Why Boston Bombing Suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev Sought ‘Faith-Based’ Treatment For His Possible Schizophrenia

Huff Post: Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one half of the sibling duo suspected to have orchestrated the Boston Marathon bombing, reportedly showed signs of schizophrenia before the 2013 attack. But instead of seeking medical treatment for his symptoms, Tsarnaev’s mother Zubeidat Tsarnaeva opted for another kind of therapy — spiritual counseling.

Farha Abbas, managing editor of the Journal Of Muslim Mental Health, discussed Tsarnaev’s condition and how his family allegedly addressed it during a HuffPost Live conversation about the contentious relationship between faith and mental illness.

“In the Boston bombing, the older brother actually had paranoid schizophrenia. He was hearing voices. He was hearing commands,” she said. “He approached his parents, but instead of taking him for treatment, they took him to a faith-based healer.”

As Rolling Stone detailed in its controversial cover story last year, Tsarnaev’s mother believed that Islam could “calm Tamerlan’s demons.” He then began taking lessons about Islamic teachings from his friend Mikhail Allakhverdov, during which Tsarnaev would “perform exorcisms.”

“Religious delusions” like Tsarnaev’s and thoughts of “grandiosity” are particularly common in psychosis, even among those who aren’t religious, Abbasi continued. She explained that the reasoning behind his mother’s choice to seek a religious perspective may have stemmed from a fear of dissonance between the Tsarnaevs’ beliefs and a medical opinion.

“A lot of Muslim people were feeling like they wouldn’t get the right kind of care because the Western-trained providers or people who do not understand Islam would not be able to understand their own problems,” she said.


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