The Myth Of The Mentally-Ill Jihadist

French psychiatrist demolishes the insanity defense.

Too often nowadays, after an Islamic terrorist attack, the perpetrator is almost immediately declared mentally ill. This is often stated before any psychological examination of the jihadist has been performed or any other proof offered. This conclusion is then presented to the world as fact and beyond discussion.

For example, the jihadist/murderer who in France threw Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old retired Jewish doctor, out of a window in 2017 in an anti-Semitic attack after beating her was immediately placed by authorities “in a psychiatric establishment without passing through a prison cell.”

And psychiatric care facilities have been set up in France for jihadists returning from fighting for the Islamic State in Syria. The French are given to understand their joining and fighting for such a genocidal organization was simply a mental aberration to be treated medically (Who is crazy here?).

And French minister of the interior Gerard Collomb wanted “to mobilise the psychiatric hospitals in order to identify the radicalized individuals…for the purpose of spotting all of those profiles who tomorrow can proceed to carry out an attack.”  

French psychiatrist Yann Andretuan, head of the French navy’s psychological service who has practiced psychiatry in several French hospitals for more than a decade, refutes this psychiatric interpretation of Islamic terrorist attacks, regarding it as false.

“I am a psychiatrist and I do not believe that terrorism is a madness in the psychopathological sense of the term,” Andretuan writes in an article in Le Figaro, a French national newspaper.

First, Andretuan maintains that psychiatry and psychology are “saying nothing to explain this madness and to heal it,” indicating an absence of medical roots and hence the impossibility of a medical cure.

Andretuan then goes on to relate his own experiences as a psychiatrist. In his 12 years of practice in different French hospitals he states he had to restrain a patient only once and had been assaulted, also only once, by a dementia patient in his nineties.

“Psychiatric wards can be loud but rarely violent,” states the experienced psychiatrist.

The French doctor then cites a study done in the 1990s, which showed that the probability of being attacked by “an individual who had consulted a psychiatrist is ten times less than by someone who hasn’t.”

Some have argued that jihadists’ mental illness is evident in the fact that they are recruited, sometimes easily, to such a murderous cause as Islamic terrorism. Andretuan also demolishes this argument.

“Some individuals will find a cause that will give meaning to their delirium…but how many?” he asks. “It is not necessary to fear an epidemic in the psychiatric services.”

Andretuan then cites commando units the English established in the Second World War as an example of the difficulty and unsuitability of recruiting the mentally ill.

“(The English) imagined to recruit sociopaths because of their absence of resistance to killing,” he stated. “This was a failure. They thus went looking for men, educated and often products of good English society, not presenting any psychiatric troubles…”

Besides, Andretuan says, armies have always gotten rid of mentally unstable recruits, considering them too difficult to control.

By designating the terrorists as madmen, Andretuan says, politicians like Collomb are not seeking an explanation for jihadists’ acts of terrorism, but “the consequence of these conclusions,” believing they can be healed, like the member of a sect.

“All in all, if one can convince a victim of a sect to abandon it, then the same operation is possible with a terrorist,’ writes Andretuan of this false notion. “One can therefore ‘deradicalize’ terrorist candidates by psychological techniques, in reversing in some way the process of conditioning and thus transforming them into good citizens.”         

In other words, “science must not only explain…but also act,” which, Andretuan claims, is “the function of engineers.”

Andretuan believes France is coming to represent the former Soviet Union in its misuse of psychiatry. The Soviet Union locked up the disrupters of its society, the dissidents, in psychiatric hospitals, while France is doing the same to its societal disturbers, the jihadists. And like the Soviets with its dissidents, French authorities appear to be treating jihadists’ reasons for their murderous behavior with a similar indifference, like a nuisance that will disappear someday, “like mosquitos in the summer,” even though the jihadists, unlike the Soviet dissidents, “kill without distinction.”

Andretuan notices “a trend” on the part of the French government with the psychiatrization of the jihadists, namely, to “naturalize” their behavior, to seek in them “a biological or scientific truth.” In our time, he states, this naturalness immediately gives a “legitimacy.”

“In naturalizing the problem of terrorism,” Andretuan states however, “one is evacuating its political dimension. One can’t be at war with crazy people.”

And, very importantly, in evacuating the political dimension, French politicians, fearful of their own large, Muslim minority, don’t have to investigate the roots of the terrorist attacks which lie in Islam itself.

The French writer Gilles William Goldnadel believes that this “thoughtless and reckless obligation” to regard Islamic terrorists as insane as “socially, politically and psychological madness in itself.” Goldnadel rightly believes Islamic terrorists do not belong under psychiatric care, but in prison.

The French professor of psychiatry, Raphael Gaillard, also believes “the great majority of terrorists have no connection with psychiatry,” while the French terrorism expert, Romain Caillet, maintains the “majority of psychiatrists and terrorism specialists … “do not look to explain radicalization by psychiatry.”  

But the French government’s refusal to heed the words of its terrorism and psychiatry experts leads to disturbing conclusions. By “evacuating the political dimension” and attempting to explain the terrorist attacks by psychiatry, Caillet states this “avoids asking troubling questions.” Like, as already mentioned, the Islamic roots of the attacks.

Just as importantly, Goldnadel also sees in the psychiatrization of Islamic terrorist attacks the attempt by the government to relieve the terrorists of all personal responsibility for their actions. After all, if one doesn’t make war against crazy people, as Adretuan maintains, one also does not hold crazy people responsible for their actions.

But Goldnadel also sees something more dangerous, even perverse, in the psychiatric defense of Islamic terrorists.

“I affirm…this tendency for the psychiatric excuse is hiding also an irresolution to defend oneself physically with lethal weapons and to prefer the use of deradicalization…”

But as Andretuan rightly maintains, “to resist is to continue to live.” And the French people shouldn’t allow themselves “to be shattered by the fear the terrorists want to incite.”

But it is in this refusal to fight the jihadists, treating them with psychiatric kid gloves and denying the French people the security they deserve and which is their job to provide that French politicians are committing their greatest crime. As the French writer Shmuel Trigano most aptly sums up: “They are sacrificing the victims in order not to have to give battle to the executioners.”

However, in conclusion, Andretuan correctly points out: “It is not necessary to carry out a search for the primary causes of madness…to affirm that monsters exist and that it is necessary to fight them.”


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