The Jihadi Dictionary: Reviewed by Nidra Poller

by NIDRA POLLER October 20, 2017

Kobrin, Nancy Hartevelt, The Jihadi Dictionary, Multieducator Press, Mamaroneck, NY, 2017

Islam is a totalitarian system that regulates down to the smallest detail the life of Muslims, obliges them to impose this system to the ends of the earth, and teaches genocidal hatred of those that do not submit. It is no surprise to learn that this system impacts societies and individuals subject to its oppressive ideology. The opposite would be contrary to everything we have learned about the psychological development of human beings. It is curious to observe that the stubborn refusal to make the connection between ideology and psychology is buttressed by flimsy socio-economic explanations that fall apart as soon as they're touched.

Not a day goes by without confirmation of the insights compiled in Kobrin's Jihadi Dictionary. Case in point: Mamade Y, the 19 year-old that tried to commit an attack at the Eiffel Tower on August 5th, had been released for the weekend from the psychiatric institution where he was slated to remain for the next 6 months. The aspiring jihadi's father explained that his son has problems managing his anger. In the past, whenever he had a fit of anger, he would see a masked man telling him to do things. Lately, it's a jhadi. The young man, who has been in psychiatric treatment since the family moved to France from Mauritania some sixteen years ago, was angry that weekend because the hospital had refused to give him a smartphone. The family is described as "observant but not radicalized."

Not "radicalized?" The answer, I think, can be found in the intricate coherent argument developed by Dr. Nancy Hartevelt Kobrin, psychoanalyst and counter-terrorism expert. The pathology that produces a young man inspired to stab a soldier at the iconic Tour Eiffel originates in the impossible bonding of the infant with the devalued mother, herself terrorized by a shame-honor culture that leaves her defenseless against male brutality, with all avenues for personal fulfillment blocked by a culture/ideology/religion that perverts every aspect of human relations. Kobrin has opted for a multi-dimensional dictionary format that provides insight into the chasm that separates, term by term, Western and jihadi meanings. Each entry lists a standard dictionary definition, etymology, and usage, followed by a specific jihadi meaning. "Brothers," for example:  The term denotes a spectrum of meaning, from fraternal comradeship to, at the far end, jihadi brothers acting in tandem to commit butchery. Among the examples cited are:  Hassan and Walid bin Attash (9/11); Ali Imron, Amrosi, and Muhlas (Bali 2002); Mohamed & Abdulkader Merah (Toulouse, Montauban 2012); the Tsarnaev brothers (Boston Marathon 2013); Ibrahim and Salah Abdeslam (Paris November 2015), the el Bakraoui brothers (Brussels 2016)...[pp 43-4, and "Twinship" p 255]

The sharply observant treatment of this one entry, which is characteristic of the entire dictionary, contrasts vividly with the slack, evasive journalistic approach by which most people consume information about a life and death struggle that, on the contrary, demands clarity, lucidity and vigorous action by democratic governments.

It is obvious, observes Kobrin, that our counter-terrorism programs fall short of reasonable expectations. One reason is the "lethal blind spot" due to lack of knowledge of the "mechanics and dynamics of primitive mental states, mechanisms of defense, and ...misuse of objects, constituting perverse behavior." [pp 59-60] To wit: the August 9th car ramming of soldiers as they came out of their bivouac in Levallois-Perret was met with stubbornly ignorant wonder about the "mystery of the attacker's motivations." His "radicalization" was soon revealed.

While professionals will be capable of a more precise reading of Kobrin's interlocking psychoanalytic interpretations, the lay reader can grasp on his own level concepts that shed light on the harsh reality impinging on our freedom and security. The Jihadi Dictionary is definitely not a psychological tool for excusing these genocidal killers it describes, recommending a mental health approach to their crimes, or disconnecting their pathology from its Islamic source.  Just as Ibn Warraq rebuts the pseudo-theological whitewash of Islam, Nancy Kobrin corrects the misleading notion that misfits and common criminals lock into the jihad system to add luster to their misdeeds. She shows in detail and in depth how Islamic culture creates a specific pathology intrinsically related to its theological, ideological, and political foundations. Islam creates the pathology and uses its own-made psychopaths to advance its strategy of conquest.

