Terrorism: these unstable individuals who blindly drug themselves to ideological faith

Terrorism: these unstable individuals who blindly drug themselves to ideological faith

Paris this Saturday, December 2, Brussels on Monday, October 16, Arras on Friday, October 13... In a few weeks, innocent people have been targeted several times by individuals claiming to be Islamist fundamentalists without us knowing, for the moment , to what extent they were prepared.

Unlike the murderer of Samuel Paty and that of Dominique Bernard, the perpetrator, arrested in Paris and designated as Armand R.-M., suffers from known psychiatric pathologies. Placed in police custody, covered by an “S sheet”, he had already been convicted and declared to the police that he “was tired of seeing Muslims die”, particularly in Gaza, and that France was “complicit” of Israel.

Can the Israeli-Palestinian conflict started on October 7 by Hamas contribute to weakening individuals whose relationship with reality is already altered, and to accentuating a feeling of helplessness that they think they can resolve by becoming vigilantes?

Research shows that a terrorist ties his subjective issues to a collective cause, particularly when he engages in murderous action.

Can extremists be determined to act by the new war unleashed in Israel, 50 years after Yom Kippur?

Ideal “brothers”

Avenging the wrong done to the prophet is one of the arguments put forward by the terrorists, as shown by the attacks by Chérif and Saïd Kouachi at the editorial office of Charlie Hebdo, on January 7, 2015, or those of Adoullakh Anzorov at the Conflans-Sainte-Honorine high school, on October 16, 2020.

They "punished" the image shapers, complicit in the idolatry of the sovereign people, such as eminent ideologues of jihadism (Maqdidi, Tartusi, Abu Mus'ab al-Suri, Abu Quatada, etc.) perceive them.

The Bataclan attackers wanted to attack the “capital of abominations and perversion”. Other terrorists appear to have less strong ideological motivations, as shown Mohamed Lahouiaej Bouhlel in Nice on July 14, 2016, or Nathan Chiasson in Villejuif on January 3, 2020.

But the jihadists do not only have the prophet to “defend”. There is also what they consider to be the suffering caused to the Umma, the homogeneous and mythical Muslim community. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has long been identified as the focal point of Arab humiliations.

With globalization of Islam, new generations of terrorists have replaced the conflicts in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, Iraq and Syria. The military weakening of IS on Syrian and Iraqi territories has not extinguished desires for engagement.

Can the war in Israel accelerate the project of fanatics to fight for a common identity, taken as a sort of unique political-religious frame of reference?

Questioning the act

Armand R.-M. might seem like one of these "lone wolves" with rudimentary means. But above all he would be one of those who suffer from psychiatric illnesses. Is this a "acting out" resolving an anxiety or delusional that the author would have included in an ideological logic?

A move to action seems to arise ex nihilo but it designates in psychopathology that its author is overcome by an anxiety which he seeks to dissipate. If he is overcome by anxieties of annihilation, for example, he can resolve them by favoring the identification of an external threat. This is what the feeling of persecution brings, which can increase and encourage people to take justice into their own hands.

The meaning of the act escapes its author, but not the meaning he gives to his murderous action: he carries out the latter consciously in the name of an ideological logic. Of course, unconscious and conscious issues can combine very well.

So an individual can, for example, feel like a "brother", on the basis of an obscure feeling of injustice that he shares with others and deliberately choose to renounce the idea of ​​society, or of a social contract, to prefer adherence to a community ideology.

A fragile relationship with the law

Among the large number of radicalized people, there is a proportion – not necessarily greater than in the general population – who suffer from psychiatric illnesses. The experience of Center for Prevention, Integration, Citizenship, in 2016, confirmed it: only one of the beneficiaries of this structure for the prevention of radicalization suffered from psychiatric disorders.

Nevertheless, the articulation of acute psychological suffering with an ideology offers the individual a perspective of action to be taken seriously. It is not uncommon for an individual channels with religion, according to his following to the letter of certain hadiths, these collections of the actions and words of Mohammed. Other fragile individuals give meaning to their apocalyptic vision of the world with elements of reality allowing them to fuel a delusion of persecution, redemption, megalomaniac or mystical. They can achieve a form of unstable equilibrium, until they feel psychologically compelled to act.

Observing the attackers' journey shows biographies, psychological impasses and close attempts at resolution.

