Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Psychopathology of Terrorism - Part II

Part I can be found here.

Part II
The Origins of Psychopathic or Antisocial Personality Disorder

Our understanding of Personality Disorders in general suggests that there are several major underlying causes of these disorders. In general all the factors that impact the personality--genetics, constitution, development, parenting, and culture, --are seamlessly interwoven and it is often difficult to tell where one factor leaves off and the other begins in the normal individual. But when something goes wrong, it is worthwhile to look at these factors and tease out which ones--alone or in combination--may be responsible for the defect. Let's look at each factor in turn.


If it is the genes that are primarily responsible, we see major psychiatric illness such as Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia. These specific genetic defects often have signigicant impact on personality. There is considerable discussion in the psychiatric literature about the possibility, for example, that what we refer to as "Borderline Personality" may be a Bipolar variant. Nothing is proven yet, but clearly, biology is a key factor in the developement of personality, including psychopathic personality. As far as the literature is concerned, there are no studies that suggest that Arabs or Middle Easterners are more prone to develop those psychiatric disorders which we know are genetic in origin. But, other biological factors may come into play and they are those biological factors that are dependent on constitution and development.

Constitution /Development

Both constitution and development can lead to the development of personality disorders. The first factor alludes to those non-tangible aspects of character that are the result of the genetic inheritance and not-completely understood factors in the overall function of the brain--not just a specific genetic defect. When something is observed to be broken here, there is usually a history of a physical or physiological trauma -- either in utero (e.g., fetal alcohol syndrome) or later in life (e.g., brain injury). Since I am primarily interested in the psychopathology of terrorism, these factors are not the most important. However, poor health care; poor nutrition; family violence; and culture violence can all contribute to the biological insults that alter personality.

The following two sections make up the core of my argument about the origins of the psychopathology of terrorism. The factors discussed before--genetics, constitution, development--are all important, but there is little evidence that those who live in the Middle East are significantly different from those people in the rest of the world when it comes biological and constitutional factors. In other words, by themselves alone, we would not see a higher incidence of psychopathology in the Middle East than we would in other societies--if it were not for the two factors which follow: Parenting and Culture. I realize this is not a politically correct thing to say these days. But we must face the truth. Islam has created a culture of death, destruction and adherence to evil. Like Christianity a millenium ago, Islam must begin to look at itself in the mirror and ask some hard questions. If entire countries like Afghanistan can be looted and driven back to the middle ages by the application of a religion that embraces intolerance, cruelty, torture, and death--then Islam is not a religion at all; it is a tomb for dead souls.


What a good parent does is hard to remember; and what a bad parent does is hard to forget. As Stone comments: "Those who are reasonably bright, reasonably attractive, reasonably even-tempered and who are raised to be well-mannered and respectful of others by sympathetic and reasonable parents can live almost on automatic pilot, getting along pleasantly with friends and family, often without their having any clear understanding of why they are doing so well...But when we are confronted with abnormalities of personality, we know that something has gone wrong somewhere." Family obviously plays an extremely important role in the development of personality, especially in providing values and role-models. There is an entire dissertation or two in the dysfunctional family of Middle Eastern Muslims, where women are hidden and prevented from being able to be whole persons. What impact does such a system--even in its mildest incarnation--have on the developement of BOTH girls and boys? Under the Taliban, which arguably is the most malignant iteration of Islam's dysfunction, women were actively oppressed and beaten for any attempt to express themselves. Even today, there are actual "debates" about this. Sexuality is an essential part of each of us. The double standards of modesty and behavior encouraged by the current practice of Islam is destructive to the normal development of personality in both males and females (see here and here, for examples of psychopathy-inducing behavior that is the sanctioned model for male treatment of females). Can anyone tell me that these attitudes towards women don't have a profoundly negative impact on the personalities of both the men and women who develop in such environments? Males are encourage to be psychopaths; females to be their victims. (When women seek to "equal" men by blowing themselves up, you know there is some sort of psychopathy at work--as opposed to "gender liberation"). Also, how will a child grow up normally knowing their mother thinks of them in this way.


