What attracts young British people to join ISIS
The fanatical terror group ISIS continues to maraud its way across the Middle East and now controls over half the landmass of Syria after its recent capture of the historic city of Palmyra. ISIS is also recapturing lost territory in Iraq after recently taking over the strategically important city of Ramadi that lies just 70 miles from Iraq’s capital Baghdad.
The savagery and barbarism that ISIS inflicts upon those living under its self-proclaimed caliphate has been reliably documented: those that the group deem to be un-Islamic and fail to abide by ultra-strict Sharia law are beaten, tortured or murdered; women and minorities are treated as something less than subhuman and captured female civilians, including young girls belonging to different religious or ethnic groups, are raped and enslaved; ancient historical artefacts dating back thousands of years are either blown up for being idolatrous or looted and sold on the black market to fund the group’s murderous activities; any ideology or activity that ISIS disprove of is outlawed whilst anybody found to be indulging in un-Islamic activities is imprisoned or killed; notions of freedom and liberty are completely non-existent and any voices of dissent are silenced in a fashion that is both gruesome and medieval.
The only thing more shocking and distressing than these acts themselves is the number of young people from Britain that are travelling to Syria and Iraq willing to carry them out. The Foreign and Commonweath Office (FCO) estimates that 500 extremists from the UK are currently fighting for ISIS but many experts say the figure could be exceedingly higher.
Tragically many young girls are also being seduced by the message spread by ISIS with as many as 60 girls from the UK currently residing in ISIS controlled areas, according to The Guardian. On arrival the girls are then married to ISIS fighters, are subjected to a life of slavery and servitude whilst being forced to live “a sedentary lifestyle led by responsibilities at home” according to a recruitment manifesto released by the jihadist group.
ISIS deems that releasing online videos regularly showing its fighters preaching hatred and the supposed virtues of jihadist ideology in accents that are distinctively British is a highly successful propaganda because it highlights how effectively their ideology has managed to infiltrate the free societies that it opposes.
The government should ponder why has this small but distinct minority of British Muslims chosen to join the ISIS cause and why is the Islamist group’s poisonous ideology appealing to young people brought up in the UK?
Many believe that ISIS’s message appeals to some young Muslims because they feel completely alienated and separate from Western society and culture. They feel no bond whatsoever with their home country and people or society having never been encouraged or obligated to form one.
This disaffected youth then become easily lured by Islamist ideology which stresses the superiority of Islam as a religion and a way of life. It grants them a sense of belonging, meaning and purpose whilst making the idea of joining the caliphate where they believe a proper interpretation of Islam is being realised seem like an attractive prospect that promises not only adventure but the chance to fight for what they perversely believe to be a just cause.
There may be some truth to this explanation but it remains problematic because of its tendency to deprive those who make the decision to join ISIS of responsibility. Feeling angry, dejected and left out is a common part of life for most young people at some stage of their lives, and many develop strong feelings of loss and alienation without feeling the need to voluntarily commit themselves to a campaign of terror, murder and sadism.
Some have suggested that ISIS’s high number of young British recruits is down to the excesses of multiculturalism and its tendency to encourage people to live separate lives. Prominent figures such as the former archbishop of Canterbury lord Carey have blamed multiculturalism for creating ideal conditions for extremism to fester by not promoting enough of a shared sense of common identity and purpose.
Many also point to a lack of counter narrative provided by both the Muslim community and the government. Experts think not enough is being done to highlight the grim reality of what life is like under Islamic State for those that choose to go there, and also Muslims that are progressive and liberal receive too little support and are often met with disdain and mistrust from certain sections of the mainstream Muslim community despite their noble intentions to do more to discourage extremism and promote reform.
Many young people from the UK turning their back on their country and its values is a depressing reality that must be swiftly addressed especially given that more British Muslims have now joined ISIS than the British Army, according to Newsweek.
A long period of self-reflection and soul searching is now required where difficult questions must be answered so that we can determine exactly why this tragic situation has been allowed to unfold and how to begin the slow, difficult but necessary process of seeing it reversed.