Cults and Terrorism
Masoud Banisadr (UK)
Author and formerly of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran/ sāzmān-e mojāhedin-e khalq-e irān
Abstract: In this speech I will argue; first there is a difference between Terrorism as an isolated violent act committed by an individual, not related to any terrorist group, or as one of many different activities or tactics of a popular or political organisation from one hand with a Terrorist organisation on the other hand. Then I will argue that any terrorist organisation either is a destructive cult or to survive has no option but eventually to change into one. Finally I define a destructive cult and conclude by explaining that facing a terrorist organisation is completely different from facing the problem of terrorism and violence and if we are serious to get rid of this ugly phenomena we have to understand destructive cults and through that understanding face terrorist organisations.
Terrorism in my view is a social disease like any other, such as murder, rubbery, rape or theft; cause to its existence not only lies in social problems such as poverty or unemployment, but injustice in any form and shape. It has been with us since beginning of civilization and unfortunately will remain with us as long as there is any kind of injustice in any society.
It disgusts us to remember it, to think about it, and even more, if anyone tries to understand it and find the logic behind it.
Like any other disease; for terrorism, we either can fight symptoms, prescribing a very strong pain killer that can harm healthy part of organism as well; or we can try to understand it, to find the cause of it and seek to find a real and long lasting solution for that.
Unfortunately as usual governments have a habit of going for the former one and only when they are forced by public opinion and demands will go for the latter one. This is why most of government’s policies toward terrorism are aiming to face terrorists, rather than cause of terrorism.
Well my talk today is not about terrorism in general but terrorist organisations in particular and their metamorphosis into destructive cults.
Organised crime versus isolated crime:
Importance of doctrine or cause for an isolated crime versus organised crime:
When a crime changes into an organised crime; not only it will mature and will intensify but its nature and its attributes will alter as well, sometimes into even opposite of its original form. For example if poverty and unemployment are the main causes of theft and rubbery; therefore facing poverty and unemployment might diminish or at least lessen those kind of crimes; in organised crime, although still existence of these problems helps new mafias to recruit new members, but facing poverty or unemployment can not resolve the problem of organised crime, as now its strength depends to its leader and sophistication of its organisation and not original causes of its existence. Well I am sure most of you have seen the movie ‘The God Father’ and have enjoyed it and there is no need for me to elaborate more on this point. What I conclude is that, although cause for an isolated crime is the main reason for its existence and resolving it will diminish or at least will lessen it; in organised crime, cause will loose its importance and will not play the same decisive rule in existence or none existence of the organisation.
Back to terrorism; let me give you an example: Although MEK that I was member of born with an ideology based on Islam and Marxism and recruit with anti Imperialism and anti Zionism and social justice slogans; and later after the revolution, when I along tens of thousands more students of schools and universities joined it, used any ills, any injustice or lack of freedom that existed in Iran, to recruit; but after it changed into a terrorist organisation and then into a destructive cult, its survival, its internal strength had nothing to do with either of causes of its existence, its original slogans, or what was happening in Islamic world or in Iran. To survive and to fulfil the leader’s dreams, contrary to their nationalistic slogans; during Iran-Iraq war, they collaborated with Sadam Hussein and hand in hand with Iraqi army they fought with Iran. Sadam’s generous assistance to MEK; financial help, free land to build their bases in, sophisticated armament etc; didn’t mean that MEK will be loyal to their host, when they saw American army, they announced their readiness to help Americans and fight along side of new victorious army. All said it doesn’t mean that MEK now is going to be loyal toward American; because cults are not loyal to any partner or friend, ideology, policy, slogan, agreement but only those that help their survival and their goal’s advancement.
As matter of fact for me as for almost all members, after MEK’s ideological revolution (the name they gave to their brain washing techniques), Iran and Islam where not important any more; or at least not nearly as important as the existence and success of the organisation and its leader. Then in a letter to the leader I explained this change in myself and other members by admitting that if they ask us to choose between happiness and success of Iranian and Muslims in one hand and victory of our leader any where around the world even if he becomes president of Zimbabwe, we all will choose the latter one. Of course then our logic was based on this assumption that if our leader finds a foothold anywhere in the world, soon he can expand his influence and can save the whole world and change the history. Yes MEK was and still is using any ills that might exist in Iran to recruit, for propaganda purposes and for legitimisation of its existence, but for its members what is happening in Iran or as matter of fact in the whole world outside, is not slightly as important as their internal relations, their absolute loyalty and obedience toward the leader.
In case of Al-Qaeda, I can claim the same thing. If the misery and hardship of Palestinians, the existing injustice against them and unconditional support of the United States for actions of Israel is one of the main causes of dissatisfaction of Muslims toward west in general and the United States in particular and as a result this is one of the main effective tools of recruitment by terrorist organisations; still in an imaginary situation, if this problem can be resolved, in my view we might be able to stop Al-Qaeda to recruit more, but we can not claim victory over the organisation. As the only way destructive cults such as MEK or Al-Qaeda can for good leave violence behind, is either due to their victory over the whole world or their total annihilation. Cult of personality of Hitler is an example that the world has not forgotten yet.
Terrorist organisations to survive have no alternative but to change into a destructive cult:
I will call an organization a terrorist organization if its only tactic, or at least its main tactic, for reaching its goal is an act of terrorism. According to this definition, I will not call any government or popular political organizations, even if they use terrorism to deal with their enemies, terrorists because they are dealing with other problems of the society as well; terrorism is not their sole tactic or the pillar of their actions in dealing with their daily problems and objectives.
