Pathways To Jihadi Terrorism


The following article is written by Dr. Babu Suseelan and is republished here with his permission.

Pathways To Jihadi Terrorism

Jihadi terrorism is as old as Islam. Jihad war, death, and destruction have followed in the wake of Islam for hundreds of years. Ancient Egypt, Greece, Spain, Persia, India and several societies have experienced the deadly Islamic conquest. Now Jihadi terrorism has surged to dangerous proportions and is a major threat to public health and world peace. Jihadi terrorists have the potential to perpetuate their deadly terrorism, wreaking havoc in every city in the world. Its destructive impact on the economy, public health and public safety is widespread, and on the increase.

Sensational Jihadi terrorism, mass riots, violence, beheadings, suicide bombings and plane hijackings are under constant media scrutiny. Jihadi terrorism is also a compelling subject for terrorism scholars, social scientists and security planners. Nevertheless, agreement on the important underlying causes has been elusive and inconsistent. Liberal social scientists say Jihadi terrorism is a product of “labeling.” This is one of the ten forms of cognitive distortion
that we will talk about in a minute.

Social scientists on the more liberal side also theorize that Jihadi terrorism has social causes including economic deprivation and interference by non-Islamic countries. They romanticize Jihadi terrorists as involved in protest against social injustice. In their eagerness to promote the irrational doctrine of “political correctness,” left wing armchair speculators see Jihadi terrorists as victims of reactionary, reductionist “conspiracy theories” that make the terrorists the real victims of unjust social forces. For phony, left wing, liberal social scientists, suicide bombing, mass murder, riots, arson and the public beheading of non-Muslims by Jihadi terrorists are frustrated responses to political injustices.

Ample empirical evidence and case study analysis of Muslim terrorists proves the unsoundness of these theories. Such malicious “politically correct” statement s are misleading and mischievous. The unified left wing explanation of Jihadi terrorism as a social phenomenon in the changing political, economic context is false and falls far short of explaining reliable and stable psychological and religious variables influencing Islamic terrorism.

In recent years, studies of risk prediction and identification of both static and dynamic factors associated with Jihadi terrorism have provided a clear understanding of the problem. Empirically based investigations of psychological factors on Jihadi terrorists have indicated important cognitive and behavioral variables acting as pathways for Jihadi terrorism. Focused studies have revealed the unique patterns of the Jihadi terrorists' thinking, asocial attitudes, cruelty, and indifference to the feelings of their victims, paranoia and aggressive hostility.


Religious, psychological, educational, and historical factors are implicated in Jihadi terrorism. Static variables (age, ethnic religious background) and dynamic variables (cognitive distortions, thinking errors, negative emotions, maladaptive behaviors, community networks that support deviance) also specifically lend themselves to the identification of dynamic risk factors of Jihadi terrorism.

Muslims think Islam is a perfect and perfected religion. It has perfect answers for science, politics, government, economics, psychosocial problems and human life. As far as the doctrinal tenets are concerned, Islam maintains that Muslims must unquestionably follow the tenets. Muslims should shun everything that is opposed to Islam. Muslims consider the Koran, the Hadith and the Sura to be perfect and above criticism.

Many Muslims are indoctrinated at an early age into the rigid, closed, reductionist Islamic dogma, demanding full faith and devotion and separation from all competing philosophies. They are kept ignorant of the world and other rational thought systems. Islamic schools focus on rote memorization of Koran and discourage critical thinking. Questioning Islamic concepts is the biggest crime in fundamentalist cultures, punishable by death.

From the beginning, Islamic education starts formulating a conceptualization, which logically connects automatic Islamic thoughts and beliefs. The education system fails to see the larger picture. It provides a cognitive map that is limited, hostile and untrue. The faulty cognitive map generally resonates with the students for life.

These rigid Islamic cognitive schemas have a profound impact on their thinking, feeling and behavior. Muslims have a common narrative history, cognitive schemas, social scripts, attitudes and cultural values. The whole thought-system lacks critical thinking, rational analysis and personal responsibility, and some Muslims are content to stay the same and blame everyone but themselves for their thinking errors. For their failings and shortcomings, Jihadi Muslims hide behind alibi and denial. Everything that happens is “Allah’s will” and “non-believers will burn in Islamic hell fire.” Such automatic expressions influence their subsequent emotion, behavior and response. Since their automatic response is based on their preconceived Islamic thought, they often misconstrue neutral situations to fit their closed model thinking. In other words, a Muslim whose education has been so restricted has automatic thoughts that are biased and full of thinking errors.

