Some people object to even talking about “Muslims” or “Muslim culture” as a group, because doing so, they claim, deindividualizes and stereotypes them. “Stop making it about ‘us’ versus ‘them,’” a few readers of this column complain.
However, it’s an observed fact that Muslims, as a group, are responsible for nearly all of the organized, ideologically based violence in today’s world. As a movement, they are the ones who have set the terms of “us” versus “them.” Their organized movement faces little or no moderate opposition, from within, against the extremists who call for worldwide murder and/or enslavement of anyone who disagrees. Like it or not, that’s what we’re dealing with in the real world today.
If we wish to survive in life as we know it, we have to understand why this is. If we censor certain thoughts or ideas as politically incorrect or otherwise insensitive, and therefore outside the realm of intellectual consideration, then we run the risk of not understanding what we’re confronting, nor why we’re confronting it.
How rational is that? How “liberal,” enlightened or safe is that?
Consider the following, from “How Islam Creates Sociopaths” [israelnationalnews.com 10/4/15], an interesting study done by Danish psychologist Nicolai Sennels:
Nobody is born a mass murderer, a rapist or a violent criminal. So what is it in the Muslim culture that influences their children in a way that makes so relatively many Muslims harm other people?
Kudos to Sennels for even asking the question. Because things have reached a point in our so-called quest for knowledge that certain questions might never be asked, much less explored.
The psychology field should be at the forefront of launching such an investigation into the social and psychological dynamics of Islam; instead, at psychologytoday.com and elsewhere, we’re greeted with diatribes against political candidate Ben Carson for suggesting that Islam might not be the best ideology for world peace. They call for diversity and multiculturalism, without any attempt to grasp what gives rise to all these beheadings, skyscraper-topplings, toddler-bomb-strappings, hostage-takings and everything else Islamic we have been reading about for decades now. Same old stale, unhelpful and anti-intellectual garbage.
To understand something, especially something involved in the creation of evil, is to risk offending it. Evil and irrational people are usually quite cranky. You risk offending Nazis by trying to understand what animates such an ideology. The same applies to Islam. If you don’t like this fact, then you’re due to get over it.
Sennels goes on:
As a psychologist in a Danish youth prison, I had a unique chance to study the mentality of Muslims. 70 percent of youth offenders in Denmark have a Muslim background. I was able to compare them with non-Muslim clients from the same age group with more or less the same social background. I came to the conclusion that Islam and Muslim culture have certain psychological mechanisms that harm people’s development and increase criminal behavior.
Word of caution: People are, in the end, determined by their thoughts and ideas. It’s thoughts and ideas that determine how people feel, act, and make choices, not their cultures.
Circumstances, including culture, are important, but not the final and determining factor. We’re all exposed to certain ideas via parents, family, schools, and other cultural institutions or media; it’s whether or why we accept those ideas, that counts.
Brainwashing people into believing or doing things against their own human nature — such as hating or even killing innocents they do not even know — is traditionally done by combining two things: pain and repetition. The conscious infliction of psychological and physical suffering breaks down the person’s resistance to the constantly repeated message.
Totalitarian regimes use this method to reform political dissidents. Armies in less civilized countries use it to create ruthless soldiers, and religious sects all over the world use it to fanaticize their followers.
This is key. Islam promotes and even requires the existence of totalitarian governments to enforce the ideology. The totalitarian government is part of the ideology. These governments are able to enforce rules at gunpoint.
Imagine a conservative Christian government controlling all media and personal behavior in America. You could be jailed or murdered for choosing to have an abortion, for using birth control, for having sex outside of marriage or for engaging in homosexual sex. That, and much more, is what Muslims are up against. Yet they are not total victims. While not all Muslims may support everything about their totalitarian governments, those totalitarian governments are based on the religion to which the vast majority of them subscribe. In a very real sense, they asked for it.
Muslim culture [Sennels continues] simply does not have the same degree of understanding of human development as in civilized societies, and physical pain and threats are therefore often the preferred tool to raise children. This is why so many Muslim girls grow up to accept violence in their marriages, and why Muslim boys grow up to learn that violence is acceptable. And it is the main reason why nine out of ten children removed from their parents by authorities in Copenhagen are from immigrant families. The Muslim tradition of using pain and intimidation as part of disciplining children is also widely used in Muslim schools — also in the West.
The basic issue here is reason. All parents must set limits on their children and keep them from running free or unrestrained. It’s a question of degree, but also of philosophy. If your basic approach is reason-oriented, you set limits on children so they will grow up into thinking, independent and self-responsible adults with minds of their own. Intellectual and psychological independence is the goal of reason-based parenting; indoctrination is the goal of dogmatic and authoritarian parenting, and there is nothing more dogmatic or authoritarian on earth, at present, than Islam.
According to this study, reason is obviously not the dominant idea in Islamic cultures. In fact, reason does not appear to be present at all. It’s not that Muslim parents are basically reason-oriented with conservative tendencies; it’s that brutality and force are all they know, or perhaps what they believe is ideal.
Given how most parents in such cultures treat and view their own children, what makes us think there’s any hope for them viewing the children of “infidels” in lands their religion has trained them to hate any more positively? Those people prattling on about, “Stop making it about us versus them,” are completely (and I think willfully) ignorant of the fact that the dominant majority of people in such cultures have already made it about “us versus them.”
