A Muslim Upbringing and Terrorism

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Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Nicolai Sennels, a Danish psychologist who worked for several years with young criminal Muslims in a Copenhagen prison. He is the author of Among Criminal Muslims. A Psychologist’s Experience from the Copenhagen Municipality. The book will be out in English later this year. He can be contact at: nicolaisennels@gmail.com.

FP: Nicolai Sennels, welcome back to Frontpage Interview.

I would like to talk to you today about how a Muslim upbringing creates terrorists.

Let’s begin with this question: as a child psychologist, how would you explain that so many Muslims become terrorists or sympathize with terrorists?

Sennels: Thanks Jamie.

I have been working with children and adolescents for 15 years and as an experienced psychologist I have both theoretical and practical experience with the development of children’s personality. Having counseled more than 150 Muslim children and their parents, my clear conclusion is that Muslims in general raise their children very differently than non-Muslims. Even though all children are innocent babies when they are born, they can develop into violent and hateful fanatics when they grow up, if confronted with certain psychological circumstances.

Many have asked themselves: Why do so many Muslims become terrorists or sympathize with the terrorists? The answer does not only involve theology, but also psychology.

The question is if there are aspects of the way children are raised in Muslim culture that promotes a mindset that makes people more prone to become terrorists or to use terrorist like tactics such as using fear and violence in order to further a case that is directly against basic human rights, basic human values in general and the law.

My professional experience from working with criminal and non-criminal Muslims is that the general Muslim way of educating children contributes to the psychological development of such a mindset.

FP: Ok, so how exactly does a Muslim upbringing differ from a Western upbringing?

Sennels: Muslim upbringing is under the influence of religious views and cultural traditions which put the Muslim and Western cultural psychology into opposition in several central areas. As I have written about before (“Muslims and Westerners: The psychological differences” and “Among Criminal Muslims“) I have observed four major differences between the Muslim and the Western mind. I will explain later how these four Muslim psychological traits increase the risk of becoming a terrorist.

The first concerns anger. Western children are brought up to think that anger is a negative thing and that showing anger is embarrassing and probably the fastest way to “lose face” (lose social status). It is a sign of lack of control, joy and ability to do what one wants. As we say in Denmark “Only small dogs bark”. Muslim children on the contrary are to a high degree taught that anger and aggression is a socially acceptable tool for handling conflicts and expressing frustration. These clinical observations are supported by a major study done by the German University of Lower Saxony involving intense interviews with 45,000 children between 14 and 16 years of age. The conclusion is that “boys growing up in religious Muslim families are more likely to be violent“. The study, which was conducted by the leader of Lower Saxony Research Institute of Criminology and former Minister of Justice Christian Pfeiffer, also showed that “even when other social factors were taken into account, there remained a significant correlation between religiosity and readiness to use violence” among Muslims. My professional experience with Muslims is that not showing aggression when feeling provoked or criticized is seen as lack of courage or ability to protect one’s honor and this will cause loss of social status. The lack of will will in Western countries to defend our culture and values are generally among Muslims seen as an exploitable sign of vulnerability, because it makes us look weak, without courage and without pride in what we stand for.

The second difference between Muslim and Western upbringing concerns honor and self confidence. Westerners are in general brought up to think that handling criticism objectively and emotionally undisturbed is a sign of mental balance and personal strength. Trusting oneself and being able to use the criticism constructively if it is true and not caring if it is not, is a sign of authenticity and true self-confidence. In Muslim culture criticism is seen as an insult and it is expected – according to their view on anger – to respond aggressively. Being acutely aware of any kind of criticism and reacting aggressively (even being ready to kill own family members) in order to protect one’s honor is not seen as honorable in Western psychology. It is a sign of feeling insecure, weak and mentally out of balance. A recent study in so-called gelotophobia highlights this important cultural difference.

Gelotophobia is the “fear of being laughed at” and gelotophobic people easily feel ridiculed and victimized. They are characterized by a low self-esteem and lack of humor. Some societies are more gelotophobic than others. Studies show that the Middle East (33 percent) is three times more gelotophobic than the average Western European country (11-13 percent). Denmark turned out to be the least gelotophobic country in the world (1,7 percent is slightly gelotophobic). Gelotophobic cultures can not participate in intellectual debates because this involves taking critical arguments serious. People who can not handle criticism and only have very few valid arguments, easily feel powerless. Violence and threats (terrorism) then very easily becomes an – unfortunately often effective – option to avert criticism and get one’s way.