In a paper recently published by Cultic Studies Review; I argued: ‘If the organization’s sole or main tactic is terrorism, sooner or later it must begin changing the morality of its members because it cannot match the morality of the society from which they have come. The organization must either change the member’s morality and belief system or accept factions within and defections from the group on a large scale.’ Therefore soon or late, to hold on to their members, to keep them away from emotional and moral influence of family, friends and society, Terrorist organisations have no choice but to isolate their members at least psychologically and if they can physically from wider society and start the process of mind manipulation of members under different name and pretext. This is the path toward changing completely into a destructive cult.
As an example of how morality and rule of conduct of a terrorist organisation contradicts the society’s customs, culture, faith and ideology, I can mention suicide operations of MEK that started on summer 1981, for example the killing of Ayatollah Madani, a religious representative of Khomeini in Tabriz, and another suicide operation, the killing of Ayatollah Dastghayb, a religious representative of Khomeini, in Shiraz. By the way, if I am not mistaken, these are either the first or among the first suicide operations of Muslims in modern times. Another significance of this operation at Shiraz was that, for the first time, a female operative and not a male had performed a terrorism act in a Muslim country. Other significant aspects of these operations that were totally against morals of the society, included:
* Breaking the taboo of suicide. Muslims, like Christians, believe suicide is a great sin, and the one who commits it is worthy of going to hell.
* Breaking the principal related to taking no action in public places. Other innocent people were among the deaths.
* The fact that many suicide bombers killed their victims during Friday sermons, where the Mosque and any place in which people pray traditionally are considered as sanctuaries. According to the religious rulings, even churches and synagogues are safe from violence.
* The fact that they killed a member of the clergy, an Ayatollah, an old noncombatant person—again, along with women and children, all prohibited by Islamic law and principles.
As you can see, when your tactic and strategy changes to solely terrorism, you cannot be bound by popular morals and tradition, or rules of conduct of any faith or culture. Ironically, although I can not disagree more with many of statements of President Bush and Mr. Blair, still I have to say that I agree totally with them in claiming that Terrorist organisations (but not all those who use terrorism as one of many of their tactics) are against our way of living, our democracy and our freedom. Although I have to add that terrorist organisations as well as almost all destructive cults not only are against Western values but they are against morals and values of all modern, civilized societies, to be Eastern or Western doesn’t make any difference. Of course they benefit fully from advancement of science or any existence of freedom and democracy or any avenue open to them in different societies to recruit and to advertise themselves, as Al-Qaeda and MEK benefit fully from modern technology such as Internet, Mobile phones, … for propaganda purposes. They might even go as far as introducing themselves as champion of modern values including democracy, freedom or equality, as MEK does. But when it comes to their internal relations, they easily show their real colour and how much do they hate these values. And if God forbid they reach to power using the same democracy as Hitler did, they will create kind of dictatorship and atrocity unseen in any civilization.
When a group due to bypassing people’s moral and values, loses the support of wider society, its members and organizational supporters become more important. Then the organization faces this dilemma: What should it do with the morality and beliefs of its members and supporters? After all, they are, or were, ordinary individuals from the same society, bound by the same code of morality and beliefs, and responsible at least in front of their family and friends.
The answer for any organization at this point of transition is obvious: “Change them or lose them.”’
To change morality, set of beliefs, character and personality of members; terrorist organisations have no alternative but to start the process of mind manipulation of the members. Either they can do that, which in this case they will have all essential elements of being a destructive cult or they can’t and they will faction, face major defections, and eventually have no choice but to change their tactics and therefore transform themselves from a terrorist organisations into something else, perhaps a political one such as IRA in Ireland or disintegrate completely like Pykar; a Marxist organisation, an offshoot of MEK that could not change into a cult and eventually had to publicly announce its dissolution.
Terrorist organisations versus destructive cults, which one is worse?
Yes in my view Terrorist organisations have no choice but to change into a destructive cult, but will they change into something better, more acceptable or worse? Which one is worse to be? A terrorist organisation or a destructive cult? In my view a destructive cult; because of two main reasons:
1- when an organisation changes into a destructive cult, it is not any more abided by any norm, morality or rule. Its doctrine and rule of conducts can change easily at any minute to serve two essential goals of the cult; survival and materialization of leader’s childish dream. Therefore even if a cult forced to leave violence as its main tactic behind, as MEK disarmed by American forces had to do so; still they can switch back to terrorism at any time they can and they need to. In contrast, organisations of any type, even terrorist ones (before changing into a cult) are loyal to set of idea and principles or at least aims and objectives, as for example IRA’s goal was to unite Ireland, therefore in some extent they are predictable, reachable, dialog-able and perhaps even it is possible to influence their policies and change them into more peaceful and democratic type of groupings.
2- The second reason why I think it is more difficult to face destructive cults rather than any other type of organisations is due to change of character of members of destructive cults. One of the slogans of MEK’s leaders was that we have to change into an ant, learn from ant to be selfless and act instinctively as our leader wishes so without any doubt or question. If MEK’s leaders openly and bluntly were mentioning and demanding this ancient desire of all tyrants from their members; it doesn’t mean that those who don’t mention it don’t pave their way to achieve it. In my view this is the goal and objective of all destructive cults and this is why it is too difficult to face these groups.
