Psychiatrist Denies Link Between Mental Illness and Radical Islamic Terrorism

FILE - In this Sept. 21, 2012 file photo, a Syrian boy shouts slogans against the government as he stands in front of a flag of the armed Islamic opposition group, the Nusra Front, during a demonstration in the Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria. The country has already been …
AP Photo/Manu Brabo, File

French psychiatrist Pierre-François Godet has denied a causal link between radical Islamic terrorism and mental illness saying that he could find no objective studies that proved any direct links between the two.

Godet, who serves as head of the psychiatry unit at Saint-Cyr-au-Mont-d’Or hospital centre and is a member of the national office of the Union of Hospital Psychiatrists (SPH), said: “There is no scientific study showing an objective link between jihadist radicalism and this or that personality structure.”

In an article written for French magazine Lyon Capitale, Godet explains the difference between a mentally ill psychotic and a person without overt mental illness saying that the psychotic is prone to delirium and delusion.

“The two most common themes of delusion are the ideas of persecution (‘I am being hurt’) and the ideas of greatness (‘I fear nothing’),” he wrote and added that a delirious person would either think they were being persecuted by radical Islamic terrorists in the persecution sense, or would believe, “I am strong, because Allah is the strongest and he is with me.”

“In the second case, we may be confronted with a delusional psychotic who goes to the act by shouting ‘Allah hu akbar!’ But, what guides the gesture of this patient, it is not the jihadist radicalisation, it is the radical nature of his illness at this point in his evolution: he does not need to be ideologically radicalised by anyone or anything to act,” Godet said.

Godet profiles the average radical Islamic terrorist as being a young man “with a criminal or prison history, especially of petty crime with violence” – a profile which matches a study from the French Institute of International Relations (Ifri) released in March.

He added that many of the terrorists may exhibit personality disorders, however.

“My clinical point of view on these few portraits of jihadists that the press has given is, therefore, the following: I do not see mentally ill people among them, and identifiable personality traits are not part of psychiatric care,” he said.

Mental illness has been cited as a cause or motivation in the aftermath of a number of terrorist attacks including when a 26-year-old Palestinian migrant stabbed several people in Hamburg last year.

The prognosis of mental illness was made despite the migrant previously boasting about wanting to become a terrorist and being on a terror watch list.

 Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at) 



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