Logo

Vamık D. Volkan, M.D., DLFAPA, FACPsa.

 
 
 
  
 
EXTREME RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM AND VIOLENCE:
SOME PSYCHOANALYTIC PSYCHOPOLITICAL THOUGHTS
 
 
 
 
Vamık D. Volkan
 
 
 
  
  
Volkan, Vamık D., and Sagman, Kayatekin (2006.) Extreme Religious Fundamentalism and Violence: Some Psychoanalytic and Psychopolitical Thoughts.
In Social Dynamics of Global Terrorism and Preventive Policies, pp.254-286. Ankara Sosyoloji Derneği. (Published in Turkey).
 
 
 
  
Samenvatting:
In het bijzonder sinds 11 September 2001, wordt niet alleen het nieuws gedomineerd door radicaal fundamentalistisch moslim terrorisme en de reactie van de Westerse wereld daarop, het beïnvloedt ook ons dagelijks leven. In dit artikel wordt het concept religieus fundamentalisme onderzocht en wordt nagegaan hoe bepaalde leider – volgeling interacties en de psychologie van de "grote groep" samen enorm geweld kunnen induceren zodat mensen veranderen in zelfmoordterroristen die verschrikkelijke daden plegen in naam van een religieuze identiteit. De auteurs zijn van mening dat onderzoek naar de karakteristieken van restrictieve extreem religieuze fundamentalistische organisaties, zoals religieuze sekten het noodzakelijke kader kan bieden van waaruit we scherper kunnen kijken naar meer wereldwijde gewelddadige fundamentalistische religieuze bewegingen als al-Qaeda. Trefwoorden: religieuze sekten, goddelijke tekst, transitionele objecten en verschijnselen, "grote groep" identiteit, zelfmoord terroristen, onofficiële diplomatie.
 
Introductions:
On November 2, 2004, as he was riding his bike to work in Amsterdam, Theo Van Gogh, the great-great cousin of the renowned Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh, was attacked by a young man wearing traditional Moroccan garments. The assailant shot him and stabbed him in the chest several times. Gravely wounded, Van Gogh stumbled to the other side of the street pursued by the attacker, pleading for his life. But the assailant was unmerciful; he shot his victim again, stabbed him several more times, wielded a large knife and slit his throat. Then he lodged a smaller knife to Theo Van Gogh’s chest, pinning a five-page letter to his victim’s body while bystanders watched in horror.
 
Van Gogh was a flamboyant and controversial figure in Holland. A filmmaker, actor, journalist, and author, he was an outspoken critic of many things. He was known for his outrageous condemnations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and before he was murdered, his attacks on Muslim values—at one point he made reference to Dutch Muslim immigrants as “goat fuckers”—had spawned death threats. Theo Van Gogh was dismissive of these threats and had refused police protection.
 
Muhammed Bouyeri, the ruthless murderer, was a Dutch-born son of  Muslim Moroccan immigrants. Information available to us suggests that Bouyeri lived an ordinary lower middle-class life as a teenager. He failed in college and dropped out after a few years. He thereafter started spending a great deal of time on the streets, was arrested for a violent crime and spent seven months in jail. While incarcerated he became interested in political Islam, and apparently the tragedy of September 11, 2001, had a big impact on him. Following the premature death of his mother in 2002, he cut his ties with mainstream social life and became active in radical Islamic groups. 
 
The five-page letter pinned to the body of Theo Van Gogh included warnings to Ayaan Hirsi Ali (a Muslim herself and a harsh critic of the way women are treated in Islam), the political party she was a member of and other politicians. There were also references to Jewish influence in world politics. Furthermore, Bouyeri expressed his belief in a radical Islamic sect known as “Takfir Wal Hijra.” The assailant was caught after a brief exchange of gunfire with the police. A poem found in his pocket titled “Baptized in Blood,”reflected Bouyeri’s religious/political beliefs that supported his determination to kill his “enemy.” Interestingly, the poem also indicated that Bouyeri’s end was near and that Allah would provide him a garden in heaven.
 
Bouyeri’s trial lasted two days and he was sentenced to life in prison on July 12, 2005. On the second and last day of the trial, an unshaken Bouyeri told the court: "I take complete responsibility for my actions. I acted purely in the name of my religion." When prosecutors asked for a life term, Bouyeri responded: "I can assure you that one day, should I be set free, I would do exactly the same, exactly the same." In his final statement to the court, Bouyeri said that he owed Theo Van Gogh's mother Anneke some explanation: "I have to admit I do not feel for you, I do not feel your pain, I cannot. I don't know what it is like to lose a child."  He added: "I cannot feel for you  ...because I believe you are a nonbeliever … I acted out of conviction, not because I hated your son.”
 
How can we make sense of this horrible event and explain it? The poem found in Bouyeri’s pocket made it clear that he was ready to die in order to kill his “enemy.”1 Certainly Bouyeri must have had personal psychological motivations, yet we do not know the details of his life history and what psychological processes might have been initiated by his mother’s death. Neither do we know his internal world and his personal motivations for killing Theo Van Gogh. On the other hand, it is our argument that reducing this murder to personal-psychological motivations will not provide a satisfactory explanation in a case such as this. We will need to take the exploration of this horrible event beyond the bounds of individual psychology and examine the influence of large-group psychology on Bouyeri. More concretely, we need to explore the role religion and history play in influencing individual minds.
 
As he so bluntly put it in court, Bouyeri killed Theo Van Gogh, not because he hated him, but because his victim belonged to another large group. He killed in the name of a large-group identity. His mind reflected the thinking of hundreds of thousands of others who belong to extreme Islamic fundamentalist organizations. We will begin to study this kind of thinking by defining what is meant by the term “fundamentalism” in any religion.
 
 
Definitions:
The English term “fundamentalism” as it relates to religious self-definition was coined in the late 1920s in the United States. Two Union Oil tycoons in California, Lyman and Milton Stewart, financed the publication of a series of pamphlets called The Fundamentals, which enumerated five points essential for Christian Orthodoxy: Biblical inerrancy, the virgin birth, Christ’s atonement and resurrection, the authenticity of miracles, and dispensationalism. At that time “fundamentalists” were simply defenders of these five doctrines (Balmer, 1989). There were reasons for the appearance of religious fundamentalism in the United States during the late 1920s. In this period of American history the social structure of the country was going through drastic changes. The economic power was shifting from rural environments to urban ones as America moved away from its dependency on an agricultural economy and welcomed an industrial one. In addition, large numbers of immigrants created ethnic shifts in many locations throughout the country. The resulting changes in societal structures ushered in a large-group regression. The increase in a society’s general reliance on religion and a shared preoccupation with it in everyday life is one of the signs of large-group regression. Here we use the term “large- group” to refer to thousands or millions of people, most of who will never meet in their lifetimes, who share a specific “large-group identity” (Volkan, 1997, 2004, 2006). In other words, our term “large-group” refers to ethnic, national, religious or certain ideological groups, the memberships in which begin in childhood.
 
Even though the term “fundamentalism” was first used in the 1920s, we do not mean to suggest that people in the United States, as well as people elsewhere in the world from practically every faith, did not turn to increased religiosity during earlier times. Human history is full of religious mass movements in extreme forms, and some of them were often violent and destructive. No religion—monotheist, polytheist or pagan—has a clean history in this regard, and there is ample documentation of members of one religion massacring people of other faiths, and even people of another denomination within their own faith (Haught, 1990).
 
Today, an extreme form of religious fundamentalism is defined “in terms of its disciplined opposition to non-believers and ‘lukewarm’ believers alike” (Marty and Appleby, 1995, p.1). Members of a traditional religious community separate themselves from fellow believers, redefine the sacred community, and become preoccupied with certain “fundamentals.” Fundamentalists can be found anywhere in the world. For example, Michael Barkun, political scientist and an expert on protestant culture in the United States estimated that before September 11, 2001, 25 to 35 percent of the population of the Untied States was fundamentalist Christian.  He further stated that 20 percent of American fundamentalists (that is, five to six percent of the total population) were extreme fundamentalists, such as millennialists who are convinced that Jesus will return to earth, establish a kingdom, and rule from Jerusalem for 1000 years (Barkun, 1997, 1999, 2000).2
 
All indications are that the percentage of both fundamentalists and millennialists in the United States has increased since September 11, 2001. At the same time, in the United States and in Europe, the term “fundamentalism” as it refers to Christianity, has practically disappeared in public speeches. Instead, Christians with an exaggerated preoccupation with religion and some of its “fundamentals” are now referred to as “conservative Christians.” In the USA. and Europe, only serious theologians and other scholars have continued to state that there are fundamentalist groups within practically every faith tradition—Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Confucianism included—and these movements share certain traits “despite the substantive differences among them in terms of doctrine, cosmology, social composition, size, organization, and scope of influence” (Marty and Appleby, 1995). In general, in mainstream America and to a great extent Western-world discourse, “fundamentalism” and “fundamentalist” have become pejorative words. These words become associated with Muslims and acts of terrorism. This of course makes it necessary to explore what “Islamic fundamentalism” is and what factors encourage its extreme and violent forms. 
 
