How to Fight the Growing Trend of Young People Succumbing To the Lure of “Jihad”?
By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
19 September 2014
Why are young people attracted to the war in Syria and Iraq or to other similar causes?
In a different context, Cormac Burke writes in his book on Covenanted Happiness: Love and Commitment in Marriage:
“Young people have always had a great capacity for enthusiasm, for big things, for high ideals, for everything that is genuine - St. Josemaría Escrivá.
….the idealism of youth - what an inexhaustible subject! Psychologists explain it, educators build on it, and demagogues exploit it!
In the past, the young were drawn to Marxism in India, protest against Vietnam war and the revolt of “flower children” in US, sudden student uprising in France.
In order that people never lose the ideals of their youth, it is important that they choose their ideals well.
….that we are all called to the highest possible ideals was constantly accompanied by the reminder that we are all equally capable of the greatest possible crimes, and must therefore be prepared for a life-long struggle. Now, if the struggle hits all of us, it obviously hits harder when it hits first - which is in adolescence. Let us take a closer look at those early teen years when a boy or a girl is no longer a child, but is not yet a man or a woman either, and stands therefore in special need of his or her parents' understanding.
"You can't give up fighting, because our life is nothing but one continuous tug-of-war. The craziest things attract us. It's humiliating, isn't it? St Augustine used to say that his passions were constantly trying to pull him to the ground. But at the same time, along with these crazy ideas, we feel a great urge to do something worthwhile, to serve other people, to live a pure life, to work in things that can help others, to sacrifice ourselves. Isn't that true too? And it is then that the struggle breaks out between our passions seeking to pull us down, and those other wonderful longings that spur us upwards. We have got to fight. There's just no alternative".
An ideal is something great. It is essentially felt to be something greater than one's self. It is something which, by the sheer force of its beauty and nobility, makes a person want to get away from himself, to forget himself, so as to defend, to admire, to love, and to serve that ideal, and strive upward toward it. A person with a true ideal is ready to live for it and, if necessary, to die for it. There are not all that many true ideals: love, family, country, God...
For a life without ideals can only be selfish and vain, and therefore unhappy.”
(Quote for Cormac Burke’s book ends)
What Is Attracting The European Youth To “Jihad”?
“Poverty does not explain the lure of jihad for Western fighters. Many of them are quite middle-class. Nasser Muthana, a 20-year-old Welshman who goes by the name Abu Muthana al-Yemeni in IS videos, had offers to study medicine from four universities. Nor does a failure to integrate into the societies around them. Photographs of Muhammad Hamidur Rahman, another British fighter thought to have recently been killed, show a young man in a snazzy suit with a slick hairstyle. He worked at Primark, a cheap retailer, in Portsmouth, a city on the English coast. His father ran a curry restaurant. Nor does religious piety. Before leaving for Syria, Yusuf Sarwar and Mohammed Ahmed, two young men from Birmingham who pleaded guilty to terrorism offences in July, ordered copies of “Islam for Dummies” and “The Koran for Dummies” from Amazon. Some fighters are religious novices, says Mr Maher.
More plausible explanations are the desire to escape the ennui of home and to find an identity. “Some individuals are drawn out there because there is not a lot going on in their own lives,” says Raffaello Pantucci, an analyst at the Royal United Services Institute, a London think-tank. Images of combatants playing snooker, eating sweets and splashing in swimming pools have sometimes suggested that jihad was not unlike a student holiday, without the booze. For young men working in dead-end jobs in drab towns, the brotherhood, glory and guns seem thrilling. Many of Belgium’s fighters come from the dullest of cities, where radicals have concentrated their efforts to get recruits.
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.
"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.”
Richard Barrett of the Soufan Group, an intelligence organization.“These and others who share their faith commonly express their motivation as a religious obligation to protect fellow Muslims from attack.”
What is the draw? Why leave the relative safety of a Western nation for militancy?
The reasons are legion. The French have called their jihadists “disaffected, aimless and lacking a sense of identity or belonging,” Barrett wrote. “Presumably people are seeking a greater purpose and meaning in their lives.” There’s also the “desire to witness and take part in a battle prophesized 1,400 years ago.”
Their commitment to jihad on social media, experts say, attracts fresh recruits. Like Abu Sumayyah al-Britani, who went on the “ISIS Show,” other Western fighters answer questions on sites such as ask.fm, Tumblr and Kik. They often portray their life as warm and important. They “reassure and address the fear of the unfamiliar,” Barrett said. “For example there are many postings of fighters with pet kittens.”
The trend, which experts contend will deepen despite the mounting casualties, demonstrates the sway ISIS and other radical groups in Syria and Iraq have over some young Muslim Westerners. And now, with ISIS’s recent gains in land and newfound wealth, the attraction may be even more powerful.
