MOSCOW, September 4 (RIA Novosti) — Terrorist organization ISIS is using social media campaigns to urge young Europeans to travel to Syria and Iraq and become radical Muslims, and it still remains fairly unclear why young people leave their homes to become jihadists.
"The effect of the swelling influx is apparent as the Islamic State (ISIS), a brutal extremist group in Syria and Iraq that has attracted most foreign fighters, stakes a claim to a swathe of territory that is the size of Jordan and embraces a similar population—6 million or so. Boastful combatants post well-scripted videos to attract their foreign peers, promising heaven for those who leave their lives of Western decadence to become ‘martyrs’", the Economist underscores.
Thomas Hegghammer, a research fellow at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, points out that the United Kingdom is "the center of gravity" for extremist Muslim networks operating in Europe. Since the 1990s, London has been a shelter for many Muslim refugees that later expressed extremist ideas.
According to Soufan Group, a US security intelligence service, about 12,000 militants from 81 nations had joined ISIS by the end of May, with about 3,000 of them coming from the West. Alarmingly, the number of European jihadists is likely to have increased in the last months, the Economist notes. ISIS fighters from Britain and France have formed two large groups of European-born Muslim insurgents. Remarkably, ISIS is attracting not only men in Europe, but women as well. According to Peter Neumann, the Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization (ICSR), one quarter of all Westerners joining ISIS are female.
The motives of European insurgents, however, remain unclear: most of them are well-off, sociable representatives of the middle class. Some of them have recently converted to Islam.
"Some are drawn for idealistic reasons – going to fight for a cause, defend people, or for some religious vision," explains Raffaello Pantucci, an analyst at the Royal United Services Institute, in his Op-Ed in the New York Times, "Others go for more prosaic reasons, fleeing trouble at home, or seeking redemption for a criminal past. And yet others are simply young people at a juncture in their lives where the idea of going to run around a training camp and shooting guns seems quite appealing."
"There must be a range of motivations — a sense of adventure, a misplaced sense of duty or idealism — some of those recruited are well-versed in ideology and the politics of their radical cause, others are surprisingly ignorant," says Innes Bowen, a BBC journalist and author of "Inside British Islam," as quoted by Business Insider.
ISIS is recruiting Western youths through social-media campaigns, videos and publications. "This time it is being spread by fighters abroad via social media rather than by preachers based in the UK," Bowen stated.
The governments of Europe countries are deeply concerned about what will happen when these young jihadists return home. While some officials are insisting that the returning extremists should be deprived of their citizenship or imprisoned, experts stress that tough measures are unlikely to solve the problem. Countries should implement de-radicalization programs, admitting that no one can guarantee that former ISIS fighters arriving from Syria and Iraq will not become tomorrow’s murderers in Europe.