable by death.
From the beginning, Islamic education starts formulating a conceptualization, which logically connects automatic Islamic thoughts and beliefs. The education system fails to see the larger picture and jump from one core belief to another. It provides a cognitive map that is limited, hostile and untrue. The faulty cognitive map generally resonates with the students for life. These rigid Islamic cognitive schemas have a profound impact on their thinking, feeling and behavior. Muslims have a common narrative history, cognitive schemas, social scripts, and kind of desire, attitude and cultural values. The whole thought system lacks critical thinking, rational analysis and personal responsibility, and Muslims are just content to stay the same and blame everyone but themselves for their thinking errors. For their failings and shortcomings, Muslims hide behind alibi and denial. Everything happens is “Allah’s Will” and “non-believers will burn in Islamic hell fire”. Such automatic expressions influence their subsequent emotion, behavior and response. Since their automatic response is based on their pre-conceived Islamic thought, they often misconstrue neutral situations to fit their closed model thinking. Thus, Muslim’s automatic thoughts are with full of thinking errors and biased.
Since Islam is a closed dogma and Muslims are forbidden to test its validity or utility, and required to maintain the equilibrium at any cost, Muslim’s thinking errors are overwhelming. Dysfunctional automatic thoughts coexist with various thinking errors in Islam. Typical Islamic thinking errors include:
* Polarized or all-or-nothing-thinking (e.g.: believers and non-believers, daru-ul-Islam, dar-ul-harb)
* Catastrophic Thinking (all infidels will go to hell)
* Discounting the positive, accentuate the negative (all kafirs are trying to get Muslims)
* Emotional reasoning (emotional justification for bombing, beheading, terrorism)
* Labeling (putting a global label on non-believers as kafirs)
* Minimization (blame the victim, denial, alibi)
* Mind Reading (Muslims know what non-Muslims are thinking)
* Mental Filter (Failure to see things holistically)
* Overgeneralization (making sweeping negative conclusions: Jews are pigs, Christians are rats)
* Personalization (Muslims believe Kafirs are behaving negatively because of Islam)
* Tunnel Vision (seeing things only in the Islamic way)
Muslims erroneously think that the Islamic absolutist paradigm is adaptable to new applications for all time. This restricts Muslims from seeking viable solutions to life’s problems. They refuse to reform or incorporate critical elements with Islamic thinking as a means to achieve a better society by utilizing new concepts to reach a more accurate assessment to produce more accurate judgments. Out of box thinking, logical reasoning, higher order thinking, and scientific thinking are really not intellectual pursuits of Muslims.
DISTURBED JIHADI MIND
As a result, their interpretation of neutral events, problem solving strategies, emotional reactions, interpersonal communication and attitude towards non-Muslims are full of thinking errors, automatic thoughts and negative behaviors. Consciously or unconsciously, Jihadi Muslims react to upsetting events, rejection, failure, and criticism in extremely negative Islamic terms. They may spontaneously respond without critical evaluation with extreme, angry outbursts. Instead of developing a more adaptive response, Jihadi Muslims accept automatic, pre-cooked responses couched in Islamic jargon as correct and feel proud of it. Islamic automatic thoughts are predictable since its underlying beliefs are in the closed, rigid Islamic dogma. Such automatic response and ready-made solutions from Koranic concepts complicate issues, and interfere with their ability to reach positive goals. These dysfunctional, automatic thoughts and negative maladaptive behaviors are logically connected to the content of the defective automatic thoughts. It leads to intermittent explosive disorder including violence, riots, suicide bombing and terrorism. For Jihadi Muslims, such distorted thoughts and violent behavior has their own validity and utility.
The consequences are decidedly disastrous and miserable for the victims. The interaction of Islamic dogmatism, early indoctrination,
rote memorization, deviant amplifying community psychodynamics, and cognitive processes enable Muslims to the maintenance of closed thinking, negative emotions and explosive behaviors. Strict Islamic regulatory guidelines also act as catalysts for developing authoritarian/conservative personality traits including aggression, toughness, projectivity, stereotyping, destruction, hostility and anger. Such aggressive personality traits are maintained in all Jihadi Muslims by militant Islamic religious and social networks.
Research studies have revealed that individuals who are committed to dogmatic Islamic belief system suffer from reasoning deficiencies, thinking errors and are likely to join terrorists groups as an expression of their authoritarian outlook. There is also evidence that socioeconomic factors and educational level are not a determinant of Jihadi terrorism. Do Jihadi Muslims who share dogmatic Islamic beliefs, and membership in terrorism groups are more emotionally disturbed? By every measure available to researchers, absolutist, dogmatic, rigid beliefs negatively influence ethical judgment, and precipitate emotional disturbances.
DEVIANCE AMPLIFYING ISLAMIC NETWORKS
In Islamic culture, the common emotional impulses of Muslims are shaped through Islamic education, and through shared experiences in the Islamic social groups. Islamic cultural institutions, religious organizations and the state have ways of controlling thinking and social expression. The dogmatic Islamic ideology, and the strict enforcement of religious practices to maintain the closed system, and rote memorization of Koran solidify dysfunctional cognitive schemas. Defective cognitive schemas, culture and conservative personality continuously interact, in mutually supporting and shaping explosive behaviors.
Jihadi Muslims seldom recognize the existence or inappropriateness of their thinking errors, negative emotions or refrain from misinterpretation of the situation or violent outbursts. In discussion or negotiation sessions, Jihadis often mix up feelings and thoughts and mislabel feelings as thoughts. The connection among their irrational thoughts, negative emotion and outrageous behavior is always justified in the name of Allah.
PREVENTING JIHADI VIOLENCE
To develop and implement an effective model to prevent Jihadi violence and terrorism, it is important to focus on the cognitive and behavioral variables acting as pathways for Jihadi terrorism. Empirically based investigations of psychological factors of Jihadi terrorism have been helpful in identifying risk factors, thinking errors, and criminogenic needs of Jihadi terrorists. These risk factors, and the deadly Islamic ideology, which transforms Muslims into terrorists and suicide bombers should be part of any effective harm reduction and terrorism prevention policy and plan. Prevention strategies must include effective cognitive restructuring methods to address the impact of early learning processes and its influence in shaping negative emotions and deviant behaviors.
Democratic nations must exert pressure on Islamic countries to reform their education system. Education in Islamic countries is not conducive for raising the level of rational thinking, or to help students in thinking differently, and expand scientific knowledge and insight. It is necessary to compel Islamic educational institutions to modify the system to minimize those factors, which enhance destructive beliefs and thinking errors. Effective educational reform must include restructuring school curriculum, and revising training curriculum for teachers. Islamic education reform can modify negative thinking process and possibly ameliorate some of the violent behavior including Jihadi terrorism. Revision of Islamic education should come from outside of Jihadi groups. Islamic countries must be forced to break the wall of denial and commit themselves to the difficult process of change. As part of the pressure, liberal democratic nations must enforce effective psycholinguistic, cognitive/behavior restructuring, and thinking for a change programs to modify Muslim’s sense of righteousness and their simplistic all or nothing mentality that causes them to wage war against infidels.