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  • Chezwick_Mac

    Folks, you want some insight into the Muslim psychological profile, check out the writings of one Theodore Dalrymple. He's a British psychologist who has interviewed hundreds of Muslim prisoners in the UK penal system. He has shed all his PC illusions and is refreshingly honest about his findings.

    • Frederick

      All that is said here in many ways can apply to neoconservative Americans. We the reasonable majority are caught in the midst of the battle.

      • Chezwick_Mac

        Nonsense. Critical scrutiny of the policies advocated by neoconservatives is fine; associating them with the specific pathologies that afflict Muslim communities is ridiculous.

      • Jim

        Frederick says:
        March 5, 2011 at 2:43 pm

        All that is said here in many ways can apply to neoconservative Americans. We the reasonable majority are caught in the midst of the battle.

        Comparing the ‘neoconservative Americans’ like the Tea Party folks to the ‘reasonable majority’ mindless thuggery of the Wisconsin Capitol I think you have a bad case of ‘projection’.
        The Tea Partiers clean up after themselves.
        The union thugs fowl their own nest.

  • Chezwick_Mac

    SENNELS: "Combining such a culture with a violent ideology is the worst possible combination between psychology and religion you can have."

    The psychology is ROOTED in the religion.

    Just catch a glimpse here of the nature of Islam's Allah, a creature so pathologically sadistic that he renders the fire and brimstone of the Old Testament as absolutely mild in comparison…

    Quran 22.20 (about "unbelievers" in the afterlife): "Scalding water shall be poured upon their heads, melting their skins and that which is in their bellies. They shall be lashed with rods of iron"

    Quran 18:29 (about "wrongdoers" in the afterlife): "We have prepared for them a fire which will encompass them like the walls of a pavilion. When they cry out for help they shall be showered with water as hot as molten brass, which will scald their faces"

    As you can see, Allah is not just a harsh, demanding father-figure as in the God of the Old Testament, he is a sadist, a torturer, a veritable monster. Is it any wonder that those who worship this God are inclined towards the pathological?

    • donvan

      You are quite correct. The question is , can we tolerate this Muhammedian cult, or seek its destruction. It is possible to achieve the destruction of the Muhammedian model.,and is easily justifiable on intellectual and humanitarian grounds.

      • Chezwick_Mac

        The first step is just acknowledging there is a problem…and the mainstream can't even do that.

  • http://www.nicolaisennels.dk Nicolai Sennels

    Dear Chezwic_Mac
    You are right. The religion inforces a psychology that inforces the religion.

    • Chezwick_Mac

      Mr Sennels,

      It was fascinating to read your contribution to FPM this morning….a very informative interview.

      Are you at all familiar with the work of Theodore Dalrymple?

  • PAthena

    Check out the work of Orianna Fallaci, e.g., THE RAGE AND THE PRIDE, about the situation in Europe.

  • Elliot

    The findings make perfect sense and explain so much.

    I have always felt that when one never has to make decisions for oneself, one will suffer from some sort of arrested developement and remain a dependent child.
    Will people who are kept in these conditions ever truly grow up or will they forever be throwing temper tantrums ?

    Western culture expects a whole lot more from us as individuals but then the rewards are so much greater.

    They cannot possibly compete and that is also a driver behind this malice and cruelty,imho.

    • AARON

      I AGREE.

  • M Robs

    Nothing surprising here. IAdherence to Islam is a mental disorder.

  • 080

    Anger, hurt pride, victimization, and group cohesion. It's not a mental disorder. I've seen that all over the place. All groups are aiming at group cohesion. Blacks, Hispanics, unions,, nationalists, fascists, communists and any other ethnic identities that you can think of. I have no objection since these elements seems to be universal. What bothers me is terrorism. So far we have no good answer.

  • Amused

    Here's something to think about -in addition , a physiological cause for extreme behavior exhibited by such people . It is traditional for arabs to marry 1st and 2nd cousins , add to that a significant lack of proper nutrition during pregnancy , especially a lack of Vitamin D , due to covering the entire body by muslim women , thereby eliminating possibly the only available source for Vitamin D intake , sunlight on the skin . Add now, a totally toxic ideology and ethos.