Before focusing on extreme Islamic fundamentalism and the West’s role in it, first we will briefly explore what psychoanalysis has to say about religion in general. Second we will list the main characteristics of extreme fundamentalist religious movements and describe their “restricted” and “generalized/globalized” forms. The restricted type refers to movements which remain isolated within one large group and which often induce negative feelings in those outside of the movement within the same large group. The generalized/globalized type receives direct or indirect emotional, financial and other forms of support from a vast number of “bystanders” within the same large group and/or within many political entities. Third, we will explore the phenomenon of suicide bombers as a by-product of generalized/globalized extreme religious movements. Finally, we will suggest a psychoanalytically and psychopolitically informed idea for dealing with present-day generalized/globalized Islamic fundamentalism/terrorism and the West’s response to it.
 
Psychoanalysis on religion: An imaginary lantern:
Sigmund Freud, considered any religious commitment, be it fundamentalist or mainstream, to be an expression of unresolved individual psychological issues from childhood (Freud, 1913, 1927, 1939). According to Freud, the terrifying impressions of helplessness in childhood arouse the need for protection, which can be provided through the love of a father. The duration of one’s sense of helplessness—overt or covert—throughout life, Freud concluded, makes it necessary to seek an omnipotent father, an image of God, to assuage the feeling of vulnerability; thus, religion is related to shared illusion. In 1901, he famously rewrote the well-known text of Genesis,“God created man in His own image,” as “Man created God in his” (Freud, 1901, p.19-20).
 
Interestingly, for a very long time after Freud, few psychoanalysts dealt with the topic of religion or questioned Freud’s assumptions in depth. There was an unspoken and sometimes spoken “animosity” between religion and psychoanalysis. In 1978, Hans Leowald, a much respected psychoanalyst, wrote that “under the weight of Freud’s authority religion in psychoanalysis has been largely considered a sign of man’s mental immaturity” (p.57). and an illusion “to be given up as we are able to overcome our childish needs for all-powerful parents” (p.57). Leowald associated religion with the primary process, better known in lay terminology as illogical thinking, But he also stated that the secondary process—logical thinking in lay terminology—is nourished by the former. While Leowald (1978, 1980), opened a way for psychoanalysts to discus the topic of religion, question Freud’s assumptions and add their own views (Sokolowski, 1990), it was  the work of  British psychoanalyst Donald W. Winnicott in the early 1950s on “transitional objects” and/or “transitional phenomena” that momentously enlarged psychoanalytic theory on the foundation of religious beliefs and feelings.
 
Winnicott understood the transitional object/phenomena as universal. During the early part of the first year of life, each infant or toddler chooses a transitional object from whatever is available on the basis of texture, odor, and mobility (sometimes even an infant’s own hair can become a transitional object.) Usually, the child chooses a soft object such as a teddy bear, which is under the child’s absolute control. Or, the child chooses an inanimate thing (a transitional phenomenon), like a nursery rhythm, as something that functions as a transitional object.
 
Over the course of the first years of life, the transitional object/phenomenon becomes the first item that clearly represents “not-me” in the child’s mind. Though this first “not-me” image corresponds to a thing that actually exists in the world, the transitional object is not entirely “not-me” because it is also a substitute for the child’s mother, whom the child’s mind does not yet fully understand is a separate individual in her own right and whom the toddler perceives to be under his or her absolute control (an illusion, of course.) This is why playing with a teddy bear or repeating a melody can soothe the child and, conversely, why on certain occasions the child can discharge aggression against the toy (or make the repeated soothing melody sound ugly) without fearing that it will retaliate when the child again treats it as a soothing object.
 
Through the teddy bear or the melody, the child begins to get to know the surrounding world. It is not part of the child, so it signifies the reality “out there” beyond the child’s internal world, the “not-me” that the child slowly needs and discovers and “creates.” What is “created” at first does not respond to reality as it is perceived by an adult through logical thinking. The child’s “reality,” while playing with a transitional object or phenomenon, is a combination of reality and illusion. Winnicott (1953) wrote:
 
                       “Transitional objects and phenomena belong to the realm of illusion which is the basis of initiation of all experience... This intermediate area of experience, unchallenged in respect of its belonging to inner or external (shared) reality, constitutes the greater part of the infant's experience, and throughout life is retained in the intense experiencing that belongs to the arts and to religion and to imaginative living, and to creative scientific work" (p.16).
  
A Jesuit and a psychoanalyst, William W. Meissner, beginning in the 1960s, wrote a series of papers and a book (Meissner, 1984), examining the relationship between psychoanalysis and religion. In his book and a later paper (Meissner, 1990), he also made references to Winnicott’s concepts, concluding:
 
                               “If beliefs and belief systems facilitate psychic growth and contribute to the maintenance of psychic health and mature responsible living, they are not pathological - any more than the illusory play in the transitional space between mother and child is pathological. Or for that matter, any more than Freud’s own cultural creation – psychoanalysis.”
      (Meissner, 1990, p.114).
 
Meissner also concluded that individuals in general would have a hard time maintaining a commitment to something as abstract as a religious belief without concrete symbols. He states:
 
                   “Communion itself, the act of consuming the sacred host, is a form of concrete symbolic action.”
                                                                                                                                      (Meissner, 1990, p.107).
 
In regard to our discussion, what is interesting to us is that in most psychoanalytic writings on religion in recent decades, especially before September 11, 2001, besides having little or no detailed interest in Islam, there is little emphasis on the relationship between religion and violence. Meissner (1990), reminds us that just as a transitional object can degenerate into a (pathological) fetish, “transitional religious experience can be distorted into less authentic, relatively fetishistic directions that tend to contaminate and distort the more profoundly meaningful aspects of the religious experience” (p.107). But, ho goes no further in examining the relationship between religion and violence.  
 
Elaborations on transitional objects and/or transitional phenomena by psychoanalysts such as Phyllis Greenacre (1970), Arnold Modell (1970), and Vamık D. Volkan (1976), allowed us to see more clearly the progressive, healing, and creative aspects of religious beliefs and feelings, as well as their regressive, destructive, and restrictive aspects. In order to focus on both aspects, Volkan (2004), considered an imaginary lantern with one transparent side and one opaque side located between the infants or toddlers and their actual environment. When toddlers feel comfortable, fed, well-rested, and loved, they turn the transparent side toward the real things which surround them, illuminating these things and begin to perceive them as entities separate from themselves. When infants feel uncomfortable, hungry, or sleepy, they turn the opaque side of the lantern toward the frustrating outside world. This “wipes out” the surrounding real things. Most mothers have observed that, when their toddlers are falling asleep, they hold onto their blankets as if their whole world consists of themselves and their blankets; at such times, the transitional object is a mother-substitute that cuddles the children and "protects" them from the rest of the real world beyond. When the lantern is thus turned opaque side out, we imagine that the children's minds experience a sense of cosmic omnipotence. 
 
It may be assumed that advances in science would have created tremendous pressures discouraging the reactivation of the transitional objects or phenomena in adulthood. But, we are aware that as scientific knowledge increased, shared and socially sanctioned “magical” beliefs did not diminish. Besides keeping the influence of the play with the transitional object or phenomena throughout our lives, the influence of early childhood identifications explains this condition. The biggest and most organized and socially-sanctioned “propaganda” for a better way of life comes from religious organizations to which parents, teachers, and neighbors belong. Children not only identify with their parents’ religious beliefs, but as they grow up, they often continue to be exposed to religious “propaganda.” Thus, for the sake of maintaining significant interpersonal and internalized object relations in the area of religion, the mixture of illusion and reality become crystallized in children’s minds as “psychic reality.” A vast majority of adults, sometimes without being aware of the influence of the religious “propaganda” they were exposed to as children, later as adults can become scientists while also maintaining their religious “magical” beliefs. Religion plays a significant role in linking individuals to their large group. The "normal" range of religious beliefs, like the "normal" range of psychological health, is socially determined.
 
Expanding psychoanalytic thought on transitional objects or phenomena, we consider religious beliefs and feelings to derive from normal developmental processes in early childhood and from the times when we require a “moment of rest"  in adulthood. An investment in religion is not only due to mental conflicts of childhood associated with feelings of  helplessness and the corresponding desire for an omnipotent father, as Freud thought. Nevertheless, the image of God incorporates many different sources as the child grows, and is modified according to an individual's own psychology, sociocultural experiences, education, and use of religious symbols or “protosymbols,” which means using a symbol to stand not for another item, but as the other item (Werner and Kaplan 1963).
 
There are countless examples of restricted extreme religious movements or cults such as Jim Jones’s Temple in Jonestown, David Koresh’s Branch Davidians at Waco, Shoko Asahara’s Japanese Aum Shinrikyo, Joseph’s DiMambro’s Order of Solar Temple, Gush Emunim in Israel and even, in their initial stages, Hamas in Lebanon, and Molla Omer’s Taliban in Afghanistan (Mayer, 1998; Weber, 1999; Wessinger, 1999; Moses-Hrushovski, 2000; and Volkan, 2004).
 
