The Lure of ISIS

By Rachel Ehrenfeld
Thursday, May 7th, 2015 @ 3:46AM

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Left: ISIS Sign-Language Video for Deaf and Mute recruits in Europe 

The Islamic State’s attraction to young Muslim females and males continues to mystify Westerners, especially non-Muslims. They wonder,  ”Why would educated and mostly well-off young Westerners be willing to join ISIS?” This follows by search for the ubiquitous “root-causes.” Thus lack of assimilation, alienation, religious piety, mental illness, boredom, and, of course, poverty and unemployment are mentioned. These, however, fail to explain why a young person would leave a family, the relative comfort and safety he or she enjoys in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Denmark or the United States, not to mention other places in favor of the repressive, violent ISIS.

What makes ISIS so attractive that thousands have travelled to die for it in the Middle East, and thousands others follow its dictates wherever they are or sent to?   It’s jihad, stupid!

Evidently, ISIS has in its ranks marketers who figured out how best to recruit young Muslims to fight for the radical jihad against the infidels. ISIS propagandists are sowing the jihad message in the fertile ground of already radicalized Muslims in the West—ground that was fertilized over the past five decades by Islamist indoctrination supplied by preachers in Mosques and Islamic centers, funded with billions of dollars from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, and encouraged by the success of celebrated jihadist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah and al Qaeda. As we witness with growing alarm, the jihad seeds are now producing deadly human weapons eager to kill and die on behalf of Allah.

ISIS employs the familiar and often admired brand of “jihad” and markets it successfully, especially to young Muslims, through social media in a language familiar to every young person today. It spares no funding for its media campaign, using the most sophisticated technologies to attract an audience and evade efforts to curtail their online activities.

ISIS recruitment succeeds because its videos and messages offer young Muslims incredibly exciting and fulfilling sacrifice for “the cause,” i.e. jihad. Instead of scoring high by eliminating targets on their PlayStations and XBoxes, they can use real weapons to eliminate the enemies of Allah. All their material needs are taken care of by their new family of martyrs; a salary and a husband or a wife are promised while serving in Allah’s cause. Moreover, a reward is guaranteed in the afterlife, if they kill and die for Allah.

ISIS provides potential recruits with heavy doses of alluring propaganda and disinformation, using websites and other social media and expensive sophisticated print publications.  Once recruited, ISIS controls all information inputs to its fighters, does away with those who disagree with the leadership, and puts to death those who leave or are known to wish to do so. Since most foreign recruits come from open societies they are fooled into believing they can run away. But once they fall into ISIS trap, they are further indoctrinated to believe there is no place to hide.

How does the West counter this psychological warfare? Judging by ISIS’s growing influence in the U.S. and elsewhere, it does not.

The U.S. State Department Twitter account/site (Think Again, Turn Away) is devoted to talking young Muslims out of jihadist causes. Rather than speaking to them as Muslims, it mainly spouts the U.S. position that jihadis are not Muslims. Instead, they are portrayed as “violent extremists” who have perverted religion. Very little is said that challenges the political disinformation and lies that ISIS spreads on the Internet and print publications.

Think Again, Turn Away was attacked in September of 2014 in the New York Daily News and Time Magazine, among other places, for engaging ISIS tweeters rather than refuting what they had to say.  Its critics call it “an embarrassment” that emboldens Islamists.

Think Again, Turn Away seems as the only tool the U.S. publicly use in its psychological warfare against ISIS recruiting. Classical definitions of psychological warfare would classify the program as carrying out “white PSYOPS.”  The white variety includes the Voice of America and public diplomacy. What ISIS is perpetrating against us and potential recruits is referred to as “gray” or “black” PSYOPS.  These terms cover propaganda and disinformation.

Given the current state of affairs, it is clear the U.S. and the rest are failing at stemming ISIS recruiting. And they will continue to fail as long as they refuse to identify ISIS and other jihadists’ ideology that calls to kill and die for Allah.  The knowledge based understanding of the enemy that made PSYOPS successful against communism during the Cold War wouldn’t work now because the West  prefers to remain ignorant of the ideology behind Political Islam and  its willingness  to “understand” and even excuse  Islamic violence.

Success against ISIS and all other jihadis recruitment will be possible only when the U.S. president  and his administration will acknowledge and condemn the ideology behind the global movement of “Political Islam” (an oxymoron) that keeps feeding disinformation to non-Muslims while nurturing radicalism among young Muslims everywhere.

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Categories: Al Qaeda, Anti-Terrorism, Cold War, Communism, Cyber, Hezbollah, Internet recruitment, ISIS, ISIS/IS, Islamist, Latest News, Propaganda, Social media, U.S., U.S. Foreign Policy, U.S. Policy