Wednesday 28 August 2019


If  you click your mouse over the underlined words, you will get more information.

Before   I deal with the question raised in the title.  I will give you information about what ISIS really is.

ISIS stands for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and is an extremist militant group that rules by Wahhabi/Salafi law. In Arabic, the group is also known as Daesh. They have been militarily pushed   out of Iraq and Syria so the name of that group is no longer relevant. An example of ISIS is that it is a terrorist group that is known for kidnapping western journalists and aid workers an killing them as part of their tactics. It is also a murderous group who has tortured, beheaded and burned to death civilians and members of the military who fought them and were captured.

Why would any Muslim in his or her right mind join ISIL?  Here are ten reasons.

1. Success and a staying presence: Muslims see the black flag raised on expanding landmarks and they appear to be winners. They have a staying power. Unlike foreign armies who would sooner or later leave, these people are there to stay. In Afghanistan, the British came and left, the Soviets came and left and the Americans came and they will leave. The Afghanis and the Taliban are also there to stay. They know that Americans have no nerve for another war with boots on the ground.

2. Up-to-date attractive social media: Unlike the boring monologues of Ayman Zawahiri, the current leader of al Qa’eda, they use clever propaganda videos that have an appeal to the youth. Through the internet they recruit people from across the world to go and join them. If travel to Syria and Iraq became difficult so through the social media, they encouraged the “lone wolfs” to do what they can to serve the ISILs’ cause in the countries where they reside.

3. Purpose for living: So many young men and women whether in Muslim countries or in the West have no demanding or consuming purpose for living. Living with hope for a good job in the future is a luxury that young Muslims what they see as a large enough purpose for living and for dying. Furthermore some Muslims in democratic countries feel marginalized and do not experience a place of belongingness in the countries of their residence. When they went to Iraq and Syria they were accepted as brothers and sisters who are warriors and heroes.

4. America’s support for Israel: A Muslim American young man was arrested on his way to Turkey to join ISIL in Syria. His reason for wanting to join ISIL was: “Why should the taxes of American Muslims go to support Israel. The government of Israel is using this money to kill Muslims in Gaza.”

5. Western Societies are immoral: In spite of the abundance of church buildings in Europe. ad in the United States   and other democratic nations, Muslims see moral standards deteriorating rapidly as they see those nations  accepting as normal same sex marriages and people living together without being married.

6. Shock and Awe through decapitation: With their “shock and awe” strategy of decapitating some of their captives or burning them alive, they have intimidated the Syrian and the Iraqi armies. Unlike the soldiers who are in the Syrian or Iraqi armies who enrolled to collect monthly salaries, ISIL fighters are volunteers who are not afraid of death and some wear suicide belts in battles because they would rather die than be taken as prisoners. They are aiming to intimidate not only individuals and armies but even nations. They believe that Democratic Nations will think twice before they commit themselves to sending their military  forces to other nations that ISIS has entered.

7. Drive for respect: There are many people well qualified in computer skills who are well equipped to use the internet and can motivate and recruit disillusioned young men and women in the West to join ISIL and other radical groups. The most powerful sales person was Anwar al-Awlaki who was born in New Mexico of Yemeni parents and was killed by a drown strike in 2011 and was called the Osama Ben Laden of al-Qaeda on the internet. Before his departure to Yemen he preached at a Mosque in Virginia that had a membership of about 3000 and three of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers went to that mosque. Al-Awalaki was fluent in both the Arabic and the English language since he lived most of his life in the United States. He was a talented recruiter and motivator and he knew how to use the internet to his advantage. Nidal Malik Hasan (Fort Hood shooting) and Abdulmutallab of Nigeria were a couple of his recruits.

8. The Shiites got inflated with power and they abused it; Saddam Hussein, who belonged to the Sunni minority in Iraq abused his power and treated the Shiites majority as second class citizens. The Iraq war liberated Iraq from the Sunni control and empowered the Shiites. Nour al-Maliki, the former Prime Minister of Iraq who is a Shiite, abused his power and sowed the seeds of Sectarianism in Iraq. The Sunni majority in Iraq perceive the Shiites as syncretistic or even heretical. They would rather be ruled by the Sunni ISIL rather than by the abusing Shiites.

