Using neuroscience to ‘cure’ Islamic Fundamentalism – Abdsalam Ajetunmobi

In the wake of gruesome murder of 25-year-old Lee Rigby, outside the 200-year-old Woolwich Barracks in the southeast of London last month, by two suspects, Michael Adebowale, 22 and Michael Adebolajo, 28, both with family ties to Nigeria, a leading neuroscientist at the University of Oxford, Kathleen Taylor, predicted last week that Muslim fundamentalism, primarily rooted not in poverty nor joblessness, as I’ve always argued, but in Islamism (i.e., a neologism grounded in grotesque interpretation of religious texts), may one day be curable using cognitive enhancement techniques.


In framing her argument in terms reprogramming our brains to cure ourselves of phobias and terrible diseases, Dr Taylor, the author of an illuminating book, “The Brain Supremacy: Notes from the Frontiers of Neuroscience,” remarked that for “somebody who has for example become radicalised to a cult ideology, we might stop seeing that as a personal choice that they have chosen as a result of pure free will and may start treating it as some kind of mental disturbance.” In a way, targeting the brains of Muslims who are adherents of fundamentalism such as members of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, Ansar Dine in Mali, Al-Shabab in Somalia, Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA), Taliban in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and in the rest of the Islamic world, by means of a brain scanner and the flip of a genetic switch to improve their cognition and make them more law-abiding citizens in their respective countries, may be less-plausible.But science fiction has always shaped scientific reality. 


For example, NASA’s engineers were heavily influenced by 1950s science fiction writers, including Robert A Heinlein, who wrote about moon landings long before they became a reality; the early pioneers of the Internet were shaped by the cyberpunk of the 1980s; Leo Szilard partly credits H. G. Wells’ early science fiction story about atomic energy, The World Set Free, with the inspiration that led him directly to the Manhattan Project. In fact, Stephen Hawking, current occupant of the chair once held by Isaac Newton at Cambridge University, has confessed that he spent his first few university years reading science fiction rather than his texts. 


So, even if Taylor’s ‘cure’ for Islamic radicalism is a forlorn hope, she has, nonetheless, laid the foundation for future comprehensive cognitive enhancements that my one day cure those with harmful religious beliefs. “In many ways,” noted Taylor herself, “that could be a very positive thing because there are no doubt beliefs in our society that do a heck of a lot of damage, that really do a lot of harm.” To listen to Taylor’s one-hour long speech, delivered on Wednesday 29 May 2013 in the UK, click here: Kathleen Taylor’s speech at Hay Festival.


The following is part of mail I sent to blog visitors whose email addresses ensure that this blog is a single click away from their Inbox.  You can join my e-list too by writing to my or  The excerpt is my opinion on the quick-fix methods that the West always seems to favor when confronted with supposedly intractable problems: a 7 year-old child is disruptive in class?  Give him a medication that numbs the child’s mind and turns him into an imbecile.  Pardon me, I’m commenting from experiences I have read and known in the USA.

Here is part of the mail to my e-listers:

Does a “solution” to Islamic fundamentalism lie in neuroscience, or, as blog contributor, Abdsalam Ajetunmobi terms the path being prescribed to a “solution – sci-fi – as is being proposed by a Cambridge don?  Pardon a light-hearted take on that word, ‘don’:  in jest, Nigerians pluralize the word and give it a homophone substitute, “dunce”, and that’s from educated folks.  The illiterates go a step further, deriding the Bachelors, Masters and Ph.Ds with this Yoruba alliterative put-down:

                                                                                                                      Alakori san j’alakowe!
How I wish I could be accurate in translating this but non-Yoruba readers would have to make do with something like “an unschooled buffoon is better than lettered folks.”

Sunday, June 2, 2013, 7:31:25 p.m. [GMT]

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2 Comments on “Using neuroscience to ‘cure’ Islamic Fundamentalism – Abdsalam Ajetunmobi”

  1. ArchangelTravels Says:

    Great blog here, kind of comforting, I guess.



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