Media outlets and government circles cringe when trying to understand why Westerners leave the West to go fight in Syria and Iraq with the Islamic State. While calculating accurate numbers wildly diverges from source to source, there is no doubt that the fact that ANYONE at all wants to leave and join ISIL/DAESH makes the U.S. and EU both uncomfortable and perplexed.
In short, how does one leave the land of the free, tolerant, open and just in order to go fight for a group that represents horror and atrocity? Unfortunately for all those shocked by the images of beheadings and immolation, understanding this process (and more importantly the failure of intelligence and diplomatic communities in the West to prevent it) requires one to accept something most EU and American passport holders cannot: that the dream of Western civilization for too many in the modern day seems more myth than reality.
The true reality in the West is if you are not able to hook into upward mobility and access privileged success, then a dull and depressing life awaits you: studies, for example, show a disturbing percentage of Americans are born, live, and die within an incredibly small 50-mile radius. They also show that the classic parental definition of the American Dream – that your children will be better off and have more than you – has become murky and ill-defined with the Millenial generation. When you travel into most cosmopolitan urban centers in America, you will find not a smoothly fitted mosaic of multiple cultures and cross-cutting identity cleavages that make people realize that there are always important similarities linking people together. Instead you find Balkanized enclaves where ‘people stick to their own’ and the ‘well-to-do’ are quickly made aware of the places not to go and where not to congregate. Almost exclusively those areas are ‘ethnic’ bastions and de facto segregated sections of the city. To be completely honest, this ethnic balkanization, semi-voluntary/semi-forced, is arguably even more pronounced in major European hubs like London, Paris, and Berlin. The idea of Western Civilization is an amazing testimony to what any country should be and strive for: namely, that anyone can succeed based on talent, ambition, merit, and effort; that despite obstacles and adversity there will always be opportunity; that all people can live, love, and dream without interference or harassment. This idea, however, too often remains distant and unreachable to many, making the dream seem deeply taunting and an inducement to self-loathing.
Against this backdrop, it is inexcusable that American and European actors find themselves at a loss to understand the appeal of that small percentage willing to abandon the West and go fight for a cause that they believe to be barbarous, for a group and a cause that seems most ignoble. To see the problem in this light is not so much a failure to understand the enemy as it is a failure to see how Western civilization has created for some a modern living reality that is dominated by less-appealing shades of grey: flawed, unfulfilled, denied, isolated, violent, and poor. Perhaps worst of all, it is a reality of irrelevance. The people going off to fight with the Islamic State are able to ‘leave the West’ because they clearly don’t feel as if they are leaving anything at all, except a myth not available to them or a taunt to make them feel demeaned. Turning hatred of self into hatred of other with this group is what the Islamic State is so good at.
The U.S. State Department clearly does not do a great job recognizing this reality of the denied underground. The EU does no better. What you come across instead when discussing this issue are confused looks and exasperated gasps at the inexplicable stupidity of people leaving to go fight with the Islamic State. That incredulity, however, is based on a vision of the West that the underground does not see and, more importantly, does not believe it will ever be given access to. In short, one can live ‘in the West’ and never feel a true part ‘of the West.’ This is not semantics. Nor is it a matter of dismissively sneering at people who are supposedly too lazy or too unwilling to assimilate the values of Western civilization. Rather, it is a complex interwoven sociological failure that fuses together politics, economics, geography, religion, and psychology. While that failure makes too many feel isolated from the dream of the West, it does not stop people from still wanting to believe in some form of greatness and destiny: people will always love to dream. And if the brand-name dream of the West seems shut off to them, it doesn’t mean another dream cannot replace it. Indeed, any greatness, any higher calling that gives purpose and a sense of larger destiny to life, can gradually become incredibly seductive. If the American Dream classically defined is deemed inaccessible, then we in the West must be ready to believe more radical and seemingly inexplicable visions will be able to take its place. The vision of the Islamic State, which Western media portrays in finely-tuned snippets heavily laden with atrocities and bloodshed, is in fact a slickly produced inundation of media-friendly images focused on religious epiphany, glorious sacrifice, and noble causes to battle. It is a clarion call heard through the ages, across all continents and within all countries, which has always been able to find willing ears and malleable minds. Only now this call is being powerfully pushed with the advantages of 21st century virtual technology, making its reach and scope far beyond anything the West could ever think plausible or find believable. In today’s world, style trumps substance for most. And as anathema as it may seem to the West, that axiom applies even to groups like the Islamic State.
