Countering ISIS Recruitment in Western Nations

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 3, No. 1, January 2015. 

By Katherine Leggiero

Katherine Leggiero is currently getting her Master of Science in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University. She is also a recipient of the Secretary of Defense’s Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Boren Fellowship.

Executive Summary

Personal grievances associated with political, economic, social and religious aspects of Western society in conjunction with naiveté of war, Islam and terrorism may expedite the radicalization process and motivate both Western women and men to participate in ISIS’s cause. ISIS incentivizes the bay’ah and hijra obligation by offering a recruit new identity and a part in the founding of the Caliphate. Participating in ISIS’s jihad and founding of the Caliphate may also provide individuals experiencing relative deprivation with employment, basic needs, or politics and religious practices that aligns with their expectations of how society should operate. Westerners with Somali and Palestinian heritage are frequently socially marginalized and believe the Caliphate can provide them with a new life and group identity governed by religious law. While recent Western converts to Islam find a sense of purpose as ISIS members in being a part of the founding of the Caliphate and will use media (e.g. suicide missions, burning passport, propaganda video, social media recruiter) to prove their allegiance.

In turn, ISIS encourages its Western members to use their smartphones to instruct, guide and recruit other Westerners on their social media accounts (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Kik, Ask.fm, Skype, and blogs). ISIS facilitators recruit at community events (religious seminars and community activities) and schools (e.g. high schools and colleges), but require an ISIS sheikh recommendation and “jihad mentor” for Western recruits to be selected and to prevent US intelligence collection. ISIS keeps its messaging simple (“join the Caliphate”) within its branding and recruitment campaign on its Google Play App, The Dawn of Glad Tidings and its monthly electronic magazine, Dabiq. ISIS’s narrative uses group identity to prevent an individual from employing any other values that could disrupt ISIS’s group coherence and unified action. ISIS makes the sacred value (e.g. governance by Allah) incompatible with other values, which in turn prevents trade-offs and concessions from occurring within their in-group. When the value becomes non-negotiable, the individual relies on emotional processing opposed to complex reasoning processes. ISIS’s narrative uses group identity to prevent individuals from employing any other values that could disrupt ISIS’s group coherence and unified actions.

Justification for Analyzing ISIS

The researcher conducted this analysis to reexamine the United States’ targeted intervention strategies, focusing on understanding how ISIS conducts recruitment and why people join ISIS, with the goal of offering suggestions for improving US interventions to decrease the growth in ISIS membership. An effective intervention targeting potential Western recruits is necessary to mitigate potential terrorist attacks, domestically and abroad. The rate of foreign fighters recruited by ISIS within a three-year period is greater than the number of foreign fighters (20,000) involved in the Afghan war who were recruited over a decade (The Economic Times 2014). ISIS emerged as de facto power broker in Syria, Iraq, and among Islamists globally  (Rasheed 2014). In addition to growing membership, ISIS has organizational discipline, a well-defined religious ideology, international financing, political and state designs, an effective social media recruitment campaign and a belief it can expand its Caliphate. With a capacity to mobilize regionally and potentially globally, ISIS may obtain enough support to expand its territory and generate instability throughout the Middle East (Rasheed 2014). The global concern, in turn, is that regional instability may generate a contagion of global terrorist attacks, especially in the West (Boghardt 2014, Harrison 2014).

Western recruits that return to Europe and the US are indoctrinated, desensitized to violence and capable of independently conducting terrorist activities (Breslow 2014). In many cases, European and US civil law is ineffective in prosecuting Western ISIS members (Al-Shafey 2014, Mezzofiore 2014). Western nations, such as the United States need to reexamine its’ intervention strategies to effectively counter ISIS. By limiting the number of ISIS’s potential recruits it is possible for nations such as the US to limit ISIS’s power and influence (Banco 2014).

Methodology

The researcher focused on Western recruits’ motivations and ISIS’s recruitment processes to enhance the reader’s understanding of operational factors that may potentially impact US interventions. The researcher utilized secondary-source data from June 2014 to October 2014 to collect information regarding ISIS’s recruitment from the United States and Europe. Using secondary, open-source data about ISIS at the organizational-level the researcher conducted an overall assessment of the network. When the data was available the researcher attempted to carry out a reconstructive analysis of Western individuals participating in ISIS’s network. Assumptions, effects, enablers and barriers are discussed within the analysis using Branding Theory, Social Identity Theory, and Push/Pull Theory to provide explanation to time and space events. Maintaining a narrow focus enabled the researcher to provide a critical analysis with relevant recommendations on one aspect of ISIS’s organization.

