Posts Tagged ‘Dostoevsky’

French Academic Olivier Roy on the Nihilistic Psychology of Suicide Bombers

June 15, 2017

Hope Not Hate, the anti-racist, anti-religious extremism website put up a very interesting interview last week with Olivier Roy, a French academic and expert in terrorism at the European University Institute in Florence, by Safya Khan-Ruf. Roy has published a book, Jihad and Death, about the motivations of Islamist terrorists, based on his own research. He states he first became interested in the topic while working in Afghanistan, and from his own experience growing up in Dreaux, a French town where immigrants constitute 30 per cent of the population.

Olivier states that from his sample of youths, who had belonged to a terrorist network, 65 per cent were second generation immigrants, 25 per cent converts. 50 per cent were juvenile delinquents, and none of them had been religious, belonged to a mosque or tried to spread Islam through preaching.

He also makes the point that ISIS’ terrorist methods differ strongly from those of Islamic terrorist groups in the 1970s and ’80s. These groups did not intend to die during their atrocities, and made every effort to escape.

Now the situation is reversed. The suicide bombers actively intend to die. He also argues that it isn’t racism or marginalisation that motivates the bombers either, and points to the fact that British Libyans are actually well integrated.

He argues instead that they have a powerful need for very rigorous, extreme forms of religion, coupled with a violent nihilism that is ultimately drawn from western individualism and the idea of the solitary hero. They use selected teachings from Islam to justify their atrocities like the KKK and other extremist groups in the west used Christianity as the justification for their attacks and terrorisation of others, such as Blacks in America. He states

Despite what many people say, these youth are not the products of unemployment, of racism, or a lack of integration. It’s just not true. For Abedi for example, Libyans are pretty well integrated and while he had a chaotic past, it wasn’t because of his family life.

And then people are ‘stuck’.

My thesis is that these are youth in revolt: nihilists that are suicidal and will ascribe their revolt into the narrative provided by IS. For those that have a Muslim background, it’s easy to adopt the narrative because the keys are already there.

But we also see hundreds of converts that adopt this. IS placed a very sophisticated narrative in play that combines references from Islam at the time of the Prophet with a modern type of extreme individualism – the image of the solitary hero – and a modern aesthetic of violence and death. That is what is working.

So we first need to attack the narrative of IS and the fascination it causes.

In these youths there is a demand for spirituality and mysticism. We’ve known since the anarchists and Dostoyevsky that there is a spiritual dimension to terrorists. The problem is, we fight this demand of spirituality by secularising and using our rational thought. I think our society has a problem with the religious – it doesn’t understand the religious anymore.

He then goes on to argue that people of faith should be allowed to express their religious beliefs freely, without being forced to adapt them to the demands of the secular state. For example, secular society should not demand that religious people alter their traditional hostile view of homosexuality.

He also states that we should be very careful not to overreact to these atrocities. He makes the point that similar killings occur regularly, such as the German pilot who committed suicide, killing all his passengers with him when he crashed the plane. These murders don’t have the same effect as Islamist or White Fascist killings.

http://hopenothate.org.uk/2017/06/05/nihilist-youths-turn-islamic-state-terrorists/

It’s an interesting viewpoint into the murderous, self-destructive psychology of suicide bombers. He’s right in that there is a similarity between their attitudes and the figure of the great, destructive, supremely individual hero that emerged in European Romanticism.

While I don’t dismiss the idea that the ‘great, bad man’ of Romantic literature hasn’t exerted some influence on their psychology, I also think it’s a mistake to downplay their links to organised Middle Eastern terrorism in favour of ascribing their motives to their own, individual psychology. A week or so ago Counterpunch published an article making the point that many Islamist terrorists were imported by Western secret services, who wished to use them for their own neocolonial schemes against secular leaders and regimes in the Middle East. Salman Abedi’s family was part of one such militant Islamist group, set up to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi.

