The Orlando Shooting: A Case Study in Islamist Radicalization

The Orlando Shooting: A Case Study in Islamist Radicalization
In the wake of the Orlando shooting at the Pulse nightclub, the College of Mental Health Counseling presents an understanding of youth gangs, Islamic terrorism, aboriginal suicide and other similar phenomena as possible effects of Anomic Disorder.*

Press Release ( - VICTORIA, British Columbia - Jun 13, 2016 - Anomic Disorder*

Anomic Disorder* occurs when the individual experiences the loss of identity and a sense of fundamental realities of existence within the social and cultural context, which can also be referred to as an existential crisis. This may coincide with an emotional and psychological detachment from physical community facilitated by technological involvement such as excessive internet use. Family breakdown, poverty, war and violence may be associated contributing factors for some individuals.

In secular society, a social shift is occurring from traditional values and definitions of marriage, family, sexuality, gender roles, God, and religion. For example, scientists Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking and others are saying the universe and the human species developed by natural processes alone, without divine involvement. When this view is adopted by individuals from a religious background, a shift in fundamental beliefs can occur and anomie may result. Friedrich Nietzsche and Oswald Spengler (see The Decline of the West) predicted the breakdown of traditional values with the rise of secularization that excludes divinely-given values and moral beliefs.

Children of Immigrants Are Most Vulnerable

Youth are especially vulnerable because the search for identity is a common feature of adolescent development. Through the internet, the media, and public education, youths encounter views and implications at variance with the traditional values of immigrant parents.  The individual loses both a sense of identity and confidence in the reality of existential certainty or that intangible truth can be known.

The sense of loss of meaning and purpose may increase to the point of crisis and desperation resulting in depression, anxiety, and violence to self or others, observed in gang and criminal behaviour and suicide as predictable outcomes of extreme anomie. The child of immigrants is caught between the culture of the parents and the adopted secular western culture. The loss of identity leaves the child vulnerable to Islamist radicalization that offers a strong identity alternative.

Examples of anomie may be seen in youth gangs, aboriginal suicide, and youth depression and suicide of second-generation immigrants from East Indian and Arab cultures. Individuals vulnerable to gang involvement are those suffering from anomie resulting from a loss of identity and an attempt through gang involvement to reconstruct a sense of identity. Islamic suicide bombing and terrorism can also be understood as desperate efforts to preserve identity and resist the changes of secularism, accompanied by the sense of anomie.

The Orlando shooter was born in the United States and was the son of Afghan immigrants. He is described as being “not very religious” that may reflect his efforts to detach from the parental culture. He was also alienated from western culture indicated by his disdain for seeing gay men kissing. He also struggled with anger issues that may have been part of his anomic angst. He found an identity in radical Islam, ISIS.

The experience of anomie and the pain of Anomic Disorder* may be far more widespread and pervasive in the general population than recognized by the professional and scientific community. Based on understanding this condition, assessment and treatment approaches can be identified and described.

Treatment of Anomic Disorder*

Mental health practitioners and counselors are now faced with this growing challenge: how to help those suffering from anomie or Anomic Disorder,* especially second generation immigrant children from Muslim cultures.

The College of Mental Health Counseling suggests the following summary of steps:

1. Identify the presence of Anomic Disorder* by asking, “What are your spiritual views and beliefs and how has this changed since childhood?”

2. Then ask, “Do you feel more or less confident about your beliefs than you did when you were younger?”

3. Ask questions such as:

What is your identity? If I were to ask, “Who are you,” how would you respond?

Do you think humans are special? Say more.

Do you think you are special? Say more.

Do you think life has purpose and meaning? Say more.

What is the meaning or purpose of your life?

What are your goals in life?

What do you believe about marriage?

What do you believe is true about right and wrong? Give an example of something that you think is definitely wrong.

Remember that the fundamental goal of treating Anomic Disorder* is to help the individual develop a healthy sense of identity and an increased sense of certainty about fundamental intangible realities of life. As this confidence in existential certainty is increased or restored, the individual will feel more hope and less anxious and depressed.

An adjunct to treatment is connecting the individual to a group of others who share the same goal and who can support and strengthen confidence in existential certainty replacing the sense of void, crisis, meaninglessness, and despair.

*Although anomic disorder has been identified in other contexts, this is the first use and identification in literature of the condition “Anomic Disorder” as a social and cultural phenomenon and as a mental health issue or condition.

Daniel Keeran, MSW, is President of the College and the author of “Effective Counseling Skills: the practical wording of therapeutic statements and processes”…  He can be reached for comment at

Source : College of Mental Health Counselling



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