Jihad Conversion: Why and How?

Why are so many people converting to Jihad and how is ISIS recruiting them? Westerners are being drawn in large numbers to the ISIS cause and jihad, even those who have little to no understanding of true Islam. According to terrorism researchers, extremism seeks out extremism. People who grew up as strict Christians or atheists become rebels of their religion. Those who want to “reject modern society and its rules” are drawn to ISIS and the jihad lifestyle because it gets the most attention in the West.

Many of the foreign fighters are from Europe, North America and Australia and are native-born citizens. For example, “Jihadi John,” who appears in many of the ISIS execution videos is British. Some believe ISIS conversion and the joining of jihad has attracted such a following because people hate their own countries, but ISIS followers who do not make it to the Middle East can be more dangerous. Amedy Coulibaly, a French man who killed five people in Paris, is just one example.

On Wednesday, three men from Brooklyn, New York, were arrested because it is believed they were planning to carry out attacks in the U.S. and join ISIS in Syria. These men were drawn to jihad. It is the belief that there could possibly be something better for them and to be a part of something new. ISIS is attracting the bored idealists, adventurers and the misfits; offering them belonging and purpose as well as universal welfare, free medicine and social justice. Young people are looking for a different model of society beyond capitalism, and Islam is the most popular.

Other Western followers, even those who were Muslim-raised, did not find religion themselves until later in life. This usually comes after trying a life of crime, personal failure or depression. After all, is not an exciting life in Syria better than a dead-end job, especially given the low wages in the U.S.? ISIS promises the spoils of war. Jihad offers a promise that cannot be found anywhere else. This is why it is so easy for ISIS to attract Westerners to convert to jihad.

ISIS is using social media to attract people ages 18-29. They give false statements of Islam and glamorize ISIS. This is much like being attracted to a gang or drugs, but more sophisticated. Once people are talking one-to-one via social media, it is difficult to track by those attempting to stop U.S. terrorism. It is believed that ISIS has a presence in all 50 states. This is how ISIS is converting westerners to jihad.

There is a sincere concern that the newest ISIS propaganda on social media could call for an attack here in the United States. The FBI has announced that it is looking into radicalization in every state. Current ISIS propaganda is “seductive and witty,” and could mislead teens looking for their own jihad. Several Twitter accounts have been analyzed for jihad connections. Two of them were distributed to a network of 160,000 people connected to 11 known terrorist organizations.

It is important to note that in many cases, if someone is going to travel for a terror-related reason, someone close to them will know. If someone has jihad connections, someone knows. This has been found to be true in 80 percent of these cases. Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney has called on everyone to take on the responsibility of being vigilant.

It was discovered on Wednesday that a woman in Edmonton had recruited a Canadian woman to join jihad and ISIS. It is just so easy to draw anyone in that is unhappy in any way. Thursday media reports said that six Quebecains have traveled to Turkey and are on the way to Syria to join ISIS to take part in jihad. Blaney, obviously upset by the situation, said, “We cannot become an exporter of terrorism.”

By Jeanette Smith

The Wallstreet Journal
ABC7 Chicago
CBC News
Photo courtesy of Sgt. Pete Mobbs – Flickr License
Photo courtesy of Ashley Rose – Flickr License

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