Limitations

Data presented is from secondary, open-source documents due to inaccessibility of ISIS members. The limiting factors associated with archival research include: preference falsification of primary actors interviewed by reporting agencies, limited or inconsistent data extracted from limited reporting available, and information lost in translation. The scope of the research limited a full discussion of all issues, complexities, and nuances surrounding ISIS. The researcher’s own biases may have influenced the analysis and the selection of examples.

Scope and Scale

The research focused on Western recruits’ motivations and ISIS’s recruitment processes to enhance the reader’s understanding of operational factors that may potentially impact US interventions. The researcher utilized secondary-source data from June 2014 to October 2014 to collect information regarding ISIS’s recruitment from the United States and Europe. Using secondary, open-source data about ISIS at the organizational level, the researcher conducted an overall assessment of the network. When the data was available the researcher attempted to carry out a reconstructive analysis of Western individuals participating in ISIS’s network. Maintaining a narrow focus enabled the researcher to provide a critical analysis with relevant recommendations on one aspect of ISIS’s organization.

Research Context in Larger Discourse

Since 9/11 a wide range of works have been published exploring counterterrorism strategies. Some works like Learning and Adapting: The Use of Monitoring and Evaluation in Countering Violent Extremism have focused on education-oriented prevention programs (Dawson 2014). Other authors like De la Corte and Savage offered a social-psychological approach to understanding incentives and rationales that motivate individuals to join terrorist organizations (De la Corte 2007, Savage 2014). Since ISIS began recruitment of foreign fighters, works like Foreign Fighters in Syria have been published to understand why Westerners are engaging with the organization (Barrett 2014). However, since ISIS’s social media recruitment campaign was initiated, limited academic analysis has been published on how their branding through these platforms is effectively connecting with Western recruits, and who in particular is being targeted by the organization. The author attempts to provide a more comprehensive discussion of ISIS’s branding and social media activities using a social-psychological framework to discuss ISIS’s recruitment of Westerners.

Summary of Findings

Personal grievances associated with political, economic, social and religious aspects of Western society in conjunction with naiveté of war, Islam and terrorism may expedite the radicalization process and motivate both Western women and men to participate in ISIS’s cause. ISIS incentivizes the bay’ah and hijra obligation by offering a recruit new identity and a part in the founding of the Caliphate. Participating in ISIS’s jihad and founding of the Caliphate may also provide individuals experiencing relative deprivation with employment, basic needs, or politics and religious practices that aligns with their expectations of how society should operate. Westerners with Somali and Palestinian heritage are frequently socially marginalized and believe the Caliphate can provide them with a new life and group identity governed by religious law. While recent Western converts to Islam find a sense of purpose as ISIS members in being a part of the founding of the Caliphate and will use media (e.g. suicide missions, burning passport, propaganda video, social media recruiter) to prove their allegiance.

In turn, ISIS encourages its Western members to use their smartphones to instruct, guide and recruit other Westerners on their social media accounts (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Kik, Ask.fm, Skype, and blogs).  ISIS facilitators recruit at community events (religious seminars and community activities) and schools (e.g. high schools and colleges), but require an ISIS sheikh recommendation and “jihad mentor” for Western recruits to be selected and to prevent US intelligence collection. ISIS keeps its messaging simple (“join the Caliphate”) within its branding and recruitment campaign on its Google Play App, The Dawn of Glad Tidings and its monthly electronic magazine, Dabiq. ISIS’s narrative uses group identity to prevent an individual from employing any other values that could disrupt ISIS’s group coherence and unified action. ISIS makes the sacred value (e.g. governance by Allah) incompatible with other values, which in turn prevents trade-offs and concessions from occurring within their in-group. When the value becomes non-negotiable, the individual relies on emotional processing opposed to complex reasoning processes. ISIS’s narrative uses group identity to prevent individuals from employing any other values that could disrupt ISIS’s group coherence and unified actions.

Recommendations to Counter Western Membership Growth

  • US strategies should focus on engaging at-risk individuals’ complex reasoning processes and adopt a value spectrum that highlights a range of thinking about governance and identity through non-verbal methods (e.g. cultural exchange and artistic ventures) rather than countering ISIS’s narrative with false dichotomies, positive/negative associations, or trade-offs
  • Utilizing interactive, multi-sensory, experiential, and interpersonal group activities via internet like Games for Change and Being Muslim Being British, an at-risk population can experience multiple viewpoints and causal factors issues in a way that’s transparent, relevant, and important to the individual’s daily life
  • Having schools and colleges sponsor workshops where students define economic and social problems and design policy to address these problems can increase resilience and decrease vulnerability to extremism

Conclusion

When the US attempt to counter ISIS branding US strategies should focus on engaging at-risk individuals’ pre-frontal cortex (i.e., reasoning capabilities) rather than countering ISIS’s narrative with positive/negative associations or trade-offs. Issues that ISIS defines as irreconcilable can be countered by having a potential ISIS recruit cognitively reframe them in a way that is aligned with their own values. Reframing the narrative can occur collectively when developing bridging capital through empathy for the victims and as a potential ISIS recruiter gains more knowledge regarding an issue. The US can counter ISIS’s messaging by encouraging more complex thinking, not employing false dichotomies. States, society, and education institutions can foster tolerance and trust among at-risk groups to establish bridging capital through meaningful community engagement to facilitate an understanding and dialogue that can counter the narrative that violent extremists like ISIS use.

