Report from the therapy room: Why are Muslims more violent and criminal
Jihad Watch 3 July 2012
By Nicolai Sennels
This essay was originally published in 2011 in Dutch in the book De Islam – kritische essays over een politieke religie (Islam: Critical Essays about a Political Religion) by Wim and Sam van Rooy. Raymond Ibrahim, Hans Jansen, Michael Mannheimer, Ibn Warraq, Bat Ye’or and others also contributed to the book.
It summarizes the main conclusions in my book Blandt kriminelle muslimer. En psykologs erfaringer fra Kobenhavns Kommune (Among Criminal Muslims. A Psychologist's Experiences from Copenhagen Municipality), and adds a few political arguments at the end. Publishers interested in publishing my Danish book in English or other languages are welcome to contact me at nicolaisennels[at]gmail.com.
Report from the therapy room: Why are Muslims more violent and criminal?
by Nicolai Sennels
Nicolai Sennels (born 1976) is psychologist, a popular lecturer about Muslim integration and gangs, and author of “Among Criminal Muslims. A Psychologist’s Experiences from Copenhagen Municipality” (Free Press Society, 2009). This article summarizes his experiences and conclusions as a professional psychologist in the Copenhagen youth prison Sønderbro.
This article is an invitation to come behind the normally hermetically closed doors of the therapy room and get insights into the often just as closed Muslim culture and communities. As a psychologist in Copenhagen's youth prison I had a unique chance to get insights into the culture and religion of Muslims and the causes for the violent behaviour and high crime rates among Muslim immigrants. My Muslim clients told me their stories from their families and communities, about life in their home countries, about their experiences with and views on non-Muslims and the Danish society. I had around 150 Muslim and 100 Danish clients on my couch. They all came from the same age group (12-17 years) and the two groups had on average the same social and economic background. Most of them were found guilty, but a large part also proved to be innocent. I thus had a very good opportunity to compare Muslims and non-Muslims psychologically.
The conclusion is that there are strong psychological differences between Muslims and non-Muslims. It is also clear that Muslim culture influences Muslims in a way that makes them more likely to become criminal and display anti-social behaviour - especially towards non-Muslims and non-Islamic authorities.
The crime rate among Muslims in the West is catastrophically high. Seven out of 10 inmates in Danish youth prisons have immigrant backgrounds, and almost all of them are raised in Muslim families. The first seven or eight places on the top-10 list of criminals' nationality are occupied by immigrants from Muslim countries (Danes come in as number nine, followed by a long list of purely non-Muslim immigrants). This list is published by the Danish state's Bureau of Statistics, and is corrected according to the criminals' economic and educational status. The crime statistics also show that crime rates among immigrants get worse, not better, in subsequent generations. Time does not heal the problems, on the contrary. Second generation immigrants (born and raised in Denmark) in the age group 20-29 years are thus 76 percent more criminal than first generation immigrants (born outside Denmark) in the same age group. Second generation non-Western immigrants are five times more violent than Danes. 22 percent of the second generation immigrants between 20-29 years received one or more sentences in 2005 (http://avisen.dk/unge-efterkommere-er-de-mest-kriminelle_6193.aspx). In 2006 the number had risen to 23 percent (http://jp.dk/indland/krimi/article1371018.ece). The share of immigrants among youth criminals in Copenhagen rose from 56 percent in 2007 to 67 percent in 2008 - that is an increase of 20 percent in just one year (http://politiken.dk/indland/article560520.ece).
The question is of course: Why are Muslims so much more criminal, violent and seemingly non-empathetic than non-Muslims?
I conducted therapy with the Muslim and Danish inmates in both groups and individually: Individual therapy, Anger Management groups and Mindfulness training. During the hundreds of hours with both Danish (and a very small percentage of non-Muslim immigrants) and Muslim clients, a psychological profile of the Muslim culture became evident. We have to acknowledge the psychological differences between Muslims and Westerners if we want to understand the unsuccessful integration of Muslims in the West and its increasingly problematic consequences.
Anger vs. weakness
One very big difference between Muslims and Westerners concerns their views of anger. In our Western culture, anger is generally seen as a sign of weakness and lack of control and good style. Whoever experienced the embarrassment of expressing strong anger during, for example, family dinners or at work knows that it often takes time and a conscious effort to regain one's lost respect. We in general see it as childish and immature if people use threats and aggressive behaviour to mark their dislikes and have things their way. Instead, we see peoples' ability to use logical arguments, to compromise, to see the situation from our opponent's side and their knowledge of the facts, and to remain calm when challenged as clear signs of strength and authenticity.
My Muslim clients saw these normal Western social tools for negotiation during social conflicts as signs of weakness. They saw the lack of readiness to use threats and engage in a physical fight as a sign of fear. I spent countless hours working with the inmates’ problematic relationship to violence. Most of the Danish clients knew that anger is a "bad feeling" and that in the end there is no excuse for using threats and violence when frustrated. This view was simply part of what they were raised to think by their parents and friends and the culture they were brought up in (though they did not always manage to follow that rule in their daily life).