If the totalitarian regimes ruling places like Iran did not have the support of most of the people, that would be one thing. Free countries would have the option of waiting out the dictatorship, and even providing underground support to pro-freedom elements who existed in that country. While such rebellious or even more secular elements undoubtedly exist in Iran, they have not been strong enough to overcome the totalitarian regime, most likely because the widespread support for them has not been there. Our own American government, particularly since the Obama administration, who actually sides with the totalitarian regime over and above any rebellious elements, is partly to blame as well.
Not only does a traditional Islamic upbringing resemble classical brainwashing methods, but also, the culture it generates cultivates psychological characteristics that further enable and increase violent behavior.
Starting with Islamic youth, Sennels boils it down to four mental factors enabling the cause of aggression and violence. These factors are anger; lack of self-confidence; no sense of responsibility for oneself; and intolerance.
Anger and lack of self-responsibility are key. These two factors, in turn, fuel the lack of self-confidence and tolerance which follow in most Islamic cultures.
Take anger. Sennels makes a fascinating and insightful point:
When it comes to anger, Western societies widely agree that it is a sign of weakness. Uncontrolled explosions of this unpleasant feeling are maybe the fastest way of losing face, especially in Northern countries, and though angry people may be feared, they are never respected. In Muslim culture, anger is much more accepted, and being able to intimidate people is seen as strength and source of social status.
In other words, Islamic children grow up with the idea that anger is a show of strength. Most Americans come from the opposite perspective, as Sennels says. As a result, they mistakenly conclude that, “If we just show our strength by not being angry, this will calm the Muslims down.” This tactic will usually work when dealing with individuals or groups where the dominant attitude about anger is the same. But not with people in Islamic cultures, because the dominant attitudes in that group are that anger is strength, not weakness. When, for reasons of political correctness, moral cowardice, misplaced pacifism or whatever else, we respond to their violence with calm, rational “turn the other cheek” sorts of measures, they feel contempt and no respect whatsoever for us–thereby leading them to strike out more.
Consider self-responsibility. Sennels states,
…here the psychological phenomenon “locus of control” plays a major role. People raised by Western standards generally have an inner locus of control, meaning that they experience their lives as governed by inner factors, such as one’s own choices, world view, ways of handling emotions and situations, etc. Muslims are raised to experience their lives as being controlled from the outside.
It’s impossible to exaggerate what a profound difference such an attitude makes. That’s why Bush’s Iraq war was, in the end, such a miserable failure. We’re taking it for granted that all human beings think, act and feel the same way. “If we only liberate them, they will exercise self-initiative, thinking and acting for themselves.” Not everyone wants to do this, or even believes it’s an option.
With regard to Islam, these attitudes are the precise opposite of everything the religion and culture stands for. You’d have to be a total and complete turncoat against Islam to have any sympathy for such an ideal. Yet all of our leaders – left and right – take it for granted that eventually it will all work out. In the meantime, the violence and danger only grows, as ISIS spreads its influence.
Keep in mind that ISIS is not merely a military movement. It’s at root an ideological and psychological one. It appeals to the grass roots. ISIS exists and grows because it appeals to the hearts and minds of Muslim people everywhere. Its attitudes, ideals and values are the polar opposite of everything that have always been the dominant attitudes in America – self-control, self-responsibility, individualism. These values require freedom, not subservience.
When most Muslims are confronted with freedom, it makes them realize that what you’re really talking about are self-control, reason, independence and individualism. These frighten them on a level most of us will never comprehend. And, because of their cultural attitudes about violence, it sends them into a rage, as a show of strength against their own inner fear. ISIS stands ready and waiting, particularly with younger people, to convert that rage into political and military action on a scale that—left free to grow—could make Nazi Germany look like a day at the beach.
Keep in mind that at the root of most rage and hatred is the emotion of fear. People who have internalized the values and beliefs dominant in Islamic culture hate rationality, capitalism, Westernism and science precisely because they are effective. The very existence of our advanced, rational system of life rains on their whole mystical, deterministic and fatalistic world view. The result is fear, then rage, then militant action (because angry action is viewed as strength). That explains why advocates of Islam are not merely content to counterattack Americans for their presence in the Middle East; they are determined to go on the offensive, destroy America, and decimate all Western values, at all costs. That’s what Islamic totalitarianism is all about, according to every single word and action of its movement’s representatives.
I agree with people who say that in order to defeat an enemy like militant Islam, we first have to understand it. But the more we look honestly and objectively at what Islam is really about –in actual cultural practice, and in psychological characteristics, not only theoretical ideology—the more we’re forced to confront an ideology more at odds with any version of Americanism/freedom/secular individualism than has ever existed. As bad as Nazism and Communism were, militant Islam may be the ultimate and complete inversion of all that made America what it was, and (though starting to fade) still essentially is. They’re forcing us to come to terms with our values and ideals by attempting to systematically destroy them.
Like it or not, Islam is making it about “us” versus “them.” They’re forcing us to decide: Do you really want to live as happy, free, and always materially progressing on earth? Or do you want to denounce those values altogether?
You’re either with them or against them. That’s not me saying it; they are saying it. Those are the terms they have set, not those of us who disagree with them.
Remember that as events continue to play out in the months and years to come. Understand what you’re up against; otherwise it will devour you.