The Secularist Diagnosis: Jihadis Are Not Muslim But Mental!

In much the same way that extroverts cannot make sense of the thoughts and motivations of introverts (and vice-versa), secularists have a difficult time accepting that religious people can actually act on the basis of religious beliefs and motivations.

Nowhere is this more evident than when the political, media and law-enforcement worlds, firmly in the grip of secularist thinking, are faced with the reality of a jihadi terrorist attack.incomprehensible.jpg Finding it impossible to believe that the terrorist could truly be motivated by his Islamic convictions, they search high and low for some “more logical” assessment: the perpetrator was moved by poverty, or by anger over Western imperialism, or by social injustice, and so on. But certainly, the motivation could not come from actual religious convictions, because no sane person actually has such strong religious convictions (at least not among the average reporter or politician).

Perhaps the most popular diagnosis offered by official, secular, Western mouthpieces for jihadi atrocities is mental illness. This stems not from any deep psychological assessments by professionals but rather from the inability of secular observers to believe that any human being could hold a set of religious beliefs which would permit the slaughter, maiming, rape or enslavement of another human being.

Thus, it doesn’t really matter what the perpetrator says about his/her motivations, because that can’t be the true reason. If those calling the shots can’t pin the “real” motivation on poverty or some social injustice, they pull out the mental illness card, and in the process show their ignorance of the power of religion (in this case Islam) to inspire behavior.

Consider just a few of many news reports over the last decade:

  • In 2009, Major Nidal Hasan, himself a psychiatrist, shoots and kills 13 and wounds 30 more at Ft. Hood, while shouting Allahu akbar (Allah is greater). nidal.jpgDespite his prior interaction with a radical cleric and his official work seeking to justify the Islamic concept of jihad to his fellow Army mental health professionals, his rampage is officially labeled “workplace violence” and his mental health is questioned (“deeply troubling, schizoid behavior”).
  • In September, 2014, a young Muslim woman in Colorado was pled guilty to conspiring to assist ISIS. Judge Raymond Moore repeatedly asked her if she understood both the charge and what a guilty plea would mean. In spite of her affirmative responses, the judge delayed sentencing and ordered psychiatric testing, saying about her mental state, “I desire more information.”
  • In October, 2014, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a 32-year-old, Canadian Muslim who recently had a religious awakening, ottawa-shooterattacked Parliament Hill in Ottawa, killing a defenseless soldier before being stopped by Parliament Police when he stormed the building. Being dead, he could not supply his own motivation. Authorities, however, were quick to conclude that he had recently become “mentally unstable,” and fit the profile of men who are “isolated, disturbed and deeply troubled….”
  • In January, 2016, Edward Archer ambushed and wounded Officer Jesse Hartnett in the City of Brotherly Love as the policeman was driving his squad car. Edward-Archer-MugshotAfter being apprehended, Archer told detectives, “I follow Allah. I pledge my allegiance to the Islamic state. That is why I did what I did.” Despite this, during a press briefing Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney declared that whatever the motivation of the shooter, it had “nothing to do” with Islam. Archer’s mother, Valerie Holliday, acknowledged in a phone interview that her son was a devout Muslim who had been practicing the faith “for a long time,” but also believed he was recently suffering from some form of mental illness, hearing voices in his head.
  • On Nov. 28, 2016, Abdul Razak Ali Artan rammed his speeding car into a crowd of students on the Ohio State Columbus campus, then exited the stopped car wielding a butcher knife so as to stab more victims, but he was shot dead by a police officer before he could do further significant damage. artanJust prior to his act of terrorism, he had posted a rant on his Facebook page referring to “lone wolf attacks,” radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, and declaring that he had reached a “boiling point.” “America! Stop interfering with other countries, especially Muslim Ummah [community]. We are not weak. We are not weak, remember that,” he warned. Later at a press briefing, a senior law enforcement official remarked that investigators were trying to determine whether Artan had personal problems or something else that might have pushed him over the edge.

Let me skip over scores of other similar stories to the most recent one to grab my attention and illustrate this point: on July 28, 2017 a Palestinian Muslim (known publicly only as Ahmad A.) seeking asylum in Germany entered a market and engaged in a stabbing spree, killing one and wounding six others while yelling Allahu akbar. Though he confessed to terrorism, German authorities were hesitant to believe him, saying instead that he suffered from mental illness. This, in spite of the facts that a friend acknowledged that Ahmad had become significantly radicalized in the past month, and that investigators discovered a homemade ISIS flag in his apartment, and that he was already known to authorities as a Muslim radical. According to Hamburg’s Interior Minister Andy Grote, Ahmad A. “was known as an Islamist but not a jihadist,” whatever that means – apparently you’re not a jihadist until you’ve already spilled the blood of innocents.

In a sadly fascinating display of bureaucratic incompetence, Ahmad’s asylum application had been rejected prior to the attack, but German authorities couldn’t deport him because he had come to Germany in 2015 without any identification papers, and he had “mental health problems.” Not knowing what to do with him, they did nothing.

