Daesh and mind manipulation

Régis Dericquebourg

February 2016


CAP Liberté de Conscience – It has often been said that Daesh uses the same methods of mind control than cult, without ever stating precisely what these specific methods would be. In reality, don’t they use in fact the methods usually practiced by politicians, advertising agents, peddlers, in brief all those who have something to sell?

Régis Dericquebourg – The speech about armed islamists and in particular about converted one has put the notion of ‘mind control’ back in fashion, as applied to the recruiting done by minority religious groups. This notion is often connected to the one of ‘brainwashing’, ‘mental ascendancy’, or to the notion of ‘subjection state’ in the sense of the Plaggio law that Mussolini had passed against his opponents. All these notions have no legal application, except for the last one which, however was applied to a very small number. This allowed for an easy jurisprudence, since the judiciary system was not really involved. The notion of ‘cult excesses’ was thus presented, saying that the activities of violent islamists were cults excesses of Islam. This expression has not judiciary basis, but it can be employed over and over again. It is applied to Jehovah Witness, to evangelic Protestants, to the religious movement Aumism, to the Church of Scientology. However I ask the question: in which way Daesh, Boko Hara, Aqmi bear any similarity to such movements? The notion of cult excesses raises a problem. If one would discover a case of pedophilia or misappropriation in a ‘cult’, one will talk about a cult excess. However, if one looks at the number of cases of pedophilia or financially opacity in the established churches, I would rather say that the cult would a church excess. Same, if one would find a financial abuse in a cult, should not one talk about a political excess? Corruption and extortion of money happen through fiscal measures and get some people miserable. Violence seems to be a monopoly of delinquents and of the State rather than one of the cults.

These notions of mind control and cult excess allow the promotion of psychological methods of ‘de-radicalization’, which be likened to ‘deprogramming’ methods done on the request of families. These costly methods did not get any result except from definitively separating the victims from their families. The book made by Dirk Anthony et Massimo Introvigne : Brainwashing. Myth or reality? (L’Harmattan), does an interesting synthesis of the subject, and should be read by our ‘de-radicalizers’. ‘Deprogrammers’ have something been sentenced to prison because they were confining illegally cult members, except in Japan where the police does not really intervene, considering the matter as familial and private. In the case of Monism, some families appealed to deprogrammers, because they would not appreciate the conversion of their children. Human Rights Without Frontiers Int. went in Japan to check this and produce a report which one can read on their site. If the government decides to ‘de-radicalize’ the converted, all the astute one will arrive, seduced by subventions, that is taxpayers money. In the past, about these cults, I highly criticized an experience ordered by a director of the Ministry of Social Affairs to one of these friends who pretends to be a psycho-analyst. Grossly, they will use what is called ‘thought reforming’ as used in cognitive therapies. It is simplistic, inefficient and falsely scientific.

To answer completely your question, in Daesh, there certainly is a process of influence which one finds in any religious, commercial or political propaganda: one is exposed to a message and a rhetoric that is an arguing built so as to be persuasive.


CAP LCIt is often said that some young people become djihadists because they are looking for a meaning of their life. This is also true of those who are seduced by the cults. If France has given freedom of action to cults, would not those have provided a refuge, a landing place, an alternative for these young people, rather than having as the only solution the Daesh trap?


Régis Dericquebourg – I don’t know why some young people engage in Djihadism. Specialists of religious conversion and Islam sociologists will know more when they will be able to interview converted ones and investigate on their social situation. Without reducing the importance of the phenomenon, I would say that Djihadist or candidates are not all young, are often drawn by causes they themselves idealize. There are precedents in the engagement of young people in causes. Young guys went to help the Spanish republicans, others went to join the fascistic Division Charlemagne, others went to fight in revolutionary movements of Latin Africa. Older people went in the crusade to ‘free Christianity’. When I was in school, the six day war happened, and some young people want to defend Israel. The individual likes to engage in a cause which he judges just. This desire is determined, as also is, later on, its implementation, because all do not go from idealization of a cause to a real engagement.