One of the fundamental principles in intelligence is to gain insight into adversaries by truly understanding their worldviews, self-assessments, cultures, and perceptions. How ironic then that this issue so close to home is not just about people rejecting the West and leaving but the intrinsic fear that these ‘foreign fighters’ might one day succeed in returning back to the West more radicalized, intent on committing mayhem on domestic shores instead of foreign. We do not understand this underground because we will not remove the blinders of the myth of Western Civilization. We are not just ignorant to the world that creates a group like the Islamic State: we are fairly ignorant of the very world right outside our door that might be taken by it. Consequently, the key to understanding this ‘perverse attraction’ to ISIL/DAESH might be first accepting the self-loathing resentment some have had symbolically burned into them, day after day after day, about the West. Keep in mind none of this is an entreaty to sympathize with those who leave Western shores to take up arms with the Islamic State. ISIL/DAESH is indeed a manipulative, corrupt, criminal, and mind-blowingly sadistic organization. Effective recruiting videos and social media campaigns notwithstanding, it is promising a life and society that is even more mythical than the American Dream. No, this is not an explanation justifying the decision to fight with them. It is rather the first step to expose why those of in the West charged with stopping this disturbing trend have proven, so far, to be utterly inept in unraveling its motivational calculus. We have made it more complex than it needs to be: it is not about espousing the sly seduction of the beast from without. It is about exposing the soul-sucking devastation of the beast from within.
Religious radicalism as a trend
IN RECENT YEARS, much has been said about radicalism and its varied offshoots. True, the number of terrorist acts climbs up, the popularity of extreme right political forces grows, and the wave of left radical and anti-globalist movements, migration crises and international tension is rising. This is how everyday realities look in many countries of the world.
France is one of the European countries in which radical trends are only too obvious. At the 2017 presidential election, Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, two radical politicians who represented anti-establishment political movements, reaped 41% and 51% respectively of the votes cast by young voters aged between 18 and 24. On the whole, the Fifth Republic is getting accustomed to violence against the law and order structures, destruction of material assets during rallies, protest acts that keep lyceums and universities blocked for a long time, and rejection of republican values that looked unshakable not long ago. Today, when fifty years separate us from the May 1968 events, we can talk about “banalization of protests” not only among the groups on the margins of society but also among its law-abiding part.
Late in 2015, after a series of terrorist acts in France a group of scientists, mostly sociologists of the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) launched a large-scale research project to identify the factors responsible for the spread of radical ideas among the younger generation. In April 2018, the results were published in a monograph The Temptation of Radicalism one of the hits on the French book market.
The project is a unique one: for the first time, academic science turned its attention to the younger generation rather than to terrorist acts and those who commit them; it has become interested in the process of radicalization and the factors that plant the ideas of radicalism in the minds of high school students.
A vast, and most interesting, part of the book that deals with religious radicalism, one of the main objects of attention of the public and the media, offers two important conclusions that devalue the old and generally accepted opinions.
Sociologists have detected two component parts or two stages in religious radicalism: the “ideological” as devotion to the fundamentalist religious trends and “practical,” the adepts of which are more than just religious fanatics – they justify violence for religious reasons.
The authors of the book under review who obviously prefer the term “religious absolutism” to “religious fundamentalism” have repeatedly pointed out that it is present in all world religions; the poll, however, revealed that religious absolutism was more typical of Muslim high school students.
Religion, or to be more exact, extreme Islamist trends combined with the male gender is the main factor of religious radicalization of the French youth.
This sociological study has demonstrated that the French national and confessional politics that for many years relied on the thesis that radicalization among the younger generation was caused by social and economic factors should be revised. This book made a great contribution to the broad and far from simple discussion of the place and role of Islam in French society, into which not only extreme right political movement are involved. In his speech of May 22, 2018, President of France “poured cold water” on the plan to shake up the banlieues devised by Jean-Louis Borloo. The president pointed out that more money poured into sensitive zones would not solve the main problem of radicalization.
first published in our partner International Affairs
Ahwaz bloody attack
Several armed gunmen martyred and wounded several of their compatriots during an armed attack during an armed parade in Ahwaz on Saturday, September 31, at the same time as a parade of armed forces throughout the country.
Yesterday, at the same time as the national parade on September 31st, four armed elements arrested the demonstrators at the parade of armed forces in the city of Ahwaz, where 25 civilians were martyred and 60 others were wounded in this terrorist act.
Many officials and statesmen from different countries, including Russia, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey and Syria, conveyed sympathy to the Iranian people in condemning this move, but on the other hand, some of the countries and their affiliated media, including Saudi Arabia’s al-Arabiya, while dodging terrorists, read the incident and reduced its level to an armed attack, tacitly supporting the terrorist elements of the attack.
While in the early hours of the Ya’qub al-HarTestari spokesman for the terrorist group, “Al-Ahwazia”, in charge of the terrorist attack, he was in charge of this terrorist act, but with the passing of hours, the so-called “depths” media group, affiliated with the Takfiri terrorist group In a message posted on its channel, ISIS claimed responsibility for the Ahwaz terrorist attack.
In the back of the scene, some countries, including the United States and Saudi Arabia, are potentially willing to do so. John Bolton, the American senator and Turkish al-Faisal, have been present at most of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards and other opposition groups in the Islamic Republic and have asked them to carry out armed and terrorist acts against Iran. This shows that they are the first number accused, and these returns to their previous will.
Regarding exactly which of the two terrorist groups are responsible for this, it is time to wait for time to identify the hidden dimensions of the incident and also to carry out investigations by security officials, but what is now more rational seems to be to carry out the attack by ISIL terrorists. . The al-Ahwazia terrorist group, an isolated group that claims to support the Arab people, cannot operate at all, while, contrary to it, ISIL elements have such a potential capability.
