In my novel "Not In My Name", I give what i hope, is a rather more detailed and sophisticated analysis of the journey to radicalism undertaken by Jihadis. It's not enough to just put it down to "brainwashing", you need to understand what processes are employed in order to tackle it. Here is a sample from my novel.
"The bottom line sees the human spirit remarkably tenacious at preserving itself. The body is stockpiled with a whole battery of reflexes to resist its own cessation and death. Its default setting is for life. So mental illness aside, the only way for this to be overridden, is by brainwashing. An abstergent, yielding a blank screen upon which any message can be projected. Including graduation from a human being, into a human bomb. The knack, is to change the bomber’s desires from embracing life, into a hankering after death.
Interview after interview, I was presented with similar, reedily intoned versions of how this was brought about. One strand had them sat drooling at the feet of some hierophant in a madrassa, as he categorically untangles the frayed threads of life, while they scratch their carpet-fluff beards and nod accordance. I’ll tell you something, if I was promised myriad virgins in the Afterlife, I’d probably enlist myself. Blissfully blow myself to Kingdom Come. Presumably, it’s one virgin to tend each bit of the body atomised by high-explosive. Of course, rather than nubile women, why couldn’t it equally be the ghosts of the 72 camels slain for Fatima’s wedding? That’s the drawback with numerical symbolism. It’s open to double counting.
Alternatively, they paraded before a paramilitary hawk, sharpening the recruit’s claws on his steel gauntlet. The logic he advances, is that the mission should be beyond fear, for no other soldier has such certainty of whether he will return alive or dead from his next action. Whereas the suicide bomber knows to the precise minute. What a boon.
By whichever method, these fellows are striking a deal with their egos. They don’t shut them off, rather they believe they are swapping a pretty squalid life not for death, but for another, improved life up in the clouds. A literal leap of faith. Trouble is, when their heads are blown upwards off their body towards Heaven, sure as hell it hurtles back down to earth under the prosaic ministrations of gravity. Does each bomber actually possess the finer shades of understanding, exactly what the Holy Text suggests is in store for them? Ultimately, they remain just teenagers on the most extreme and ugly of promises. And as to the secularist bombers, they too are left in no uncertain terms that they will become pin-up poster boys on the walls of Gaza and Baghdad. This is the poor man’s version of celebrity. A pension from Iran or Syria will see that their family is well provided for, a sort of posthumous dower. Or a divorce settlement.
When one of the plump-bellied commanders or hierophants squeezes into a belt, rather than a whey-faced waif; when one of those educated-in-the-universities-of-their-foes strategists puts his own body on the line, then I’ll afford them credence that they’re not just exploiting and manipulating these bomb mules. Winding up the key of taut and tutored desperation in their backs and setting them off towards mayhem. See, the thing with successful missions as the Japanese kamikazes demonstrated, is that you cull your elite talent. No such thing as a suicide veteran. You need a constant stream of fresh volunteers. But unlike Iraq, where Jihadists are crossing over the borders all the time, Palestine is sealed off. So the quality of the bomber pool declines. They started sending children and simpletons. I saw them in the prisons too, though I didn’t abuse them any further by requesting to interview them. Even those with the slightest sympathy for the strength of will of the suicide bomber, ought to be repulsed by this abasement. Bad strategic decision.
So I return to these prompters, these whisperers from offstage. The puppet master, pedlars of death. What these men do so successfully, is to take the everyday currency of death in their blighted land and raise it to the ultimate value. The reward they offer, confirmed as instantly as a scratch-card, is the status of martyr. They market death as a lifestyle. Conferring an off the peg posterity. Of soldier; freedom fighter; liberator; hero; martyr; patriot; bomber. When life circumstances have prevented the volunteer from being secure in the roles of lover, father, son, worker, provider, man of leisure. Such appeals strike at the very core of anxiety and neurosis. Become a sapper rather than merely sapped.
These manipulators, these programmers, are marketing geniuses. For being able to turn death around like that and make it an attractive option. An aspirational choice. They ought to be employed in Soho and Madison Avenue, having their work plastered across giant hoardings and on TV. Then they’d be earning enough money to send back to revive their homeland economy. But these mavens of destruction would presumably baulk at the job title of ‘Creative Director’."