Police Psychology | It Isn’t All About Islam

Posted: August 4, 2016 in Public Information Bureau
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Police Psychology | It Isn’t All About Islam

by Geoff Dean, Ph.D. (Australia) and Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D.  (U.S.A.)

What causes people to shoot up a gay nightclub?  Or, shoot up a holiday party of co-workers or drive a truck into the middle of a crowd celebrating independence day killing a lot of children?  Or shoot innocent people going to work or  attending college classes.  We want to believe it is the Islamic faith and gaining the love of virgins in the afterlife.  Not quite that simple. 

AS MOST THINGS IN LIFE, MASS MURDERS ARE A COMBINATION OF A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT FACTORS.  Some of them are through the filter of mental illness.  He was described as unhinged and unstable.  His reality is going to be very different from a normal person because of his mental illness.  Omar Mateen, the Orlando shooter, was a steroid user, abusive and secretly gay.  Many mass killers have at least some mental health issue, were damaged when they were younger, or are desperate enough to sacrifice themselves to make an impact in a world they will never see.  Their view of the world is skewed, affected by their mental state.  Add to that some of the propaganda set forth by groups like ISIS.  The murderer may be open to different interpretations of the world, even though it is not so bad for him.  Extreme thinking is not too far for Omar to go as he swore vengeance on Americans because of airstrikes in Libya and Iraq.   The guy who drove the truck into a crowd of civilians in Nice, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhel, was seriously depressed and lonely, and this stimulated him to have a different filter for his perceptions.  What is important is that filter for the perceptions forms their interpretation of the world, and the extremeness that they think they face in their daily life.  It determines the belief system they use to organize their world.  It determines the perceptions of the world as a terrible place, and justifies terrible acts like mass murder.  How are these perceptions formed?

Once a person has mental illness as a filter and becomes extreme in their thought process, the next step is determining the direction of the extreme fantasy.  That is where radicalization comes into play.

Radicalization is the process of that extreme thinking getting focused on undermining the status quo or the norm of the way people live.  It is the desire to take away people’s freedom of choice and the expression of ideas.  When a person is radicalized, he looks to do anything to undermine society and will find a direction from wherever he can.  So they look for an anti-establishment philosophy and too often find it in the radical Islamic movement.  Add to that and the unsettled feeling that often accompanies a radicalized person, and mass murder is a logical action to change the world. 

A great many of the men who have made a name for themselves by mass murder share one major characteristic – they have a deep hatred for women.  Many mass murderers were reported for domestic violence, many should have been.  Most have some connection to abusing women.  Elliot Rodger, who gunned down seven in Isla Vista in California in 2014, wrote: “I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me but I will punish you all for it … you will finally see that I am, in truth, the superior one, the true alpha male.” Adam Lanza, who killed 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, wrote that women were selfish. Robert Dear, who killed three and injured nine at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic in November, had a history of violence against women and an arrest for rape.  Dylann Roof, who massacred nine at a Charleston church, was raised by a father who abused his stepmother and claimed African-Americans “rape our women.”  This runs throughout mass murderers and in fact may be why they are attracted to the ISIS.

Many traditional Muslim cultures tend to underplay the rights of women in favor of the men.  Women are subservient and that appeals to many men who have a penchant for gendered violence.  If you add sexual slavery into the mix and traditional roles with punishment for moving away from a rigid rule for women, and it is easy to see where an extreme thinking, radicalized, mentally unstable person might find ISIS an attractive philosophy for life.

Now finally, let’s add in “Disenfranchised and Disengaged.”  People don’t give up their lives if they feel their lives are meaningful.  If your life feels meaningless, people will do anything to give it meaning, even if it’s in the last few seconds of their life.   We live in a narcissistic world where everything is me-first, everyone else second, especially in our youth culture.  The whole concept of taking care of others is so foreign to many people that it becomes almost motivation for the anti-establishment thoughts.  When you don’t fit in, and you don’t find other that like you, you want to get back at people for being left out.  Mass murder is a way to punish those who don’t want you to fit in.  And you become part of the news, the mainstream.  It’s clearly a disturbed thought pattern, but we see it again and again.  This is dangerous.

