Saturday, 14 February 2015

Why do people join IS?

Why do people join Islamic State? The question can be answered by posing another question: why did people join the Crusades?

There is obviously something missing in so called modern society. As religions in the Western World are eroded by changing customs and ways of life, there is a thirst for certainty, whatever that certainty might be.

It does not surprise me the fact that converts to Islam seem to be more fanatical that those who have grown up in Islam from birth. They seem to be more desperate to seek something they can strongly identify with, something that provides them a sense of purpose, a life mission and a distinct identity, something to fall on to face the uncertainties of modern life.

Looking at Christian churches we see that less and less people profess the faith. They either don't have the time or the inclination to go the church on a regular basis and most churches not even bother to go out in search of followers. Nuclear families are disappearing and the number of people living on their own is growing and growing.

The usual question is: do you know your neighbours? How often do you have any kind of social interaction with your neighbours? How much of a community is out there? We are much too busy, we are much too worried, or we are simply not interested. Islam capitalizes on our lack of sense of community, on our selfishness and our lack of interests and those who are desperate for the sense of community that we have lost flock towards Islam.

There are two factors involved: 1) Islamic families tend to have more children because they have closer families that can support the younger generations that have children. 2) People from outside Islam are joining Islam because it provides that Christianity used to offer.

Unfortunately, there are strings attached. Unlike Christianity, Islam has stricter codes of conduct that can also lead to abuses and the search for certainty and the need to belong can be used for purposes that are less than altruistic. People who are naturally vulnerable can therefore be indoctrinated and reach a point of no return when reason is replaced by unconditional obedience and fanatical attitudes.

Such unconditional obedience and fanatical attitudes are not the monopoly of Islam. Certain sects and Christian cults share this attributes of unconditional obedience and fanaticism. The common element is the existence of emotionally vulnerable individuals willing to sacrifice their individuality in search of certainties that they desperately need.

In order to belong they are even ready to lose their lives and this is not knew either. The Japanese Kamikaze and the suicide bomber share the commitment to pay the ultimate price. There is a clearly defined enemy, a mission and the will to end the lives to accomplish the said mission. The Kamikaze sacrificed himself driven by love to his country. The suicide bomber sacrifices himself or herself driven by the strength of religious beliefs. The Templar knights went as far as becoming warriors that put aside their carnal instincts in their quest to achieve what was perceived as their sacred mission.

Instead of demonizing our enemies we should strive to understand what motivates them to act, what are the driving forces that lead them to commit what we consider to be atrocities against mankind. Beheading and massacres are not merely atrocities. There is a strong sense of Idealism behind the most cruel acts. There is a message that needs to be decoded.  

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