An examination of the common characteristics of these restricted extreme and violent fundamentalist religious organizations or cults, and even peaceful ones such as the Old Believers Community in the Lake Peipsi region of Estonia (Volkan, 2004), provides a necessary platform on which we can stand and take a closer look at more generalized or globalized violent fundamentalist religious movements like al-Qaeda. Generalized or even globalized extreme and violent fundamentalist religious movements, as we will show, share most of the same basic elements that exist in restricted movements and, in most cases, start in similar ways. When an extreme and violent religious fundamentalist movement becomes generalized or globalized, it becomes contaminated with ethnic, nationalistic, economic, ideological, and political issues.
 
When the “bystanders” within the same large group become emotionally involved in the activities of extreme and violent religious fundamentalism, we begin to face a very complicated large-group process that can be best illuminated by the application of large-group psychology. Let us return now to restricted extreme religious fundamentalist organizations or cults, and consider their common characteristics:
1- A divine text: 
The Fundamentals which were published in the 1920s included five specific areas illustrating a group’s specific religious self-definition. Likewise, each restricted extreme religious fundamentalist movement or cult has its own “divine text,” whether it is written on paper or passed along verbally. For example, the text may be a specific version of the Bible, or an interpretation of certain verses of the Koran. The “divine text” is irrefutable, non-negotiable.
2- An absolute leader who is the interpreter of the divine text:
The leader of a restricted extreme religious fundamentalist movement is the sole interpreter of the group’s divine text. No other interpretations are acceptable. The leader usually is a man; only rarely is the leader a woman.4
3- Total loyalty: 
Membership in an extreme religious organization or cult provides a sense of belonging for its followers.Total loyalty to the leader and to the divine text “removes” anxiety they might have due to intrapsychic and interpersonal conflicts. In a well-running extreme religious organization all the actions and thoughts of believers are highly organized and institutionalized. Most groups create tangible incentives and economic dependence to ensure that members do not leave the group. Once an individual is involved in the network of an extreme fundamentalist religious group, it becomes difficult for that person to quit the membership. The putative divine rule infiltrates members’ everyday existence and intimate personal relationships, fundamentally changing them.5
4- Members feel omnipotent, yet victimized: 
Restricted extreme fundamentalist religious groups are pessimistic movements (Sivan, 1985). Pessimism exists because the members perceive their specific religious “fundamentals” to be continually under attack by non-believers or even lukewarm believers, Darwinists, scientists, and even rival religious fundamentalist groups that cite other texts as truly divine. Paradoxically, because they believe that their text is the true divine guide and their leader is the only true spiritual leader, a sense of omnipotence exists among the members of such groups. The contamination of a shared sense of pessimism with a shared sense of omnipotence creates a special condition that allows extreme masochism or sadism to become tolerable. 
5- Extreme masochistic and/or sadistic acts:
When a restricted extreme religious fundamentalist group perceives a threat to the divine authority of the leader and to the survival of the group and its identity, the protection of the group and its identity become its primary preoccupation. Since the members’ pessimism is contaminated with omnipotence, the group feels entitled to destroy “others” who are seen as threatening to the group’s survival.However, the group can also express its omnipotence by a grand masochistic gesture such as a massive suicide. Those who kill themselves believe that through death they will merge with the divine leader and/or God, the omnipotent object, and thus crystallize their omnipotence and continue their existence in heaven.7
6- Alteration of the shared “morality”:
What we observe in an extremely violent restricted religious fundamentalist group is the existence of an altered shared “morality” that accepts mass suicides or mass killings.
7- Creation of borders:
Even during “safe times” when there is no imminent threat to the group’s security, a restricted extreme religious fundamentalist organization or cult builds physical borders such as walls or barricades. But more importantly, they also build psychological borders around themselves, such as wearing a specific color or style of dress that separates them from others.8
8- Changing of family, gender, and sexual norms within the “borders”:
As the leader of an extreme and restricted religious fundamentalist movement becomes more divine and omnipotent, he or she may become “the father,” “the mother” and “the lover” for all the followers. Routine family systems become disturbed and child-rearing practices drastically change. So-called “family values” are replaced by the leader’s interpretation of the “divine text.” The perception of women is usually reduced to their giving sex (pleasure) and food (milk) to the leader or other men belonging to the same group. Sometimes the leader in a restricted extreme religious fundamentalist organization or cult “owns” all the women and children in the group.9
9- Negative feelings among outsiders:
Because a restricted extreme fundamentalist religious group feels special, divine, secretive, magical, omnipotent, masochistic or sadistic, and because they erect borders around themselves, they induce negative feelings among people who live outside their borders. Outsiders perceive restricted extreme religious cults or organizations as a threat to their own religious or other belief systems. If a restricted extreme religious fundamentalist group develops a reputation as a group that degrades women, abuses children and ruins the traditional family system that is accepted by the surrounding society at large, the bystanders’ negative feelings increase.10
 
Taliban an example of the generalization of an extreme religious fundamentalist group:
An extreme fundamentalist religious movement starts to become generalized when the majority of “bystanders” within the large group, instead of having and maintaining negative feelings about the movement, begin to support it directly or indirectly. A clear example of this generalization (and later globalization) can be seen in the spread of the Taliban in Afghanistan, which originally was a “restricted” group. The Taliban rose to power in Afghanistan’s post-Soviet wretchedness and were originally recruited mostly from among young Pashtuns, Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group. The Taliban, whose name means religious students,” first came to notice in late 1994, when they were hired to drive local bandit groups away from a 30-truck convoy that was trying to open a trade route between Pakistan and Central Asia. The Taliban leader, Mullah Omar was then in his mid-thirties. Eventually, it grew from that original core group of about 100 into a cohort of 35,000 men from 43 countries.
 
The event that crystallized Omar’s position as a supreme leader and then Taliban’s generalization and its eventual globalization illustrates Freud’s (1921), description of (regressed) mass psychology. In 1994, the Taliban demonstrated their power with draconian public punishments for crime and stringent controls over girls and women in the Southern Afghan city of Kandahar. As they refused to deal with warlords and fought local police forces as well as roving bandits, the Taliban applied a strict interpretation of Islamic law to combat the corruption and chaos that plagued post-Soviet Afghanistan. Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, was still under President Burhanuddin Rabbani’s control however, and the Taliban were divided as to their next course of action.  At this critical time, in one key act, Omar sealed his divine leadership: He publicly displayed and put on the cloak of the Prophet Mohammed, which had been kept for over 250 years in a marble vault in Kandahar’s “Shrine of the Cloak of the Prophet Mohammed.”11
 
It was on a Friday in the spring of 1996, that Mullah Omar first came to see the cloak.  He told the keeper of the Prophet’s cloak, Oari Shawali: “Here I am. I have taken a bath and I have put on new clothes. Let me see the Robe.” Since Shawali had not bathed himself, and it would have been sinful to touch the Prophet’s cloak unprepared and “dirty,” he told Omar to return that night. When Omar arrived at the shrine, accompanied by 100 followers, Shawali had prepared himself to handle the cloak. He later recalled how Omar became disoriented and trembled when he laid eyes on the sacred robe. When he prepared to pray, he mistook the way toward Mecca, and he had to be helped to face the right direction. A week later, now seemingly more confident, Omar appeared at the shrine once more. He took the robe to an old mosque in the center of Kandahar, climbed onto the mosque’s roof, and “wore” the cloak. “For the next 30 minutes, he held the cloak aloft, his palms inserted in its sleeves.” The crowd watching him cheered; many lost consciousness (Onishi, 2001). 
 
It is clear that Mullah Omar’s ceremony with the Prophet’s robe took place at a critical time. Donning the cloak publicly was certainly a gamble since the act could easily have been seen as blasphemous. But, by successfully fusing his image with the image of the Prophet in the minds of his followers, Omar blurred the reality that he and the Prophet lived centuries apart and were two (perhaps dramatically) different human beings and leaders. Thus, Omar was able to use the cloak to solidify the shared political-religious identity of his followers, as well as his image as the commander of the faithful. This act went a long way toward generalizing the Taliban movement, or at least crystallizing the movement’s previous attempts to become generalized.
 
Once an extreme fundamentalist religious movement is generalized it takes on political, revolutionary, legal and even military ambitions. The Taliban began to “purify” the society from elements they perceived as unwanted and create a new large-group identity and culture. It was only a few months after Omar merged his image with the image of the Prophet that the Taliban captured Kabul, began to enforce their oppressive laws on the Afghan population, and allowed Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organization, with their limitless funds, to thrive in Afghanistan and be part of a globalized movement that is known as radical Islam.
 
Today’s globalized Islamic extreme religious fundamentalism:
Osama bin Laden is not the only recent figure to inflame what historian Bernard Lewis (1990), called the “Muslim rage,” and what W. Nathaniel Howell, the former US. Ambassador to Kuwait during its invasion by Saddam Hussein’s forces in August 1990, referred to as the “nostalgia movement” (Howell,1997, p.100).
Long before September 11, 2001, it was clear that Islamic religious fundamentalism and even its extreme forms, would find emotional support among Islamic large groups, especially in the Arab world, and that it could easily be globalized. Bernard Lewis noted:
 
                                 “Islamic fundamentalism has given an aim and a form to the otherwise aimless and formless resentment and anger of the Muslim masses at the forces that have devalued their traditional values and loyalties and, in the final analysis, robbed them of their beliefs, their aspirations, their dignity, and to an increasing extent even their livelihood”
               (Lewis, 1990, p.59).
 
