Nancy Hartevelt Kobrin
Psychoanalyst & Counter Terrorist Expert

Ya (Oh!) King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia: Beheading — An Unstoppable Quranic Practice?

Dictionary of Desperanto

Entry: Beheading

In my previous publication I have written extensively about beheadings as a nonverbal communication as a symbolic representation of the jihadi’s own terrors. The jihadis project into us their terror through their butcherous act of beheading. The nexus between the projection of the jihadi’s terror links into our own terrors, precipitating psychological trauma, including an identification with the aggressor.

The Primitive Mental State of Beheading

Among many I define the act of beheading as an impulsive unconscious desire to express one’s violent omnipotent thoughts and fantasies which they justify as normal within the group, together further justifying their distortion of reality. Who decides what is sane and what is pathological? One man’s freedom fighter and another man’s terrorist. What is sane in an insane world? Jihadis never developed a capacity to distinguish their thoughts from reality. Jihadis cannot tolerate ideas that are in opposition to theirs. Ideas are located in the head and metaphorically the unconscious.

Moreover the head is the home of one’s face, the essence of one’s identity. Yet because Arab culture, which is the venerated culture for Muslims, is a shame honor culture, the group identity cancels out individual identity expressed by the uniqueness of one’s head and face. They remain faceless because they are filled with shame that they can not detach from their need for their mother.

Furthermore as my colleague, Dr. Joan Lachkar, has stressed — unconsciously Arabs and by extension the Umma and its jihadis have a fantasy of total Arab unity and solidarity and any intrusion into that space must be stopped. Israel, the West, the Christians and any oppositional thought is felt to be a disruption to an at-one-ment among all Arabs.

In The Maternal Drama of the Chechen Jihadi (a free download at I write:

“Hence, they [jihadis] must destroy the other’s thoughts, which links to the disrupted maternal bond. In Saudi Arabia where beheading is a common punishment, it is an Islamic version of Alice in Wonderland where the queen says “Off with your head.” But Alice in Wonderland is a fantasy narrative. The jihadis do not distinguish the difference between fantasy and reality. They have no filter and act on their psychotic thoughts. In shame–honor cultures such as the Chechens, child-rearing practices are different and children do not have the opportunity to develop a sense of play, which facilitates the ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Matusitz notes the semiotics of beheading in jihadi videos of ritualized sacrifice. I add to this the idea that it also constitutes a pornographic perversion.”

The effort is to attempt to make sense out of the senselessness. I elaborate on beheading because part of the global viewing audience has the pressing need to make psychological meaning out of the horrific behavior. Meaning making is accompanied by a sense of psychological relief. For some it helps to disengage from the brutal projective identification with the aggressing jihadis. Thus, the terrorist attempts to inflict his terrors into us so that he can coerce and manipulate at will, fails. His terror is of the mother’s body and his dependency upon her. By grasping this deeper level of the nonverbal communication, it affords a “psychological protective edge” to combat the terrorist. Terrorists do not contemplate the meaning of their behavior. They lack the capacity to look at themselves in the mirror. They lack empathy.

1. Islamic terrorist behavior is transparently linked to the mother’s body

The Iranian rapper Shahin Nafaj lives under a death threat because he produced a music album cover with the mosque as a huge breast. His point is and he has stated that Islam’s sexuality is remarkably transparent. Indeed, its sexuality is mother obsessed due to the use of the male baby as her object of honor. She cannot adequately meet the needs of the male baby for she has been brutally abused as the chronic object of hatred as well. Deprivation runs rampant in a shame honor culture and religion. Needs are dirty and must be projected into the other who is labeled impure and must be killed off. Thus beheading masks the unconscious motive, strategy and need to continuously repudiate the mother — the beheading is the ultimate repudiation of the her.

2. Body part: the head = a part object of the mother’s body

As in serial killing where the killer harbors a rage, which exceeds murder itself, the jihadi must dismantle the mother’s body into body parts. The rage is about this disrupted maternal bond. The compulsion is so great to behead that it must even be taught to children who practice beheading on dolls and learn to hold the dismembered bloody head of an infidel.

In conclusion

A Saudi imam recently issued a fatwa against beheading for Daesh, a practice institutionalized as state execution in Saudi Arabia. What has not been acknowledged is that these beheadings are interlocking links of violence with one inciting the other. Furthermore it keeps in check the witnessing population through terror by inducing a psychologically regressed state. It allows far too many to engage in such a perversion. It is high time for the King himself to stop beheading in his kingdom. Saudi Arabia sets the benchmark for the entire Ummah. Quranic beheading is common practice. What is good for the geese, is good for the gander. We must all call on King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to immediately ban beheading. Since this is a shame honor society in order to save face he must do so in order to prove that he genuinely seeks to make Islam a religion of peace rather than one of “pieces” of the human body. In this day and age beheading is not only unacceptable but a most barbaric act by a group of people who unconsciously must cut of the minds and heads of those who do not think like them.

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.