FBI Must Take Domestic Violence Seriously in Its Profiling of Jihadis

On April 16 Israel lost one of its most brilliant scholars of the Caucasus and the Chechens — Professor Moshe Gammer z”l. I had the opportunity to meet with him only once but it was memorable. Professor Gammer was a proverbial fountain of knowledge — a truly rare species in Israeli academia most especially because he did not have a touch of arrogance. He was the essence of modesty personified. His books were page turners, especially The Lone Wolf and the Bear: Three Centuries of Chechen Defiance of Russian Rule. I have thought of Professor Gammer a lot during the media coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings as I had spoken with him about my work on the early childhood of Jihadis raised in shame honor cultures.

The Chechens are like the Palestinians and non Arab Muslim cultures: Shame honor culture, devalued female – rampant abuse leading to Honor Killing, delusional psychotic jealousy and envy, Islamic suicide bombing, fighting to the death a la Filipino Moro model (in western terms death by cop) clannish mountain people, paranoia’s conspiracy

Unfortunately the ideologies of Islam Sura 4 on wife beating have particularly good fit with this underlying configuration. The Chechens were converts to Islam as it spread through conquest. Tamerlan Tsaraev adhered to this practice by “conquering” his wife as she converted to Islam.

Focusing further the Brothers Tsarnaev there was a HISTORY OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. Listen to how the father Tsaraev minimized [it] and blamed the girlfriend as reported by the New York Times: “Because of his girlfriend, he hit her lightly, he was locked up for half an hour,” Mr. Tsarnaev said. “There was jealousy there.” Tamerlan was interviewed by the F.B.I. in 2011 when a foreign government asked the bureau to determine whether he had extremist ties, according to a senior law enforcement official

Domestic violence is a manifestation of traumatic bonding. It means that the abusing partner lacks empathy. In the East you have honor killing. This traumatic lethal attachment to people derives from the first template of maternal attachment in life. The relationship to the mother sets the tone of all other relationships in life, especially that of the couple and even how terrorists use weapons.

As the news reports came in I kept wondering when we were going to hear from the mother. We finally did. She is convinced that they were set up. We hear this repeatedly from other mothers if jihadis.

One of the worst things for a little boy is to witness his mother being beaten because he experiences his mother as an extension of himself since he is dependent upon her. One wonders if this happened in the Tsarnaev home. Did Tamerlan turn to boxing unconsciously in order to protect the mother he could not protect as a little boy? Did his little brother turn to wrestling unconsciously in order to protect his mother he could not protect as a little boy? Both boys were also given names which glorify Islamic warring. Both wanted to become an engineer and a doctor — both professions are essentially technical — one of hard objects and the other of soft objects , i.e. the human body.
Did Tamerlan choose the Boston Marathon because he held a particular grudge as a failed boxer not to be chosen for the US Olympic boxing team? Could this explain the unconscious level of the tactical choice of the finish line where the bombs were placed? In a garbage can or near it. They literally projected their rage of how they felt about themselves — like garbage but we become their unwitting containers which then are made to explode. They want us to feel pain which they can not feel or express through language. Interestingly, his uncle called them “losers.”

Quoting from my forthcoming book Cracking the Code: Global Terrorism and its Intimate Connections, I write specifically on the role of domestic violence: “Islamic terrorism works well because it taps into this deep unconscious level of domestic violence that westerners are more familiar with but also find very hard to talk about and deal with. It is the complementarity of terrorism that further compounds and horrifies, immobilizing witnesses and the bystander into passive terrorists through identification with the aggressor. It is not just that domestic violence is intimate terrorism nor exactly like political terrorism’s suicide attack, rather together they are synergistic, reenforcing and compounding terror and trauma. They are interlocking terrorisms. It is as if people react but do not say — “there go I with the grace of God” or as if they are cutting off a finger to feed the demon-god. They want someone else to be the proxy.

The shared commonality of the terror of being murdered by one of your own makes domestic violence’s murder-suicide dovetail with the suicide bomber’s murder-suicide as well as the shame honor Honor Killing. As these unique interlocking terrorisms, they can not be separated out into nice neat abstract linguistic categories of domestic violence vs. political violence nor can this brew of murderous violence be unlinked. The unconscious mind does not work that way and violence does not care how we humans label it. These terrors of murder and suicide are among the deepest of human terrors.

In fact, in 2008 the Centre for Social Cohesion published a research essay entitled “Crimes of the community: Honor-based violence in the United Kingdom” by James Brandon and Salam Hafez, which can be found online. In this article they quote Nazir Afzal: “If you had a map of the UK showing the location of Islamist groups – or terrorist cells– and you had another map of honor-based violence and you overlaid them you would find that they were a mirror image; they would be almost identical. It could be that this is simply where the South Asians live – or it could be something else – it could suggest that there is a strong link between these two attitudes.” P. 86 I followed up by email and asked British Police Officer Afzal, Director of the Division for Honor Killing, if he saw any relation or connection between honor killing and suicide bombing. He wrote: “I recognize the links myself but am wary of discussing them further without hard evidence.” email 2008 I shared his reply with Professor Rachel Pain an expert on domestic violence and she wrote back “One wonders what would constitute hard evidence?”

Must we have dead bodies in order to “prove” the relationship and interlocking connection between them? So terrifying is nature of the its terrors that even the FBI struggled and erred. Like turning on a computer, the Islamic jihadi attacks boot these early terrors associated with the maternal bond. This is its hidden global communicative maternal circuit. As it was said of Zakaria Moussaoui, the Al Qaeda terrorist who wanted to fly planes but didn’t care about learning how to take off or land, in a New York Times Magazine article entitled — “Everyone has a mother.”

In the case of Boston it wasn’t a suicide bombing but it shared many things in common with other jihadi attacks like Mumbai, the Madrid train bombings and the Toulouse and Montauban shootings where Muhammad Merah murdered so many in cold blood and especially Miriam Monsonego z”l who was eight years old like Billy Campbell RIP.

In these attacks we see chaos, robbery, shooting spree etc. reminiscent of a more psychotic disorganized serial killing. These killers relate to you not as people but as objects. They do not have empathy which is something built into the brain early on during childhood through maternal attachment. We must understand that we are not people to them, just objects to be destroyed. Children are most vulnerable because they remind the bombers unconsciously of their own envy and deprivation. Children are identified with the mother. Hence they are unconsciously targeted like the Sandy Hook massacre. They have been raised to become violent. The killers enact their rage.

Breathtakingly tragically, Tamerlan was on the radar of the FBI who failed to take his radicalization seriously. I argue that the FBI developed their own unique identification with this aggressor a la the Stockholm Syndrome because the psychopathology is so horrifying that the FBI is not aware of how terrified they themselves were. This is hard work. We are deals with a kind of insidious psychological nuclear waste.


Had that been the case, perhaps these needless tragic deaths and the wounded would not have occurred.

Let us hope that in the future, when a jihadi is taken in for questioning or then appears charged somewhere else with domestic violence, that this will be a major red flag. Hindsight being 20/20 Tamerlan should not have been released. Meanwhile I vow to keep writing about the importance of early childhood development, maternal attachment and child abuse until hell freezes over because it is the key for understanding these psychopathic minds, who like Teddy Bundy, the serial killer, was said to be such a nice guy.

About the Author
Dr Nancy Hartevelt Kobrin is a fellow at The American Center for Democracy and a psychoanalyst with a PhD in Aljamía (Old Spanish in Arabic script). She is author of 'The Banality of Suicide Terrorism,' also in Hebrew; Penetrating the Terrorist Psyche and The Maternal Drama of the Chechen Jihadi.