What are the causes of this “Muslim rag” or “nostalgia for past glories?” We will try to answer this question, at least partly. A full analysis of this situation is simply beyond our expertise. Less than a century after the death of the prophet Mohammed, Arab Muslim armies had established a huge empire, stretching from India to Spain, and Islamic culture blossomed everywhere. But the unity of Islam was actually broken up very early after the death of the Prophet Mohammed, and there were bitter divisions and regional power struggles almost from the beginning. The most important division had occurred after the fourth Arab Caliph was killed. A group of Muslims known as Shi’ites (from the Arabic Shiat Ali, the party of Ali) rejected the legitimacy of the first three Caliphs in the line of  Mohammed. They accepted Mohammed as the prophet and the Koran as divine revelation, but proposed their own interpretation of Koranic law. Today Shi’ites makes up some 10 to 15 percent of the world’s Muslim population, including most of Iran’s Muslims. The majority of the Muslims in Iraq are also Shi’ites, as we are reminded almost daily as we listen to the news about horrible tragedies in that country. They have separated themselves from dominant Sunni Muslims who had a Caliph. The attack by Sunni Muslims on Al-Askari shrine (one of the holiest Shi’ite sites) in February 2006, and the violent backlash of Shi’ites toward Sunnis in Iraq is a testimony to this old, bloody division within Islam.
 
During the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Selim I, “The Grim,” (1512 to 1520) the Turks took over Syria and Egypt and in 1517, the Arab Caliphates came to an end. The Ottoman Sultan then assumed the title and “inherited the role of the defender of the holiest places in Islam, the cities of Mecca and Medina, which were the cradle of Islam” (Itzkowitz, 1972, p.33). Islam was clearly one of the dominant elements of Ottoman identity, as the Ottomans took many lands in Europe and Arabic lands in the Middle East and other places elsewhere, even though they allowed the conquered people to keep their religions. The dominant relationship between the Christians and Islamists for centuries, until the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century, was the relationship between Europe and the Ottoman Empire (Kayatekin, in press.) Arabs, who were the first Muslims and who now lived under the Ottoman Empire, had to submit to Islamic newcomers. Ottoman identity was not connected with an ideology that called for bringing all Muslims under one political umbrella and there were no Western or Islamic historians mentioning such a possibility until the 19st Century (İnalcık 1987, Ortaylı 2003). 
 
There were two developments in the nineteenth century that further defined the Western world’s perception of the Ottoman Empire and, by extension, of Islam. The first was Europe’s preoccupation with “Pan” movements such as Pan-Germanism and Pan-Slavism, movements that reflected a striving to create massive entities under the umbrella of  Germanic or Slavic ethnicities.The European elite also quickly imagined “Pan-Islamism” originating in the Ottoman lands. They were seeing the East through the lens of the West. The second development was the Western powers’ interest in the Ottoman lands, as the Ottoman Empire was perceived as the “Sick Man of Europe. These developments and other associated events, the study of which is beyond the scope of this paper, magnified the idea of an Islamic power even though the Ottoman Empire paradoxically was as powerless in the nineteenth century before and after the Pan movements. Western powers, however, thought it would be a good move to make the “Sick Man” completely helpless so that the danger of a “Pan-Islamic” movement could be contained or removed.
 
Europeans at that time were also competing among themselves. Before the bloody First World War (1914-1918) started, Germans bought a number of Ottoman newspapers and sent representatives throughout the Ottoman lands. Their propaganda began influencing the Ottoman elite and the public in general, including the idea that England and France were leading an anti–Islamic movement while Germany was supporting such a movement. The propaganda reached an absurd level when it was rumored that Kaiser Wilhelm had converted to Islam and gone to Mecca for a pilgrimage. Germany utilized a strategy to destabilize regions where British and French influence was dominant. The Ottoman elite, by and large, identified with this German propaganda (Kayatekin, in press) and the Ottoman Empire entered World War I on the side of Germany.
 
Meanwhile, the British were busy developing a negative image of Islamist Ottomans. Propaganda spread fear among the British public about a possible united Islamic world under the Ottoman Sultan/Caliph (“a Pan-Islamic Movement”) that would destroy the British Empire with the help of Germany. Using this feared and imagined movement to divide and conquer, the British Government put out the suggestion that it would prefer and support a “Caliph” with Arabic origins, such as someone from among the rulers of  Mecca (Kayatekin, in press.)
 
The Ottoman Sultan’s double role as religious leader and political defender of the Islamic world lasted until the end of the Ottoman Empire and until the establishment of the secular Turkish Republic that rose from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire in 1923. When modern Turkey was born and the Caliphate—in a sense the Sunni Islam’s papacy— was abolished, the centuries long established leadership of Islam disappeared overnight. With the Ottoman Empire, the former defender of Islam, in a state of collapse and Turks busy with the establishment of a new large-group identity and with their so-called “westernization” struggles, the Arabs and many other Muslims remained helplessly open to the influence and the manipulation of Western powers. Even before the Caliphate was abolished, as we already mentioned above, the British continued to raise and dash hopes for establishing a caliphate outside of  Turkey, and they deliberately created divisions among Indian and Arab Muslims by saying they would support the establishment of the Caliphate in either India or one of the Arab countries. Political scientist Elie Kedourie (1970) analyzes the British government’s disastrous handling of the Middle East after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and its humiliation of the Arabs and other Muslims. According to Kedourie, the widely used Chatham House Version of Middle East History, written by British historian Arnold J. Toynbee, and his followers, was not trustworthy and was humiliating to the Arabs. To some extent, European scholars follow this text even today.
 
It is difficult to pinpoint one definite major beginning that marks the attempt in the recent decades to reverse this humiliation and rejuvenate the glory of Islam. There were multiple events that can be considered as starting points. One of them was the establishment of Dar al Tabligh al-Islami (The Institute for the Propagation of Islam) in Iran, not an Arabic country (MacEoin, 1983). This institute played a role in nurturing an atmosphere for Ayatollah Khomeini’s leadership, which embraced an apocalyptic, millennialist vision for a “perfect” theocracy (Landes, 2001). But the prestige of the Iranian revolution among other Muslims (especially among Sunnis) declined in the late 1980s, and Iran ceased being a model for Islamic radicals of all kinds, a result of economic mismanagement, widespread torture, executions, human rights violations and the war between Iran and Iraq. (At the present time, the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is trying to revive Iran’s reputation and fundamentalist ideology through his determination to develop nuclear weapons. This, of course, will have international consequences. Ahmadinejad even declared that the Holocaust never occurred, exhibiting a magical and illusionary thinking pattern that inflames fear in the international arena.)
 
We will now review other significant attempts to generalize or globalize extreme Islamic religious fundamentalism. Islamic fundamentalism evolved as an ideology which focuses on an enemy in the Western world, seeks out a grandiose and millennialist savior, and wishes to return to a realistic and imagined glorified past. Osama bin Laden’s appeal found fertile grounds.
 
                 “The elements which distinguish bin Laden’s al-Qaeda ...is not the appeal to the alienated and anxious elements among Arabs and Muslims, but the grandiosity of his world vision, the use of modern technology to extend his reach and explore the vulnerabilities of contemporary societies, and the absence of spatial or humanitarian limits to his target-list.”
                   (Howell, 2001, p.148).
 
Elsewhere Volkan (2004), explores some known aspects of bin Laden’s troubled childhood and illustrates how bin Laden’s personal internal revengeful psychological motivations are reflected in his actions in the external world. Mohammed was an orphan who later evolved as a spiritual leader and then took up a sword to protect Islam. Bin Laden himself was in essence an “orphan,” as his biological mother was “exiled” from his father’s harem when he was one year old, leaving him in the care of his “step mothers.” This was certainly a factor in why he developed a revengeful character (Volkan, 2004). Most likely he also searched for a father figure in order to reach up in his developmental ladder, for all indications are that his father, with 54 children, did not have much time for him. Osama’s father died in a plane crash when Osama was 10 years old, and his older brother Salem, who could have been a father or big brother figure for Osama, was also killed in an air tragedy, this time a helicopter accident.
 
There are some indications that bin Laden identified with the orphan Mohammad (victimized) who later became a warrior. Therefore, when the opportunity arose, bin Laden presented himself as a supreme leader who knew what to do for Islam and what Islam permits its followers to do, including suicide bombings, which already existed before bin Laden’s leadership.12
 
Of course, financial resources made it possible for bin Laden to effectively use propaganda and manipulations. It is known that according to bin Laden, “the Islamic world [fell] under the banner of Cross” (reported by the Africa News Source, November 5, 2001). Most likely he was referring to the abolishment of the Caliphate by the Turks. While bin Laden personally might be concerned about losing a father figure (The Caliph) and wanting to create a new one with a global and millennial vision, one rarely finds an open reference to the removal of the Caliphate by the Turkish Republic among Muslims on the street in the Arabic world and in other Muslim-populated locations. What is more open is the complaint about mistreatment and humiliation by the West within the Islamic societies and corresponding “omnipotence” for an upcoming revenge, its success, and a divine glory.
 