It is very difficult for us in wider society with normal life to understand a suicide bomber In London, Madrid or New York; as it was difficult for tenth century Iranian people, Western Crusaders and rulers of that time to understand suicide actions of cult of Assassins. Then their rationalization for Assassin’s actions was that they have been narcotised by perhaps Hashish where their given name comes from. And these days I am hearing from some experts that suicide bombers kill themselves to go to paradise for perhaps beautiful Hories. In my view both are wrong; perhaps assassins were using some sort of narcotics or some modern suicide bombers think they can satisfy their sexual desires more after death than while they are alive but the main reason is that members of destructive cults change; they gradually loose their selfhood; their individuality, their instinct for self preservation and even self production; they loose their personal character, principles, and even emotions; and instead of all that, they become absolute loyal and obedient follower of the leader. And in my view this is why it is too difficult to face them and stop them. They will become like one of those shape-shifter characters of some fiction movies. One minute they are smiling, kind, happy person and minutes later they can change into an angry, violent and merciless individual, able to harm anybody and kill even innocent children. They are not predictable and recognizable. They don’t have set of believes that we can understand them as a basis for discussion and perhaps negotiation. They don’t have personal desire and weakness that can be used to change them. They seek pain, hardship, and even death therefore they can not be threatened as they welcome to be a ‘victim of the wider society’s atrocities and Martyr for the leader and his slogans. Therefore none of conventional method of dealing with criminals is useful in facing members of destructive cults. Later I will try to explain my answer to this problem.
Terrorism – resurrection of an ancient feature of destructive cults
Above I argued; all Terrorist organisations to survive as ‘Terrorism’ pillar of their strategy or their only or main activity have no choice but to change into a destructive cult. But opposite is not always true. Not all destructive cults are a terrorist organisation.
While destructive cults are not necessarily terrorists; still terrorism is not new feature of them. Perhaps the oldest one recorded in history are Zealots who fought against Romans in 48 AD. Zealots perhaps were also pioneer of mass suicide action. When Eleazar Their leader found out that there is no way that he can win, asked all members to kill themselves. Centuries later we could see repeat of their action in Waco and Jones Town. Another example or perhaps one of the long lasting terrorist cults was Thuggee; Thuggee stranglers preyed upon India until finally suppressed in the mid nineteenth century by the British.
But perhaps the most famous Terrorist cult, ancestor of MEK and Al-Qaeda are Assassins, who gave us the word Assassination. As MEK and Al-Qaeda that start recruiting with anti American slogans, Assassins recruited their members with excuse of occupation of Iran first by Arabs and then by Turks in tenth century AD.
While they used nationalistic slogans for recruiting, as a cult they soon showed that nothing is important for them but the survival and progress of the cult. As MEK to survive and progress, collaborated with the enemies of Iran such as Sadam Hussein of Iraq; Assassins too, to survive and progress they were prepared to work along side any body including working with Arabs against Turks; with crusaders even ‘god-less’ Mongols against Arab Muslims and then easily change side again for cause of the cult and not people or country or faith.
As other cults their doctrine, in this case Islam was as important for them as it was useful to recruit, and when it wasn’t, they could change it in any way they wished.
To change their members into a killing machine, again the same as MEK and Al-Qaeda they used only two concepts of Islam; Jihad and Martyrdom with their twisted interpretation and ignoring Islamic rules of conduct. The same as MEK and Al-Qaeda they showed they have no respect for human life and to pursue their goals they killed any body on their way, anywhere, even old religious men during pray time in a mosque.
As MEK and perhaps Al-Qaeda and all other destructive cults; to brainwash their members and to alter them from an individual into a killing machine; following leader’s order instinctively, without slightest question or doubt; they had to have full control over sexuality of their members. While MEK or David Koresh ordered all members to divorce their spouses and forget about sex for life and after life; Assassins used to castrate their young suicide killers.
How do I define destructive cults?
At this point I would like briefly explain how do I define destructive cults:
Destructive cults according to my definition have four essential ingredients or elements:
Unlike some experts who define cults and categorise them according to their ideology or doctrine, my definition of cults starts with its leader, rather than its doctrine. This is the leader with his childish ego and Narcissist character, who cannot fulfil his unrealistic needs and materialise his gigantic ambitions in the real world that creates his toy-like mini-world in psychological or physical isolation of members from the wider society within a destructive cult. In my view cult leaders are completely different from ordinary political leader because of their attributes such as: Charisma and charm, narcissism or childlike ego, their superiority complex, their need for worshippers and their loneliness.
This is the leader, who to attract and recruit disciples, needs to have a cause, a doctrine or an ideology. Cause or doctrine for a cult leader is a mean and not the aim or objective. He or she chooses his or her doctrine according to the public beliefs, needs, injustices, existing ills of the society, or groaning of the pool that he wants to fish from. Their objective is to find worshippers, toys of their dream childish world, to create that world and unite their internal ego with the external one. What they choose as ‘cause’ or ‘doctrine’ is not important and no cult leader feels obliged to be loyal toward his primary messages or objectives.
2-Black and white doctrine, objective or cause:
Unlike some expert explaining doctrine or ideology of destructive cults, I will not name or define them according to their superficial and if I may say hypocritical common factors with popular beliefs such as Christianity, Islam or even ideologies such as Nationalism or Marxism.
Therefore according to my definition of destructive cults, what they choose to call their doctrine, however they define it, and no matter how loyal they seem to be toward it, or how steadfastly they seem to observe the faith’s ethics, are not as important as the common factors of doctrine in all destructive cults. Attributes such as believing in the world of black and white; their exclusiveness; (versus inclusiveness of other social groupings; who might have some dogma but their members and followers are free to do anything even though there are guidelines to observation of a few things; even dogmas of most extreme religion’s followers are limited and can be numbered while destructive cults have dogma on everything except perhaps a very few aspects of life. In other words all aspects of life of a destructive cult’s member are decided by the leader. The member has no freedom of choice on anything beyond a few very limited aspects of their lives. Other common factors in their doctrines are: Their stealth and deception or belief in the idea that the end justifies the means.
