Exposing Political, Economic, and Security Threats to the United States and the West

The “Radicalization” Elephant in the Room: Violence Against Women

Left: ISIS considers women as “war spoils” and has adopted special regulations how to rape and manage their slavery.

Around the globe from Europe, Pakistan, the Middle East to Minnesota everyone seems to be talking about extremism and radicalization these days. Rohan Gunaratna, an al Qaeda expert, defines radicalization as “a movement in the direction of supporting or enacting radical behavior.”[1]  Many theories have been proffered as to what causes it as well as how to de-radicalize the jihadis.

In Minnesota:

“U.S. District Court Judge Michael Davis has handled some of the terrorism cases in Minnesota concerning Somali recruitment. He said: “When you are dealing with extremism, and you start to talk to people, it just does not compute….It doesn’t make sense why someone who has never been involved in any type of criminal activity and is not seriously religious (would), in a very short period of time, want to go over and be involved in jihad.”[2] This is a good example of how confusing jihadi behavior is and the lack of opportunity to understand criminality at the unconscious level. The German expert brought in to set up a deradicalization program in Minnesota admitted that he doesn’t know if it will work: “There’s no 100 percent guarantee that these intervention methods actually work….But I think it’s better than working blindfolded without any kind of assessment or structure or protocol.”[3]

I beg to differ. It does compute if you factor in the leading cause and driver as Violence Against Women.

On the recent Women’s Day, I was interviewed on Pakistan’s Radio 99. The following are some excerpts from the transcript of the audio file:

  • What is the relationship between extremism and the female in shame honor cultures?

There is a direct link. The female is in the eye of the storm. The male blames her because he is terrified of her powerful body, which is life-giving. Her first taste of power is when she has her first-born male. Yet, she grew up a shamed little girl. Exhausted from being the shock absorber of male rage, she struggles psychologically to raise her male baby, her new power source.  But this is a misuse of the baby since he has his needs. However, the female should never be blamed, since this repeats the shame and blame cycle.

Such hatred of the female stabilizes the terrified male something he could never admit because of shame. When children are shamed into behaving, this creates rage and aggression. Shaming destroys the opportunity to create a healthy identity – free of extremism. Extremists never developed empathy, which blossoms in the first years of life with mother. There is a direct link between extremism and the abused female:

  1. In the United Kingdom the Centre for Social Cohesion did geo-mapping and where they found extremists, they found domestic violence.
  1. In western countries often the first police incident by an extremist is a domestic violence call. All those who radicalize, have problems with aggression and bond violently to females. We can surmise that they were shamed as children leaving them without an identity, ripe for recruitment to violence.
  1. Converts who radicalize show similar problems. They either grew up in rigidly patriarchal families where physical violence prevailed or in single parent female households where they experienced “father hunger” – no father to protect them, sets limits and guide them.
  1. Where extremists are women, they merely internalize male rage of the female as self-hatred. Theirs is pseudo power for they are pawns of the male extremist groups.

These are the underpinnings where suicide bombing thrives — the essence of extremism. To hate the female means that one hate one’s self. There is no need to hate. Better to dislike. There is no need to bond violently. Society is only as strong as its little girls and women. To celebrate Women’s Day is to celebrate life. Barakat (Ar. Blessings) on this special day.”

Feedback from Pakistan 

A colleague in Pakistan, who asked to remain anonymous, wrote:

“I realize Urdu was a barrier [my message was communicated by voice over in Urdu], but here is the brief outline of the [radio] program. We started from your recording, I talked about your theory in Urdu and then other experts endorsed it in the light of recent events and terrorists’ narrative which is mainly focused on curtailing women’s freedom. What really makes me glad is that [a] few listeners called from different cities and they too [were] of the opinion that violence against women is at the root of violent extremism [my emphasis]. We also invited a leading women rights activist to talk on the subject.

You would be glad to know that program was aired in three provinces of Pakistan, in the show which liked by majority of listeners on the station which is top on the ranking…”


Doïna Harap, director of the documentary Body Language concerning terrorist behavior (though not exclusively), interviewed a series of neuroscientists who reaffirmed my theory that terrorists demonstrate that they have poor maternal attachment lacking empathy what is known as traumatic or terror bonding. The mother builds the brain of the baby in utero through age two the brain quadruples in size. This is the timeframe in which empathy is ignited and morality is learned.

