Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"A thrilling cause that promises glory and esteem"

From The Guardian, Scott Atran, an anthropologist who has specialized in the study of terrorism, on the strategy and appeal of ISIS:
.... There is a playbook, a manifesto: The Management of Savagery/Chaos, a tract written more than a decade ago under the name Abu Bakr Naji, for the Mesopotamian wing of al-Qaida that would become Isis. Think of the horror of Paris and then consider these, its principal axioms.

Hit soft targets. “Diversify and widen the vexation strikes against the crusader-Zionist enemy in every place in the Islamic world, and even outside of it if possible, so as to disperse the efforts of the alliance of the enemy and thus drain it to the greatest extent possible.”

Strike when potential victims have their guard down. Sow fear in general populations, damage economies. “If a tourist resort that the crusaders patronise…is hit, all of the tourist resorts in all of the states of the world will have to be secured by the work of additional forces, which are double the ordinary amount, and a huge increase in spending.”

Consider reports suggesting a 15-year-old was involved in Friday’s atrocity. “Capture the rebelliousness of youth, their energy and idealism, and their readiness for self-sacrifice, while fools preach ‘moderation’ (wasatiyyah), security and avoidance of risk.” ....

...[W]hat inspires the most uncompromisingly lethal actors in the world today is not so much the Qur’an or religious teachings. It’s a thrilling cause that promises glory and esteem. Jihad is an egalitarian, equal-opportunity employer: fraternal, fast-breaking, glorious, cool – and persuasive.

A July 2014 ICM poll suggested that more than one in four French youth between the ages of 18 and 24 have a favourable or very favourable opinion of Isis, although only 7-8% of France is Muslim. It’s communal. More than three of every four who join Isis from abroad do so with friends and family. Most are young, in transitional stages in life: immigrants, students, between jobs and mates, having just left their native family. They join a “band of brothers (and sisters)” ready to sacrifice for significance.

Eager to recruit, the group may spend hundreds of hours trying to enlist a single individual, to learn how their personal problems and grievances fit into a universal theme of persecution against all Muslims. .... [more]