This is the case of Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who became known for his particularly deadly attack on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, one evening on July 14. The investigations revealed a man perceived by those around him as angry, strange, violent. He had separated a year earlier from his wife with whom he had three children. The latter deplored in him what she experienced as "psychological harassment", while a friend saw in him "no humanity" and actions out of "pure sadism".

Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel had given his altered relationship to otherness, notably the meaning of misogyny. His doctor linked his severe depressive episodes to “psychotic disorders, with somatization”. Affected in his relationship with the body and language, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel sometimes took refuge in violence. The terrorist found inspiration by looking on the web at photos of Daesh fighters, bin Laden, or even scenes of beheadings.

Not subservient to Islamic principles, he radicalized his excesses for the benefit of jihadist ideology.

For some, faith in Allah takes over from addictions, for example addictions or repeated actions, such as stealing or burning cars. Rather, they attack the taghout, the authority not based on faith that the state embodies in its institutions. The army and the police are the most representative.

Taking revenge for perceived injustices

For many Islamist terrorists, avenging caricatures is just one of their actions intended to make their cause triumph.

The clinical experience of the CPIC of Pontourny, even if it was closed, taught us that radical Islam can be understood as a solution to a feeling of injustice. Individuals with always unique subjective issues find in jihadist politico-religious ideology something to superimpose on the harm they think has been done to them, that caused to the Muslim community.

Recent research on internal sentences in prison environments show that prisoners transform their frustration into a feeling of humiliation under the effect of incarceration or conditions of incarceration that they consider abusive.

They sometimes get even more bogged down in altercations with staff or other prisoners, in an escalation which is struggling to be contained by the coordination of the prison and judicial services. Even non-radicalized people can wake up from the "lie" with faith and accentuate their feeling of injustice with the means to remedy it: through radical Islam, the teaching of which is sometimes given by self-proclaimed preachers.

Furthermore, it is important to underline the occurrence of undetected psychiatric disorders in prison, the accentuation of certain psychological disorders by prison shock, and the lack of psychiatric follow-up which some former prisoners continue to lack, due to lack of attendance. in the outpatient psychiatric service and/or due to lack of resources from the nursing staff.

A divine fury

Others adopt radical Islam to satisfy murderous impulses in the name of an ideology which sacralizes them.

They identify with the prophet and free themselves from the laws by claiming to serve his cause. All galvanized, they find in Allah a exhilarating doping product, warding off deficiencies and failures, and allowing them to regain their integrity. Latin fanaticus, meaning "inspired", "prophetic", "delirious", "fanatic" designates one who believes himself transported by divine fury or who loses his temper under the influence of a passion for a political or religious ideal.

By embracing their destiny as chosen by Allah, they want to inspire fear from which they will obtain the feeling of being respected. They expect the performative value of their act of submitting an entire society to their self-affirmation. Does Hamas offer some people the prospect of being recognized as prejudiced, and of taking a heroic part in the war?

A still significant number of radicalized individuals

Since the closure of the CPIC in 2017, support for radicalized people was prioritized at the local level. A information report, registered at the Presidency of the National Assembly on June 27, 2019, states that, according to the Anti-Terrorism Coordination Unit (UCLAT), in April 2019, support was relayed in 269 municipalities. These measures seem insufficient, if we believe that every year since 2015 attacks have been committed on our soil, although many are foiled. At the same time, in France, in March 2022, there were 570 radicalized common law prisoners and 430 prisoners for Islamist terrorism. Around a hundred radicalized prisoners could be released in 2023.

The DGSI reported this summer that the terrorist threat was still the first in France.

This Saturday's attack shows that behind these "acts", there are individuals who have failed to integrate and are part of murderous ideological logics.

Armand R.-M. demonstrates, like Mohamed Mogouchkov, that it is necessary to remain vigilant and to equip ourselves with the means to monitor certain fragile individuals. Others could be inspired by the new climate of international tension to act, galvanized by the highlighting of their cause and the media exacerbation of their feeling of injustice.

This thanato-politics born from the despair of a youth who cannot imagine any future other than the fight for the faith, commits our hypersecularized societies to think about new ways of living together.

Laura Westphal, Clinical psychologist, Doctor in psychopathology and psychoanalysis, Teacher, Associate researcher, Sciences Po

This article is republished from The Conversation under Creative Commons license. Read theoriginal article.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of InfoChrétienne.

Image credit: Shutterstock/ Frederic Legrand - COMEO

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