Prison Interviews:

Prison interviews I conducted in the Hennepin County Jail in Minneapolis in 2005,  many interviewees were Somalis. I asked them about their early childhoods and their exposure to violence. They told me it was routine. The sheriff deputies’ unit on domestic violence invited me to go along with them into the community because they were overwhelmed with domestic violence calls.

A Somali prisoner told me he hates America because their women and kids pick up the phone and call the police for help. What he meant is that they know that they are losing power and control over their females who no longer want to submit to their violent will.

The need to hate and the need to have enemy along with learning to resolve conflict violently is a learned behavior in the home by age three. Child rearing practices of these shame-honor immigrant Muslim communities revolve around chronic shaming which destroys the soul of a child.

Consider the Literature on the Abuse of Females in Islamic terrorism:

It is too large to present here, but one case of the Islamic State’s rape of 8-year-old girls[4], shows a pervasive denial of the political violence’s root driver, which is Violence Against Women.

In my forthcoming Jihadi Dictionary: The Ultimate INTEL Tool, I write about radicalization as a manic defense. These people who become “radicalized are obsessed and are defending against their helplessness.  That is why young lonely socially inept men and women become radicalized. Radicalization would fail to hook into a fragile personality riddled with rage that impacts on the development of their psychological “infrastructure” if the jihadis’ early childhood had been more healthy and devoid of violence. Because of the early symbiotic deficit [in the maternal attachment], there is an inherent weakness ripe for radicalization.

Pervasive shaming and blaming have become normalized in Saudi Arabia and other conservative jihadi realms. This is in part why it is so difficult to deradicalize jihadis since they have a cognitive deficit in their thinking from early childhood that takes great efforts to breach if it can be at all. We are still in the early stages of knowing what de-radicalization programs work.”[5]

The terrorists are proving that not empowering women, endanger their health. Therefore, women should not shy away from connecting the dots for radicalization – Violence Against Women.

The time has come, and it has been long overdue to identify Violence against Women as the root of radicalization.

If women truly put their efforts into communicating this message to the public, investing in early childhood development, and pre- and postpartum programs, they could conceivably make the need for de-radicalization programs obsolete. Until this happens, we will continue to waste huge sums of money on new “de-radicalization” programs that do not solve the problem, and watch impotently as death-cult terrorist groups like the Islamic State and Hezbollah ravage civilizations across the globe with their psychotic Violence Against Women and Humanity.

The elephant in the “radicalization” room is the brutal mistreatment of the little girl who grows up to be a mother. Radicalization may attempt to masquerade as political violence, but it is completely dependent upon Violence Against Women.


* http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2016/02/29/pakistani-documentary-a-girl-in-the-river-wins-oscar/

[1] A. W. Kruglanski, M. J. Gelfand,  J. J. Bélanger, A.Sheveland, M. Hetiarachchi,  and R. Gunaratna, The Psychology of Radicalization and Deradicalization: How Significance Quest Impacts Violent Extremism, http://gelfand.umd.edu/KruglanskiGelfand(2014).pdf. Thackrach does not provide an entry in his dictionary, see J.R. Thackrah, Dictionary of Terrorism, 2004. London: Routledge.

[2]A. Fortliti, 2 March 2016, Federal court in Minnesota creates deradicalization program,  http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/judge-study-recommend-deradicalization-plans-men-37339966

[3] Ibid.

[4] See here http://www.aol.com/article/2016/03/09/life-under-isis-girls-repeatedly-being-raped/21325069/,

[5] N. H. Kobrin, Jihadi Dictionary: The Ultimate INTEL Tool, [forthcoming] New York: MultiEducator Inc., 2016.


 * Dr. Nancy Hartevelt Kobrin, a Fellow at the American Center for Democracy, is a Psychoanalyst, Arabist & Counter-Terrorist Expert.

About Rachel Ehrenfeld

Rachel Ehrenfeld
Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld is Founder and President of the New York-based American Center for Democracy, and the Economic Warfare Institute. Dr. Ehrenfeld has authored academic and policy papers and more than one thousand articles. Her books include FUNDING EVIL: How Terrorism is Financed – and How to Stop Ii (2011) • EVIL MONEY (HarperCollins, 1992,1994). Her latest book project is on The Economic Warfare against the U.S. from Within and Without. • NARCOTERRORISM (Basic Books, 1990, 1992).