One Finite Planet

Foreign fighters: Is it really a surprise that ISIS/ISIL can recruit from the west?

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I have heard repeated media statements on how ISIS/ISIL managed to recruit young Sunni Muslims from around the world to join their cause.  It has been stated that society must reach out to the Muslim community to stop these young men being recruited from their midst.

Certainly these recruits from around the world join the battle identifying as Sunni Muslims, but we need to be cautious about the background they are actually recruited from. Surely it is not a deep spiritual belief that drives the people to join such a violent cause, but rather a feeling of repression, angst, frustration and despair.

It may be easier to persuade someone already identifying as Muslim to join such a battle but feelings of repression, angst, frustration and despair are in no way limited to the Muslim community.  Recruiters for ISIL who identify targets can portrait an opportunity to strike back at society, combined with the ultimate perverse ‘boys own’ adventure.  For the rebel without a cause they have a cause to offer.

Consider that in the USA alone around 40,000 people commit suicide per year (source). About 80% of these people are male and while some are in the wrong age group of physical condition, there are more suicidal people than there are that actually commit suicide.

Also consider the disaffection that is felt after events such as took place in Ferguson Missouri. It does not matter who is wrong or right, all it takes as unrest and you have a number of potential recruits ready to strike out against what can be portrayed as repression in any way they can.  An opportunity to behead ‘oppressors’ is going to appeal to a small incensed minority who are also somewhat suicidal no matter what the cause they are fighting for.

Certainly they may go off to battle identifying as Sunni Muslims, but I suggest some may have been recruited solely on the basis of being converted to the cause of striking out against someone rather than to become Muslim simply to study religion.

The caution here is that any disenfranchised group is a target with potential members who may be recruited to a violent suicidal cause. No prerequisite of a life long devotion to Islam is required and there is wider problem created by such a group as ISIL.

The images on the news of ‘foreign fighters’ suggest people that may have moved into Islam and terrorism in one direct step and avoided any radar focused only on those already identified as Muslim.

Any country that has a sufficient number of potentially suicidal people combined with an element of disaffected youth provides an ideal recruiting ground for terrorist groups.  And we all have too many people in both suicidal and disaffected categories.


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