On the surface, the characteristics of a globalized extreme religious movement seem different than those of restricted extreme religious groups. For example, today’s radical Islam resembles a giant global commercial corporation, with secret funds and representatives in various countries and with a shared ideology contaminated with religious beliefs. It strives to become a world power by using any means, from engaging in effective political and religious propaganda, to making financial deals. But it also performs horrendous acts of violence. Radical Islam, in general, complains about the Western giant and the merciless commercial/technical/cultural/religious organizations which have infiltrated the Islamic world through “globalization,” and which are humiliating Muslims. Nevertheless, they have become, in a sense, a more drastic and more deadly mirror image of the Western globalization movement. Therefore, it may be difficult to see that the characteristics of the restricted extreme religious organizations also exist in the core of radical Islam.
 
The characteristics that we can see more clearly in restricted extreme fundamentalist religious movements, however, are present within the globalized extreme Islamic fundamentalist religious movement as well. A “divine” ideology is present and its “interpreter” exists. The interpreter has declared the United States and the West in general as the enemy and “received” “permission” from Koranic passages such as Surah 8, verse 17 to strike at the “enemy.” Followers blindly follow the leader(s) and the ideology. They feel victimized but omnipotent, and experience an altered “morality.” Even though we may not know where they are and where they are hiding, they have built “borders” around themselves in order to maintain their large-group identity. The “divine” ideology replaces family values and many old traditional and religious beliefs, including beliefs about suicide and homicide. Today’s radical Islam induces extreme negative feelings in “outsiders” in faraway locations, but many people in the locations where radical Islam is present, although not terrorist themselves, have direct or hidden sentiments supporting the movement. The last characteristic basically differentiates this globalized extreme religious fundamentalist movement from a restricted one.
 
From shared sentiments within the socetiy to suicide bomber:  
Fathali Moghaddam (2005), from Georgetown University in Washington, DC. used the metaphor of a narrowing staircase leading to the top floor of a building when describing the path to terrorist acts. We will look at the five floors in this building by adding some other observations to Moghaddam’s ideas, observations taken from other experts on today’s extreme Islamic religious fundamentalist movement and suicide bombers.
 
The first floor represents a place where a large group is located. This group feels victimized and humiliated, and on this floor a sense of pessimism prevails. Moghaddam’s first floor complements Bernard Lewis (1990), and Nathaniel Howell’s (1997, 2001), descriptions of the Islamic world, especially the Arab world. There are, obviously, various types of Islamic Countries and large groups, for the Islamic world is not one homogeneous blob as it is sometimes described by Lewis (Said, 1979, Yavuz, 1995). Nevertheless, for the purposes of this paper, a generalization is warranted because of the huge number of Muslims—in the millions—in different countries who are emotionally linked in their belief that they are not being treated fairly by the Western World.
 
Turning back to Moghaddam’s staircase, we notice that the general shared mood of victimization and humiliation among the occupants on the first floor is the key factor that sends some occupants of this floor to the next one. Moghaddam states that those who reach the second floor begin to crystallize their displacement of aggression onto out-groups, such as the United States, England or other European countries. We see this now after the Danish cartoon incident.
 
Howell refers to three factors in Arab and Muslim societies that encourage this displacement. First, even the most despotic regimes in the Islamic world are reluctant to turn against mosques or other Islamic institutions. “Islam, therefore, provides the most secure and privileged environment for opposition activities, including terrorism, in these societies” (Howell, 2001, p.150). Second, many Islamic governments behave as if Islamic activism is the “preferred channel for pent-up discontent” (Howell, 2001, p.150). Here, we should remember that such governments and other authorities were often aided by Western powers to behave as they do. For example, the Americans and the British politically and financially supported the building of more and more madrassahs in Pakistan and also in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion, with the idea that students who are exposed to religious education would turn their rage against the Soviets. During the American-and British-supported dictatorship in Pakistan, the number of madrassahs grew dramatically. This in turn provided a foundation for extreme religious fundamentalism that now perceives the Western world as its enemy. Even the Israeli occupation authorities in the West Bank and Gaza in the 1970s and 1980s facilitated the growth of Hamas in order to find an alternative to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) (Howell, 2001). Now after its “surprising” victory in the recent Palestinian elections, Hamas does not even accept the existence of Israel. Howell’s third factor concerns the absence of an authoritative Islamic hierarchy, which makes it easy for cult leaders, charismatic imams and magical belief systems to thrive. The Islamic World, in general, is experiencing what Volkan (2004), calls a “leaderless regression.”13
 
Those who climb to the third floor support restricted extreme fundamentalist organizations with religious leaders who hold a “correct” interpretation of a divine text. People who join these organizations begin to live “secret” lives as they keep their memberships hidden from their spouses, parents and friends. They incorporate an “ideology of martyrdom” (Davis, 2003) that Westerners call an “ideology of terrorism.” The “psychic realities” of the two opposing groups do not fit together.
 
On the fourth floor the cell structure of terrorist organizations begins. Moghaddam (2005), describes how this structure is adopted from the models provided by guerrilla forces fighting dictatorships in Latin America and later copied by terrorist organizations operating in Western societies including the Irish Republican Army (IRA) (Coogan, 2002).
 
Recruits who will perform terrorist acts, such as the suicide bombers “face two uncompromising forces: from within the terrorists organizations, they are pressured to conform and obey in ways that will lead to violent acts against civilians (and often against themselves); from outside the terrorist organization, especially in regions such as the Middle East and North Africa, they face governments that do not allow them even a minimal voice and democratic participation in addressing perceived injustices” (Moghaddam, 2005, p.166).
 
Those who reach the fifth floor are trained “to treat everyone, including civilians, outside their tightly knit group as the enemy” (Moghaddam, 2005, p.166) and to commit terrorist acts and become suicide bombers.14
 
At first glance the psychology of the Present-day Islamic religious fundamentalist suicide bombers is puzzling. In our clinical work we see individuals who wish or attempt to kill themselves primarily because they have low self-esteem and/or suffer from an unbearable sense of guilt. The suicide bombers, on the other hand, seemingly kill themselves in order to reach a higher level of self–esteem not unlike those in restricted extreme religious fundamentalist cults or organizations who participate in mass suicides. Studies have not revealed one specific kind of individual psychopathology that explains why the present-day Islamic suicide bombers kill themselves in order to destroy other human beings. Therefore, in order to understand the psychology of the suicide bombers, instead of simply relying on individual psychodynamics, we will examine the role of large-group psychology in creating suicide bombers.
 
Large-group identity and suicide bombers:
When we think of the classical Freudian theory of large groups (Freud, 1921), we visualize people arranged around a gigantic maypole, which represents the group leader. Individuals in the large group dance around the pole/leader, identifying with each other and idealizing the leader. Volkan (2004, 2006), has expanded this metaphor by imagining a canvas extending from the pole out over the people, forming a huge tent. This canvas represents the large-group identity. We have come to the conclusion that essential large-group psychodynamics center around maintaining the integrity of the large-group identity, and leader-follower interactions are just one element of this effort.
 
Imagine thousands or millions of persons living under a huge tent. They may get together in subgroups—they may be poor or rich or women or men and they may belong to certain clans or professional organizations—but all of them are under one huge tent. The pole of the tent is the political leadership. From an individual psychology point of view, the pole may represent an oedipal father or a nurturing mother or both; from a large-group psychology point of view, the pole’s task is to keep the tent’s canvas erect (to maintain and protect the large-group identity.) Everyone under the tent’s canvas wears an individual garment (personal identity), but everyone under the tent also shares the tent canvas as a second garment.
 
In our routine lives people are not keenly aware of their shared second garment, just as they are not usually aware of their constant breathing. If a person develops pneumonia or is in a burning building, this person quickly notices each breath. Likewise, if a group’s huge tent’s canvas shakes or parts of it are torn apart, those under it become obsessed with their second garment, and their individual identity becomes secondary. They become preoccupied with the large-group identity and will do anything to stabilize, repair, maintain, and protect it, and in the process, they begin to tolerate extreme sadism or masochism if they think that what they are doing will help to maintain and protect their large-group identity.
 
Before September 11, 2001, before the war in Iraq and before we witnessed daily suicide bombings in that country, we had some basic information about how Palestinian suicide bombers were trained. They were trained to replace or suppress their individual identities and taught to replace or dominate them with the large-group identity14 but precisely how can large-group identity be made to supersede a person’s individual identity?
 
The technique for creating suicide bombers in the Middle East had typically included two basic elements: 
1-  Finding people whose personal identities were already disturbed due to humiliation of themselves or their families, and who were seeking a second identity to stabilize their internal worlds.
2-  Forcing the large-group identity, whether ethnic or religious, into the cracks of the recruits’ damaged or subjugated individual identities.
 
