When Death Comes to Breakfast
Some thoughts about psychological explanations for
by Sue Vogel
are human beings. Who
among us has not been horrified at the turn of events in July last?
write as someone who experienced a sinking sense of déjà vu as the news
came rolling in. I should have been in
, at King's Cross, on that day, but merciful chance meant that I was
delayed and could not leave my town at all.
My initial disbelief that it could be happening here was slowly
replaced by the wish to understand why
it was happening. This is
a defence, to help me to combat the churning of my stomach, but I also
think it is necessary if we are to combat, and one day end, this lunacy.
me make myself quite clear by "understand" I do not mean
"condone" or "forgive." I lived in
for a while, and quickly came to realise that no amount of condoning or
forgiveness on the part of the bombed can make a homicide bomber desist
from fulfilling his or her objective.
felt betrayed when, in a rush to convince the Moslem communities that
British people do not hold them responsible, Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of
London, linked the terrorism in
to Moslem sympathies with their Palestinian brothers and to British
. He understood, he said, why
young men who feel powerless can be convinced to turn their bodies into
bombs. Conspicuously absent
from his speech was any apprehension that these bombings might be part of
a wider plan, and anyone who wants further information about this is at
liberty to contact me. There
is a vast literature, written by the fundamentalists themselves, about
their plans for
and the West.
are only just beginning to apprehend what might drive young men and women
towards homicide bombing, and comparatively little has been written about
the psychology of it. One key
text one might argue a vital pre-requisite for the psychotherapist who
is interested what might contribute to the homicide bomber's mindset, is
by Dr Phyllis Chesler. In
her article for Front Page Magazine on 3 May 2004, Dr Chesler writes about
the psychoanalytic roots of Islamic terrorism, and refers particularly to
research by Dr Nancy Kobrin, a Minnesota-based psychoanalyst. Kobrin
writes of a culture where the debasement of women is paramount, and where
barbarous family and clan dynamics result in systemic oral and anal rape
of children. Kobrin
writes, "The little girl lives her life under a communal death threat
-- the honor killing."
Kobrin describes how both male and female infants and children are
brought up by mothers who are debased and traumatized women. As such, all
children are forever psychologically "contaminated" by the
humiliated yet all-powerful mother. Arab and Muslim boys must dissociate
themselves from her in spectacularly savage ways. But, on a deep
unconscious level, they may also wish to remain merged with the source of
contamination--a conflict that suicide bombers both act out and resolve
when they manfully kill but also merge their blood eternally with that of
their presumably most hated enemies, the Israeli Jews. In Kobrin's view,
the Israeli Jews may actually function as substitutes or scapegoats for an
even more primal, hated/loved enemy: Woman.
article then sets out the substance of her conversation with Walid Shoebat,
an ex-PLO terrorist who renounced terrorism and embraced Christianity.
Shoebat confirmed the widespread sexual abuse of both boys and
girls. Shoebat explained that homosexuality is forbidden if one is
penetrated but not if one is the penetrator, and went on to describe how
once, when he was on a hiking trip, he saw a line of shepherd boys waiting
their turn to sodomise a five year old boy.
goes on to suggest that the male sexual abuse of female children exists
everywhere and that it is the main way of traumatising and shaming women
into obedience and rendering them incapable of resistance and rebellion.
She argues, however, that male sexual abuse of male children
always denied, never admitted may work differently and turn boys into
angry, paedophilic, predatory men. This
may be one explanation for the ease by which such young Palestinian men
are recruited into the suicide squads. They feel debased and humiliated
and are easy prey for the extremists who convince them that the only way
to redeem themselves is by murdering themselves and Israelis.
Another explanation is intense tribal loyalty, by which family and
family history supersedes individual needs or wishes.
Extremist Islam is predicated upon an external locus of control and
evaluation, and that locus is in the hands of religious leaders.
why is this happening here?
The clues lie in the readiness on the part of the
"handlers" of homicide bombers to link the Palestinian Moslems'
perceived experience of oppression with the
war, which again and again is said to have been waged against Islam, to
the godlessness and blameworthiness of
and the West. The Western
media, aided and abetted by tactless politicians, has unwittingly bedded
in this erroneous idea. Do not
forget that, in fundamentalist Islam, we are dealing with a sophisticated
machine whose sole aim is to spread the banner of its own malignant and
repressive version of Islam throughout the world, by terror if necessary.
One of my friends, who had been in the centre of
on 7th July, said that she felt violated, raped by the
terrorist attacks. I refer you
to Kobrin's statement above, about the systematic debasement and
traumatisation of Palestinian women. This seems to be extremist Islam's
stock in trade so as to weaken and make compliant, and my friend's
experience is, I believe, a significant if chilling experience of a
contrast, there is stoicism and in a strange way hopefulness, in an email,
received shortly after 7th July, from a friend:
have just returned from a family wedding in tel aviv
visited the holocaust museum as well as attending the wedding
every restaurant entrance to the beach, shop etc there are security
personnel checking my bag for bombs.
are turned away if they dont look appropriately dressed for the hot
is sadly how the
is going to have to become now that the terror war is here big time
buildings in tel aviv are crumbling......there is little
investment.......but the people are proud, their heads held high.
feel for us in the
but know it only too well and have become philosophical about it."
can we do about it? The
most obvious antidote to extremism is education and open-mindedness,
rather than knee-jerk reaction. I do not expect you to take on trust what
I have written above, but I have researched it, and you can, too.
And, please, continue to live your lives!
Fear weakens the psychological immune system, to the extent that
the twin opportunistic infections of extremism and susceptibility to hate
propaganda can move in and take over.
Do not let them. Be
philosophical and strong and aware and know your own minds!
(Note: This page was extremely
anti-Semitic before the Government announced its intention to legislate
against religious hatred and incitement to terrorism.
The current page is fairly anodyne by comparison, although it talks
of the establishment of a world-wide Caliphate by force if necessary).
This page is about honour killings of women in Islam.
It is very detailed and may be upsetting to read.
How the rights of Palestinian children are eroded in the Middle Eastern
A web page dedicated to secular Islam
Reuter, Christoph (2004).
My Life Is a Weapon: A Modern History of Suicide Bombing.
Chesler, Phyllis (2004).
The Psychoanalytic Roots of Islamic Terrorism.
Front Page Magazine, 3 May 2004