While the organisation is not even as important as doctrine of the cult and not certainly as important as method of mind manipulation that cult leaders use to change their disciples from who they are into their ideal worshipper, and though they can easily due to size and circumstances change the shape of their organisation, still we can see some similarities between different destructive cult’s organisations. Similarities such as that all are totalitarian, therefore there is no room for democracy, serious questions or doubt or criticism toward the leader and his or her orders; Ironic discipline; Hard work; autonomy from wider society; secrecy and surveillance; membership for life or closed exit doors. In case of Al-Qaeda; although it has changed into some sort of franchise, still in every little cell of Al-Qaeda franchise we can find this common elements of the organisation of destructive cults.
Cult leaders, in order to build their childish world and to satisfy their tendency toward ‘all or nothing’, have no choice but to isolate themselves and their little world psychologically and physically (if they can) and find ways to change free men and women recruited from the wider society into toy like objects of their dream world. These kinds of gurus have no choice but to use some sort of method of mind manipulation if they are to keep their toy like disciples in a very narrow and absolute line, without any question, any doubt, any restraint or contradiction, any private or personal belief, principle, desire, hope, dream or thought and even emotion and feeling; to change them so they can be flexible enough for their game or their play.
Whenever we talk about mind manipulation, suddenly we face two extremes; on the one hand those who deny the existence of any such methods; and on the opposite side those who call simple influence techniques of recruiting ‘brainwashing’; they call members of any cults, even non-destructive ones ‘Zombies’ or ‘machines’. I personally don’t believe that there is any method in existence that can totally brainwash a person, overcoming the effects of gene or early education by parents and society that shape the core character and personality of a person. That being said, I have seen changes of my own personality and hundreds if not thousands of other members of MEK through the use of different methods of mind manipulation; therefore I am a strong believer in the existence of methods that can change character, personality, the system of beliefs and the perception of selfhood, in a person. These methods can push a person out of the driving seat of his or her own will into passenger seat, and force a surrender to the leader, almost completely. As I mentioned, I don’t believe that a person can change into, for example, a ‘Zombie’ or a ‘machine’, but at the same time I have to say that comparing those who use these kinds of words in describing cult members with those who deny the existence of mind manipulation methods, the former view in my opinion are much closer to the reality than the latter. Yes, I believe real, loyal, obedient members of destructive cults are much closer to an ‘ant’ that Rajavi wanted us to be, or a ‘Zombie’ or a ‘machine’ than the free men and women that we see in a wider society, even in a dictatorship, despite all the constraints that might exist on their free will.
To explain mind manipulation I have divided it into three different categories or phases. Firstly, use of rational and influence techniques for changing new recruit’s beliefs, as well as a tool for recruitment. After changing recruit’s beliefs, the cult leader’s main task will be how to stabilise or freeze new beliefs, and how to neutralise the new recruit’s tendency to return to his previous system of beliefs due to the pressure of his personality and his feelings toward his old way of life, family and friends. This is achieved mainly via isolation and change of behaviour that I call mind control. Next, in order to fulfil his desire to change free men and women into fully transformer-like toys that can be bent and shaped as he wishes, a destructive cult leader has to change the disciple’s individual personality into the collective cult-personality; this is carried out mainly by the use of emotion that I call brainwashing.
Facing Terrorist cults is different from facing terrorism:
As I explained, when a terrorist organisation changes into a destructive cult; its original doctrine, ideology or cause is not nearly as important as it was for members when they were recruited, this is the main difference between individual terrorists, or organisations that use terrorism as one of many of their tactics in one hand and Terrorist organisations on the other hand. Two decisive elements for survival of destructive cults are: 1- the leader and 2- the system of mind manipulation. Therefore while in one hand to deal with individual terrorists and other type of organisation we can reason, educate, deal and even negotiate, in short use all political and rational means to persuade them to leave violence and terrorism as one of their tactics behind and use political means to pursue their goals; on the other hand in dealing with destructive cults including terrorist organisations use of these means are in vain.
Again while in former ones we have to recognize their commitment to their doctrine or goal and use it as a strong and decisive base for education, reasoning, showing the contradictions, and even negotiation; in latter ones the biggest mistake is to recognize them for example as Muslim, Christian Nationalist or Marxist, especially publicly and even worse to accept them as NRM or new spokespersons of those faith, ideologies or even causes. Unfortunately this was the biggest mistake of Western politician, media and even some academics and intellectuals after 9-11 who recognized Al-Qaeda as Muslim and worse those who labelled them as Islamist or even some who equalled their propaganda and their actions with Islam. I strongly believe that these people with calling Terrorist organisations, Muslim and not a destructive cult have advocated and helped them, in a way that they couldn’t even dream of it. They could gain sympathy of many Muslims who were unhappy with for example policies of west toward Israel-Palestinian conflict; Osma became the second most named of new born boys in Arab countries, and Al-Qaeda recruited as many young unsatisfied, confused Muslims as they didn’t know how to educate, organize and use them. I hope one day at least those who equalled Al-Qaeda with Islam realise what have they done and how they have changed into biggest advocates of terrorist organisations and hopefully are forced at least to apologize from hundred of thousands of victims of recent terrorism around the world.
To face terrorist organisations we have to research, learn and understand their strong points, the most important of all to understand how they manipulate mind of their disciples and neutralize them. In my view the most important elements of their mind manipulations are 1-psycological and perhaps physical isolation of new recruits from wider society. And 2-use of strong emotion of Muslims in general and young Muslims in particular toward what is happening in the Islamic world.