It is not racist, islamophobic, xenophobic or anti-Muslim to acknowledge this reality. It is irresponsible to allow these patterns of socialization, upbringing, and indoctrination to be perpetuated in large Muslim populations in the West. The problems of integration do not derive from intolerant rejection of the Other in our societies, they reside in the collective psychopathology explored by Nancy Kobrin on the basis of psychoanalytic and linguistic skills applied to extensive experience with law enforcement, the military, and jihadis in prison, particularly in her home state of Minnesota. And, I might add, there is overwhelming evidence throughout the Middle East today of the concrete results-savagery and massive destruction-of this same pathology.

A sampling of entries

The "Delusional jealousy" entry [pp 73-4] gives credit to Shakespeare, who "... tumbled into the template of Islamic suicide bombing." The iconically jealous Othello, a North African Muslim military commander, murders his Italian wife Desdemona and commits suicide. This is an act of "death fusion," emblematic of primitive mental states, particularly delusional jealousy and paranoia. "Primitive mental states" are an essential element of the entire dictionary as, word by word, Kobrin explains the social-religious-ideological underpinning of a child-rearing system that blocks the path to healthy separation from the mother required for adult behavior. The jihadi deploys primitive rage with adult force, wreaking havoc and seeking, beyond destruction, the total annihilation of the enemy.

"Dhimmi": from an Arabic root meaning "to blame." [pp 78-9] "Scapegoating gets carried to the extreme...as jihadis concretize the hatred and rage to the point of annihilating or executing the other....The psychology of Islam can be understood in terms of splitting [a psychological term explained elsewhere] between Muslims and non-Muslims..." a paranoid opposition that allows for no middle ground. The theme of annihilation recurs throughout the dictionary and finds resonance in current events. Ancient monuments smashed to smithereens (Nineveh), a Jewish woman bashed to a pulp (Sarah Halimi), men in prayer slashed and sliced in the Har Nof synagogue in Jerusalem, the wildly ferocious stabbing of a supermarket employee in Israel [captured on CCTV  ... Though conflict and violence may well be a constant in human history, the will to annihilate is drawn from exceptional sources.

"Epigenetics": "...psychological development as the result of ongoing bi-directional interchange between heredity and the environment." Kobrin refers to the speculative notion that immersion in jihad violence can influence future generations. [pp 88-9] This brings to mind the puzzling cases of jihad atrocities committed by Muslims born in Europe or the United States and raised by successful integrated families, for example, Adel Kermiche and Abdel Malik Petitjean who butchered the priest at St. Etienne du Rouvray.

An extension of the folie à deux, the "Folie à groupe" [pp 95-6] refers to swarm attacks like the Mumbai massacre in 2008, and the November 2015 Black Friday massacre at the Bataclan, Stade de France, and outdoor cafés in Paris. "Group think is a primitive defense mechanism against separating and individuating from the mother. The jihadis' weak personality does not have enough psychological infrastructure to be self-standing..."

Wouldn't this also help us to understand the mass expressions of Muslim rage over the Mohamed cartoons or, more recently, over the installation of metal detectors at the entrance to the Temple Mount after two Arab Israelis assassinated three policemen with weapons they had stored in the al Aqsa mosque?

Kobrin's precisions on the question of honor are extremely helpful. Not all shame-honor cultures, she writes, produce the wide scale abuses characteristic of Islamic culture. Terrorist groups are "super shame-honor cultures" with extremely fragile, extremely destructive personalities. [p109] Females in jihadi cultures live under constant threat of "honor murder." Kobrin examines from A to Z the disastrous effects on the sons of this terrorization of the female. But, she argues, counterterrorism experts don't recognize the "interlocking circles of disavowed rage" in the phenomenon of the Palestinian mother that proudly sends her child to death as a suicide bomber, another aspect of killing one's own to save the honor.

The author traces "Islamic Anti-Semitic Terrorism" [pp 125-6] back to the battle against the Banu Qurayza in 627 A.D. To this day, Islamic mobs and assorted sympathizers chant Khaybar Khaybar ya yahud, jaish Mohamed saya'ud, threatening Jews that Muhammad's army will come again to annihilate them. Enduring, relentless Jew hatred, explains Kobrin, replays the "narcissistic wound" suffered by Muhammad when the Jews refused to convert to Islam, despite the heavy doses of Judaism he had poured into his prophecies. Jews are targeted by jihad as if this could destroy the fact that Judaism came before Islam. cf: Les Trois Monothéismes, Daniel Sibony.

