ISIS’ unlikely recruitment field

By now, the entire world has heard of ISIS, the Islamic military group that controls significant parts of Syria and Iraq.

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Contributed Image

By now, the entire world has heard of ISIS, the Islamic military group that controls significant parts of Syria and Iraq.
Their mission is to establish a Muslim caliphate worldwide, imposing their own brand of Sharia Law on all who fall under their banner.

Recent history shows that radical religious groups in the Middle East are not uncommon; having been heavily destabilized during the events following World War II and during the Cold War, many groups like ISIS have risen up and attempted to gain control before.

One unique characteristic about ISIS, though, is its appeal to foreigners, particularly those from the Western world.

The Soufan Group and the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization suggests that nearly 3,000 ISIS soldiers originate from the West.

Furthermore, Richard Barrett of the Soufan Group also stated, “A fair percentage of those arriving from non-Muslim majority countries are converts to Islam.”

This begs the question: why would one leave life in a first world nation to go risk their life in Syria fighting for what would normally be a foreign cause? Even more so, why are some converting just to join this movement?

The answer goes deeper than just religious identity. When we take a more analytical look at the issue, we can see that this is a story of alienation — of wanting to belong to something greater than ourselves.

For many, it’s about finally having a home after the entire world has ostracized, harassed and punished you for simply belonging to your faith and being able to defend others from receiving the same treatment.

For new converts, it’s about having a purpose for which you will actively participate.

Take John Maguire, for example, a teenager from Ottawa that joined the ISIS cause in 2013. He was well regarded by his peers, did well in school, and lived in a small, close-knit community, so it again boggles the mind as to why he would do such a thing.

But there’s a deeper side – he kept most of his secrets to himself and his parents got divorced while he was in his early teens.

This pattern of defection is also evident in the case of the American Donald Morgan: after he went through a divorce and failed to achieve his lifelong dream of being a United States paratrooper, Morgan attempted to join ISIS in 2014 before he was arrested. He was “attracted to ISIS because he admired their devotion and the fact that they put the worship of Islam above everything else.”

There’s a quote from the classic movie Fight Club that summarizes the feeling of alienation: “We’re the middle children of history … No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives.”

ISIS, promising to bring about the religious revolution that was prophesied in the Quran, perfectly fills that need. Not only that, but they are actively aware of this, which is why they’ve taken their marketing activities onto social media in order to increase their exposure to vulnerable people worldwide.

People are quick to point the finger at religious influences, unstable societies and failed governments when discussing extremism, but they never seem to go one step further into addressing the needs of the human heart. There is a reason why even the US, with all its military might, has failed to completely stomp out extremism in the region.

There is a reason why their numbers have not dwindled, but grown over time. And the reason is because these movements give the downtrodden such a sense of meaning and brotherhood that they’ve never known before, something that our capitalistic societies  have neglected to provide for far too long.
Next time you read the news and hear about a British national-turned-jihadi beheading a journalist, take a moment and reflect on the scene that’s presented to you. That monster you see was created here at home.

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