1 – Psychological isolation: In above mentioned paper I have tried to show how destructive cults in general and Terrorist cults in particular create phobia, paranoia, hate and disgust toward outside world and in this way psychologically isolate their new recruits from wider society and dehumanise or sub-humanise none members. Unfortunately again after 9/11 Western governments, and media not only didn’t try to neutralize this elements but on the contrary to satisfy public opinion that they are dealing with the problem, in a way, they even greatly helped Terrorist Organisations in isolating their members from wider society. To face these elements we have to understand, realise, and recognize that within any members of a destructive cut, there is a dying individual thirsty of a little encouragement, kindness, understanding, and helping hand to survive and to save itself. Let me give you two examples of my own. When after being awake for more than 24 hours, I was travelling from Paris to Washington; in the plane an old lady sitting beside me when saw how tired I am, showed a little kindness and understanding toward me and for example kept my lunch for me till I woke up. Another example when I injured myself by falling from a step, because of my back problem, a friend who was not a member of MEK helped me and cared about my wound. You can not imagine these two little genuine understanding and kindness how much helped me in breaking the idea of that we as members of MEK are above all and helped me to neutralize the idea of dehumanisation or sub-humanisation of outsiders in my mind. Imprisoning, insulting, beating, water-boarding, torturing, members of destructive cults, will weaken those dying individual and will strengthen his or her cultic or collective personality, making him more steadfast in whatever he or she is doing. Perhaps for the safety of general public we can not avoid random stop and search policy, perhaps we have to arrest and imprison some even by mistake, but these are not as important or as damaging as what do we do after stopping or arresting a potential recruit of a destructive cult. If we educate public in general and the police and the politician and the media in particular that members of destructive cults are victims and not criminals, in need of psychological help and not punishment, then we can face this problem without creating new victims and martyrs for destructive cults to recruit and brainwash their members even more.
2- Emotion: Yes in the west we might not be able to do much about Muslim’s feelings and if I may say Human feelings toward what is happening around the world, injustices, discriminations and atrocities. We cannot stop our media to show these news and if we do as sometimes our media does, in my view we make the biggest mistake of all as not only we acknowledge terrorist organisation’s arguments, but we ignore our own values and discredit ourselves as free, democratic and fair society; as a result we encourage not only potential young recruits of terrorist cults toward alternative information sources, but we will push them even more toward being educated and attracted toward violent means of facing their emotions. In my view we have to be at least advocate of our own values, our liberty, our democracy, our freedom, and our fairness. We have to diminish any need for alternative terrorist or cultic source of information by giving first hand real news of injustices ourselves. We have to understand, and recognize emotion of people especially young Muslims toward injustices, discriminations, and atrocities then educate them, show them, and facilitate them toward alternative means for directing their emotions. Recently I saw a documentary in Channel Four under title of ‘Britain’s Islamic Republic’; in this documentary producer and presenter of the program while in my view had some right and just and correct point of view, unfortunately at the same time was trying to ‘reveal’ and ‘discredit’ those who are trying to find their voice in British parliament by arguing that they are trying to infiltrate or influence Labour party or introduce their own candidate for parliamentary election. Well I hope I am wrong and discrediting actions of those who seek to find a political avenue as an answer to cry of these young people, was not the intention of producers of that program as I believe this is exactly what we have to do, encouraging and showing young Muslims how can they direct their emotion, their feel of responsibility, their need of doing something against injustice toward peaceful and political means and prove to them that this can work and is the right path toward long lasting solution of the ills of the modern world.
 In RAND report; Pages 10 and 11; it has been stated: ‘The MEK insisted that it dispatched a letter to DOS (U.S. Department of State) in February 2003 declaring its intention to be a neutral party during the impending invasion of Iraq and stating that it would not fire on coalition forces, even in self-defence. It also claimed to have offered to fight on behalf of the coalition. (RAND; National Defense Research Institute; is a non-profit research organisation providing objective analysis and effective solution that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors around the world. Its report; titled: ‘The Mujahedin-e Khalq in Iraq; A Policy Conundrum 2009’ was sponsored by Office of the Secretary of Defense of the United States of America. The full report can be found in: http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG871/;)
 To learn more about MEK and their ideological revolution you can refer to either MASOUD; Memoirs of an Iranian Rebel; Published by SAQI Book; 2004. The unedited version of my memoirs also can be found on my website: http://www.banisadr.info/mylifestory.htm Or you can read ‘The Iranian Mojahedin’ published by Yale University press New Haven and London – 1989 written by Ervand Abrahamian; professor of history at Baruch College, City University of New York.
 ‘Terrorist Organizations Are Cults’; Masoud Banisadr; Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 8, No. 2, 2009, PP: 3. You can also see this article on my website at: http://www.banisadr.info/ICSA2009.htm
 MEK’s publication, Nashrieh … December 11, 1981.
 MEK’s Publication, Nashrieh … December 18, 1981.
 “Suicide terror predates the modern manifestation of car bombs that began in Lebanon. It is neither unique to the modern period nor confined to any single region or religion. The early historical antecedents of terrorism include the Jewish zealots and Sicarii in the first century AD, during the time of the Second Temple until its destruction in 70 AD, The Hindu thugs in India from the time of Herodotus until 1836, the assassins of the twelfth century, anti-colonial movements in Malabar, and the Japanese Kamikaze during World War II. By examining these early examples of terrorism we can deduce certain general patterns that emerged and draw similarities between these early illustrations and the more recent phenomena. The common themes that emerge from the early case studies provide a template of what is happening today: the role of early education in creating adherents, the appearance of charismatic and ambitious leaders, disputes over occupied territory, and the ways in which religion was manipulated to induce followers to kill in the name of God” (from Dying to Kill by Mia Bloom, p. 4).