The factors that that I would like to focus on for the remainder of this discussion on the psychopathology of terrorism are the cultural factors. Along with the Parenting issues mentioned earlier, cultural factors play an extremely strong role in personality formation and can under certain circumstances "stack the cards" against normal develoment even if all other factors are benign. Again, Stone comments:

"Children born into authoritarian, tyrannical regimes are systematically programmed (by teachers or political authorities) to develop habits of thought and behavior at variance with parental and ommon human values. Such programming deforms the personility in any of a number of ways: one will become rigid, or mindlessly obedient, or cruel, or rebellious, or dour and bitter, etc."

We see in studies of people who are from fringe or outcast social groups (such as gangs), that the members of such groups often behave respectfully and honestly toward others within their own group, but treat outsiders as if they were not human, without any sense of wrongdoing.

The ringleaders of such groups are often the the true psychopaths, and these leaders have a seemingly unlimited supply of morally weak or immature individuals (many of them very young)--who embrace antisocial behavior under group pressure.

We also know that in time of war, or social ferment, many formerly respectable, or at least "contained" non-aggressive persons (young men, especially) turn to thuggery--their morality extending only so far as expediency and conformity to the mob or gangster group of which they have become a part. Some will remain antisocial even after the crisis/riot/war passes; the majority revert to outward respectability.

Having already a predisposition because of parenting issues, the culture of Islam "stacks the deck" further by:(1) encouraging the subjugation of women by men by giving it a religious basis. This is nothing new in the history of the world, and it certainly occurred throughout the history of Christianity too. But the idea that women are inferior to men has been challenged for a thousand years, and as women have taken their equal place with men in the countries promoting women's rights, there has been an incredible improvement in those countries' economic and political standings. The culturally sanctioned misogyny of Islam results in the dysfunctional family unit that has tremendous impact on both male and female personality development as noted in the section of this essay on "Parenting".

The Koran says (Sureh 4, Verse 35) that men have authority over women (not just the wife but sisters, daughters, and all females). If they disobey, "first admonish them, then refuse to sleep with them, and then beat them". In Islamic countries, women are second-class citizens. They are counted as one-half a witness in a legal proceeding; and they can inherit only one-half as much as a man. Their sexuality is considered so inflammatory, they must be hidden under clothing that prevents anyone from seeing them. In Saudi Arabia, sons may be sent to foreign universities but daughters are not even allowed to drive. (A recent post at Aaron's Rantblog humorously asks the question how Condi Rice would be received as Secretary of State in Riyadh--it is funny precisely because the "conversation-stoppers" in it are precisely true about Saudi society). Under the Taliban, women were beaten and murdered for showing their ankles. In Iraq today, the terrorists in the Sunni triangle have murdered women for wearing pants, even though they were also wearing a veil.

Now, why are women's rights issue--or rather, the lack of them-- of importance in developing antisocial psychopathology? Well, in the case of Islam, the religion has set-up an ongoing potentially abusive situation in the family; in heterosexual relationships;and in the culture. It breeds sadism, because taking out your frustrations or impotence on the socially-sancti oned "lesser" half of the population teaches an important lesson that all psychopaths have learned: "I am more important and powerful because I can hurt or kill this weak person". Unfortunately, through a process that Anna Freud documents called "Identification with the Aggressor" it also breeds the same sadistic tendency in women, though they have many fewer options in acting it out (female suicide bombers;and mothers who cheer the deaths of their sons and daughters in Allah's cause etc.)

The second factor in Islamic culture that "stacks the deck", encouraging abnormal personality development is : (2) the perpetual war against the infidel inherent in externalization of the concept of " jihad". Those who see "jihad" as an inner struggle do not generally evolve into psychopaths, because one would hope that internalizing the process would foster insight and self-awareness, rather than brutality. But even these "moderate" practitioners of Islam do not stand up and loudly contradict the psychopathic elements in their religion; rather, they invite these elements to come "teach" at their mosques and abdicate leadership roles to them.

Those who are not strong personalities become the disposable fodder that can then act out the psychopaths' scripts for them. They become the stooges--the suicide bombers--who mindlessly carry out their leaders' orders without every once considering that if holiness and sainthood are guaranteed by becoming a human bomb for Allah , then why is it that their leaders are not jumping with joy to grab the opportunity for themselves?