9. ISIL’s strong financial status is attractive: Unlike al Qaeda of Ayman Zawahiri, Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula, al-Shabab in Somalia, Nusra Front in Syria, Nusrat Beit al-Maqdes in Sinai in Egypt and Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, ISIL has strong financial base. They have captured banks, and they sell oil, get taxes and they get easy money in exchange for hostages. Muslims see ISIL as an organization which will keep going for a very long time and cannot be disarmed, dismantled and destroyed.

10. Hope for a restoration of the Caliphate: Since the death of Muhammad in 632 AD and for centuries, Muslims had Caliphs uniting Sunni Muslims, the absolute majority, all over the world. The Caliphate continued till 1924 when the last Caliph, Sultan Caliph Ibrahim.

The stated aim of the US government is to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL. Perhaps the aim in the short run is only containment. In a TV show, a former CIA man who is quite informed about the situation in the Muslim world was asked by the TV host, how long it will take to destroy ISIL. He responded by saying that it might take one hundred years! It takes ideas to destroy ideas and that takes a long time.

Abdul Majid ll, in Constantinople was banished when Kamal Ataturk declared Turkey a secular republic. Since then, many Muslim yearn for a day when the Caliphate will be restored and Muslims around the world will be united under one leader like Catholics are united under the Pope. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared himself the Caliph of the Islamic State and called himself Caliph Ibrahim.

The stated aim of the US government is to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL. Perhaps the aim in the short run is only containment. In a TV show, a former CIA man who is quite informed about the situation in the Muslim world was asked by the TV host, how long it would take to destroy ISIL. He responded by saying that it might take one hundred years! It takes ideas to destroy ideas and that takes a long time.”

And now I will deal with those foolish young persons who want to be part of ISIS. 

President Obama said that it was “clear” that Tashfeen Malikand her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, the two assailants in the San Bernardino mass shooting, had “gone down the dark path of radicalization, embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for war against the United States and the West.” He did not speculate as to why people journey down that path or prescribe how the United States might deter, or detour, them. But a report from Lebanon-based Quantum Communications provides some insight.

The researchers from Quantum collected televised interviews with 49 fighters in Syria and Iraq—some in custody, some who had defected, and some who were still in the fight. They analyzed the fighters’ statements when they used a psycho-contextual analytical technique developed by Canadian psychologist Marisa Zavalloni to divine the motivational forces and personal characteristics of the subjects.

It is a small sample, and not random, but given the difficulty of surveying a group like ISIS, it still provides value. How much value? Michael Lumpkin, assistant defense secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict, cited the report in his recent visit to Congress.

ISIS uses the Internet to attract recruits from all over the world, but primarily from Western Europe. Many went to Iraq and Syria to fight. Others wanted to be trained in terrorist tactics they can then employ on return to their homelands. Others may not leave their homelands at all, but are indoctrinated over the Internet to conduct “jihad” in their own communities.

SIS recruiting pitches on the Internet are warm and welcoming, with stirring imagery and professionally produced videos. Most are reasonable in tone and content. They are expertly targeted to address real or imagined ambitions and grievances, to appeal to a potential recruit’s sense of adventure, and to offer an attractive cause worth fighting for. The pitches are designed to produce and support a virtual community of ISIS fans, an echo chamber reinforcing the description of ISIS as a social movement devoted to protecting Muslims and to fighting an unfair global system.

The low-hanging fruit for ISIS in its Internet recruiting are people who feel inadequate, disrespected, full of unfulfilled ambitions, angry at real or perceived injustices, and who are blaming other people or institutions for their woes. ISIS supports their grievances and reinforces their belief that the cause of their frustration is outside themselves. By drawing the potential recruits into a fantasy world on the Internet. The ISIS channels blame  “anti-Islamic forces” intent on dominating the world and keeping Muslims down. The only way to alter their dismal situation, ISIS tells these people, is to join the battle to transform the world.