 Of course, whenever ordinary people were among the deaths, they used to name them as agents or spies of the regime, or Basiji (members of the mobilization teams)…” Interesting, that among their terrorist activities at the time, they claimed the explosion of three bombs close to where Khomeini used to live (MEK’s publication Nashrieh, April 23, 1982) but denied other bombs that were exploded and included casualties of ordinary people, which could not be accepted even among MEK’s own organizational supporters. They claimed the acts were done by the regime itself, (MEK’s publication Nashrieh, September 10, 1982) or by another one (MEK’s publication Nashrieh, October 8, 1982). But they were not hesitant of even killing the manager of a state agency that by law had to give a rental report for all tenancies (MEK’s publication Nashrieh, May 14, 1982), or the head of a local organization for helping farmers (MEK’s publication Nashrieh, July 23, 1982). As a matter of fact, in the view of MEK and its supporters, whoever was supporting the regime was criminal and worthy of being killed. Later they changed very much as they started considering people were either with them or with the regime; therefore, whoever is not with them is collaborating with the regime and worthy of being killed. Therefore, within one year, they killed more than 2,000 people and proudly announced it themselves (MEK’s publication; Nashrieh number 55; 24/9/1982 also in MEK’s publication Mojahed Number 163; 4/8/1983 the number of killed by MEK between 20th of June 1982 and 20th of June 1983 was announced as 2800 people.). Of course later, as they gradually lost all their supporters in Iran due to their being killed either by execution or during armed struggle, they had to send terrorist teams from Iraq; therefore, it was not so easy to target high officials, and so they started exploding oil pipe lines (MEK’s publication Mojahed, June 14, 1993) or putting bombs in places like the tomb of Khomeini, which could result in the killing of ordinary people. (MEK’s publication Boltan, October 16, 1992).
 The Rules of Jihad: Muslims generally realize that Jihad has its rules and conditions. In the Quran, God has emphasized that no one should violate these rules and overrule them. Abu Baker, the first Caliph after the prophet, referring to the Quran and the prophet’s sayings, instructed those who wished to consider themselves Muslim soldiers, “Do not betray; do not carry grudges; do not deceive; do not kill children; do not kill elderly; do not kill women; do not destroy beehives or burn them; do not cut down fruit bearing trees; do not slaughter sheep, cattle, or camels except for food. You will come upon people who spend their lives in monasteries; leave them on what they have dedicated their lives…” (from Heirs of the Prophet Muhammad by Barnaby Rogerson, p. 162). Furthermore, Ali, the fourth Caliph, set out more rules to put a stop to killing, including safeguarding POWs. He says, “No one turning his back shall be pursued; no one wounded shall be killed; whoever throws away his arms is safe.” Ali had pardoned with goodness. The dead from both sides were buried; only captured arms and animals could be held as war booty (from Heirs of the Prophet Muhammad by Barnaby Rogerson, p. 298).
 “[when] Mojahedin realized that the second revolution was not at hand, and so began to prepare for a prolonged armed struggle, organizational militancy now took precedence over political expediency. Hard-core militants became more important than “fair-weather friends” and “fellow travelers”; the “quality” of members more important than quantity of sympathizers, organizational discipline more important than the appearance of internal democracy, and ideological purity in the rank and file more important than frequent contacts with outside sympathizers, especially if such sympathizers could contaminate the ordinary members. Thus, the outward-reaching attitude was replaced with an inward-looking attitude that treated allies as if they were potential enemies. The new view perceived those who were not fully for the Mojahedin as being against it. Having reached those conclusions, the Mojahedin began to squeeze “half-hearted friends” out of the National Council—some former members of the National Council believe that the Mojahedin could have ironed out its differences with Banisadr and the Kurdish Democratic Party. It destroyed Iranshahr when that paper [the Mojahedin] dared to publish a series of interviews with prominent exiles mildly critical of the organization. It freely accused critics of being SAVAK agents.” (from Ervand Abrahamian, Iranian Mojahedin, p. 249)
 Terrorist Organizations Are Cults’; Masoud Banisadr; Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 8, No. 2, 2009, PP: 164, 165
 In RAND report we read: ‘After the 2003 invasion of Iraq by United States and United Kingdom and overthrow of Sadam Hussein’s regime; MEK was forced to surrender all its weapons. Since then the MEK claims that it formally rejected the use of violence. ‘Although there is limited documentary proof of this decision in either English or Farsi.’ (RAND report 2009: http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG871/; The Mujahedin-e Khalq in Iraq; P: 66) In the same report we read also that MEK’s leaders when ever they felt their relation with Americans is in good shape, they asked for return of their arms.
