Read My Lips Again


The Islamic State has produced a book called Sister's Role in Jihad instructing how to destroy the minds of their child and turn them into killing machines. The contents of this book should be understood as NOTHING NEW in Islamic culture. What this terrorist handbook has done is to have inscribed practices that have been embraced for centuries behind closed doors. In the West we have been reluctant to take note of this and to see what has been going in these societies. We do not discuss the ramifications of growing up in shame honor cultures, all of which have spawned Islamic suicide bombing.

I have been arguing since before 9/11 that we must look to the mother-infant relationship in order to understand from where all of this violence is coming. This is NOT to blame the female but to understand how terrified she is, that she herself has been beaten into submission but could never admit it because it would be too shaming. The devalued female "out Frenches the French" in externalizing her own murderous rage because she has been the chronic target of brutal male abuse. She has internalizes male rage of the female as self-hatred. Hence the sisters of jihad, the female suicide bomber etc.

Counter terrorist experts have failed miserably in understanding the root problem, i.e. the radical of radicalization -- early childrearing practices. Ironically in my opinion, our experts are terrified of this particular subject matter. Yet the elephant in our room remains the significance of the mother building the brain of the baby and the delicate nature of early childhood under such brutal circumstances.

Violence, the need to hate and the need to have an enemy are learned behaviors in the home by age three. Arab Muslim and also Iranian Shiite are cultures out of control. Moderate Muslims, be they Sunni or Shia, have failed to reign in their violent children whom they have raised to be murderous. How has this happen? It is too shaming for them to admit to themselves that they are in conflict. They may mouth words rejecting violence by hiding behind the mantra that Islam is the religion of peace but they remain passive aggressive - allowing the jihadis to be the carriers of their own rage stemming from their own shamed childhood. The cycle goes on across generations. They let the jihadis do the dirty work of Islam. Passive aggressive behavior is exceedingly manipulative. This violent dynamic is enhanced by the unspoken draw of jihad's sado-masochism -- what I call "the erotic exotic brutalization of the other." This is the draw too for the Western converts to Islam. We fail to talk about the sexualized component of jihad as a snuff film.

In the specific case of Muslim kids raised in the West, their mothers were often child brides who retained these traditional Islamic childrearing practices. As for the Caucasian (and others) Muslim converts to Islam, if you investigate their childhood histories, they too grew up in similar, rigid abusive households - shaming, often with absent and/or violent fathers.

I was in Ukraine over a month ago researching the Chechens and their violent brand of jihad. Chechens are the tip of the spear like the Somalis. I taught Ukrainian military, law enforcement and mental health professionals on the interlocking links of violence beginning in the home extending outward to political violence. I talked about the maternal relationship and brain development. They were mesmerized. They also admitted that they have their own cultural problems with shame and domestic violence. Add to this, the trauma of the current war and Ukraine is a tinderbox. One per cent of its population is now Muslim and growing. The average Ukrainian law enforcement person is paralyzed about dealing with this new reality. I told them they must go into these immigrant Muslim communities and get to know them. They must know who lives where, etc. They must learn what is going on. Law enforcement has to be proactive. If not, sticking one's head in the sand will merely foster parallel isolated Muslim communities as we have seen in France, Germany and England etc. Many of the Muslims are from Central Asia. I was told that the Islamic State is sending its women and children into western Ukraine. This fits with the Islamic State's playbook.

Denouncing the Islamic State's book must be met head on. Memri is right that we will now be dealing with this issue for generations to come. We must "put boots on the ground" in response to this book. We must start with the Saudis and the Iranians. Their childrearing practices have institutionalized the abuse of the female who makes the brain of the baby. We must demand that Saudi Arabia stops beheading right now. This feeds the veneration of the archaic Islamic tradition institutionalized by the Prophet Muhammad at Khaybar. We must call for them to free their own women and children. We must demand an end to the Iranian practice of Tatbir, cutting the child's forehead with a knife during the Ashura. We must name this bloody practice for what it is - child abuse. This causes the child to grow up paranoid, projecting his rage at the feminized other, most especially the Jew and the Christian.

To give another example, I relate the following intuitive moment I had after being interviewed by Eran Singer one of Israel's leading journalists on Arab Affairs (which Family Security Matters so kindly posted the link). I had the thought: why not demand that childrearing practices be required reading, included on every syllabus for those studying Islam, Arabic, Iranian cultures and especially counterterrorism? We can no longer afford to ignore the subject because of political correctness.

Finally we need to broaden the discussion from childrearing practices to issues concerning developmental problems, such as lack of empathy as a sign of a cognitive deficit. We must hold public forums. We must not be shy to establish an academic interdisciplinary field/think tank which includes trauma specialists, psychoanalysts, neuroscientists, geneticists and epigeneticists in conjunction with counterterrorist experts, policy makers, historians etc. to examine the lethal mix of childrearing practices and jihadi violence for the sake of our citizenry. We need to bring the discussion out into the open.

We must even contemplate the real possibility of the unpleasant devastating fact that these cultures have been unconsciously destroying their own genetic material because they are so enraged. In turn they have been putting our cultures at risk, destroying them. Left unchecked aggression breeds aggression, spreading like wildfire. It is a matter of self preservation. A democracy is only as strong as its nuclear family. By taking a measured look at our ancestral landscape, where we have come from with regard to childrearing practices and where we are heading, we counter the obscene message of Sister's Role in Jihad. The Islamic State will be held accountable for crimes against humanity, crimes against their own children. It is obvious that they do not want their children to develop empathy but we do care about ours. I wish for my grandchildren and all other children that they will be upstanding citizens who do not hate others and live in a safe democracy. Read my lips: "The mother builds the brain of the jihadi baby." We must act now.

kobrin 2015

Nancy Hartevelt Kobrin, Ph.D., Fellow, American Center for Democracy; Psychoanalyst, Arabist & Counter Terrorist Expert; and author of Specializing in Early Childhood Development: Mind & Body Language of the Terrorist.  She is also the author of The Banality of Suicide Terrorism; Penetrating the Terrorist Psyche; The Maternal Drama of the Chechen Jihadi, soon available in Urdu; The Jihadi Dictionary: THE Essential INTEL Tool; and yet-to-be published Children Killing Children and Mailing Mogadishu. 

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