All that is complex because it has been said that these radicals do not know Koran or know it very badly. A religious doctrine gives a meaning to life and delivers a way of life with moral principles, prohibitions and obligations. It is a Weltanschauung (own concept of the world plus an ethics).

The Djihadist is supposed to have found a meaning to life with Koran when he was attending his mosque. However, from what I hear from some Islamologists, they are mainly seduced by the radical speech, which drives a very strong social protestation. I did see this in Jehovah Witnesses when I studied them: protest speech draws people excluded from wealth, political and union actions, and which compensate the “relative deprivation” – as some American sociologists have called it – by the certainty of being God elected, to not have anything to do with a system they condemn, to be worthy of paradise after this terrestrial world. In the first Jehovah Witness, protest was only a firm and pacific condemnation of a society devoted to the pursuit of material goods under the ascendancy of Satan. Factually, it would lead to a calm life, distrusting sources of bad influence from the lower middle class, and in the end, apparently conformist. These millenarian are far from the millenarian groups of Middle Age, all grouped around a small prophet, often violent and finally crushed by force.

It might be that people who are Muslims by their families or converted ones, excluded from the social habits which the elite favor, who feels so or have an instruction allowing them to analyze it, find in Djihad the ways of implementing a radical social protest. I can agree with you about the alternatives which the minority religions can represent, by expressing this protest and channel it through proselytism and humanitarian activities. Jehovah Witnesses have converted some Muslims, which sometimes meet in ‘oriental congregations’. A few years ago, under my direction, an Algerian student did a high level brilliant research about these Jehovah Witnesses. He found a good proportion of Kabylians among them. One also finds Muslims converted to evangelical Protestantism. One day, some came to testify about their difficulties in a seminar of your association on religious freedom, in Paris. I remember it.

It is true that the anti-cult movements and anti-cult government agencies, relayed by the medias, have repeated the same stereotypes about the danger of Christian, gnostics, neo-hinduist cults, over and over. If one hears them, Tom Cruise would be more dangerous than Ben Laden. In fact, I rarely hear the author of anti-cult books condemn the Djihadists. Maybe they endorsed a trellis and went to fight against Boko Haram or to fight against Islamists in Syria, a kalachnikov in hand. This would be less cowardly than attacking a yoga teacher, qualified as a ‘sectarian guru’, to quote what happened some time ago with a yoga teacher aged 80. Let us not forget the fight of anticult people in the north against a scientologist engineer who was working in the nuclear plant of Gravelines. An antisect group, then lead by a very conservative catholic did warn the authorities about the danger of placing a scientologist ‘alone in the night at the command of a nuclear plan’! The local trade union was ‘invited’ to join the fight (by whom?). It was a collective delirium. Those were the days!

Globally by drawing the attention on minority religious groups pejoratively called ‘cults’, these movements have diverted the attention of politicians and police. I have known the time where RG (French intelligence agency) would attend the meeting of Jehovah Witnesses. At the same time, Islamists were operating in peace. Look at Belgium. A trial recently closed 18 years of procedure against Scientologists, and while justice was trying to catch a group of pacific scientologists, a handful of Islamists were recruiting, arming their recruits or sending them in training camps. The rationalists of Belgium were leading a fight against obscurantism of those cults, from Raelians to evangelical Protestants, including Scientology and Antoinism.

CAP LCIn the name of secularism, France did forbid blatant religious signs. Thus, deprived of any reference to the religious, young people were trapped by the Daesh propaganda on the Internet. Was it a good idea to ‘kill’ God in school?


Régis Dericquebourg – I do think that forbidding blatant religious signs in some public places did play a role in the recruitment of islamists. In fact, this prohibition does not really seem to be applied. Could it be? I do not think so because the European court of Justice and the European Court of Human Right do not have the same opinion on that question. Their jurisprudence weighs upon France. These courts have a practical, non ideological viewpoint. Thus, for a receptionist working in an English airport, it was judged at the European level that a dismissal based upon the wearing of the Islamic scarf was unfounded, because this scarf does not prevent of informing correctly the customers. However, a male nurse dismissed because he was refusing to cure a gay, in the name of his religion did not win, because his refusal did bear prejudice to the patient. In all cases, the soviet experience shows that you cannot destroy religious beliefs. There also Muslim religious schools.