“As money and manpower breed success, success will breed more success,” Haverford’s Barak Mendelsohn wrote. “ISIS’s popularity will likely rise among radicals and that will translate into more funding and volunteers for the group.”
The perfect solution is to end all wars and to decide to resolve all disputes through negotiations, dialogue and arbitration.
Clearly it is not religious ideology that is attracting the youth but the idealism of the youth and their desire to fight the gross injustice and suffering inflicted on a people for the last 30 years or more in which more than a million have been killed and many more maimed and hundreds of thousands of children born disabled or seriously affected by nuclear radiation from the depleted uranium bombs fired by the US.
Who or which institution represents a moral force today that the young people can rally around and support? There isn’t even an anti-war movement like there was against the war in Vietnam which provided an outlet for the idealism of the youth.
The US succeeded rather too well in their objectives using strategies that they developed based on their learning from the past. They lost the Vietnam War when Americans refused to join the army. The US ensured that there were more volunteers than required for the Gulf wars and the war in Afghanistan by farming out their manufacturing jobs to China raising the unemployment levels among the blue collared workers. The unemployed were left with no option but to join the army. Now that they have ended their engagement in Iraq and are in the process of ending it in Afghanistan, they are bringing back the manufacturing jobs to the US.
The US media ensured that despite the fact that the US is the biggest villain, it is the Muslims who are made out to be the villains and put-on the defensive:
• It was the US who lured the Russians to invade Afghanistan by getting involved with rebels against the communist government in Afghanistan in 1979
• It was the US that financed, trained and armed a civilian force of “Mujahideen” so that they could give the USSR their Vietnam. They achieved their objective with the defeat of the Russians. The war also destroyed their economy and the USSR just disintegrated.
• After the defeat of the Russians, the US washed its hands off the problem of dealing with about three hundred thousand fanatical religious fighters from 35 countries that they helped create to fight their proxy war with the USSR. Unlike an army, these people are not subject to any command/control structure or discipline. They are armed, militarily trained and indoctrinated to wage “Jihad” or religious war and are engaged in the same ever since. To expect anything else from them is insanity. The proper thing to do was to retrain them for productive purpose and give them employment or absorb them in the army and bring them under its discipline. Hillary Clinton acknowledges this in the video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLhRKj6633w).
• Pakistan which had set up around a thousand madrasas to produce “Jihadists” has not a closed down a single madrasa ensuring a steady supply of young recruits. Apparently they intend using some of them against India. The US and Saudi Arabia continue to finance their government.
• The US invaded Afghanistan ostensibly to apprehend a single criminal Osama Bin Laden and killed a million civilians in the process and called it ‘collateral damage’
• They invaded Iraq based on lies and killed another million civilians there. They destabilized that country, installed a sectarian despot in power and the ISIS is a result of these actions.
Thanks to the highly effective media, in popular public imagination, it is the Muslims and Islam which is responsible for everything. The disproportionately large number of people killed by the US does not even register on people’s mind as that is not accompanied by a daily barrage of graphic pictures and videos from every TV channel. In the imagination of the people, the US is only rendering great humanitarian service at a tremendous cost to an ungrateful people. You do not therefore see a people’s movement the like of which we saw against the war in Vietnam to which the youth driven by idealism can be drawn. The effectiveness of the media in painting the victims as villains has prevented popular outrage against the great injustice of killing more than two million innocent civilians in two countries for the less than three thousand killed in 9/11 WTC collapse. The small numbers of people who are deeply affected by what is going on do not find any ‘non-violent movement’ that they can join to fight the injustice. Having shut off safe avenues for the idealism of the youth to find an outlet, the unintended consequence is that they are taking sides in the war on the side of what they see as the underdog. This infatuation will end with either disillusionment or grow stronger. If what they find is revolting and if their dreams are shattered, they will return disillusioned and can be used to dissuade others from joining similar movements. On the other hand if they find any good in what they see, then such a movement will grow stronger. The West will then be forced to act to end this `fatal attraction’ of their own young by ending all wars which are today possible only through their encouragement, help and machinations.
It is a sad commentary on our generation that we have nothing worthwhile to offer for the idealism of the youth because of which they are taking to a path of violence. Let us end all hypocrisy and call spade a spade and demand that the governments of US, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia be held responsible for the problem of so called ‘Islamic terrorism’ and demand visible action on their part to end it. The action that is required is:
• Close down the 1000 madrasas in Pakistan that have been set up to produce “jihadis”
• Account for every past student of these madrasas and all known Jihadis by either:
o Rehabilitating them
o Imprisoning those that cannot be rehabilitated
o Executing those that are guilty of serious crimes and are beyond redemption.
Only visible serious action will have an effect. Liquidation of all known terrorist organizations will have a salutary effect on all radicalism in general, and people can then go back to leading normal lives as before.
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to NewAgeIslam.com. The author initially used a pseudonym "Observer" for this article.