The Counterpunch article further argues that ignoring these connections in favour of pursuing policies based on supposed radicalisation through the internet or in the Muslim community generally are misguided and ultimately harmful. Very few terrorists are recruited through online propaganda, and the ‘Prevent’ strategy of scrutinising all Muslims to check against radicalisation risks alienating British Muslims further. Far from being deterred from joining terrorist networks, they may feel that they are being unfairly suspected of being a terrorist or terrorist sympathiser, simply because of their faith.

And the emphasis on looking for indications of terrorist sympathies in the particular psychology of individual Muslims can lead instead to the mistaken condemnation or suspicion of the victims of violence from the Middle East. The article cites the case of a young boy, whose family had sought asylum in Britain from one of the war-torn countries in the Middle East. In his drawings in class, the lad depicted the planes and violence he had witnessed in his country of origin. Unfortunately, his teachers became alarmed as they thought this showed he had terrorist sympathies, and the poor lad was packed off to be investigated by the authorities and psychologists.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/06/12/britain-refuses-to-accept-how-terrorists-really-work/

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The Young Turks on Slave Labour in the American Prison System

September 16, 2016

I’ve already put up several pieces about how a wave of strikes are spreading across the American prison system by convicts fed up of being used as cheap, slave labour for big business. In this short piece by The Young Turks’ Hassan Piker, he begins with a quotation from Dostoevsky that a country’s state of civilisation can be gauged from its prisons. And Dostoevsky had personal experience of which he spoke. He was sent to a Siberian prison in which he was bound hand and foot. Piker gives the statistics on the immense size of the American prison population, and how the number of convicts on work programmes for outside corporations. Those companies involved include McDonald’s, Victoria’s Secret and Walmart. Defenders of the programme say it teaches the cons valuable skills. But Piker points out that they have no union representation, and are paid 23 cents a day, much less than the minimum wage. Piker points out that the prisoner making shirts for McDonald’s is making even less than the person wearing it. Freedom for Alabama, one of the groups involved in the protests, states that this is a form of slavery, as defined and protected in the American Constitution. This outlaws slavery and forced labour, except for the convicted of a crime. Despite the abolition of slavery, this still effectively exists in American prisons, with inmates subjected to various degrading and painful punishments, including the investigation of their bodies ‘as if we are animals’. He points out that the whip has been replaced by pepper spray, but apart from that nothing has changed. The strikes are taking place nearly 35 years after a similar strike by prison workers in 1971. The strikers are aiming not just to improve their conditions, but also to bring down the entire corporate system that has massive boosted the American prison system. Piker comes down firmly on the side of the strikers, but states that many people may not listen to them because of who they are.

The size of the corporate prison system and its corruption of American justice is a major problem over there, and is also an increasing problem on this side of the Atlantic. At the heart of it is the private management of prisons. The companies running them frequently have contacts with politicians and judges in their states. They donate to politicians’ election funds, and put pressure on them to pass harsher legislation on crime. At the same time, the may also have judges on their payroll, whom they also persuade to pass tougher sentences on criminals to send them to prison. Where they can be used as cheap labour for the corporate profit of the prison and the contracting outside company. Michael Moore, the Capped Crusader, in his film, Capitalism: A Love Story, covers the case of a young girl, who was given a custodial sentence to an adult prison for truanting from school. The presiding judge in her case was on the payroll of the local prison company.

Private prisons have been introduced over here. I think they might have been introduced under John Major’s Conservative administration. They certainly were under Tony Blair’s, who was very cosy with Wackenhut, one of the leading American private prison firms. Mike ran an article a few weeks ago pointing out that British prisons were also using convicts as slave labour for their firms’ profits, and that this was perverting British justice in exactly the same way the system was over the other side of the Pond. The strikes are led by the syndicalist union, the Industrial Workers of the World, and have spread to 40 prisons in 25 states. The incarcerated workers have a point, despite the crimes for they personally have been committed. The system should be stopped, both in America and over here.