Once people were “educated” for suicide attacks, the ordinary “rules and regulations” of individual psychology no longer applied to their patterns of thought and action. Killing one’s self (one’s personal identity) and others (enemies) did not matter; what mattered was that the act of terrorism brought self-esteem and attention to the group. The psychological priority was the repair and/or enhancement of the large-group identity (through a sadistic and masochistic act), which actually enhanced the suicide bomber’s modified personal identity, because other members of the traumatized community had come to see the bomber as the carrier, the agent, of the group’s identity. 
 
Islam expressly forbids suicide, but there was no lack of conscious and unconscious approval of Palestinian suicide bombers from at least some other members of their communities. While in early 1996, only 20 percent of  Palestinians supported the practice, a poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (PCPO) after the May 2001, Netanya suicide bombing showed that 76 percent of the Palestinians participating in the survey supported this act. We are not aware of any statistical studies concerning the present Palestinian sentiments, but Hamas’ success at the polls is very telling. 
 
Most suicide bombers in the Middle East were chosen as teenagers, “educated,” and then sent off  to perform their duty in their late teens or early to mid-twenties. It appears that the “education” was most effective when the individuals replaced their personal sense of helplessness, shame, and humiliation with religious elements of the large-group identity, as internalizing the divine makes people feel omnipotent and supports their self-esteem. Typically, the “education” of the young Palestinian candidates for suicide attacks was carried out in small groups. Sometimes good candidates were educated quickly, but more often these groups read the Koran together and chanted religious scriptures over some time. For example, here is a passage from the Koran that seems to justify turning what Bernard Lewis has called “Muslim rage” on a Western world and especially on Israel. Conflict with the Israelis has been perceived and experienced by Palestinians as like having a constantly bleeding wound.
 
                                    "Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion nor drove you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity... It is only as regards to those who fought against you on account of religion, and have driven you out of your homes, and helped to drive you out, that Allah forbids you to befriend them... "
                                                              (Surah 60, Verses 8 and 9).
 
The “teachers” also supplied mystical-sounding phrases to be repeated over and over in a chant, such as, “I will be patient until patience is worn out from patience.” These kinds of “mystical” (but actually nonsensical) sayings, combined with selective reading of the Koran, created an alternate reality. Meanwhile, the “teachers” interfered with the “real-world” affairs of their students, mainly by cutting off meaningful communication and other ties to their families and by forbidding things which may be sexually stimulating, such as music and television.
 
Suicide bomber candidates were instructed not to inform their parents of their missions. No doubt parents in this part of the world often surmised what their children’s missions were, but regardless, keeping secrets from parents and family members helped create a sense of power within the youngsters. Such secrets induced a false sense of individuation and symbolized the cutting of dependency ties, which supposedly had been replaced as the youngster became a “flag” for the large group. The “teachers” then turned the trainees’ attention to the heavens and convinced them that their sexual and dependency needs would be fulfilled by houris, beautiful maidens who live in paradise, once they became martyrs. Sex and women, the students were promised, would be obtained after a kind of passage to adulthood, but in this case the “passage” was killing oneself.  The death of a suicide bomber was honored at a “wedding ceremony,” a celebration at which friends and family gathered to proclaim their belief that the dead terrorist was in the loving hands of angels in heaven.
 
The more the large-group identity-tent is shaken, the more stress is placed on a large group, and the more the people under that tent will be inclined to wear the shared canvas as their main identity garment. Therefore, the more a community feels humiliated, helpless, under stress, the more easily “normal” people can be pushed into becoming candidates for terrorism, especially when the large-group identity is also contaminated with a “divine” omnipotence. This is the situation in the Islamic world today, especially in the Middle East. There are reports that now the training a suicide bomber receives to perform his (and sometimes her) deadly act in Iraq only takes 24 hours.
 
A need for a “therapeutic space”:
Considering what we observe every day on our televisions and read in our newspapers, especially since September 11, 2001, we should be very humble about suggesting new strategies for bringing the world into more peaceful and saner times. When “God versus Devil” thinking begins to dominate enemy relationships, it means that a severe regression exists in international relationships. In such a situation the large-group psychology, as well as the leaders’ individual psychologies, begins severely and sometimes illogically, to contaminate political, legal, economic, military and other real world issues. Also, enemies start becoming alike. We need to be careful not to be misunderstood here. We are not referring, for example, to what the Nazis did and what the Allies did in World War II, and we are not saying that the Allies were like the Nazis. Many factors such as historical circumstances, reactivation of past victimizations, the leader’s personality organization, existing military power and, most importantly, the degree of large-group regression can make a large-group humiliate and dehumanize the “other” and be terribly cruel. In dealing with such an extremely regressed large group, the opposing group need not be identically as regressed as the perpetrating group.     
 
When we speak of a similarity between enemies, we are referring to certain large-group processes without considering the degree of their regression or its consequences. First, we are simply saying that when a large group’s identity—and in this paper we are focusing on its religious identity—is threatened, the threatened large group automatically begins to hurt the aggressors’ large-group identity. Thus, the attacked group begins to take on similarities to the perpetrator. Second, both groups utilize shared and massive mental mechanisms such as introjections, projection, denial, dissociation, isolation, rationalization and intellectualization in their consciously or unconsciously motivated political propaganda. This comes from their leadership and/or is wished for and supported by the society. Third, humiliating, hurting and killing people in the name of large-group identity—and here we are focusing on religious large group identity—become acceptable by both sides. These factors are why psychoanalytic and psychopolitical insights need to be considered when making plans to tame the massive violence of today. Those psychoanalysts or other mental health professionals who have seriously studied international relationships and those experts in psychopolitical arenas, however, should also be ready to work with experts in different fields. No one branch of the social sciences or a scientific discipline has the single correct answer.
 
Psychoanalysis has provided us with a concept called “therapeutic space.” Consider an analysand with a very traumatic childhood. He (or she) comes to analysis as an adult with defenses against shame and humiliation, murderous rage, and a need to be understood and accepted as a human being by fellow human beings. After a while this person, during his sessions, gives up his defenses and adaptation to his internal conflicts. The analyst becomes a transference figure and the patient experiences the analyst as some important figure from his childhood, such as a person on whom the analysand depends and for whom he experiences rage. Such developments are part of analytic treatment, and for it to work properly, a “therapeutic space” has to be formed and maintained in the analyst’s office.
 
Let us visualize such a space with an imagined effigy representing the analyst sitting in the middle of it. The analysand sends verbal missiles to mutilate and kill the effigy and the analyst tolerates the attack. The next day, the analyst-effigy is placed in the therapeutic space again, showing the analysand that his or her childhood rage in fact did not commit a murder. A mental “game” is played in this space until the analysand learns how to “kill” a symbol and not a real person, how to relinquish devastating guilt feelings, how to tame other intense emotions, and how to separate fantasy from reality. The analysand also learns to establish a firm continuity of time, but with an ability to restore feelings, thinking, and perceptions to their proper places: the past, the present or the future. In other words, the burdens of the past can be left behind, and a hope for a better future can be maintained.
 
There should be no damaging intrusions into this space. For example, the analysand does not really hit the analyst, but only his or her effigy, and the analyst does not have real sex with the analysand who wishes to be loved, but only shows the patient that the latter is “loved” because the analyst has always protected the therapeutic space.
 
We can also imagine creating a “therapeutic space” between warring enemy large groups where they can “play” a serious and deadly game while always killing the effigies rather than one another. This is of course very difficult and perhaps impossible to establish, because enemy groups would constantly invade this space with real bullets, missiles, torture, and live bombs—like suicide bombers. Nevertheless, every effort should be made to create such a space and keep it as stable as possible. Without such an effort, the Islamic terrorists will continue to destroy themselves and innocent people, and their enemies will spend money and energy under the illusion that they will catch all of the terrorists by raining missiles from the sky in the name of freedom and democracy.
 
After the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, naturally there was rage in the USA as there was in other places such as Madrid, Casablanca, Istanbul, Mombasa, Taba, London and elsewhere after the terrorists hit these locations. And, again naturally, the victims wanted revenge as well as protection from future disasters and tragedies. When the US. came up with the “Bush doctrine,” putting aside pre-existing theories in favor of a preemptive strike, the war in Iraq opened a new Pandora’s Box, large-group identity  issues became more prominent, “us and them divisions” became deeper, and extreme  fundamentalist religions began to contaminate and influence world affairs more and more. Elsewhere Volkan (2004), wrote:
 
             “When ‘Gods’ are involved in human conflict, tragedies follow. Because ‘Gods’ do not negotiate, ‘they’ give permission to destroy the evil” (p.167).
 
After September 11, 2001, there seemed to be little and perhaps no effort made at all to understand events on a deeper human level.  Center for the Study of Mind and Human Interaction (CSMHI), which Volkan founded in 1987, at the University of Virginia (closed in 2006, three years after Volkan’s retirement) experimented with creating therapeutic space between enemy groups.
 
Volkan (1988, 1997, and 2006) called this method the Tree Model.”  This methodology has three basic components or phases:
1-  Psychopolitical assessment of the situation (representing the roots of a tree.)
2-  Psychopolitical dialogues between members of opposing groups (representing the trunk of a tree.)
3-  Collaborative actions and institutions that grow out of the dialogue process (representing the branches of a tree.)
 