To young people struggling with the complexities of the personal decisions they face, ISIS’ simplistic solution is a good-versus-evil narrative that can make a life of danger and sacrifice seem worthwhile and even attractive. ISIS offers the chance to join a movement with a clearly defined purpose and hope, something that will put meaning into otherwise meaningless lives, absorbing them into a struggle for mighty goals that will invariably lead them to disconnect from their families, friends, jobs, and their  communities.

The ISIS message is particularly attractive to a large population of young Muslim (mostly) men in Europe who find it systematically hard to find work, impossible to be accepted, or to avoid the constant attention of police. They hear regularly that they should probably be kicked out of their host countries, even if they were born there. Originally invited in as a source of cheap labor, Europe’s Muslim populations have birthed a dangerous generation of angry, disillusioned and disenfranchised youth whose allegiances do not rest in their home nations but are up for grabs to whoever sings the best siren song. Yesterday that was al-Queda; today it is ISIS, reaching out to disaffected Muslim youth in the countries it considers to be enemies.

ISIS skillfully uses its powerful religious ideology to convince recruits to accept a life that in all probability will include considerable privation and sacrifice. The ultimate truth, says ISIS, lies not in the present, with all his frustrations, but in another realm not of this earth, yet to be attained.   In other words, if they die in battles, they will be met in heaven by thirty-two virgins. Those virgins must be very busy pleasing the dead ISIS fighters since  so many of those fighters are  being killed.

Some observers caution that the religious attractiveness of ISIS shouldn’t be exaggerated. Recent prisoner interviews, for example, suggest that many recruits are woefully ignorant about Islam and have difficulty answering even the most basic questions about it. The recruits may be committed to Islam but for many, it’s to their own idea of Islam rather than one based on the theological interpretations offered by ISIS. They may be coming to join ISIS, but it is for their own complex web of motivations and not necessarily just for the chance to fight for ISIS’ apocalyptic dream.

Whatever the degree of piety among its recruits, ISIS clearly uses religion to reinforce a sense of groupishness—an “us against them” mentality that ratchets up the sense of conflict it wants its members to feel hatred toward anyone outside the group. The world in ISIS’ view is divided between those who are unimpeachably good and those who are irredeemably bad. Anyone who accepts this strict dualistic view can easily be led to destroy those outside their “good” group, and to justify acts which are mercilessly and unfathomably cruel.

Young people, mostly men, have since the beginning of time been attracted to danger and risk. There’s no doubt that this impulse throbs in the chests of many recruits to ISIS. What adventure could be bigger than fighting in a climactic struggle for the fate of the world?

ISIS is smart enough to know that setting its hooks into a new recruit is not enough, and that that the group’s internal cohesion and effectiveness depends upon continuing indoctrination. This is especially true for recruits whose allegiance and religious piety may still be regarded as fragile or at least unproven. The recruit’s goal is to embed the feeling that, by the possession of a potent doctrine and a charismatic leader, they have access to irresistible power. As noted 65 years ago by Eric Hoffer in The True Believer, the successfully indoctrinated member of any mass movement must have both an extravagant conception of its prospects of success and be woefully ignorant of the difficulties involved. A core part of this indoctrination is a steady diminution of the self. In ISIS, everything that is unique in the mind of the recruit is criticized, forbidden, or diminished.

ISIS seems to know, however, that a focus just on the hard core elements of its indoctrination is not enough to create and support the viable long-term culture needed by the theocratic empire it seeks to build. So ISIS has gone to great lengths to demonstrate to its members and recruits that the world of radical Islam is not just death and destruction but a 24/7 total support structure. ISIS installs a comprehensive social service network in the areas it controls. It pays good wages. The social atmosphere in ISIS areas (at least for those who play by the rules) is egalitarian, affectionate, and even playful. The prospective recruits swallow these  offers from ISIS like candy. According to an article by Thomas Hegghammer in the 12/18 NYT, ISIS strives to offer its adherents a rich cultural universe in which they can immerse themselves, including music, poetry, and even dream interpretation. While much of this has parallels in mainstream Muslim culture, ISIS militants have put a radical ideological spin on it, composing their own ideological songs (more precisely, a cappella hymns since musical instruments are forbidden) about their favored themes. Jihadis can’t seem to get enough of these songs, listening to them in their dorms and in their cars, singing them in training camps and in the trenches, and discussing them on Twitter and Facebook.

