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This section of DiscoverTheNetworks explores the psychology of individual jihadists -- the belief system and the thought processes that cause them to engage in suicide missions as expressions of faith. This section also examines how the family members of jihadists offer considerable emotional support and encouragement to those who engage in these acts of murder and self-destruction.

Jihadists are created by a formal and informal education that begins in early childhood with collaborating messages from parents, teachers, textbooks, clerics, television programs, and the ambient culture. These major influences imbue youngsters with contempt for non-Muslms ("infidels"), and with a yearning to experience the glories of jihad, which, according to the Quran, will earn its participants eternal rewards in Paradise. The Quran contains many verses that stress the importance (and the nobility) of jihad. For example: 

  • "But do not think of those that have been slain in God's cause as dead. Nay, they are alive! With their Sustainer have they their sustenance. They are very happy with the reward they received from Allah (for dying as a shaheed) and they rejoice for the sake of those who have not joined them (i.e., have not yet died for Allah)." (Quran 3:169-70)
  • “Truly Allah loves those who fight in His Cause in battle array, as if they were a solid cemented structure” (Quran 61:4).
  • "Allah has purchased the believers, their lives and their goods. For them (in return) is the Garden [of paradise]. They fight in Allah’s Cause, and they slay and are slain; they kill and are killed . . . it [paradise] is the promise of Allah to them.” (Quran 9:111)

The impact of such passages is multiplied if a young person happens to come into contact with recruiters for Islamist and jihadist organizations. Former jihadist Tawfiq Hamid recalls that as a teenager, for instance, he met some members of the terrorist group Jamaah Islamiyah. Their rhetoric influenced him, and as a result: "My hatred toward non-Muslims increased dramatically, and jihadi doctrine became second nature to me."

(The following is adapted from "The Psychoanalytic Roots of Islamic Terrorism," by Phyllis Chesler -- May 3, 2004.)

Muslim terrorists wage jihad against infidels chiefly in response to injunctions communicated via the Koran and Islam's other authoritative texts. There are, however, also some noteworthy psychological and anthropological factors in play. Of particular interest is the relationship between the widespread physical and sexual abuse of children in Muslim society, and Islamic terrorism.

In her book, The Sheik's New Clothes: the Psychoanalytic Roots of Islamic Suicide Terrorism, the Minnesota-based psychoanalyst and Arabist Nancy Kobrin and her Israeli co-author, counter-terrorism expert Yoram Schweitzer, describe barbarous family and clan dynamics in which Muslim children, both boys and girls, are routinely raped, orally and anally, by male relatives; where infant males are sadistically over-stimulated by being masturbated; where boys between the ages of 7 and 12 are publicly and traumatically circumcised; where girls are clitoridectomized; and where women are seen as the source of all shame and dishonor and are, accordingly, treated very badly.

According to Dr. Kobrin, both male and female infants and children are raised by mothers who themselves have been debased and traumatized. As such, all children are forever psychologically "contaminated" by the humiliated yet all-powerful mother. Kobrin further explains that Arab and Muslim boys seek to disassociate themselves from their mothers in spectacularly savage ways; that, on a deep unconscious level, they may also wish to remain merged with the source of the contamination; and that suicide bombers act out this conflict when they kill their presumably most hated enemies, the Israeli Jews, who may actually function as substitutes or scapegoats for an even more primal enemy that is both loved and hated: Woman.

Phyllis Chesler, professor emerita of psychology and women's studies at the College of Staten Island (CUNY), asserts that widespread child sexual abuse in Muslim culture leads to the development of paranoid, highly traumatized, and revenge-seeking adults; that Islam's polygamous, patriarchal culture also leads to highly charged fraternal competition for paternal favor and inheritance; and that this dynamic can set the stage for entire families and clans to remain locked in revenge-fueled mortal combat for generations.

Walid Shoebat, an ex-PLO terrorist who ultimately renounced terrorism and converted to evangelical Christianity, confirms the widespread sexual abuse of both boys and girls in Palestinian society. "It is a strange society," he says. "Homosexuality is forbidden but if you're the penetrator, not the penetrated, it's okay." Adds Shoebat: "If you're a teenage boy with no hair on your legs, other boys your age will pinch your butt and tease you. Once, I saw a class of clothed teenage boys sexualize their gymnastics exercizes. And once, on a hiking trip, I saw a line of shepherd boys waiting for their turn to sodomize a five-year-old boy. It was unbelievable."

According to Shoebat, Muslim teenage boys prey upon younger children; older male relatives prey upon pre-adolescent and adolescent boys and girls. There are many anecdotal accounts about the male preference for anal sex, even within marriage, either as a form of birth control or as a preferred homosexual practice.


A Matter of Pride
By Michael Lind and Peter Bergen
Winter 2007

The Psychoanalytic Roots of Islamic Terrorism
By Phyllis Chesler
May 3, 2004

The Childhood Origins of Terrorism
By Lloyd DeMause
November 2001 

The Real Roots of Muslim Hatred
By Andrew Bostom
June 3, 2004
Terrorism: the Root Causes and What They Are Not
By David Meir-Levi
January 21, 2005

 Boys of the Taliban
By Jamie Glazov
January 1, 2007
The Lure of Radical Islam
By Raymond Ibrahim
February 4, 2010

The Development of a Jihadist's Mind
By Tawfiq Hamid
April 6, 2007

The Terrorists in Their Own Words: Interviews with 35 Incarcerated Middle Eastern Terrorists
By Jerrold Post
Spring 2003

Inside the Mind of an Iraqi Suicide Bomber
By Aparisim Ghosh
June 28, 2005

Are Jihadi Motives Really a Mystery?
By Raymond Ibrahim
January 5, 2018

We Were Brought up to Hate -- and We Do
By Nonie Darwish
December 2, 2006

I Was Raised for Jihad
By Nonie Darwish
April 17, 2005
The Psychology Behind Suicide Bombings
By Pierre Rehov
July 15, 2006
Symposium: Homegrown Jihadis
By Jamie Glazov
January 30, 2009
The Educated Muslim Terrorist
By Wm. B. Fankboner
January 20, 2010
Inside the Mind of an Islamist
By Phyllis Chesler
February 7, 2011
A Muslim Upbringing and Terrorism
By Jamie Glazov
March 4, 2011


The Islamic Roots of Abdulmutallab's Suicidal Odyssey
By Jamie Glazov
January 7, 2010

Why the Rich Muslim Boy Became a Terrorist
By Jamie Glazov
January 10, 2010
It's Hell, Stupid
By Bill Siegel
September 10, 2009
Listen to the Gitmo Five
By Ralph Peters
March 13, 2009
Symposium: Islamic Terror and Sexual Mutilation
By Jamie Glazov
February 13, 2009

Women's Forums on Islamist Websites - Tools For Preparing Women to Carry Out Jihad and Suicide Operations
By D. Hazan
February 1, 2008

Paradise Lost
By Michael Goodwin
November 28, 2006

Virgins of Paradise
By Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook
September 25, 2006

Islamic Jihad Terrorist Teens See Martyrdom as Career Goal
By Militant Islam Monitor
May 19, 2006

Palestinian Legislative Council Member: A Muslim Mother Should Raise Her Children for Jihad
March 10, 2006

Meet Candidate "Martyr Mom"
By Andrew G. Bostom 
January 5, 2006

Mother of Three Hamas Terrorists: I Am Willing to Sacrifice My Ten Sons [to Kill Israelis]
January 4, 2006

Al-Jazeera Special on Female Suicide Bomber Hanadi Jaradat 
August 23, 2005


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