Most readers of this Blog will not have read an article in the French weekly magazine, “L’Obs”, of February 26, 2015. It reports an interview with a psychoanalyst, Fehti Benshama, who organized a symposium on Islamic terrorism at the University of Paris-Diderot on March 5 and 6. The title of the symposium was “Radicalization and Its Treatment”. It seems to me that readers of this Blog would appreciate an expert’s insights into this crucial topic, as part of our effort to understand the motivation of young people volunteering to join the death-cult of Daech.
Beyond facile explanations based on the material conditions of impoverished and sometimes orphan children, Benslama underlines the quintessential rôle of the guru, the charismatic figure responsible for inculcating Jihadist ideology and its subtle mixture of ideals and hatred. These ideals are essentially altruistic, and represent a maturing from childish narcissism to sentiments of either love or hatred of others. Racism, anti-semitism and terrorism are built on hatred either because of what the other has, or who s/he is – a supposed power which prevents the subject from enjoying a fulfilled and satisfying life.
The root-cause of this hatred, according to Benslama, is historical. Military expeditions against the Muslim world, colonialism and the violent interventions of our own time have given birth to the heterodox form of Islam of the “reformed” Muslim. National states have been built on the Western model. A secularist state was created in Turkey, along with the abolition of the Caliphate, which symbolized the destitution of Islamic sovereignty. Whence its recent re-establishment by ISIS or, in its Arabic form, DAECH. True Muslims feeling betrayed, maintained in poverty and exploited by the powers that be, demand reparation and vengeance. “Pure” Muslims, Salafists, regard the “moderate” Muslims as “sub-Muslims” who are destroying the ideal of Islam. Whence the call to, and attraction towards, revolt by the righteous against the status quo. Only violence will restore their dignity.
“Daechism”, says the specialist, goes beyond terrorism. It has taken an “auto-hetero sacrificial form”. Hatred of oneself and of others calls for the sacrifice of one’s own life and that of others. Indoctrination and belonging to a radical group develop these destructive tendencies. However the great novelty of Daechism is not cruelty but its public display, in a demonstration of omnipotence which can be witnessed by the whole world : the filming of atrocious murder by assassins, bound by no limits, allows spectators to experience the butchery. For Fehti Benslama, Daechism is the logical term of Islamist ideology.