Photo: AFP
ISIS fighter in Iraq. Identity crisis turning people into animals?
Photo: AFP
Ben-Dror Yemini

From London to ISIS: The radicalization riddle

Op-ed: What makes a young Western man commit mass murder against other Muslims shortly after arriving in Syria or Iraq?

They are amiable young people. Occasionally, an argument breaks out between Barcelona and Messi fans and Madrid and Ronaldo fans. Occasionally, they update their Twitter account with amazing landscape pictures. Sometimes it’s a cute kitten, alongside weapons.



One of them was supposed to start computer studies at university, the other is about to complete his medicine studies, others are unemployed. They are all young men who have joined the jihad in Syria and Iraq.


The exact numbers are unknown. In 2013, the European Union counter-terrorism coordinator estimated their number at 500. According to a study by Richard Brent, in June 2014 we are talking about some 3,000 young men from Western countries – 2,500 from Western Europe, at least 700 of them from France, 400 from Britain and another 70 from the United States. An increase of hundreds of percentage points a year.


As part of its PR campaign, the ISIS organization releases videos presenting its adventures. Whoever hasn't seen it will find it difficult to understand the horror. A terrifying passion for murder.


For example, a fatal patrol of ISIS men passes on a road filled with cars and exterminates all the passengers with a submachine gun. Why? They include Sunni women wearing a burqa with their children. But the jihadists aim at them too.


A volunteer from Belgium gladly gave an interview while driving a vehicle dragging dozens of bodies of people who had been slaughtered minutes earlier. A volunteer from Germany, Philip Bergner, a Muslim convert, posted a picture of himself smiling alongside severed heads. According to reports from Syria, the British are the cruelest of them all.


It doesn't just happen in Syria and Iraq. Volunteers have arrived in Afghanistan in the past, and volunteers arrive in Somalia from the West. They don't kill Zionists or Americans. They kill Muslims. Most of the victims of the Boko Haram organization in Nigeria are Muslims too.


Several days ago, ISIS posted a video aimed at recruiting Western volunteers. One of its stars is a young British man named Ali Kalantar. His father, Rahim Kalantar, told the BBC that his son was radicalized by an imam at his local mosque in Coventry.


In as early as 2007, a study revealed that 600 of 1,350 mosques in Britain are run under the Deobandi school of thought, spreading hatred towards the West and anti-Semitic propaganda. The British intelligence leaked at the time that the Tablighi Jamaat movement, which is in charge of building a mega-mosque in London, is recruiting members to al-Qaeda.


Yet even Islamic preaching in mosques does not solve the big riddle: What turns a person who arrived in Syria and Iraq from Paris or London into an animal? Why, after just several weeks, or even days, in the capacity of a fighter, does he carry out a mass murder against other Muslims?


A study revealed that these people tend to join the most murderous groups. They left groups affiliated with al-Qaeda, like Jabhat al-Nusra, in favor of ISIS. The battle is not against a tyrant regime, not against heretics, and not even against Shiites – but between Sunnis and Sunnis.


We must remember one more thing: Most young Muslims in Europe have not joined the jihad, but those who have reflect radicalization processes which millions of young people are going through. The volunteers even come from places like Sweden and Denmark, and experts say one of the main reasons is an identity crisis. It's true.


Is that the explanation for why they become serial killers at an incomprehensible speed? There are millions of other young people and immigrants and foreigners in the world suffering from an identity crisis, but that doesn't turn them into animals.


Our progressive circles have the habit of blaming Israel's firm hand for young people's radicalization. That's an interesting argument, because the volunteers from Europe have not undergone any occupation experience. They have not been humiliated in any checkpoint. They have not developed hostility because of a night curfew. Many of them have been a symbol of integration and success.


These are Muslims who kill Muslims. These are the facts.


פרסום ראשון: 07.05.14, 12:43
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