What Makes Young Men Join Radical Groups?

Suraj Lakhani attempts to explain the reasons some British Muslims radicalize and travel to Syria to fight jihad. It is, he says, a ” process of influence and persuasion that eventually leads to a change in world view and beliefs” and is as much about buying into the perception “that extremism is cool” and affords them “a chance for them to be able to demonstrate their masculinity and define a distinct identity for themselves.”

The desire to be “cool” was also important for two jihadists interviewed by CNN reporters Atika Shubert and Bharati Naik, whose online pages featured photos of them posing with guns.

The reporters found that for one of the young radicals “the immediate goal” was to establish a caliphate in Syria and Iraq and when he was asked if he would now take up arms with ISIS, he said he was considering it.

Equally important to understanding why they radicalize, The Guardian’s Lakhani writes about the efforts made to counter the radicalization, which often take the form of technology or legislation.

While those are important, Lakhani’s own research finds those measures are most effective when the “approach is a human one, mediated by informal social practices. These might include local events, such as sports days, where workers are able to build up long-lasting relationships.”

ISIS, however, has not limited their recruitment to Western adolescents. The Washington Post reports that the terrorist group also is targeting young Kurdish men, which is causing anxiety among the population because the Kurds – like ISIS – oppose the regime of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

According to the paper, approximately 150 Kurds have joined ISIS in recent months.

“The presence of Kurdish fighters in the extremist militant group highlights how effectively ISIS’s recruitment efforts are reaching disenfranchised youths across Iraq’s ethnic divide. Most Kurds are Sunni Muslims, like the insurgents, but have their own language and culture.

“A top local intelligence official in Halabja, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media, said ISIS is already operating “cells” inside the town, appealing to bored and underemployed young people to join their fight,” the Post reports.

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