    • Rob C

      Interesting angle. I'm not sure what they eat but Arabs usually eat a lot of carbs. Maybe they get low blood sugar and violent.

  • Guest

    The term "Muslim" is a very broad one. I wonder how much of the pathology is due to the religion and how much is due to Arab or Bedouin culture. I'd be interested in studies done of non-Arab Muslims. For example, are these conclusions valid for Indonesians?

    • carcajou

      The Iranians, Pakistanis and Afgans are all non Arabs, but the same kind of violence and in tolerance is seen among them. The Turks are also non Arabs, and their recent history has been less intolerant and violent than some of the others. Their government in recent times was also basically secular. They now seem to be reverting to an Islamic state and the repression of everything non-Islamic is increasing.

  • tim heekin

    Please be aware that in the Arabic language there is no word for "conscience". Think about THAT for a second or two

  • USMCSniper

    Terrorism and terrorists can only exist in the world if they can convince others of their cause. In most cases the cause to which they are committed is the complete domination of a nation and a people. They convince others that their cause is just and right first by fear and coercion. This fear is perpetrated by making the population believe, and in most cases rightfully so, that they will die if they do not convert and accept the cause. They identify those youth who are troubled, weak or have poor family life. They identify their needs and begin to provide for them. At the same time they begin to speak with them and educate them according to the terrorist beliefs. Because they have become the youth’s friends and provided for their needs the youth are more open to their teachings. This is one of the many ways that Islamic radicals have used to brainwash the youth. Islam also uses the family life, education, religion and political indoctrination to convert the youth to their beliefs, however radical they may seem to us.

  • CAROLE63

    Interesting article, but it is the quran and other Islam`s so-called holy books which teach this way of being and behaving!
    Coupled with muslim schools for children we are fighting a losing battle always for the upcoming generations!
    Geert Wilders is right, the quran should be banned especially in Western society!

  • ajnn

    I truly hate our, the West', infantile responses to Islamic terrorism.

    We keep asking what our role is in their behaior. We keep insisting that we are all the same, regardless of culture or upbringing.

    Don't we have any respect for 'multiculturalism's #1 assumption:cultures are different'. {The #2 assumption is 'all cultures are equal'. Why does no one notice that #1 and #2 are often in conflict ?}

  • ahmadnb

    This is total nonsense. I was raised in a conservative, well-educated Muslim family, and I know others who were as well. None of us developed a hatred of the West. None of us were taught to use anger and aggression as a means to settle problems. Education was highly valued…I was raised in the British educational system. Most people I knew, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, viewed the British educational system very highly. None of us cared what religions our friends in the community followed. Our goals in life was to become doctors and engineers and live in the West and raise families. And for the most part, we were taught to stay out of politics.

    I have a wife and young daughter now. I know what the Qur'an teaches and what Muhammad taught when it comes to anger, the law, terrorism, etc. and don't need some self-styled shrink to tell me that I'm wrong about my own religion. I mean, this is both insulting as well as condescending…and embarrassing.

    • Chezwick_Mac

      Evidently, millions of your coreligionists think and feel otherwise. How else do you explain the prevalence of social pathologies that are unique to your community…including religiously-motivated violence (terrorism, riots, church-burnings, etc.), honor killings, legalized discrimination against non-Muslims in Muslim countries, and on and on?

      PS – Are you denying that you aspire to live in a society governed by Sharia law?

      • ahmadnb

        I ascribe the misbehavior of my coreligionists to fear, ignorance and apathy. As a Muslim living freely in the USA, it is my religious DUTY to support the US Constitution and uphold the rule of law. Nothing here hampers me from practicing my religion to the fullest…a free society is required for Islam to flourish. Islam has decayed out in the Middle East and elsewhere precisely because those societies are not free.
        In my view, persecution of racial and religious groups, honor killings (I call them DISHONORABLE killings), lawlessness, etc. are HARAM or FORBIDDEN according to the Qur'an and the earliest confirmed teachings of Muhammad. I would challange ANY Muslim head on who disagrees with me on this point…and would probably show up armed, in case he/she couldn't handle himself/herself when confronted with my points.
        I would never want to live under Sharia Law. I have never done so, not even when I lived in Muslim-majority countries. I don't recognize Sharia Law as truly Islamic in nature…the US Constitution is a lot closer to being "Islamic" in principle than Sharia Law. Why then would I want to replace something great with something fake?

        • Chezwick_Mac

          Interesting comments.

