Brainwashing has sometimes been used as an explanation for Osama bin Laden’s and Al Queda’s actions by Western experts and observers, but now the theory has found a home among Muslims.
In the wake of Sept. 11, psychologists, anti-cultists and some of the media claimed that the only way the terrorists could retain their resolve for their suicide mission for so long while living in the U.S. was if they had been subject to brainwashing or thought reform within the Al Queda organization. For instance, Pacific News Service (Nov. 8) cited the Al Qaeda Handbook — found in May of 2000 — as showing that members were isolated, never knowing what other members were doing, as well as subjected to the charismatic power of bin Laden. Yet in general brainwashing charges continue to be controversial and are questioned by many social scientists in the West.
On the Qatar-based moderate Muslim Website, IslamOnline (http://www.islam-online.net/english/Science/2002/04/article12.shtml), the brainwashing charge is given a new twist. Karima Burns writes that since Sept. 11, there are “massive brainwashing techniques and programs being employed by both Islamic extremists as well as the American government.” Burns cites the American media, with its subliminal messages, special sound and visual effects and sustained musical beats that induce trances, as brainwashing Americans to accept war propaganda.
She adds that “In the world of bin Laden and also in the world of the Palestinian `suicide bombers,’ followers are often carefully groomed at educational institutions where the first impressions fed to the students are of an evil Western society attacking and undermining innocent and pure Islamic nations.”
In explaining how monotonous voice patterns can have hypnotic, brainwashing effects, Burns charges that in the “Middle East or in mosques around the world, unscrupulous users of this technique can even use the rhythmic cadence of the Qur’an to serve their purposes.”