CAP LCOn the contrary, should not we reintroduce God in the schools, in courses about the religions ?

Régis Dericquebourg – Belgium is the place where the actors the Bataclan assault were coming from and in this country, there are courses about religion. The student, of whom I spoke about before is a teacher of religion in Belgium. It seems to have changed under the pressure of rationalists, and it seems that religion courses did become ‘courses about nothing’ as the religion teachers did call them. In France, religion is tackled in History and French courses, but there is no course about religion. However one finds chaplains in secondary schools and colleges, as in army or prison. But the religious illiteracy is still evident in France.

CAP LCWhat vision a young teenager may have of our society ? Climate warming, pollution, political scandals, incompetent or corrupted politicians, ultra consumption, unjust division of wealth, unemployment, absence of God and any transcendancy. That is nothingness as a vision of the future. With such a situation, isn’t it normal that some young teenagers may be revolted and radicalizing?

Régis Dericquebourg – I rather see a high resignation. I do not see a radical revolutionary thought. What is interesting are the community way of life, the alternative and cooperative consumption, systems of exchange and parallel non commercial economics, which are a laboratory of utopia as has existed in the community and cooperative libertarian movement at the end of the 19th century. The old system keeps on turning but people come out of it.

CAP LCYoung people rally around Daesh because Daesh has a project for a society. What project for a society does our western society propose to the young ones ?

Régis Dericquebourg – I do not know the society project of Daesh. Possibly a dictatorial theocracy like the millenarist revolts which led to society which turned badly? Occidental society is in the hands of small political handymen who propose political makeshift jobs, who have different dosages between total liberalism and radical socialism. Between the two, each political group propose its shade of mix, but globally, we are entering in what Marx did call ‘the third phase of capitalism’: the one in which bankers dictate their law to states.

I think there is a big anger amongst the young ones. Society is more and more unequal, in spite of emollient speeches about equality of chances. Work contracts follow each other when they can get some, but one day, it stops, and there is nothing left. Work conditions are violent. Did you also notice that the FN (National Front) did high scores in the ex-mining cities of Pas-de-Calais, with humble people, in spite of its radical speech once devoted to Communist party? Daesh might also play for some this role. In this case, there is no need for an explanation by mind control. Despair is enough.

CAP LCMost of the groups which are called ‘cult’ do have proposals for a different society. Transcendental Meditation group asserts, with scientific research for their base, that the collective practice of meditation has a positive impact on collective awareness, and would lead to a lowering of violent acts. In the present situation, that would be very useful. Other proposals are made by others groups. Do those proposals have more chance to be considered today?


Régis Dericquebourg – I see yoga entering in schools. Yoga teachers I meet tell me that children are numerous to their activities. Until when? One day, Miviludes might ask for its forbidding in the name of the fight against the sectarian influence of yogi gurus. For me, all is possible. Even when detached from spirituality and only under the form of exercises, these methods worry some people and they can be the target of small minded anti-cults.

All that permits to pacify the relationships between humans on a personal will is good. And these techniques give a more detached, more reflexive approach of the world. Do our governments want people to come off the ‘ready-made-thinkingness’, to think about their existence and give themselves other goals that the usual ones : run in the marked trail like a competition swimmer ?

Author: admin

CAPLC (European Coordination of Associations and Individuals for Freedom of Conscience). This ONG follows a humanist universal call towards peace, brotherhood and tolerance regarding all human beings. It stemmed out of the following observations: -worldwide, an unparalleled crisis of civilisation, aggravated by recurrent economic, social and financial upheavals pours on mankind an array of evils and disasters: genocide, poverty, unemployment, starvation, terrorism, crime, drugs, extinction of species…

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