World 101: ISIS and Western Recruitment

Courtesy of Saeed A Khan

ISIS has launched English language radio broadcasts and claims to have a $2 billion budget to produce recruitment videos, some of which are aimed at the west. Saeed Khan talks to Stephen about ISIS and its recruitment tactics.

ISIS is a very sophisticated organization and corporate in structure says Khan. He says it is their understanding of social media and the cultural history of the west that sets them apart from al-Qaeda. According to Khan, ISIS capitalizes on this understanding to create a sense of belonging in angst-filled and disaffected people thousands of miles away. These recruits are not sophisticated religious extremists he says, they are people who feel they are misfits and are looking for a way to rebel.

By and large these are thrill-kill hipsters. They’re people who are most interested in providing selfies of themselves on Instagram as being rebellious and being hip and cool,” says Khan. “And many of them, according to security forces, who are apprehended as their flying through Istanbul in Turkey getting to Syria and Iraq, they’re caught not with copies of the Quaran but with copies of Islam-for-Dummies.”

Khan says security forces should think of ISIS as a unique ideological organization. Instead he says they should recognize ISIS as something they have seen before, a highly structured gang. 

The people who are recruiting in ISIS, the people who are really in the leadership of ISIS, these are people with MBAs not necessarily with degrees from divinity schools and seminaries,” says Khan.

Khan says to understand the objectives of ISIS it is important to understand where the members of ISIS come from. He says there are three main demographics that make up ISIS; 80% are Iraqis and Syrians disenfranchised by the Assad regime or the aftermath of the USA’s action in Iraq, 10% are “true believers” who are seeking a Muslim utopia, and the remaining 10% are in it for the thrill. 
  

Image credit: Courtesy of Saeed A Khan

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