How ISIS Gets Children to Kill

ISIS child executioner Abu Bakr
ISIS child executioner Abu Bakr

How can we understand the horrific image of children being forced to assassinate infidels?

Is it ideology? Brainwashing? Role-playing? Such terms cancel out the importance of culture and emotions. The normalization of murder requires a deeper look into the cultures which spawn terror groups such as ISIS, Hezbollah, Hamas and the like.

It takes a culture, not a village, to raise a child.

Jihadis are from shame/honor cultures of the tribe or clan — Palestinian hamula, Arab qabila, Somali qabil, Chechen teip, etc. When Islam nests with shame/honor cultures, the combination is combustible. This is because of the ideologies found in Suras such as 4 (wife beating), 9 (the sword) or 17 al-Isra (anti-Israelites) are violent.

Yet we must be careful with naming “ideology” as the sole problem, because it is like a lifesaver cast out to us, which allays our own terrors that we have found the problem and it is ideology.

Moderate Muslims and others read these violent passages and they don’t murder. And what about converts who radicalize, you may ask? They didn’t grow up in a shame/honor culture.

While this is true, many grew up in shaming families where sadism rules.

An inconvenient truth is that the ideologies are only part of the problem, because these emotionally lived beliefs are completely dependent upon the psychological state of the perpetrators.

Ideologies are vacuous if they cannot hook into emotions. Ideologies harness preexisting murderous fantasies triggered by shame. Before latching on to an ideology, jihadis harbor feelings of rage that exceed murder itself, along with annihilation fantasies.

Nor it is ideology vs. emotion, rather it is the malignant synergy of the two. If we were to delete jihadi ideologies, we would still have violent children. Its appeal is the sadism. Like a bad version of the movie Inside Out, their sadism is spilled out onto the canvas of the world to annihilate infidels, to terrorize others. The horrific videos of ISIS are our proof. The jihadis are psychologically blind.

Shame/honor cultures are dysfunctional. They are addicted to violence. Shame is the tool used to keep everyone in line. Physical and emotional needs are dirty. They are projected on to scapegoats who carry the toxins away, thus purifying the group.

Men are emasculated because they are not psychologically separated from their mothers. In turn they control the female by shame. When the female becomes a mother, she is the baby’s first cultural interpreter. She cannot be the normal loving maternal figure, for she harbors her own traumatic experience of having been abused (FGM) and her own rage against what for her are sourceless hurts.

She identifies with the aggressor in sending her children off to be martyred in jihadi actions, as though she, too, can be purged of the humiliations and sufferings. The littlest are scapegoated being taught to murder. This is a world in reverse where good is bad and bad is good.

Shaming is soul murder. Shaming greases the jihadi serial murdering machine with children as pawns. To stop jihadis, it is crucial to understand what it’s like growing up in a Islamic shame/honor culture and the murderous emotions it engenders.

To stop the violence, we should heed the words of the “Green Prince, the son of Hamas,” Mosab Hassan Yousef who abandoned jihad. He said: “Shame is the greatest enemy.”

Check out the trailer for our upcoming film Jihad Generation about the radicalization of kids by clicking here

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NH
Nancy Hartevelt
Nancy Hartevelt Kobrin is a psychoanalyst and counter-terrorism expert with a PhD in Islamic literature. She has authored five books on the subject. Her forthcoming book is titled "Children who Kill Children" with her co-author Norman Simms, PhD.

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