The first phase of the Tree Model includes, in-depth psychoanalytically informed interviews with a wide range of people who represent the groups involved, through which an understanding begins to emerge concerning the main aspects, including unconscious ones that surround the situation that needs to be addressed. The psychopolitical dialogues between influential representatives of opposing large groups are conducted under the guidance of a psychoanalytically-informed facilitating team and take place in a series of multi-day meetings, as often as possible, over several years. As these dialogues progress, resistances against changing the large group’s “pathological” ways of protecting its identity are brought to the surface and articulated, so that fantasized threats to large-group identity can be interpreted and realistic communication can take place.
 
In order for the newly-gained insights to have an impact on social and political policy, as well as on the populace at large, the final phase requires the collaborative development of concrete actions, programs, and institutions with official governmental and grassroots support. This multi-year methodology allows several disciplines including psychoanalysis, history and diplomacy, to collaborate, to articulate and work through underlying psychological and historical aspects of existing tensions. What is learned is then operationalized so that more peaceful coexistence between the large groups can be achieved, and threats (especially the fantasized ones) to large-group identity coming from the “other” can be tamed. This leads to a progression within the large group.
 
In this paper we will not go into more depth on the methodology of the "Tree Model." It had never been applied to a situation where the external dangers were extreme. It, however, contains concepts that can be modified for thinking of, and even starting, strategies for acute and very deadly situations such as the one that now exists between the radical Islamists and the people in the West who are their targets. The idea of developing such strategies should come after a serious, well-thought-out interdisciplinary planning period.
 
One of the first things to do is find what Volkan (2006) calls, “entry points” to the Tree Model process. We are not  for example, suggesting some Americans or other Westerners sit across a table from members of al-Qaeda to discuss peace. To propose this would be unrealistic, at best a ridiculous suggestion. Rather, we are speaking of finding an “entry point,” such as creating dialogues that would take place over several years between committed influential members of the Western world and members of the Islamic world. These would be held with the blessing of governmental authorities and under the auspices of a psychoanalytically informed interdisciplinary team, such as the former CSMHI team, whose members do not believe in “instant coffee” solutions. Practical aspects of the Tree Model would begin after the participants understood the “psychic realities” of  their opponents.
 
Those who participate in this planning should take into consideration not only the real events and politics, but also psychological and psychopolitical factors. These factors include an understanding of large-group regression and rituals, the human “need to have enemies and allies” (Volkan, 1988), the tendency of enemies to become alike, the intertwining of a regressed leader’s internal expectations with the political/societal process that he or she initiates (Volkan, 2004), the impact the shared mental representation of history has on people, the reactivation of past shared traumas of ancestors (called“chosen traumas”) that magnify the present dangers, the importance of explaining the psychic realities of the enemies, finding avenues for group mourning (Volkan, 2006), so that past losses are accepted and do not induce malignant entitlement ideologies to recover what had been lost, and lastly, leaving “Gods” out of decision-making.
 
 _______________________________________
1.  The poem found in Muhammed Bouyeri’s pocket:
 
Baptized in Blood
So these are my last words…
riddled with bullets…
baptized in blood…
as I had hoped.
I am leaving a message…
for you…
the fighter…
the Taw heed tree is waiting…
yearning for your blood…
enter the bargain…
and Allah opens the way…
He gives you a garden…
instead of the Earthly rubble.
To the enemy I say…
You will surely die…
Wherever in the world you go…
Death is waiting for you…
Chased by the knights of DEATH…
Who paint the streets with Red?
For the hypocrites I have one final word…
Wish DEATH
or hold your tongue…
and sit.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, my end is nigh…
But this does not end the story.
 
He added: "I cannot feel for you... Because I believe you are a nonbeliever… I acted out of conviction, not because I hated your son.”  How can we make sense of this horrible event and explain it? The poem found in Bouyeri’s pocket made it clear that he was ready to die in order to kill his “enemy.” Certainly, Bouyeri must have had personal psychological motivations, yet we do not know the details of his life history and what psychological processes might have been initiated by his mother’s death. Neither do we know his internal world and his personal motivations for killing Theo Van Gogh. On the other hand, it is our argument that reducing this murder to personal-psychological motivations will not provide a satisfactory explanation in a case such as this. We will need to take the exploration of this horrible event beyond the bounds of individual psychology and examine the influence of large-group psychology on Bouyeri. More concretely, we need to explore the role religion and history play in influencing individual minds. As he so bluntly put it in court, Bouyeri killed Theo Van Gogh, not because he hated him, but because his victim belonged to another large group. He killed in the name of a large-group identity. His mind reflected the thinking of hundreds of thousands of others who belong to extreme Islamic fundamentalist organizations. We will begin to study this kind of thinking by defining what is meant by the term “fundamentalism” in any religion.
2.  Most theologians agree that millennialism existed among the early church fathers until St. Augustine developed a doctrine known as “amillennialism”As years passed, amillennialism mostly faded away, and millennialism returned. Phillip Lamy concludes that “millennialism tends to arise in periods of intense, social change,” (Lamy, 1996, p.61.) that is, when there is a large-group regression whether or not it is followed by a stable large-group progression.
3.  For example, for Gush Emunim to give up areas that were included in the Land of Israel violates God’s command and for the members of this organization such a belief is non-negotiable.
4.  “Prophet” Lois Roden, a woman, was the leader of Branch Davidians at Waco before David Koresh took the leadership.Many of the “New Religions” in Japan are also led by women. But even while this is true, as John Stratton Hawley and Wayne Proudfoot (1994), state, Japan’s “New Religions” extol the return to the “Golden Age” when women entirely depended upon men in Japan. Sometimes a leader who does not possess enough charisma may choose a “front man.” For example, Joseph DiMambro built his own temple, preparing for the return of Jesus Christ in solar glory. But a physician, Luc Jouret, became the leader of the Order of the Solar Temple, with DiMambro pulling the strings backstage. Non-negotiable religious ideas come from the leader or his/her “front man." Since the leader knows the divine truth, the need for moral decisions is removed. It is beyond the scope of this paper to examine in detail the leaders of the extreme religious fundamentalist movements. Obviously, to prepare sophisticated and psychoanalytically-informed psychobiographies on such leaders would depend on the availability of sufficient information. The case histories of some extreme fundamentalist religious leaders of  restricted organizations or cults leaders (Volkan 2004, Olsson, 2005), suggest that the future leader has a troubled childhood. He seeks to create a “family” (cult) and become its mother and father in order to find a solution to his own childhood mental conflicts. In the long run, however, repetition/compulsion takes over as the leader “mistreats” followers as his own parents mistreated him. This leads to the creation of an atmosphere where extreme masochism or sadism is activated within the “family.” 
5.  Freud’s (1921), description of mass psychology, where the followers identify with each other and rally around an idealized leader, comes to life. As Waelder (1936), stated long ago, Freud’s description only fits what is observed in regressed groups. Followers remain regressed and dependent upon and obedient to the leader, the divine text and the organization.
6.  Sometimes they attack to remove the opposition and possible threat. For example, in 1980, in Kano, Nigeria, sect leader Alhaji Mohammadu (Maitatsine) Marva, who had proclaimed a new era of anti-materialist reformed Islam, led his followers to the central mosque in Kano where “non-believers” or “lukewarm believers” of his ideas were gathered. This event led to the killing of an estimated 8,000 persons.
7.  Annie Moore, a 24-year-old nurse who belonged to Jim Jones’ People’s Temple and who was the last to die in the mass suicide in Jonestown, provided an illustration of an escape from pessimism in her suicide note that says, “We died because you would not let us live in peace” (Wessinger, 1999, pp.51-52).
8.  In Israel, men in the Haredi community seclude themselves in Yeshivot, institutions in which they study the Holy Scriptures without maintaining contact with general culture and knowledge. In today’s Turkey we witness various religious fundamentalist movements that demand women wear scarves. But each group’s scarf is different or worn in a different style. Thus the group’s scarf is like a uniform that defines a border between the group and “others.”
9.  Typically leaders of restricted extreme fundamentalist movements, such as David Koresh at Waco (Volkan, 2004), wish to “change” their early troubled childhoods by creating a new “family” with themselves as the new and wished-for parent. But, when this does not work out, the fate of the new family follows the fate of the leader’s original family—it becomes dysfunctional. Koresh “owned” all the women among his followers and had sex with underage girls.  Men at Koresh’s compound at Waco were to be celibate. The leader’s having sex with underage girls is a kind of symbolic, but pathological act to revise the leader’s original internalized “bad” mother-child relationship. These acts, however, are usually explained by “magical” religious beliefs. For example, David Koresh (who was born out of wedlock when his mother was a young girl and who, until age five, believed that his mother was his aunt.) was convinced he could not be Jesus Christ since Jesus did not have children, so accordingly, he modeled himself after a messiah referred to in Psalm 45, “Who married virgins and whose children ruled the earth.” In Islamic extreme religious fundamentalist movements too women and children are abused. Their mistreatment is explained by the “divine book” and its interpreter. Taliban provides a classical example of an Islamic fundamentalist religious movement in which the degradation of women was extreme.
10.  In 1995, one of the authors, Volkan, chaired a Select Advisory Commission to the FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group charged with examining how insights from behavioral sciences could enhance the agency’s ability to respond to crises such as the one at Waco. Volkan observed that the aggressive negative feelings held by the authorities against David Koresh and his Branch Davidians during the “siege” at Waco unintentionally fed the Branch Davidians’ millennial expectations of a catastrophe (Volkan, 2004).
11.  Some people of Kandahar reportedly believe that the prophet’s cloak can cure the sick and heal the lame. It had only been removed from its vault on two previous occasions: in 1929, when King Emanullah invoked it to unify the country, and again in 1935, when authorities turned to the relic to stop a cholera epidemic in the city. 
12. More information about bin Laden, such as the information found in Peter Bergen’s recent book, The Osama bin Laden I know: An Oral History of al-Qaeda’s Leader, may tell us more about this man.
13.  Under these conditions, people like bin Laden attracted the Islamic masses’ attention as a hoped-for savior, not unlike the situation in Germany in the 1930s when the Germans were attracted to Hitler as a savior. Hitler, like bin Laden, had a millennialist vision.
14.  Today suicide bombings have become directly associated with Islamic terrorism. The appearance of suicide bombers for religious purposes and for nationalistic or seemingly non-religious ideological reasons is nothing new. We can go back to a Biblical story: “And Samson said, 'Let me die with the Philistines!' And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life” (Judges 16,30). From Samson’s suicidal destruction of the Philistine temple onwards, there are numerous examples of this kind of deadly action in the history of mankind.
15.  In clinical practice we sometimes see a similar phenomenon in isolated individual cases: A youngster who cannot maintain a cohesive sense of personal identity may become psychotic and have religious hallucinations, such as believing he or she is the reincarnation of an old religious leader. In such cases, psychotic persons replace their damaged personal identities with an identity that is “made up” and obviously false to outsiders. But suicide bombers are not psychotic. In their cases, the created identity fits well with the external reality and is approved by outsiders. Thus, future suicide bombers feel normal, and often experience an enhanced sense of self-esteem. They become, in a sense, spokespeople for the traumatized community and assume that they, at least temporarily, can reverse the shared sense of victimization and helplessness by expressing the community’s rage.
 
