What is the attraction of Isis?

Nine British nationals headed for Syria arrested”: it seems that a week cannot pass without yet another undercover attempt to cross into the most politically volatile nation on the planet filling the front pages.

Within the past 18 months, countless Britons have attempted the dangerous journey across countries and continents to nations such as Iraq and Afghanistan, but mainly Syria, answering the calls of Islamic terror organisations.

The group famed for the horrifically violent viral videos of the murders of international journalists and aid workers such as James Foley and Alan Henning have embarked on a relentless recruitment drive, persuading Muslims from across the Middle East as well as the Western World to join their organisation.

The war in Syria and the activity of Isis have been issues for several years, however, only seemed to have hit British headlines very recently. Since the start of 2015 alone there have been several stories concerning Isis and their influence upon British nationals, making the news in the UK: three female GCSE students travelled to Syria during February half term, from their home in London in order to become brides for Jihadi fighters. Several girls from the same school were then banned from leaving the country amidst fears that they planned to follow in the footsteps of their departed friends. Nine British nationals, including four children, were apprehended and arrested in Turkey whilst heading for the Syrian border.

Estimates of how many Britons have travelled to the Middle East to fight for jihadist organisations vary greatly. However, figures seems to suggest that around 600 British citizens have left the country to support the jihadist cause, approximately 60 of whom are women.

What exactly is the attraction to this dangerous, murderous and all consuming cult?

It is now widely acknowledged that social media is a massive part of Isis’s recruitment process. A powerful and potentially anonymous form of propaganda, the wide reaching nature of social media has proved invaluable for the jihadis. Outlets such as Al-Zawra, a website and forum specifically targeting women and girls romanticises the idea of martyrdom in the name of Allah. It should be noted that none of this media has called for the women to fight as soldiers, merely for their assistance in marrying and mothering the children of the fighters.

Alongside these websites, there have been several well-publicised videos over the past 18 months, several of which address young Muslim men in a call to arms, others of which invite young Muslim girls to come and marry the “brave warriors” – offers which have seemingly proved too tempting for many young, British Muslims.

Many of these hopeful jihadists have lived in Britain for the majority, if not the entirety of their lives, a relatively peaceful and secular nation, what could have driven them to such an extreme after having lived in such a country?

The peer pressure elicited by the relentless social media campaign, the sense of a community that has been created by these internet forums is perhaps the most telling thing.
Britain is a multicultural nation, it has been for many decades, a five minute walk through any city centre will introduce you to shop fronts and faces from across the globe.

However, looking at the comments section or Twitter hash-tag of any news story involving an individual of an ethnic or cultural minority, the hostility and negativity that people of minorities have to regularly face is clear for all to see.

Marginalisation amongst society’s minorities is a sad truth of our multicultural nation, unwelcoming taunts faced both on the streets and on the internet must lead some into a sense of isolation and being unwanted, a stark contrast to the welcoming and idealistic sense of community Isis create over the internet.

We must bear witness to the idea that, for some people, the idea of a welcoming community may be a welcome change.


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January 2022
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