          By your very words, you have confirmed Sennels' thesis that Muslims are pathological in their behavior…why else would you presume to need to "show up armed" in a discussion with your fellow Muslims about your religion?

          Furthermore, in the Quran and "the earliest confirmed teachings of Muhammad" (I presume you mean the Sahi Hadith collection of Bukhari and Muslim), we find unmistakable contributions to the very pathologies under discussion. The Quran for example, is filled with exhortations to hate and fight against unbelievers (Surah 9), to consign women to second-class status (2,228, 2.282, 4.11) and to beat them (4.11), to characterize Jews as the "sons of apes and swine" (5.59/5.60); the Hadith codifies into Islamic ethos and law child marriage (based upon Muhammad's relationship with Aisha), the stoning of adulteresses, the killing of apostates, etc.

          Now sir, you can come here, insist you're a loyal American, loyal to our Constitution, and deny any aspiration to live under Sharia law, but you can't do so while professing fidelity to the Quran and the Hadith. We're not the ignorant Americans you may be used to dealing with. Some of us here have actually read and studied the Quran, the Hadith and the Sirat Rasul, and we fully understand the organic linkage between the core teachings of Islam and the "decay" which you yourself acknowledge defines the Muslim societies in the Middle East.

          What is certain is that the ethics promulgated in the Quran and the Hadith are entirely incompatible with those of the US Constitution. I hope on that day when you tire of the charade and are ready to choose one or the other, that you will choose human freedom…and not submission to "Allah" (who in the end is nothing but a caricature invented by Muhammad).

          Forgive me if my comments seem harsh…for all I know, you're a great guy. But I've had my fill of Muslims who insist that Islam is compatible with democracy, all theological and historical evidence to the contrary.

          • ahmadnb

            "By your very words, you have confirmed Sennels' thesis that Muslims are pathological in their behavior…why else would you presume to need to "show up armed" in a discussion with your fellow Muslims about your religion?"
            I have engaged in numerous debates with various Muslims which often got heated. I find no point in debating with extremists…they only understand violence as a means to settle issues. Being armed is the only way to ensure that I make it through alive.

            The rest of your email is nonsense. You don't know Islam. You obviously can't see the forest 'cause of the trees. You can be as harsh as you want. I know what is right and wrong and am not stupid. I have thought long and hard on all sorts of issues from all angles and keep coming back to Islam..

          • ahmadnb

            In order to be a good Muslim living in the USA, I must abide by the laws of the country which, in no way, prevent me from practicing my religion freely. You, sir, are an ignorant bigot who would rather be at war with Islam than make peace with those who genuinely wish to do so and help you in your efforts to destroy our common enemy…Al Qaida and its allies and those who wish to overthrow the US Constitution and replace it with Sharia.

            So either I'm lying to myself or to you? Then there is no point in debating with you further. Goodbye

          • Chezwick_Mac

            Ahhh yes…the "forest from the trees" canard…almost as lame as "problems with translation" and "taken out of context". You are unable to refute the specificity of intolerance in your own religion's theology and history, so your answer is to brand the detractors of your faith as "bigots". This is the same methodology as that of CAIR, the ISNA and other "Muslim interest groups". I can't help but wonder how you feel about these groups?

            My instincts tell me that like so many others, you are a faux moderate. Of course I could be wrong.

          • ahmadnb

            OK…so I suppose my religion is incompatible with the concept of a free society. Please give me a viable alternative, then! Historically, Islam and Muslims have been far more tolerant than Christianity towards other religious groups. It's only been recently that Muslims took a sharp turn backwards. And never mind the horribly violent passages in the Old Testament, which I learned about from my African Christian teachers, who were very strong Christians and held nothing back. Would you deny any of this?

            As for CAIR, I rejected joining them outright back in 2000 because I refused to see myself as a "victim". CAIR reminded me too much of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. As for ISNA, I get their newsletters to see what they're up to…they struck me as odd back in 2000, and they recently quoted Peter King as having found some "right-wing" Muslims. I can believe that…as I am a strongly right-wing Muslim myself.

          • ahmadnb

            Moreover, I wholeheartedly support Peter Kink in his holding hearings on the radicalization of Muslims in the USA. It is something that needs to be looked into, and CAIR and ISNA should just shut the hell up and go back to the Middle East. In fact, I just sent off a nasty email to some pro-Sharia website out there telling them to essentially shove it.
            Now my question for you is: You have a choice: Work with the likes of me to help defeat terrorism, or go down in the same boat as the people that you claim to be fighting against. In the eand, Truth and liberty will always triumph over falsehood and tyranny.