Since Islam is a closed dogma and Muslims are forbidden to test its validity or utility, and required to maintain the equilibrium at any cost, Muslims' thinking errors are overwhelming. Dysfunctional automatic thoughts coexist with various thinking errors in the Muslim mind. Typical Islamic thinking errors include:

1. Polarized or all-or-nothing-thinking (e.g.: the world is cleanly divided into believers and non-believers, daru-ul-Islam and dar-ul-harb, the house of Islam and the house of war)

2. Catastrophic thinking (all infidels will go to hell)

3. Discounting the positive, accentuate the negative (all infidels are out to get Muslims)

4. Emotional reasoning (emotional justification for bombing, beheading, and terrorism)

5. Labeling (putting a global label on non-believers, such as kafirs or infidels)

6. Minimization (blame the victim, denial, alibi)

7. Mind Reading (a form of jumping to conclusions, for example, when a Muslim assumes he knows what non-Muslims are thinking)

8. Mental Filter (the failure to see things holistically)

9. Overgeneralization (making sweeping negative conclusions, Jews are pigs, Christians are rats)

10. Personalization (as when Muslims believe kafirs are behaving negatively because of Islam)

11. Tunnel Vision (only seeing things the Islamic way)

Many Muslims erroneously think the Islamic absolutist paradigm is designed to be adaptable to all applications for all the time — to all existing, new and future situations. It prevents fundamentalist Muslims from seeking new and viable solutions to life’s problems. They refuse to reform. They refuse to incorporate new elements with traditional Islamic thinking as a means to achieve a better society. Because of their limited indoctrination, they are unable to utilize new concepts to reach a more accurate assessment to produce more accurate judgments. Out-of-the-box thinking, logical reasoning, higher order thinking, and scientific thinking are really not intellectual pursuits of fundamentalist Muslims. This is the incubational source of Jihadi terrorists.


As a result of the early indoctrination, and of their willful protection against new information, a Jihadi terrorist's interpretation of neutral events, their problem solving strategies, their emotional reactions, their interpersonal communication and their attitudes toward non-Muslims are full of thinking errors, automatic thoughts and negative behaviors. Consciously or unconsciously, Jihadi Muslims react to upsetting events, rejection, failure, and criticism in extremely negative Islamic terms. They may spontaneously respond — without critical evaluation — with extreme, angry outbursts. Instead of developing a more adaptive response, Jihadi Muslims accept automatic, pre-cooked responses couched in Islamic jargon as correct, and feel proud of it.

Islamic fundamentalists' automatic thoughts are predictable since their underlying beliefs are in the closed, rigid Islamic dogma. Such automatic responses and ready-made solutions from Koranic concepts complicate issues, and interfere with their ability to reach positive goals. These dysfunctional, automatic thoughts and negative maladaptive behaviors are logically connected to the content of the defective automatic thoughts. All of this leads to "intermittent explosive disorder" including violence, riots, suicide bombing, and terrorism. For Jihadi Muslims, such distorted thoughts and violent behavior have their own validity and utility.

The consequences are decidedly disastrous and miserable for the victims. The interaction of Islamic dogmatism, early indoctrination, rote memorization, deviance-amplifying community psychodynamics, and cognitive processes enable Jihadi Muslims to maintain their closed thinking, negative emotions, and explosive behaviors. Strict Islamic regulatory guidelines also act as catalysts for developing authoritarian/conservative personality traits including conservatism, aggression, toughness, projectivity, stereotyping, destruction, hostility and anger. Such aggressive, conservative personality traits are maintained in all Jihadi Muslims by militant Islamic religious and social networks.

Research studies have revealed that individuals who are committed to a dogmatic Islamic belief system suffer from reasoning deficiencies, thinking errors, and are likely to join terrorists groups as an expression of their conservative/authoritarian outlook. There is also evidence that socioeconomic factors, and educational level are not a determinant of Jihadi terrorism.

Are Jihadi Muslims who share dogmatic Islamic beliefs and membership in terrorism groups more emotionally disturbed by clinical standards? Yes. By every measure available to researchers, these kinds of absolutist, dogmatic, rigid beliefs negatively influence ethical judgment, and precipitate emotional disturbances.