Islam has become toxic, infusing the entire Middle East with a culture inimical to not just the 50% who are female; but equally to the half who are male and consider themselves "superior". Children are raised in a misogynist family and cultural environment and the young boys are thus encouraged to hatred and violence. This has been going on for decades among the Palestinians in particular; but everywhere the jihad mindset has spread it cancerous message.

The educational tenets of this toxic culture, centered in the Saudi Arabian madrassas are exported around the Middle East and the entire globe. Even the most balanced analysis that I read of these schools (here) has this to say about their net result on the students they teach:

Nevertheless, many madrassa students have violent personalities due to long harsh treatment by their teachers. They are politically charged and attached blindly to their respective interpretations of their faith and ideology. They seldom have the capability to analyze developments taking place around them. Although they are not a formal part of any pan-Islamic movement or Muslim Brotherhood campaign, and they are not being trained by bin Laden or anyone else against a superpower for jihad, they have a love bond with Islam and the Islamic ummah, and this can trigger the violent man inside them as they have blind faith and rigid standards. Certainly, then, they are catalysts for jihad because of the influence and education they receive in the madrassas.

Culture is not a neutral participant in personality development. It is an important source of values and as such is one of the most important factors responsible for either encouraging or discouraging the psychopathic traits that were listed in Part I.

Toxic Islamic culture has achieved its pinnacle in the suicide bomber/murderer. And those who willingly follow this cult of death meet many of the criteria discussed Part I for the antisocial personality including:(1) A glib, superficial charm (especially the leaders) (2) A grandiose sense of self-worth; (3) Pathological lying; (4)Manipulative behavior; (5) Lack of remorse or guilt for their behavior; (6) Lack of the usual behavioral controls; (7) Deviant sexual behavior and attitudes (this has repeatedly been reported on in the Arab and Islamic culture and would not be surprising considering the distortion and denigration of females in the society); (8) Jealousy and envy; (9) Sense of entitlement; and (10)A failure to accept responsibility for one's own actions.

A combination of cultural and social factors in Islam encourages the development of the many of traits inherent in the psychopathic or antisocial personality. The predominance of this personality pattern both fosters and feeds on phenomenon of terrorism and provides the cultural underpinnings that support its continuation.

Certainly psychopathy does develop in other settings and cultures. The point of this essay has been to highlight aspects of Islamic culture that contribute significantly to the developement of antisocial personalities. As we have discussed, two of the most prominent aspects are (1) the Islamic ambivalence toward women and sexuality; and (2) the concept of external jihad.

Psychopaths exist within all cultures. What is different in Islam is that the content of its creed has given personal and societal sanction to psychopathy; and within this religious culture murder, torture, intimidation and brutality can be used with impunity. Not only are the adherents safe from censure, they are actually lauded and celebrated as heroes.

The routine societal expression of antisocial and murderous impulses are far better tolerated in the totalitarian regimes that are rampant in the Middle East; but even those regimes are not brutal enough for the religious psychopaths of Islam--hence the abomination of the Taliban--and if there has ever in the history of mankind been a more brutal and thuggish regime, I have not heard about it.

Psychopaths cannot function openly or for long where there is freedom, equality, and the rule of law. That is why terrorists are so desperate to prevent the establisment of democracies and prefer Islamic law which encourages and supports their psychopathy. And, individual thought and creativity; reason and justice; and the pursuit of happiness--all are completely incompatible with the psychopath's agenda.

This essay does not claim that all citizens of Islamic countries; or all practitioners of Islam are antisocial or have severe personality problems. On the contrary, I recognize that there are many fine people of all religions. It is important to remember that religion can either be a force for encouraging the good and noble in humanity, or it can appeal to the worse that is within each human being. The Islamofascist terrorists have made it clear which type of Islam they intend to propagate. Anyone who defends Islam must be clear which kind of religion they are supporting.

In Part III, I will look at the implications for managing the the individual and group psychopathy rampant in Islam.

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