According to recent FBI reports, ISIS continues to prey on disillusioned Western youth who express having no sense of purpose or belonging. Similar to criminal gangs, teens who join ISIS feel like they belong, and have a sense of purpose and meaning (delusional, of course). Promoting a sense of identity and adventure is key to understanding recruitment methods and the ideology behind radicalization.
A former CIA officer, Aki Peritz, told Chicago’s WGN network:
“They’re often times searching for an identity, because what the jihadis are actually pushing is a specific narrative, which is: Your people (Muslims) are being oppressed in this place called Syria; your government is doing nothing; we’re the only ones who are actually going to help you out. Why don’t you join the fight?”
A recently released report from George Washington University’s Program on Extremism catalogs how ISIS has mastered social media and the Internet to operate the most sophisticated propaganda machine of any terrorist organization. Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told CNN that ISIS “views itself as the now-leader of a global jihadist movement. It turns out timely, high-quality media, and it uses social media to secure a widespread following.”
Although Muslim leaders worldwide have condemned ISIS (They assert ISIS doesn’t represent Islam and even launched a Twitter campaign against ISIS (#NotInMyName)), ISIS still appeals to a sense of “Islamic religious duty.”
One primary recruitment tactic is to prey on teenage girls using online videos in addition to social media.
Recently, the Muslim father of a teenage daughter spoke out one year after she and two friends left from the Denver International Airport to join ISIS in Turkey. He told ABC News Denver 7 that he had no idea his daughter and two of her friends were in contact with ISIS via social media for more than a year.
He agreed to tell his story to warn other parents about “how aggressively the terrorist organization is working to recruit young people, especially women, to join its cause.” He said he saw no warning signs and that “social media makes it easy for ISIS to get to our kids.”
“ISIS plays on Muslims’ emotions,” he said.
“They play on the [idea] that you are living in a country where people are going to go to hell. Your parents, since they are living there, they are the same like these other people, even if your parents are Muslim. And you need to save yourself. How am I going to save myself? You need to come over here .. live under Islamic rule. We’re going to give you a house, you’re going to get married. You’re going to get to have nice kids, have a nice life … and it’s a noble cause. But all that’s wrong. All that’s wrong. There is no safe place there.”
To ISIS, he says:
“You are bad people. You are snatching kids from their families. You promise these kids false promises.
“You are just like any other criminal. You are kidnappers. You are luring these kids to die or get raped or get killed. You are bad people, criminals, and you are not true Muslims. True Muslims would not do that to other peoples’ kids. A true Muslim would never ever lure a girl from her house to leave her family.”