Author links terrorism to past personal trauma

Just now Judy sent me this intriguing op-ed from the Washington Post yesterday.  Author and terrorism expert, Jessica Stern, links her personal experience as a young teen who was violently raped with the development of the ability to feel not much—either joy, fear or sadness—later.  After visiting terror camps for her research she is beginning to suspect that young boys, raped by older men in Madrassas, become unfeeling and thus more able to terrorize others—-a plausible theory.

Then near the end she says this (emphasis mine):

Today, my work is moving in a new direction. A group of psychologists at Children’s Hospital Boston has been studying the health issues of Somali American youth, with a focus on trauma. I am working with the group to study a question of recent national concern: why some Somali youth in this country run away from home to join al-Shabab, a Somali terrorist group that claims to be aligned with al-Qaeda. Is there a link between possible abuse and alienation and vulnerability to terrorist recruitment? Could terrorism sometimes reflect a kind of perverse post-traumatic evolution?

There is only one problem with this theory.  The majority of the Somali youths who went off to join Al-Shabaab were raised in the US with every opportunity for a good education and a better life.  Many seemed to have caring parents and other caring family members.  They did not, for the most part, experience terror in Africa.  So, unless we are now suggesting they were sexually abused in Minneapolis and elsewhere, the theory lets Islamic indoctrination as a possible driving force for joining a terrorist group completely off the hook—something many are trying very hard to do.

This is a continuation of the notion that poverty breeds Islamic terrorism when we know that the leading terrorists are most often well-educated and have an above average financial status.  I don’t disagree with the notion that those carrying out the suicide bombings may have been terrorized themselves.  Those Somali boys from Minneapolis went to fight for Allah (it wasn’t terror or sexual abuse that got them on the plane), but then I suspect they were sufficiently terrorized when they arrived in Africa.

Why can’t most people wrap their heads around the idea of the Islamic imperative to Jihad?  Because, I believe, most in the West don’t care deeply about religion and thus can’t imagine that others do.

Spread the love

Leave a Reply