 Zealots: ‘Beginning in 48 AD, the Zealots carried out terrorist campaigns to force insurrection against the Romans in Judea. These campaigns included the use of sicarii (dagger-men), who would infiltrate Roman-controlled cities and stab Jewish collaborators or Roman legionnaires with a sica, kidnap the staff of the Temple Guard for ransom, or poison their enemies. The Zealots’ justification for their killing of other Jews was that their acts demonstrated the consequences of the immorality of collaborating with the Roman invaders, and exposed the fact that the Romans could not protect their Jewish collaborators.’ (Rex A. Hudson, ‘The Sociology and psychology of Terrorism: Who Becomes a Terrorist and why?’ Report prepared under an Interagency Agreement by the Federal Research Division, Washington DC: Government Printing Office, Library of Congress September 1999, 14. Cited from Mia Bloom; ‘Dying to Kill; The Allure of Suicide terror’; Columbia University Press/ New York; 2007; P: 8) ‘Zealots saw themselves as revolutionary catalysts who moved men by force of their audacious action, exploiting mass expectations that a cataclysmic messianic deliverance was imminent. To generate a mass uprising, they escalated the struggle by shock tactics to manipulate fear, outrage, sympathy and guilt. Sometimes these emotional affects were provoked by terrorist atrocities which went beyond the consensual norms governing violence; at other times, they were produced by provoking the enemy into committing atrocities against his will (David C. Rapoport, University of California, Los Angeles; ‘Fear and Trembling,’ Terrorism in three religious traditions. The American Political Science Review, Vol. 78, No. 3 (Sep. 1984) page 670 Cited from Mia Bloom; ‘Dying to Kill; The Allure of Suicide terror’; Columbia University Press/ New York; 2007; PP: 9, 10.) Zealots and the Sicarii had designed their actions to deliberately provoke a massive uprising. ‘Consecutive atrocities narrowed the prospects for a political, or mutually agreeable, solution serving to destroy the credibility of moderates on both sides while steadily expanding the conflict, which enlisted new participants.’ (David C. Rapoport, University of California, Los Angeles; ‘Fear and Trembling,’ Terrorism in three religious traditions. The American Political Science Review, Vol. 78, No. 3 (Sep. 1984) page 672 Cited from Mia Bloom; ‘Dying to Kill; The Allure of Suicide terror’; Columbia University Press/ New York; 2007; PP: 9, 10.) ‘Zealot leaders even burned the food supply of their own forces during Jerusalem’s long siege as a show of religious dedication and in an attempt to force God’s hand to act against the Romans. God would have no choice but to intervene to preserve his adherents. Divine intervention was not forthcoming and many of Jerusalem’s residents starved to death. Josephus’ position was that the Zealots’ tactics were to blame for all the calamities that befell the Jewish people including their exile, expulsion, the massacres of Jewish communities in Egypt and Cyprus, and the destruction of the Second Temple. Finally, Josephus blamed the mass suicide at Masada on Zealot intransigence. When Roman general Flavius Silva decided to attack Masada at the end of 72 AD, there were 960 insurgents and refugees in the fortress including men, women, and children. Silva surrounded the mountain with the tenth Roman legion plus auxiliaries. Once the fortress’ fall was inevitable the following year, Eleazar, the leader of the zealots, persuaded Masada’s defenders to engage in an act of mass suicide. (Two women and their five children survived to describe the events by hiding in a cave.) The Zealots on Masada preferred to die by their own hand rather than be captured by their Roman enemies. (Josephus, The Jewish war, volume 7, 252 – 404; Paul Johnson, A history of the Jews -New York; Harper and Row, 1987- , 139-140; David Rapoport, personal correspondence with the author, April 8, 2004. – Cited from Mia Bloom; ‘Dying to Kill; The Allure of Suicide terror’; Columbia University Press/ New York; 2007;P: 10, 11)
 for more on Indian cults see Lung, Haha and Christopher B. Prowant. Black Science: Ancient and Modern Techniques of Ninja Mind Manipulation. Boulder, Colorado: Paladin Press, 2001
 ‘”Assassin” (Hashishins) cult founded in Persia in 1090 by Hassan ibn Sabbah (“The old Man of the Mountain”) . From his impregnable “Eagle’s Nest” (Alamut) castle hidden in the mountains of Persia, Hassan loosed wave after wave of suicidal agents -spies and assassins – upon the world. Hassan’s assassin cult was the template for all secret societies, spy net works, and terrorist groups that followed – down to the present day. This was the original al Qaeda! In his time, Hassan used every conceivable tactic, torture, and tool, from magic to murder, hashish and harlots, to dazzle and dirk enemy and initiate alike into doing his bidding. For Hassan and his assassins, the end justified the means. The means are terror and treachery and the end was power. Master shape shifters, whenever expedient, the Assassins made unholy covenants with heathen Hindus and allied themselves with infidel Christian crusaders against their Muslim brethren. For Hassan, and the Assassin Grandmasters who continued his lethal legacy, Islam was but a convenient black curtain behind which to hide. Hassan’s assassins ruled by subterfuge and slaughter for over two centuries, until invading Mongols broke the cult’s back in Persia in 1273. … After the destruction of their Persian HQ, the Assassins continued to survive and thrive from India to Syria, spawning “spin-off” groups and imitators, some as far -flung as Europe.’(Dr. Haha Lung; Mind Control; The Ancient Art of Psychological Warfare’; Citadel Press Kensington; 2006; P:194)