 
 
 
REFERENCES:
 
1- Balmer, R. (1989.) Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America. New York: Oxford University Press.
2- Barkun, M. (1997.) The Christian Identity Movement: Constructing Millennialism On the Racist Right. In Millennium, Messiahs and Mayhem,
(Eds.), T. Robbins, and S. Palmer, pp.247-260. Philadelphia: Routledge.
3-Barkun, M. (1999.) End-time Paranoia: Conspiracy Thinking at the Millennium’s End. In Fearful Hope: Approaching the New Millennium,
(Eds.), C. Kleinhenz, and F. LeMoine, pp.170-181. Madison: University of  Wisconsin Press.
4-Barkun, M. (2000.) Paper Presented to the Members of  The Committee on International Relations, Group for the Advancement of  Psychiatry (GAP) Meeting,
White Plains, NY, April 17.
5- Bergen, P. (2006.) The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al -Qaeda’s Leader: New York: The Free Press.
6- Coogan, T.P. (2002.) The IRA. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
7- Davis, J. (2003.) Martyrs: Innocence, Vengeance, and Despair in the Middle East. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
8- Freud, S. (1901.) Psychopathology of the Everyday Life. Standard Edition, 6. London Hogarth Press.
9-Freud, S (1913.) Totem and Taboo. Standard Edition, 13:1-162. London: Hogarth Press, 1955.
10- Freud, S (1921.) Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. Standard Edition, 18:63-143. London: Hogarth Press, 1955.
11- Freud, S (1927.) The Future of An Illusion. Standard Edition, 21:5-56. London: Hogarth Press, 1961.
12- Freud, S (1939.) Moses and Monotheism, Standard Edition, 23:1-137. London: Hogarth Press, 1964.
13- Greenacre, P. (1970.) The Transitional Object and the Fetish: With Special Reference to the Role of Illusion. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 51:447-456.
14-  Haught, J.A. (1990.) Holy Horrors. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books.
15- Hawley, J.S., and Proudfoot, W. (1994.) Introduction. In Fundamentalism and Gender, (ed.), J.S. Hawley, pp.5-44. New York: Oxford University Press.
16- Howell, W.N. (1997.) Islamic Revivalism: A Cult Phenomenon? Mind and Human Interaction, Vol.5:97-103.
17-Howell, W.N. Killing In the Name of God: Motif and Motivation. Mind and Human Interaction, Vol.12:146-155.
18- İnalcık, H. (1987.) Fatih Devri Üzerinde Tetkikler ve Vesikalar (Documents and Investigations on the Era of the Conqueror.) Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu.
19- Itzkowitz, N. (1972.) The Ottoman Empire and Islamic Tradition. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
20- Kayatekin, M.S. (in press.) Christianity and Islam: On the Axis of Balkans and the West. In The Crescent and the Couch: Crosscurrents Between Islam and Psychoanalysis,
(ed.), S. Akhtar.
21- Kedourie, E. (1970.) The Chatham House Version and Other Middle Eastern Studies. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson.
22- Lamy, P. (1996.) Millennial Rage: Survivalists, White Supremacists, and the Doomsday Prophecy. New York: Plenum.
23- Landes, R. (2001.) Apocalyptic Islam and bin Laden. Paper Presented at the Committee on International Relations, Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry (GAP).
White Plains, New York. November 8-10.
24- Lewis, B. (1990.) The Roots of Moslem Rage. The Atlantic Monthly, September 20, pp.47-60.
25- MacEoin, D. (1983.) The Shi’i Establishment In Modern Iran. In Islam in the Modern World, (Eds.), D. MacEoin, and A. Al-Shahi, pp.88-108.
New York: St. Martin Press.
26- Marty, M.E., and Appleby, R.S. (Eds.) (1995.) Fundamentalism Comprehended. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
27- Mayer, J-F. (1998.) Apocalyptic Millennialism in the West: The Case of Solar Temple. Paper Read at the University of  Virginia, The Critical Incident Analysis Group (CIAG), Charlottesville, VA, November 13.
28- Meissner, W.W. (1984.) Psychoanalysis and Religious Experience. New Haven: Yale University Press.
29- Meissner, W.W. (1990.) The Role of Transitional Conceptualization In Religious Thought. In Psychoanalysis and Religion,
(Eds.), J.H. Smith, and S.A. Handelman, pp.95-116. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.
30- Modell, A. (1970.) The Transitional Objects and the Creative Art. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 39:240-250.
31- Moghaddam, E.M. (2005.) The Staircase to Terrorism: A Psychological Exploration. American Psychologist, 60:161-169.
32- Moses-Hrushovski, R. (2000.) Grief and Grievance: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. London: Minerva Press.
33- Olsson, P.A. (2005.) Malignant Pied Pipers of Our Time: A Psychological Study of Destructive Cult Leaders from Rev. Jim Jones to Osama bin Laden. 
(Ed.), Frederick M.D.: Publish America.
37- Ortaylı, İ. (2003.) Osmanlı Barışı (Ottoman Peace.) Istanbul: Ufuk Kitapları.
38- Said, E. (1979.) Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books.
39- Sivan, E. (1985.) Radical Islam: Medieval Theology and Modern Politics. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
40- Sokolowski, R. (1990.) Religion and Psychoanalysis: Some Phenomenological Contributions. In Psychoanalysis and Religion, (Eds.), J.H. Smith, and S.A. Handelman,
pp.1-17. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.
41- Volkan, V.D. (1988.) The Need to Have Enemies and Allies: From Clinical Practice to International Relationships. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson. 
42- Volkan, V.D. (1997.)  Bloodlines: From Ethnic Pride to Ethnic Terrorism. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
43- Volkan, V.D. (2004.) Blind Trust: Large Groups and Their Leaders in Times of Crises and Terror. Charlottesville, VA: Pitchstone Publishing.
44- Volkan, V.D. (2006.) Killing in the Name of Identity: A Study of Bloody Conflicts. Charlottesville, VA: Pitchstone Publishing.
45- Waelder, R. (1936.) The Principle of Multiple Function: Observations on Over-determination. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 5:45-62, (1930).
46-  Weber, E. (1999.) Apocalypses: Prophecies, Cults, and Millennial Beliefs Through the Ages. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
47- Werner, H., and Kaplan, B. (1963.) Symbol Formation. New York: Wiley.
48- Wessinger, C. (1999.) How the Millennium Comes Violently: From Jonestown to Heaven’s Gate. New York: Seven Bridges Press.
49- Winnicott, D.W. (1953.) Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 34:89-97.
50- Yavuz, M.H. (1995.) The Patterns of Political Islamic Identity: Dynamics of National and Transnational Loyalties and Identities. Central Asian Survey, 14:342-372.
             
             
             
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Copyright © Vamık D. Volkan and Özler Aykan 2007.
 
All rights reserved. 
 
 
Policies & Info / Accessibility / Sitemap / RSS / JSON
 Webmaster: Oa Publishing Co. 
Editor: Özler AYKAN
Last modified on: May 28, 2012