As the West comes to terms with a new and growing threat—horrifically evident in the recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino—we are not only confronting organizations and doctrines, but also a highly seductive subculture. Yes, some people join ISIS because they want to escape personal problems, avenge Western foreign policy, or obey a radical doctrine. But some recruits may join because they find a cultural community and a new life that is emotionally rewarding. That’s why ISIS seeks to provide a full menu of physical, social, psychological, and religious benefits to its members.

The fact that ISIS offers recruits such a complete system so well attuned to their needs and problems. This makes it much harder to destroy. Efforts to combat ISIS today are focused on defeating it militarily. We and our allies need also to find a way to counter its religious attraction, destroy its community and negate the power of its songs.

While the U.S. can only confirm a relatively small number of Americans have linked up with terror groups in Syria, officials suspect the actual number may be higher. The estimate could easily be a few dozen if you combine Americans who have joined both al Qaeda and ISIS, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Approximately 60 Canadians returned home after fighting or attempting to fight with the so-called Islamic State. Those that didn’t return home were probably killed in battles.

What should be done with these potential terrorists?

Jack Letts, given the nickname by the British tabloids, is an Englishman—he also has Canadian citizenship—who converted to Islam and travelled to Syria at age 18 to fight for his religion. He believed ISIS was a just cause.

His venture ended badly, but unlike other followers of that hideous army, Letts is alive and well. He sits in a Kurdish prison, as annoying to his fed-up captors as he is to the British and Canadian governments and, especially, his despairing parents.He has laid waste to the lives of his mother, Sally Lane, his father, John Letts, and his younger brother Tyler. He can’t seem to help himself.

He expected British authorities to rescue him, despite his having emailed his parents that he wanted to fight against the British Army, as well as decapitating or shooting an old friend who had just joined it. “I hope he finds himself lost in Baji or Fallujah one day and sees me whilst I’m armed and I’ll put six bullets in his head.” Obviously he is speaking as a terrorist.

Hauling Letts home to Oxford would have been massively unpopular. So the U.K. revoked his citizenship, which is legal as long as it doesn’t render the person stateless. He is technically a Canadian citizen, courtesy of his Canadian-born father so long Canada doesn’t yank his citizenship.

Canada is a rule-of-law country. Letts has the right to return, but only if he is able to talk to Canadian officials (who have no access to him or other prisoners), get a passport, get out of jail, reach an airport, buy a plane ticket and be allowed on the plane. It seems unlikely.

Letts is one of nature’s fools. “I still can’t quite believe he’s been so utterly stupid,” his mother told a friend. He suffers from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. At one point, he was fixated on sport and slept with his football. Then Islam became his new football. 

Will the Canadian authorities disregard the public’s revulsion for a a young man who grew up safe and loved in Oxfordshire and yet chose the jihadi path, leaving home to fight for the Islamic State in Syria as a foolishly fanatical Muslim convert.

For the most part, parents shouldn’t abandon their children, even if they’ve behaved very ad. It appears Letts parents haven’t’ abandoned him. To my knowledge, he hasn’t killed anybody. Though, as professed on multiple violent Facebook postings, he might happily kill each and every one” of the members of a British military regiment in which a former schoolmate was a member.

At the time of this article being written,  Lletts is stuck in a prison in Syria. Held, along with thousands of ISIS (or Daesh, as also called) fighters captured by the Kurdish militia when the Islamic State “caliphate” was finally routed by a U.S.-backed coalition.      

The Canadian government has done little if anything, with more than 30 other Canadians, including wives and children of ISIS combatants, also being held in squalid camps.  

The federal government put out a statement emphasizing that Canada has no legal obligation to facilitate the return of detainees. Adding: “We will not expose out consular officials to undue risk in this dangerous part of the world.” 

Further, do we really want former ISIS followers returning to Canada?

If he was an American, he wouldn’t be able to return to the United States at all.

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