ISIS Recruits Through Friends and Relatives: Terrorism Expert

At a meeting organised by the UNSC, anthropologist Scott Atran said the ISIS recruits through friends and relatives.

3 min read
The ISIS flag. (Photo: The News Minute)

A terrorism expert says three-quarters of those who become foreign fighters for the Islamic State extremist group are recruited through friends, and about 20 percent through family members.

Scott Atran, co-founder of the Center for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict at Oxford University, says research has found that “radicalisation rarely occurs in mosques” and very rarely through anonymous recruiters and strangers.

Elton Simpson was involved in the Garland shootings in Texas. (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/<a href="">@aunewse</a>)
Elton Simpson was involved in the Garland shootings in Texas. (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@aunewse)

There have been reported cases of converts to Islam who got themselves very actively involved with ISIS.

Elton Simpson was involved in the shooting along with Nadir Soofi (who shared the flat with Simpson) at Garland in Texas where controversial cartoons of Mohammed was displayed at an event. Simpson had pledged his support to ISIS on Twitter about 20 minutes before the shooting. According to his attorney, Simpson was a normal guy who converted to Islam when he moved to Phoenix. Finding Islam seemed the right thing when he was going through a rough patch.

In a Washington Journal Post report, according to Jamal Ahjjaj, an imam at As-Soennah Mosque in The Hague, converts are the most vulnerable people who succumb to an absolutist ideology like that of ISIS.

Converts are the most vulnerable because they do not yet fully understand Islam, when we have religious classes for converts, sometimes there are people – the wrong people – waiting outside the mosque to greet them.
Jamal Ahjjaj, Imam, As-Soennah Mosque, The Hague
German rapper Denis Cuspert had joined the ISIS shortly after converting to Islam. (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/<a href="">@quantaraDE</a>)
German rapper Denis Cuspert had joined the ISIS shortly after converting to Islam. (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@quantaraDE)

Another case that got popular was that of a German hip-hop artist knowns as Deso Dogg or Denis Cuspert who had also converted to Islam in 2010 and released a video where he proclaimed to follow Die Wahre Religion (The True Religion). He is said to be the mastermind of a combat unit of German-speaking Islamic State members that campaigns to recruit foreign or German jihadis.

As the Washington Journal Post reports, most of the converts come from a troublesome background and are often looking for answers. For a certain section of converts, the radical ideology of ISIS represented a set of rules and a structure that would aid them in finding ways to some stability. A 30-year-old convert who wished to remain unnamed said that he came to learn about Islam when he started socialising with devout muslim friends from his neighbourhood, right after his parents separated. Soon after, he was studying the Koran and was left mesmerised by the stories of “martyrs” (jihads) and their path to paradise.

In the meeting organised by the UNSC on Tuesday, Scott Atran said that some Islamic State recruits come from Christian families “and they happen to be the fiercest of all the fighters we find” – seen in the case of French national Maxime Hauchard who was identified in a video slaying American and Syrian captives.

Atran also cautioned the UN Security Council’s counter-terrorism committee that “it is the call to glory and adventure that moves these young people to join the Islamic State” and that “jihad offers them a way to become heroes.”

(With inputs from AP)

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