On the other hand, given the threats of the past few months, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohamed bin Salman, to throw chaos into Iran, although this ridiculous threat is empty and virtually out of Riyadh’s power, the al-Ahwazi terrorist group can be one of Saudi tools for To reach the goals of the saboteurs, but the point is that, firstly, in the province of Khuzestan from the past, different ethnic groups have lived together in peace and there is no social base for the destructive activities of the Al-hawazee group in this region.
The second point is that Khuzestan is a completely Shi’ite Provincial with a religious people and is fully loyal to the Islamic Republic. The injured war in the imposed war was one of the first three provinces that provided many martyrs for the revolution and preservation of the Islamic homeland. Therefore, as stated, there are no social grounds for the activities of al-Ahwazia terrorists in the area, and the action seems to have been taken by ISIL’s terrorist elements that have been trained abroad for specific purposes to Iran.
Another issue to be addressed is that the terrorist attack took place on September 31st, coinciding with the start of the imposed war on Saddam Hussein against our country, which the nationwide arsenal of our nationwide parade on this day turned into a scene of the country’s broader military power. Becomes, whether this is done on this day means that they wanted to undermine the Iranian power by questioning.
This means that increasing Iran’s military and missile capabilities is precisely the goal that the global arrogance, at the head of the United States, is upset and is in the process of its annihilation. Over the past few years, the United States has repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the increasing military and missile capabilities of our country, for various reasons, while the terrorist attack has been taking place in the direction of global arrogance, and for this reason After the attack, our countrymen rightly pointed out the tip of the finger and the finger to the United States and the Zionist regime and their regional implications.
The officials in our country, who have been witnesses to the events of the past, are aware that the enemies who launched economic warfare against us are bound to pursue and not be ignorant of the political and security war against our country. Finally, the Islamic Republic, which has so far not been silent on any moves that threatened its people’s security, will certainly not silence this action and will punish the agents and supporters behind it.
ISIL continues to pose a ‘serious challenge’ worldwide
Despite serious military setbacks, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) may still have around 20,000 fighters and is continuing its dangerous transformation into a covert global network, while focusing on the activities of its regional offshoots, the United Nations Security Council was told.
The report also detailed how UN Member States and the UN system are continuing to strengthen, refine and promote the effective use of tools and measures to address the evolving transnational threat posed by the terrorist group and its affiliates
Briefing the Council, Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, said that despite being militarily defeated in Iraq and in headlong retreat in Syria, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, otherwise known as ISIL, remains a serious and significant concern.
Mr. Voronkov was joined by Michèle Coninsx, Executive Director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED). The two senior officials broke the report down into three main areas, assuring the Council members that: “The global fight against ISIL and its affiliates continues.”
Firstly, Mr. Voronkov said that despite a major loss of territory, there are still around 20,000 ISIL members in both Iraq and Syria, and a core of fighters is expected to survive, thanks to ongoing conflict and instability. A significant number of ISIL-affiliated militants also exist in Afghanistan, South-East Asia, West Africa and Libya, and to a lesser extent in Sinai, Yemen, Somalia and the Sahel.
ISIL continues to exert a presence and influence across a wide spectrum of countries and regions: Indonesia was hit by a series of deadly suicide bombings in May, whilst in Europe, there is concern over commercially encrypted messages and radicalization in prisons.
The terror group is even attempting to expand its presence in Afghanistan: Mr. Voronkov revealed that during his mission to Kabul, the Afghan capital, on August 14 and 15, President Ashraf Ghani proposed a high-level conference in Kabul next year, with the support of partners, to develop a regional counter-terrorism strategy with a focus on Afghanistan.
Secondly, whilst the flow of foreign ISIL fighters returning home is slower than feared, the dangers posed by bomb-making expertise gained in conflict zones (such as the preparation of improvised explosive devices and weaponized drones) is a major cause for concern.
Former fighters back in their home countries have the potential to radicalize others, whether in the prison system or wider society, and Member States continue to experience difficulties in assessing the risks they pose, and must develop tailored strategies for their returning and relocation.
And third, the evolution of ISIL (from a proto-State structure into a covert network) has driven the group’s finances underground, making them much harder to detect: it still has the capacity to channel funds across borders, often via intermediate countries, to their final destination.
Referring to the report, Mr. Voronkov noted that Member States and the international community must renew their efforts to counter the evolving, global threat from ISIL.
Within the UN, several entities are working closely together to counter the group, addressing such critical areas as financing of terrorism, international judicial cooperation, prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration.
Ms. Coninsx added that the UN is supporting Member States with the most up-to-date technologies to secure their borders, providing guidance for the effective use of these technologies in full compliance with international human rights law.
“We also continue to forge new and innovative partnerships with the private sector, including in particular in the area of information and communications technologies,” she said, stressing that such engagement is essential, for example, with respect to gathering digital evidence in terrorism cases.
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