In Islamic culture, the common emotional impulses of Muslims are shaped through Islamic education, and through shared experiences in the Islamic social groups. Islamic cultural institutions, religious organizations and the state (in an Islamic state) have ways of controlling thinking and social expression. A dogmatic Islamic ideology, and the strict enforcement of religious practices to maintain the closed system, and the rote memorization of the Koran — all of these solidify dysfunctional cognitive schemas. Defective cognitive schemas, culture and conservative personalities continuously interact, in mutually supporting ways, and they help create and support explosive behaviors.

Jihadi Muslims seldom recognize the existence or inappropriateness of their thinking errors, of course. That would be the beginning of the end of those thinking errors. In the same way, they don't recognize that the negative emotions are inappropriate. So they can't help but misinterpret situations or or refrain from violent outbursts. In discussion or negotiation sessions, Jihadis often mix up feelings and thoughts and mislabel feelings as thoughts. The connection among their irrational thoughts, negative emotion and outrageous behavior is always justified in the name of Allah.


To develop and implement an effective model to prevent Jihadi violence and terrorism, it is important to focus on the cognitive and behavioral variables acting as pathways for Jihadi terrorism. Empirically based investigations of psychological factors of Jihadi terrorism have been helpful in identifying the risk factors, thinking errors, and criminogenic needs of Jihadi terrorists. These risk factors, and the deadly Islamic ideology — which transforms Muslims into terrorists and suicide bombers — should be part of any effective harm-reduction and terrorism-prevention policy and plan. Prevention strategies must include effective cognitive restructuring methods to address the impact of early learning processes and its influence in shaping negative emotions and deviant behaviors.

Democratic nations must exert pressure on Islamic countries to reform their education system. Dogmatic, rote education that focuses only on the Koran is not conducive to rational thinking. It doesn't help students think. It doesn't help expand scientific knowledge or insight.

It is necessary to compel Islamic educational institutions to modify the system to minimize those factors that enhance destructive beliefs and thinking errors. Effective educational reform must include restructuring school curriculums, and revising training curriculums for teachers. Islamic education reform can modify negative thinking process and possibly ameliorate some of the violent behavior — including Jihadi terrorism. Revision of Islamic education should (and will only) come from outside the Jihadi groups. Islamic countries must be forced to break the wall of denial and commit themselves to the difficult process of change.

As part of the pressure, liberal democratic nations must enforce effective psycholinguistic, cognitive/behavior restructuring, and thinking. The reforms must modify the Muslim student's sense of righteousness and the simplistic all-or-nothing mentality that causes them to wage war against infidels.

The above article was written by Dr. Babu Suseelan, a psychologist who specializes in addiction, forensic psychology, criminal and sex offenders. His research degrees are in psychology, cognitive/behavioral therapy, criminal justice, and addiction. By our request, he added some supplementary comments below.

The above article is for Muslims and non-Muslims who want to understand the criminalization process of Jihadi Muslims. This article is also for those who are deceived by Islamic propaganda and thus prevented from seeing the nature of Islamic thinking errors. Also, to help Jihadi Muslims extricate themselves from their dangerous dogma disguised as religion. Unfortunately our leftists and pseudo-liberals are under the illusion that education, democracy, economic development and the non-interference of Israel, the U.S., India, and Britain would enable Muslims to live in peace. These phony root-cause theories are not based on reality. In their theories, they have no sign of any effective corrective programs to contain terrorists.

From its inception, everything fundamentalist Islam has touched has been marred with lies, wars, tyranny, massacre, and terror. Traditional cultures and secular principles have been violently destroyed. Original ethical concepts and social structures have been disintegrated by force.

Bogus liberals, phony leftists and pseudo-secularists need to realize that it would be naive and condescending to assume that Jihadi fundamentalists would give up their dearly-held core beliefs on Jihad war, in return for democracy, economic aid, employment opportunities, Israeli withdrawal from West Bank, or non-interference from the U.S.

History proves that wealth (Saudi Arabia), democracy (Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt) will not deter Jihadi terrorism. Appeasement, peace treaties, more aid, and surrender are clumsy attempts to "buy them off." It will not work with Jihadi Muslims.