 ‘ by the 13 century, the word Assassin, in variant forms, had already passed into European usage in this general sense of hired professional murderer. The Florentine chronicler Giovanni Villani, who died in 1348, tells how the lord of Lucca sent ‘his assassins’ (i suoi assassini) to Pisa to kill a troublesome enemy there. Even earlier, Dante, in a passing reference in the 19th canto of the Inferno, speaks of ‘the treacherous assassin’ (lo perfido assassin); his fourteenth-century commentator Francesco da Buti, explaining a term which for some readers at the time may still have been strange and obscure, remarks: ‘Assassino e’ colui che uccide altrui per danari’ – An assassin is one who kills others for money. Since then ‘assassin’ has become a common noun in most European languages. It means a murderer, more particularly one who kills by stealth or treachery, whose victim is a public figure and whose motive is fanaticism or greed. It was not always so. The word first appears in the chronicles of the Crusades, as the name of a strange group of Muslim sectaries in the Levant, led by a mysterious figure known as the Old Man of the Mountain, and abhorrent, by their beliefs and practices, to good Christians and Muslims alike. … ‘ (Bernard Lewis; The Assassins; A Radical Sect in Islam; Poenix publication; 2003; P: 2)
‘Marco Polo, who passed through Persia in 1273. Speaking of the Assassins chief; Polo wrote: ‘He had caused a certain valley between two mountains to be enclosed, and had turned it into a garden, the largest and most beautiful that ever was seen … flowing freely with wine and milk and honey and water; and numbers of ladies and the most beautiful damsels in the world, who could play on all manner of instruments and sung most sweetly, and danced in a manner that it was charming to behold, For the Old Man desired to make his people believe that this was actually Paradise …. So when the Old Man would have any Prince slain,’ Polo continues, ‘he would say to such a youth: Go thou and slay so and so; and when thou returnest, my Angels shall bear thee into Paradise. And Should’ st thou die nevertheless even so, I will send my Angels to carry thee back into Paradise. … ‘And in this manner the Old One got his people to murder any one whom he desired to get rid of. (Philip K. Hitti ‘The Assassins,’ in George Andrews and Simon Vinkenoog -eds.-, The Book of Grass: An Anthology on Indian Hemp -London: Peter Owen, 1967-) Cited from: Mia Bloom; ‘Dying to Kill; The Allure of Suicide terror’; Columbia University Press/ New York; 2007; PP: 5, 6)
 ‘Over the years, the Order of Assassins had, at one time or another, made pacts and treaties with (or at least had been accused of making pacts with ) rival Muslims, opportunistic crusaders, and godless Mongols. … In 1174 Sinan leader of Aleppine Assassins proposed an alliance between Christian King Amalric I of Jerusalem and the Assassins against Nur ed – Din Muslim Egyptian ruler. The Assassins would provide intelligence on Nur ed-Din’s forces , as well as Assassins sappers should Amalric need them. In addition, Sinan would train a select cadre of Amalric’s own troops in the tactics and techniques of the Assassins. To sweeten the pot, Sinan hinted that his branch of the Assassins sect might convert to Christianity en masse. Knowing the Assassins were fierce and fearless fighters and had the best intelligence network in Syria, Amalric agreed to the alliance.’ (Dr. Haha Lung; Assassin; The deadly art of the cult of the Assassins; Citadel Press; 1997; PP: 37,40)
 ‘Hassan II removed Islamic ritual obligations from the Assassins sect, even to the point of permitting the consumption of alcohol’ (Dr. Haha Lung; Assassin; The deadly art of the cult of the Assassins; Citadel Press; 1997; P: 36)
 To know more about how this organisations are using these concepts and how far their interpretation is different with what Islam says you can see my speech on this issue ‘The Use of the Philosophy of Martyrdom within Religious Cults for Acts of Terrorism’ at: http://www.banisadr.info/LSpeech050507.htm
 In Islam there is no profession as holly men or priests, instead those who are expert in the religion call themselves as ‘Olama’ (knowledgeable people) or ‘Fagieh’, those who know rules of conduct within Islam and can judge (Qadi).
 Assassins broke few Islamic rules of conducts including not killing an un-combatant and unarmed old man, especially during pray time and in a Mosque that was considered as centaury as other places of worshiping; by killing of Ubbayd Allah al Khatib, a Qadi (Judge) of Isfahan, during the Friday prayers in the mosque of Hamadan. Also Qadi (Judge) of Nishapur who was murdered during the celebrations at the end of Ramadan. (Bernard Lewis; The Assassins; A Radical Sect in Islam; Poenix publication; 2003; P:57)
 This is why I totally disagree with those who call destructive cults NRM (New Religious Movement), in my view The main difference between two is that a destructive cult from beginning to end is leader based whereas in a religion or a faith, or even an ideology, though its followers might at first rely more on the teacher, ideologue or messenger of that faith, idea or religion, in the end they relate to ideas rather than leaders. For them the important factor that takes precedence over all else are ideas such as the uniqueness of God, the existence or non-existence of God, Resurrection, Socialism or Capitalism, believing in transmigration or metempsychosis, struggling for social justice and an egalitarian society. They have dogma, but their dogma is idea-based rather than leader-based. On the opposite, destructive cult’s dogma and their fundamental principles are leader based rather than idea based. They can change all their principles, ideas, and fundamentals but cannot change two, therefore the real principles that their followers have to adhere to, till death, are 1-survival of the cult and 2- loyalty and obedience toward the leader of the cult.
While destructive cults might have some similarities with idea based groupings, as indeed all existing phenomena have some similarities, though cults might be offshoot of an ideology or as matter of fact eventually change into a NRM, still as long as they have characteristics of destructive cults, in my view they should be called as such, and of course when they change, their categorization can change accordingly. In Farsi we say not any sphere shape object is an apple; flower of apple because it can change into apple is not apple and apple pie because it has been made or has ingredient of apple is not apple too.
 If you like to know more about my view toward Mind manipulation, you can look at my speech in INFORM’s seminar November 2009, at: http://www.banisadr.info/London2009.htm
 Terrorist Organizations Are Cults’; Masoud Banisadr; Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 8, No. 2, 2009, PP: 9
 Dispatches; ‘Britain’s Islamic Republic’; Channel four TV of UK; first of March 2010.