    • rebel

      Nobody wants to change your religion, because it is beyond repair. We know how you view us. What we really want is; go home and live your life according to Mohammed prescribed it to you; definetelly not among kuffars. Go in peace if you are a "moderate" Muslim. We will not go after you.

      • ahmadnb

        No, you DON'T know how I view the West. And the West is my home and has been for the last 20+ years. And if you don't like it, cry me a river. I would never come after you unless I had a warrant for your arrest. Come after me for any other reason and you'll get a lot more than you bargained for.

  • ahmadnb

    I don't have any Mullahs as my friends. I strongly believe that a good Muslim can never be a fundamentalist…I was taught that by my own parents> However, since my arriva in the USA some 20+ years ago, my political beliefs evolved from center-left to far right. Just as I refuse to accept violent, fundamentalist Muslims as my brothers and sisters in the faith, I refuse to see self-deluded anti-Islam types as my fellow conservative/libertarians capable of saving the USA and the West from what I consider to be a self-inflicted cultural, moral, social, military and economic decline. To give in to liberal/socialist/fascist/statists and Muslim fundamentalists would be akin to suicide. To think that destroying the Muslim faith would open the road to victory against fundamentalist terrorists would be the ultimate folly that would result in a turn to the "Dark Side".

  • Charles Stevens

    This same psychology applies to the self-destructive black subculture here in the US. The so-called white privelege power structure could give each and every black $10 million, but they and the progressives would STILL come back and insist that whites have more to atone for, and thus the amount wasn't enough. Here are four points to remember about both the entrenched Muslim and black subcultures:

    1. The terms of the debate are never clearly defined, or defined in an open-ended way. For example, the left defines "racism" to include a motive. Since they insist they can read the minds of their enemies, it places an impossible burden of proof on any attempt to demonstrate that someone so accused is not racist.

    2. The demands of both blacks and Moslems are never ending, becuase they can always point to the open-ended definitions of (1).

    3. Items (1) and (2) create/maintain an endless cycle of victimology and lack of personal responsibility.

    4. The underlying reason for (1), (2), and (3), is not that definitions and goals are not being met, it is instead simply the existence of whites (in the case of black victimology), and/or Western civilization (in the case of Mulims).

  • Rebel

    Very sad but the conclusion has to be this: If the West want to be survive as a western Civilisation, Islam has to be destroyed. PC and atheism are only helping Islam. When societies "going to far" denying their own traditional system (religion, morals, customs),are creating vacuum, and nature, politics,history don't tolerate vacuum. Right now we are losing even it does not seem that way. The part of western society that does not want to lose have to go back its religions using it as a shield against Islam, then counter Islamic Jihad with its own well organized new Crusade. And do it as long as we are technically, scientifically , above them by many centuries. It seems that otherwise we are doomed. Maybe we are doomed anyway by our self destructive tolerance of our deadly enemies.

  • Wesley69

    This is an interest interview with Nicolai Sennels. We, in the West, have our own way of raising the new generation, which is very different from Muslims. That this culture of violence can not be changed is extremely disturbing as Western Europe recognizes that its multicultural approach to Muslim immigrants is a failure. The next question they have to ask is what do we do about this hostile, aggressive presence within our countries?

    As long as Muslims live in separate enclaves, immune from the effects of assimilation, these child-rearing habits will continue. As long as Radical Islam is preached in the Mosques, Islam will separate its believers from the other inhabitants within their country. You have in effect, a state within a state. The only hope may be to break them up. In the US, this has a chance of happening, as members of Islam engage in the secular aspects of American society. But we have Muslim communities as well. A Constitutional Amendment forbidding the practices of Shariah that violate our Bill of Rights or impede the nation's commerce may need to be passed due to the aggressive nature of this theo-political ideology.

  • Kevin Stroup

    I would rather see a psychological assessment of the decadent West and why it meekly submits to these third world releigious fanatics. We need to shape up before we are exterminated.

  • Art9800

    @Wesley69. I agree with you 100%. If this idea should fail, then, I for one, will join a new revolution to rid this country of not only all muslims, but our present screwed-up government.