We are reminded of a Family Circle comic from our youth where the parents decided to stop the boys from playing war.  They would take away all the military stuff and the toy guns and tell the kids playing war when Vietnam was going on is wrong.  The boys were seen in the last frame of the comics with pots on their heads and pointing sticks at each other, finding a way to do what is natural to them.  Controlling guns may have some effect, but our need is to control people who are disenfranchised, disengaged, have mental health problems, like gendered violence, and/or have extreme thoughts or are facing radicalization.  We need to became less narcissistic and reach out to people who are struggling in this world.  We need programs that identify and can supply some kind of relief to the children who are victims of domestic violence themselves.  We need many people to make the community that doesn’t tolerate violence but works to stop it at the root causes.  And then some people have to be watched – closely.  You can’t get around that evasion of rights unfortunately.  Simple solution – social programs, everybody on the same page, and watching people.

We have a major task to overcome radicalization, disenfranchising, abuse of women and extreme thought, and it is going to have to be everyone’s job, of all races, genders and religion to work on it together.


Site Editor:  Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP

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  1. Todd says:

    In your article, you state that perpetrators of mass murder have a common background as haters of women. However, mass murderers’ gender related problems are only one part of the terror equation. Unfortunately, it appears that the major factor in today’s trouble with terrorism is Islam.
    As a Christian conservative, I have used introspection to ensure that I do not contribute to the inaccurate stereotype, often promoted by media, that Christians are intolerant. It is the same process that I used as a law enforcement officer to examine my own critical decision making process to ensure that bias, even subconsciously, did not influence my actions.
    It is introspection which has motivated me to do an in-depth examination of Islam, in an attempt to truly understand exactly how it may or may not be the motivating factor behind much of the terrorism in today’s world. To put it bluntly, I don’t have a problem expressing an opinion even if it is not politically correct, as long as I can articulate how I arrived at that opinion myself, and not by blindly accepting the latest talk show hosts’ ideology.
    After a year of research, which admittedly may not be enough, I am coming to the conclusion that for most of our current terror related problems in today’s world, it is mostly about Islam. No matter how we look at it, Islam is at least part of the “connective tissue” related to most terrorist acts perpetrated today.
    While a hatred of women might be a common factor in individuals who are drawn to mass murder, there are multiple “trip switches” that ignite a behavior which otherwise might remain dormant. The last thing the world needs is a “trip switch” which is built into a religious dogma, which lends itself to a collective and organized legitimization this hateful behavior.
    For examples of this legitimization, I have developed a method of examining religious ideologies that I use to personally decide whether it is acceptable or not. And Yes: I did use the words acceptable and religious in the same sentence. Although not politically correct, I don’t care how an ideology wants to characterize itself, religious, political, or otherwise; there are acceptable ways to treat fellow human beings and there is not.
    The simplest way to get past all the theologies that divide the numerous denominations and sects within the world’s religions is to look to whatever central figure that those who associate themselves with a particular religion try to emulate. For example, whether Catholic or Protestant, anyone who calls themselves a Christian will look to the life of Jesus as a perfect example of what being a Christian is all about. The same way that Christianity is built on the foundation of the life of Christ: Islam, whether Shiite or Sunni, is built on the example of Mohammad.
    Mohammad married a girl when she was 6 and consummated the marriage when she was 9. He kept female captives as sex slaves and treated women and second class citizens. This ideology, call it what you like, is exemplified in the life of Mohammad which canonized in the Quran, Sunnah and the Hadith.
    In law enforcement, we follow the evidence regardless of where it takes us, even if that place isn’t pleasant or politically correct. The historical evidence shows, that the central figure of Islam was a woman hater and built a political ideology around his hatred and intolerance. Then he gave it a name and called it a religion to give it credibility. ISIS and those who claim allegiance to it, aren’t doing anything that Mohammad himself did not do. So whether they were individually predisposed to violent behavior or not, Islam is collectively providing mass murderers with an ideological trip switch to do what they may not have done otherwise.

    • Gary Aumiller says:

      Thank you Todd. Not sure we are not saying the same thing, though, but the in-depth analysis shows where the disdain of women comes from

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