Muslim countries have had many opportunities to reform their rigid, closed dogma, and take an easier and more peaceful path. Globalization, economic development, technology, and human resources are available for them. However, Jihadi fundamentalists have decided to merely modernize their terror tactics and direct their resources to spreading hatred through Muslim Madrasas around the world. Israel turned the desert into a blooming garden. Jihadi Muslims still refuse to compromise or learn from the only democratic country among Islamic nations.

The free world won the cold war, destroyed Soviet Communism, Nazism, Fascism, and Japanese Imperialism through psychological warfare and outright war. But the world has not yet taken the Jihadi Islamic ideology for what it is — an ideology of war. We are facing a deadly ideology with millions of Jihadis stretching from Indonesia to Turkey. Unless now we embark upon new effective strategies including strong psychological warfare, we will not be able to live in peace.

As a psychologist, I have worked for years with alcohol and drug addicts, sex offenders, and criminals. Based on my theoretical and practical experience, I can clearly say that most of the character and behavioral traits of Jihadi Muslims are similar to criminal offenders and addicts. Jihadis suffer from denial, cognitive disorders, thinking errors, and they have no guilt, fear, shame, remorse and empathy. They indulge in blame games, they avoid responsibility, and they exhibit intermittent explosive disorder.

Complete recovery from their criminal thinking and antisocial behavior is impossible. As such, I can categorically say that reformation in Islam is not possible unless the free world can conquer Islamic nations, free the majority reform-minded Muslims who are trapped in their own countries by the Jihadis, and then change the educational policies. The free world was successful with Japan, Germany and Italy to reform their systems.

What can one citizen do? One person may be able to change one or two Jihadis. But the Islamic communities (uma) that encourage dogmatic thinking is very strong and they have a hold on the mind-set of every Muslim.

To effect change in Jihadis, one need to induce fear, guilt, shame, remorse and responsibility. Jihadis justify terrorism and violence in the name of Islam. Inducing change in any offender, the first step is to introduce guilt, fear, responsibility and empathy. With Jihadi fundamentalists, this will be difficult. Using every available means, we should try to shame them and induce guilt through the following avenues: psychological warfare, media, TV, video, movies and advertisements. Jihadis need to undergo an effective cognitive and behavior change program under a controlled environment.

We also need to expose Jihadis through media, internet, TV, movies, articles and chat groups. The free world needs an organized, effective psychological warfare to extricate them from the slavish ideology. We also need to consider seriously the following measures:

1. Ban or reform all Islamic madrasas.

2. Deny permission to construct mosques.

3. Consider limiting immigrants from Islamic countries to free countries.

4. Closely monitor students studying in free countries from Islamic nations.

5. Stop the flow of funds from Saudi Arabia to American Islamic schools.

6. Deny visas to Muslim Imams from India, Pakistan and the Middle East.

7. Establish radio and television stations in and around Islamic nations.

8. Use mind manipulation techniques to denounce evil practices of Jihadis.

9. Stop immediately the conversion of correctional populations into Muslims. This is a serious consideration. The U.S. has 2.5 million offenders in federal correctional institutions, state prisons and local jails. 95% percent of them will return to our communities. Converted Muslims with criminal proclivities are a potential danger. They could work as sleeper-agents in our communities. Most of the prisons employ Imams and 95% percent of them are from Pakistan, India, Iran, and from the Middle East.

Jihadi terrorism is complex and uncontrollable. Because Jihadi terrorism has so many dimensions and it disturbs so many aspects of our lives, solutions to the problem are not going to be simple. Of course, there are policy guidelines proposed by liberals, but not many will be effective. Business organizations are not interested in the topic for obvious reasons. Law enforcement officers can arrest a few terrorists. But they are unable to address the complex underlying causes for Jihadi terrorism.

Frequent observation of the extend of Jihadi terrorism around the world and empirical studies show striking similarities among Jihadi terrorists. One of the most important factors in these incidents is the underlying concept of Jihad war. It is constant and there is no compromise. There is significant association between Islamic call for Jihad war and Jihadi terrorism.

Muslims have disproportionally high rates of antisocial behavior, conduct disorder and violence. Because these deadly incidents are hidden under the guise of religion, little has been done to address the deviance-amplifying nature of Islamic Jihadi teachings. Governments and professional organizations have not addressed the issue or devised effective intervention strategies. Therefore your attempts on to educate citizens about the problem is highly desirable and it could prove effective.

Dr. Babu Suseelan, 2006


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