Yesterday, Ahmad A. stood trial for his crimes. ahmad-a-.jpgContrary to early police reports of mental illness, the defendant corroborated his initial confession to authorities, “Yes, I am a terrorist.” He asserted that his Muslim faith led him to want to kill as many Christians as possible. Ahmad’s lawyer read a letter in which the defendant pled guilty to all charges, and then went on to say his client believes that the deeds done were motivated by his religion. “He made this decision as a contribution to the global jihad,” the attorney summarized.

No verdict has yet been rendered. It will be interesting to see whether the court sees Ahmad A. as sane and takes him at his word that Islam led him to his jihadi terrorism, or whether, following the secularist narrative, he must be insane and so needs treatment for his psychological condition rather than punishment for his crimes.

As we continue to see, secular thinking has no native category in which to place religious motivations (of any sort), except perhaps that of mythology, and of course mythology cannot really inspire people to drastic actions. When a religious person commits heinous acts and attributes it to his/her religious beliefs, a secularist naturally concludes that the perpetrator must be mentally imbalanced or insane, because no sane person (as defined by a secular outlook) could be deeply motivated by religious beliefs.

Those who deeply believe in God know differently of course, but what self-respecting secularist is going to accept lessons on sanity from a religious person? In their minds, that would be like an iPhone user going to a Morse code operator seeking help. The motivations of believing Muslim jihadis will continue to stump the irreligious Western world.

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4 Responses to The Secularist Diagnosis: Jihadis Are Not Muslim But Mental!

  1. Pudentiana says:

    The demonic forces behind Islam are obvious to those who understand.


  2. Muslims are now faced with three options after they read the Koran, the Hadith, and the Sira and see that it’s violent, and not the religion of peace. Their tradition have expounded so the resulting dynamic is simply a three-prong fork in the road. The forks provide that Muslims can either become apathetic / agnostic and stop believing, become an apostate, or become devout followers and jihadist. This last choice as, ‘This is my religion. This is what it teaches. I have to follow and this is causing a decrease of nominal / typical Muslims around the world.\

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Victor Joe says:

    Mateen, I like your article. I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s essay from his Letters from Prison entitled “On Stupidity” which addresses another aspect of the mind of the Jihadist. Could Hitler’s murder of 6 million Jews also be motivated by his obsession of another sort….ie.. could his obsession of being a superior race be called a “religion”? Isn’t religion any belief in God who rules the universe? The Hitlers, Mohammeds and dictators all manifest this trait of power and dominance over the world. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s essay from his “Letters and Papers from Prison” entitled “ON STUPIDITY” may be relevant to what is happening to the world today. I have copied and pasted Bonhoeffer’s article (a bit lengthy but necessary) for you and any to read and respond to (or not).

    ‘Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed- in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.
    ‘If we want to know how to get the better of stupidity, we must seek to understand its nature. This much is certain, that it is in essence not an intellectual defect but a human one. There are human beings who are of remarkably agile intellect yet stupid, and others who are intellectually quite dull yet anything but stupid. We discover this to our surprise in particular situations. The impression one gains is not so much that stupidity is a congenital defect, but that, under certain circumstances, people are made stupid or that they allow this to happen to them. We note further that people who have isolated themselves from others or who lives in solitude manifest this defect less frequently than individuals or groups of people inclined or condemned to sociability. And so it would seem that stupidity is perhaps less a psychological than a sociological problem. It is a particular form of the impact of historical circumstances on human beings, a psychological concomitant of certain external conditions. Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or of a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity. It would even seem that this is virtually a sociological-psychological law. The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other.The process at work here is not that particular human capacities, for instance, the intellect, suddenly atrophy or fail. Instead, it seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence, and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances. The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with a person, but with slogans, catchwords and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupdi person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.
    ‘Yet at this very point it becomes quite clear that only an act of liberation, not instruction, can overcome stupidity. Here we must come to terms with the fact that in must cases a genuine internal liberation becomes possible only when external liberation has preceded it. Until then we must abandon all attempts to convince the stupid person. This state of affairs explains why in such circumstances our attempts to know what ‘the people’ really thing are in vain and why, under these circumstances, this question is so irrelevant for the person who is thinking and acting responsibly. The word of the Bible that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom declares that the internal liberation of human beings to live the responsible life before God is the only genuine way to overcome stupidity.
    ‘But these thoughts about stupidity also offer consolation in that they utterly forbid us to consider the majority of people to be stupid in every circumstance. It really will depend on whether those in power expect more from peoples’ stupidity. than from their inner independence and wisdom.’
    -Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from ‘After Ten Years’ in Letters and Papers from Prison (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works/English, vol. 8) Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2010.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mateenelass says:

      Victor, thank you so much for this insight! I had never read this passage from Letters and Papers from Prison, and find it extremely helpful in understanding why some people remain so thick-skulled when it comes to understanding jihadism. They are, according to Bonhoeffer, living in stupidity, and can’t be reasoned out of their position. They must first be freed from the sociological powers enthralling them!


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