Fundamentalism to Religious Violence
The University Women’s Club, Audley Square, London
Special Meeting of the Family Survival Trust. The University Women’s Club, Audley Square, Mayfair, London.
Speaker: Professor Stephen Kent, University of Alberta, Canada
Introduced by Tom Sackville (Chair), Audrey Chaytor (Trustee and Organiser) and Anne Khodabandeh (Trustee)
The Family Survival Trust Special Meeting was introduced by its Chairman Tom Sackville. The charity is fortunate to benefit from Tom’s invaluable political skills – having served as a Home Office minister. His charming and effective leadership has ensured that the charity has maintained a leading and significant voice on the issue of cultic abuse for many years.
The Special Meeting was organised by Audrey Chaytor, who has supported and helped families and individuals affected by cultic abuse for three decades. Her uncompromising quest to help them understand and deal with the mechanics of what is known by experts and lay people alike as brainwashing, inspired her to arrange this talk by the Guest Speaker, Professor Stephen Kent. As a highly respected academic from the University of Alberta, Canada, Stephen’s thorough research and talks have, over many years, provided valuable information and insights in the field of cultic abuse. This talk, titled ‘Fundamentalism to Religious Violence’ was very well attended and this current and controversial subject attracted many newcomers.
Anne Khodabandeh, a Trustee of the FST charity, first introduced herself as a former member of a foreign terrorist group with fifteen years expertise of activism in the field of cultic abuse and terrorism. She then spoke about the approach of the Family Survival Trust to the issue of religious violence.
“I am here today as a Trustee of the Family Survival Trust charity. As such, I need not remind anyone that the role of all cult awareness and support groups is not to tackle terrorism. That is the role of government. Terrorism is a very serious issue.
However, the reason Steve Kent’s talk today is so valuable, is to help us understand and engage with the use of cultic methodology in the recruitment and training of terrorists.
As a charity, the FST will develop the necessary knowledge as well as the courage to take this forward into the valuable and much needed role of supporting affected families.”
Addressing the audience, Anne continued, “Beyond this, as informed and concerned citizens, we all can play a part in lobbying government to educate young people about the dangers of deceptive recruitment, and to develop an effective exit strategy for terrorists who leave the field to return home. While they rightly may face legal prosecution for criminal acts, we need the help of their families and communities to reintegrate them back into a normal life.”
Steven Kent’s talk focused on the manifestation of religious violence among various religious groups. He examined the influence of fundamentalist interpretations of sacred texts from the Jewish old testament to the Muslim Qoran to explain the different types of violence adopted by various groups.
He gave an example of Buddhist monks protesting Chinese occupation in the 1950s who chose to self-immolate as the maximalist position of their religious beliefs. This was compared to the current manifestation of Islamicist violence perpetrated by ISIS which chooses to behead victims by selectively referring to passages in the Qoran – almost as a fashion.
A lively discussion followed. In particular the issue of Muslim dress code was raised in terms of the adoption of the Niqab by western middle class educated Muslim women. Anne Khodabandeh explained the structure of terrorist organisation by using the ‘onion’ analogy. At the core of the onion are the suicide bombers and beheaders, these are surrounded by financiers, logistics and arms suppliers, but beyond that are layers and layers of people not identified as terrorists but who support and hide the innermost activities. Some do this by creating diversionary issues like provocative dress. But, the oppression of women is common to all religions and cultures and should be properly addressed as a cultural issue rather than detract from the central question. The urgent central issue that needs to be addressed is: how the civilians at the heart of this ‘onion’ are subjected to the psychological manipulation that turns them into killers. It is these mechanisms which lie at the heart of terrorism rather than the interpretation of religious texts.
Professor Kent confirmed the use of brainwashing as a controlling and organising tool in violent religious groups.
The FST extends its warmest thanks to our Guest Speaker, Professor Stephen Kent, and to all the people who participated in the Special Meeting.