(Photo above: Left: The “sinful” beer drinking, pork eating Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel. Right: Trace of Bouhlel religious purification in Nice, France (truck jihad))
Psychology of sinner-turned-jihadi: Instant purification
By: Nicolai Sennels, psychologist
Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the jihadi who killed 84 innocents with a truck in Nice, France, on July 14 2016, was no typical radical Muslim. Or was he? After all, Islam not only defines countless things as “sinful” – it also has a cure-all: Jihad.
Mobile phone records suggest Bouhlel used dating websites and dabbled with drugs and drink, all of it being banned by Islamic law, Sharia. His ex-wife claims that he liked pork and did not even go to the mosque.
Islamic law, Sharia, prescribes jihad (violent, holy war) “although you dislike it”. So why would a man born and raised as a Muslim, but who in his daily life lives in obvious contradiction to his religion, suddenly repent, and perform what according to Islam is “the highest deed“, namely losing your life while fighting physically in the cause of Islam
The answer might very well lie in the fact that Islam promises complete purification for past sins to its martyrs: “And if you are killed in the cause of Allah or die – then forgiveness from Allah and mercy are better than whatever they accumulate [in this world].” (Quran, 3:157).
One should not underestimate the psychological power of shame and fear of hell in strongly religious societies, nor the psychological influence of a religion’s divine promise of absolute purification for its martyrs.
Purification through jihad
Purifying oneself through jihad is not uncommon within Islamic societies.
1) Purifying sexual sins:
An Iraqi woman whose code name was “The Mother of Believers” arranged rapes of women. Subsequently, she persuaded 80 raped women into perfoming suicide jihad attacks as a way to purify themselves from the sin of having been raped.
2) Honorable way out of a life as an outcast:
Forensic pathologist Dr. Yusuf Yadgari claims that, based on autopsies performed on the remains of suicide bombers, nearly 90 percent had a disability or medical condition. In Afghan culture, the handicapped are often perceived as outcasts, and their only chance for honor is to become a martyr. For that same reason, the Taliban often “recruits Afghans with disabilities for suicide bombings”.
3) Escaping the sin of commiting suicide:
Yet another way to use jihad as a way of purification is to cammuflage or substitute a real suicide with a religiously motivated suicide mission. Studies conclude that “there is emerging evidence that suicidality may play a role in a significant number of cases” of suicide jihad attacks. Criminal-justice researcher Adam Lankford concludes in his book The Myth of Martyrdom, that there is evidence that far from being normal, jihadis have often suffered from serious mental trauma and “always demonstrate at least a few behaviours on the continuum of suicidality, such as suicide ideation, a suicide plan or previous suicide attempts.”
A report, by Queen Mary University in London, found those at risk of radicalisation are more likely to have depression and be socially isolated than other people with similar backgrounds. Islamic State propaganda videos have previously claimed jihad as a “cure for depression”, a sign perhaps that the sophisticated social media operation is aware of the audience it is targeting.
Jihad: Muslim sinners’ cure-all
Many mentally ill persons are surely easier to pursuade into religiously motivated murder because of their deluded state of mind. But the trigger, that sends off jihadis – no matter what their sin is Islam, which stigmatize, threaten and dishonor those who does not follow the Sharia – and at the same time promises forgiveness and mercy to anybody getting killed in the cause of Islam.
The problem is, that being sinful in Islam is so easy, and that the cure is so murderous.