Practising Anger Management therapy with Muslim clients does not just involve reminding them of good style and the benefits of handling conflicts and frustrations peacefully: The term "cultural conversion" would be the best expression. It turned out that my Muslim clients saw the use of aggression as an accepted and even often expected behaviour in conflicts. If a person does not become aggressive when criticised or insecure, it is seen as a sign of weakness and lack of ability to defend oneself and one's honour. In Muslim culture it is expected that one is willing to sacrifice one's personal safety to protect one's group or whatever one represents. If a member of the group is not able to do so, there will immediately be sown doubts as to whether that member can be trusted as a useful defender of the family, ethnic group, religion, territory, etc.
The aggressiveness among Muslim men does not only show itself in the therapy room and crime statistics when comparing Muslim and non-Muslim offenders. In a recent study conducted by the Criminal Research Institute of Lower Saxony in Germany, scientists interviewed 45,000 teenagers of both Muslim and non-Muslim origin, and their conclusion was clear: "Boys growing up in religious Muslim families are more likely to be violent".
These psychological insights should be used on a wider scale. One important example is that Western diplomacy and foreign policy must take such cultural differences into account. There is no doubt that when we meet extreme Islamic governments and organizations with suggestions of compromise and dialogue, the average Muslim voter on their streets expect their Islamic leaders to exploit such Western weaknesses to the maximum. We Westerners see aggressiveness in people and regimes as a sign of insecurity, and therefore meet such situations with soft compassion and respect. Such measures often work within our own cultural circles, but can have harmful long-term effects on our efforts to produce respect and maybe even a necessary amount of fear among hostile Muslim societies and organisations. This strategic psychological reminder concerns both big politics and when dealing with anti-social individuals raised in a Muslim setting.
Honour vs. insecurity
Another big difference between Muslims and Westerners concerns their views of honour. In Western societies we see it as a sign of strength, personal authenticity and an honourable attitude if we are able to face criticism with a calm and clear attitude. Being able to ignore irrelevant criticism and take it into account when relevant is seen as an important aspect of being a dignified and self-confident person. The ability to think or say, "That is your opinion about me/my values - but I have my own opinion and that is what counts for me," is necessary in our critical, democratic and transparent culture, where we can not hide our mistakes or personal weaknesses behind fine titles, hierarchies or a culturally given right to not have our honour hurt or challenged.
Meeting criticism with hostility and threats, on the other hand, is seen as signs of insecurity and a lack of self-confidence. Becoming angry or categorizing oneself as a victim unable to defend oneself when challenged with simple questions or criticism concerning one's way of living or one's values is not honourable at all - at least not in Western culture.
As the case of the Danish Mohammed cartoons showed more clearly than anything else, the Muslim concept of honour lies on the other end of the scale: What we in the West would categorize as an insecure and childish response to criticism is seen by Muslims as a fair and honourable reaction to unjust insults. My experience from working with Muslim clients is that what other people think and say about them means a lot. The combination of social acceptance of aggressive behaviour and an exceedingly fragile honour constitutes an explosive cocktail. The simple and natural demand for integration in our Western societies is therefore experienced by many Muslims as an unwelcome criticism of their own culture. Muslims asks themselves: "Why do we have to change our way of living to be accepted?" My professional experience is that the demands for integration are constantly fueling many resident Muslims' feeling of being criticised and feeling enmity towards their non-Islamic surroundings.
Unfortunately, the strict code of honour in Muslim culture has a tendency to create fragile and glass-like personalities in Muslim males in particular: they are constantly vigilant towards any sign of criticism. As a small anecdote, I would like to mention that this insecurity in Muslim men is probably part of the reason why more than half of all physical attacks on soccer judges in Denmark are committed by immigrants.
Victim mentality vs. personal responsibility
A third psychological difference concerns the so-called "locus of control". Locus of control is a psychological term that describes whether people experience their lives as controlled mainly by inner or by outer factors. In Western societies we are told that we ourselves are the main ones responsible for our lives. The way we think, speak and act - our way of handling our emotions, our views, ways of communication, our reactions, etc. - determines whether we manage to create a life with a majority of happy and satisfying moments or not. The basic advice in our culture is to look at ourselves if we want to locate the causes of our personal problems. A large portion of our citizens - including myself - thus make a living from giving people advice about how to change their lives so that they can become happier and avoid becoming a burden to one's surroundings.
Working as a psychologist treating young Danish teenagers in a youth prison is fairly easy. They are raised to think that talking about one's problems can bring new and better solutions to one's problems. They are brought up in a culture that includes an inner locus of control, and when I as their therapist ask them about their own part in their problems, the question makes sense to them.