Danish psychologist Nicolai Sennels, an expert in working with Muslim youth criminal offenders, has written a new book entitled Among Criminal Muslims. A Psychologist’s Experience from the Copenhagen Municipality, and in an essay supporting the book, he claims that “Islam creates monsters.” A recent study out of Germany supports Sennels’ statement. It found that devout Muslims were more prone to violence than the non-Muslim participants in the study.
Sennels says Islam is different from other religions because the way it is taught brainwashes its youth with violent messages. Parents inflict violence on their children repeatedly, Sennels claims, and at the same time, deliver religious ideology. He says this behavior makes Muslim extremists far more violent than extremists of other religious faiths.
The brainwashing, as Sennels terms it, begins very early on in a child’s life, and religious messages are repeated vigorously along with a heavy dose of physical discipline. It is this combination of pain and reinforcement, Sennels claims, that creates Islamic “monsters” who then feel justified in torturing and killing innocent people.
Sennels points out that parents want to indoctrinate their children into the religion as early as possible so that the kids will remain Muslim instead of looking to another faith—under Sharia law, turning against Islam is a crime punishable by death.
He goes on to point out that Muslim culture lags far behind in the “understanding of human development,” and therefore, the techniques that Westerners would call child abuse are deeply ingrained and normalized among Muslim parents as correct child-rearing strategies.
Sennels says that in Muslim culture, the idea of “constructive criticism” doesn’t exist, and any criticism of Muslim identity will result in extreme anger and quite possibly, physical violence. The Quran itself, Sennels claims, does not allow for the idea of tolerance, and calls for Muslims to separate from non-Muslims and view people of other faiths as inferior. This, in turn breeds hatred, Sennels claims. He explains:
The cultural and psychological cocktail of anger, low self-esteem, victim mentality, a willingness to be blindly guided by outer authorities, and an aggressive and discriminatory view toward non-Muslims, forced upon Muslims through pain, intimidation and mind-numbing repetitions of the Quran, is the reason why Islam creates monsters.
His remarks have stirred up a great deal of controversy, but a large study out of Germany, involving 45,000 teens, seems to support Sennels’ claims. In that study, a strong link between the level of religious Muslim belief and the willingness to participate in violence was revealed.
Notably, the study’s author undertook the project hoping it would prove the opposite outcome. Christian Pfeiffer, a scientist who works at the Criminal Research Institute in Saxony, said that he has been active in opposing any campaign to denigrate Muslims or other foreigners, and he was disappointed by the study results.
Studies and the opinions of experts like psychologists that show a correlation between Islam and violence are widely criticized by supporters of Islam, and are often described as “Islamaphobia” no matter how scientific the claim.
Supporters of Islam say that it is a religion of peace, and that it is no more likely than other religions to cause violent behavior. In a paper out of the University of Notre Dame, author Rashied Omar says that Islam is not meant to be a pacifist religion and simplistic definitions of the faith are reductive. Despite the fact that Islam is not meant to be a pacifist tradition, Omar says, “the history of Islam has certainly not been witness to any more violence than one finds in other traditions.”
Islamic studies professor Waleed El-Ansary in an interview with NPR stated that the Quran forbids the killing of innocent people and sets clear distinctions between Jihad and terrorism. Jihad is considered to be legal war with set parameters and rules, while terrorism is expressly condemned by the Quran, Ansary says.
Muslim scholar Anas Hlayhel, an imam dedicating to eradicating Islamphobia, states that the Quran dictates peace toward those who also show “an inclination for peace” and forbids any violence toward innocent civilians.
Psychologist Nicolai Sennels says Islam creates monsters; a statement that has strengthened the raging debate about the link between Islam and violence. It is a debate which shows no signs of slowing down soon, and one that many feel requires additional scientific study
By: Rebecca Savastio
University of Notre Dame