Nancy Hartevelt Kobrin
Psychoanalyst & Counter Terrorist Expert

“What is the name of the Prophet Muhammad’s Mother?”

Answer: Amina bint Wahb. If you answered correctly, your life may have been spared. Tragically, an Indian man was shot to death at point blank range when asked by Al Shabab at Westgate.

In political terrorism, believe it or not, it is more often than not about the Mother. The Mother is of central importance, be she called “ummi” (mommy in Arabic) or “hoyoo” in Af-Somali. It did not surprise me that this was Al Shabab’s Nazi-like selection tool for — who would live and who would die. These terrorists are clueless as to what they tell us about their violent psychotic behavior.

If counter terrorists and the public write this question off to a piece of bizarre trivia or even a military shibboleth as Gilead used with the Ephraimites in Judges 12:5-6, they will be missing the unconscious dialogue of these terrorists. They are mother obsessed.

Think of swarming. The Kenya attack is being compared to Mumbai as an example of terrorism swarming. The image conjures up bees protecting the hive of the queen bee, the momma, the single reproductive female in the colony.

In another piece called “The Mosque as Mother,” I described a similar swarming behavior often encountered when a problem breaks out at a mosque and hordes of Muslim men swarm to protect the mosque as it is their unconscious symbol for their mother. This is a population that has experienced extreme deprivation, childrearing practices which are abusive and fathers who were or are authoritarian dictators — mini-Assads or Saddam Husseins, brutalizing their own children when present but most of the time absent from their sons’ lives. The same is true for Al Shabab. Unconsciously they are still fighting a battle to free themselves from their mothers but this must be done in the name of killing others for the mother. Hence you must know the name of THE mother — Amina bint Wahb. It is a massive cover-up of their rage at being dependent and infantilized by their own mothers in their shame honor Muslim clan culture. These terrorists harbor a rage, which exceeds murder itself. Murdering one is never enough. Their mothers were abused, beaten and humiliated females. The cycle repeats itself. It is paranoia writ large.

How do I know? I did prison interviews in Minneapolis in 2005-2006 and I asked the Somalis about the violence they witnessed as children and their mothers! for starters. They in turn also told me about their clans.

As I write, it has been reported that Al Shabab on Twitter released the names of two jihadis from Minnesota and one from Kansas City. There are conflicting reports that the names are not true. It is still early and we will have to wait and see but it would not surprise me if this were the case as Al Shabab continues to recruit in the Twin Cities.

Furthermore they tweeted that Samantha Lewthwaite is the white woman involved in the attack. She has been dubbed the “White Widow” alluding to the Chechen arena and its Black Widows, women who allegedly avenge the death of their jihadi husbands. Her husband was Germaine Lindsay, one of the 7/7 Bombers in the London attack.

In my last blog: “Fire — Detecting the undetectable in liquid explosives” I wondered if the blaze at the Nairobi airport was connected in some way to Al Shabab. Initially the event was dismissed as a terrorist attack but in the Wall Street Journal reporting on the attack at Westgate, terrorism still has not been ruled out.

In May 2008 at Rand Santa Monica I gave a lecture entitled “Ku So Dhawow Bulshayada [Somali for Welcome to our community], “Mogadishu,”Minnesota aka Minneapolis,” at the 3rd Annual Conference: Terrorism and Global Security: Evolving Muslim Communities in the U.S. and Europe. I predicted that there would be serious problems. Six months later Shirwa Ahmed from Minneapolis detonated in Puntland becoming the first American suicide bomber.

We can choose to deal more effectively with the problem or we can continue to sweep it under the rugs with our own denial due to our own terrors. The key to the swarm attack at Westgate lies in the question that they themselves posed – What is the name of the mother of the Prophet Muhammad. Yet they remain clueless about where their alleged political rage is coming from. It is not about Kenyan troops supporting the fledgling democratic government in Mogadishu. The tragedy of the political violence at Westgate is that a large portion of it concerns these terrorists’ paranoid relationships with their mothers who were or are devalued females. That includes the Black and White Widows as well for they are nothing more than devalued females who internalized male hatred of the female as self-hatred.

In memory of all those who lost their lives at Westgate and for the survivors, may they have a full and speedy recovery.

PS. This blog will be updated as more information comes in.

About the Author
Dr. Kobrin made aliyah in 2010 and is an internationally renowned counterterrorism expert and psychoanalyst holding a PhD in Islamic literature, aljamía 16th c. Author of five books. She has conducted prison interviews, a former military contractor with an academic appointment as external expert at La Universidad de Granada. She is a senior research analyst for The Islamic Theology of Counter Terrorism Center. She also works in citizen diplomacy. In August 2020 she was the first Israeli to be live-streamed from Islamabad.