Potential for violence exists in many cultic groups particularly if they are engaged in underground activities or follow a Machiavellian philosophy of ‘ends justify the means’. Obviously, there is no easy way to predict which group may become involved in terrorism, violence, or suicide operations unless there is a record of already perpetrated instances of violence by the cult even if such deeds might have been ceased temporarily for certain reasons. Horrifying testimonies of some arrested or ex-members of cultic groups to their connection in violent operations and self immolation activities or being witnesses to instances of violence against the groups’ own insiders signify that inborn terrorist and violent groups, if they make some temporal accommodation with the outside world, may resort to indirect application of violence, namely, utilizing outwardly peaceful and pro-democratic measures that promote direct violence.
Cults and violence are commonly bound inextricably together in the public mind since much public understanding about cults is accounts of violence in a variety of forms. The shocking reports of sarin gas release into the Tokyo underground by Aum Shinrikyö cult, the recent news of rescuing children from a polygamist remote compound Ranch of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and above all, the terrible and nightmarish terrorist attack of al-Qaeda are all instances of awful truth about the violent nature of some cults. Talking on the varying degrees of cults’ abusive and destructive nature Thaler Singer states:
Cults are abusive and destructive to varying degrees. Some abuse only their own members; others project the violence outward. Still others have it both ways. Cult members, at the direction of their leaders, have shot at law enforcement officers, engaged in drug dealing and prostitution, stockpiled illegal weapons, practiced repeated sexual abuse, beaten child members to death, enforced a variety of punishments against their own, and murdered dissident members. 88
It is hard to answer the question that why some cults, when facing with opposition and even outright persecution, react by resorting to violence. But one thing is for certain that their violent conducts towards the outside world is either direct or indirect:
Not only have cultic groups engaged in openly violent behavior, but they have also engaged in other activities that have led to members’ being convicted of crimes ranging from conspiracy to tax evasion, spying on governments, and fraud. 89
If we come to believe, as Singer explains, that espionage activities of a political cult are considered as indirect activities of violence, then, MKO’s claimed disclosures on Iran’s nuclear activities that may lead to nothing but escalating global tension and even military conflict can be regarded as instances of inciting violence. Violence is interwoven in MKO and in spite of its claims to have abandoned terrorism, the group can only survive out of violence and engaging in direct and indirect violent activities regardless of the heavy cost imposed only on Iranian people.
MKO is an example of leftist political cults. In many political cults of the contemporary history violence in a variety of forms has dominated. During Stalin’s reign over the Soviet Unions’ Communist Party, for instance, a new form of violence was formed in the course of harsh, internal purges. The purges, a combination of physical and psychological violence, are yet thought to have been the most unusual and eccentric techniques applied. It was only after Stalin’s death that some instances of the applied violence was revealed for the public through a number of novels and made movies.
Somehow it can be said that, among active political cults, it is only MKO that, as a leftist group, is charged with multitude instances of violence working against its own insiders as revealed by Human Rights Watch report and the memoirs of its detached members. In addition to application of physical violence as a method of internal punishment against dissatisfied and disobedient members, there are further indirect ruthless routines of regular self-criticism sessions, cultivating malevolence and spite amongst the members, separating the families and much more. A more detailed study of different forms of internal and external violence employed by MKO will give a broader understanding of the cult.
1. Thaler Singer, Margaret; Cults in Our Midst: The Continuing Fight Against Their Hidden Menace, p. 88.
2. Ibid, 89.
Research Bureau,Mojahedin.ws, June 25, 2008