I have long held the opinion that commentators should be faithful to the vocabulary of jihadis. The "Istishad, act of martyrdom," entry corrects the misnomer "suicide bombers." [pp 127-8] Suicide is haram [prohibited] in Islam; the perpetrators qualify the attacks as istishad, martyrdom operations. Reviving the tradition of the khariji and assassins (cf Ibn Warraq), today's shahids perpetuate the tradition of voluntary sacrifice in the cause of Islam; not suicide but a "fight to the death." On this and so many other points, Nancy Kobrin's psychoanalytic analysis underlies and confirms Ibn Warraq's historical/ theological approach.

"Jihadese" [pp131-2]: "...a carryover from the early traumatic bonding with the mother...characterized by a relationship grounded in terror because the mother, the primary nurturer and caregiver lives in a terrifying world of honor killings and is treated as worthless chattel." This creates repetitive exaggerated behavior that baffles Westerners; an "unspoken dialogue" carried on with the mother through us.

Would this explain the constant refrain, "Authorities are searching for the attacker's motivations?"

"Mass murder" [pp 145-6]:  Against all evidence, the U.S. Government persists in calling the Fort Hood Massacre a workplace incident. Is this, as Nancy Kobrin suggests, evidence of a terrified government's unconscious mechanism of denial or rather a conscious political ploy to deny its failure to protect citizens, in this case military personnel, from the acts of easily identified jihadists allowed to hold positions of power?

At this point in time, when the "mental illness" debate is in the forefront, Kobrin's insights are strikingly pertinent. For example, the "Mosque" entry [pp 157-8]: Iranian rapper Shahin Najafi is targeted with death threats after illustrating a record jacket with a picture of the mosque as a female breast. Kobrin confirms: an attack-real or imagined- on a mosque leaves Muslims clinging to their mother's skirts like frightened boys. "The heroic mother is a jhadi defense against the devalued, shameful female." At the height of the Temple Mount crisis (July 2017) a protestor says "The mosque is our honor...they mustn't touch a hair [on her head]."

"Projective Play" [p 198]: "Because they are raised in a shame-honor culture and religion, the jihadists are never permitted to experience play as do children in the West." This observation releases a flood of images: Palestinian children parroting shahid ambitions and virulent Jew hatred, Hamas babies dressed in fake explosives vests, Daesh operatives teaching children to slit throats and shoot victims in the head... The author explains that children deprived of play remain in a stage of arrested development and continue in adult life to manipulate, persecute, and mutilate their victims, acting out conflicts that they were not given the chance to resolve by the essential activity of child play. Suddenly I'm reminded of the fake massacre at Sfar Qana in 2006: Lebanese brought fresh clean cuddly toys to go with the unearthed corpses of long dead children and accused Israeli of what in fact are their crimes, killing their own children; they used child play to bring international fury on the heads of Jews, their privileged targets for annihilation.

It is impossible to give more than a hint of the scope and depth of analysis illustrate here by brief summaries of selected entries. The Islam in Islamic Terrorism and The Jihadi Dictionary are reference works to be consulted frequently and kept handy as a source of precise, carefully documented rebuttals to the smokescreen of approximations that obscure the issues.

"Surveillance" [pp 240-1]: The Middle East obsession with the evil eye is associated with "the accusatory eye of the mother." Jihadis, because of their paranoia, are unable to see independently. Surveillance is bound to all aspects of counterterrorism. WeCU (we see you) is an Israeli technology developed to spot terrorists at airports. CEO Ehud Givon chose a picture of a mother as an example of one of the images that might be used to elicit reactions from the targets of the surveillance system. Whether or not the maternal image will be used, observes Kobrin, the essential idea is to reflect back to the jihadi his "core unconscious problem." 

And I wonder if the WeCU technology does not represent an essential difference between the willful blindness to jihad-its psychology, theology, history and contemporary strategy of conquest-and the forceful determination to vanquish the genocidal Jew-hating mass murderer. You will choose life.

nidra poller by jiro

Nidra Poller is an American novelist and journalist living in Paris since 1972. She has published  in the Wall Street Journal Europe, New English Review, and other outlets. Ms. Poller is the author of Troubled Dawn and  "The Black Flag of Jihad Stalks the Republique "





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