Background History of ISIS

In 2003, an Arab faction of Ansar al-Islam was founded in Iraq by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to counter the US invasion (Hassan 2014, Laub 2014).[1] The Arab contingent of Ansar al-Islam evolved into Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which bombed the Askari mosque, initiating the Iraqi civil war in 2006 (Hassan 2014, Laub 2014).[2] After Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in a US raid in 2006, Abu Ayyub al-Masri changed Al-Qaeda in Iraq’s name to the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), and appointed Abu Omar Al-Baghdadi as its leader (Hassan 2014, Laub 2014). In 2007, Sahwa suppressed the ISI’s organizational capacity by killing Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar Al-Baghdadi (CNN 2014, Hassan 2014, Laub 2014).[3] ISI’s affiliation with Al-Qaeda allowed the organization to survive through the use of its reputation, membership, and material resources (Laub 2014). In 2010 Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi assumed leadership of ISI (CNN 2014).

In 2006, Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government excluded the Iraqi Sunni minority, especially former Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party members, from participating in the Iraqi government (Laub 2014).[4] In December 2012, madhloumiya and relative deprivation due to government corruption and brutality led Iraqi Sunnis in Anbar, Iraq to protest Maliki’s administration and demand reform (Laub 2014, Melhem 2014).[5] Iraqi security forces raided a Sunni protester camp in Al-Hawijah causing an escalation in violence on April 2013 (Laub 2014). The ISI’s used Iraqi security forces actions as an opportunity to increase their number of vehicle-born improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) and suicide-born improvised explosive devices (SBIEDs) deployed against Shiite-frequented sites including markets, cafes, and mosques (Laub 2014).

In Syria the Sunnis’ employment discrimination by the Alawite majority regime created relative deprivation among the Sunni urban poor in Syrian cities, who could not obtain employment without wasta and baksheesh.[6] Unemployment compounded by extreme income polarity, a lack of social mobility, a lack of infrastructure, mismanaged resources, and the lack of welfare services became key grievances (Kilcullen 2014, Melhem 2014). President Bashar Assad’s regime hired ISI to suppress the moderate Sunni-Syrian rebels attempting to drive reforms and force Assad from power (Homeland Security News Wire 2014). On January 2013, the Assad government defended its use of force against the Syrian population as a defense against “terrorists” (Associated Press 2013).[7]

The absence of security and the rule of law forced the Sunni Syrian population to depend on rebel groups for protection. However, continuous in-fighting between Free Syrian Army factions, their lack of discipline, theft, and lack of a political goal for a post-Assad period impacted their credibility within the community (Al-Rawi 2014, Kilcullen 2014, Pickering 2014, Yaphe 2014). Islamist groups, who were more organized, disciplined, well-funded, and well-equipped compared to the moderate factions, cultivated trust among the local Syrian population (Al-Rawi 2014, Kilcullen 2014). However, the leadership among these Islamist groups was diffuse and lacked the political flexibility and economic knowledge to establish a state (Al-Rawi 2014). ISIS exploited the tactical and strategic weaknesses of these secular and Islamist factions in Syria (Harrison 2014, Laub 2014).

In April 2013, ISIS initiated a mubahalah to strengthen its association with Jabhat Al-Nusra (JAN) and build legitimacy among the local Syrian population (Carmon 2014, Clarion Project 2014, Hassan 2014, Laub 2014).[8] Abu Mohammed Al-Jawlani’s rejection of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’s group merger between ISIS and JAN led foreign JAN fighters to defect to ISIS (Hassan 2014).[9] On December 2013, the main Syrian rebel factions, including JAN, “declared war” on ISIS to recapture Syrian territory and remove ISIS from Syria (Laub 2014). The fight between Syrian rebel factions and ISIS has resulted in approximately 7,000 deaths, reduction in rebel factions’ capabilities, and a purported truce between the Free Syrian Army and ISIS (Hassan 2014). In June 2014, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi established territorial control on the Iraq-Syrian border (Laub 2014). On the first day of Ramadan (29 June 2014), Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi was appointed by the shura council as a caliph for all Muslims, and renamed ISIS the Islamic State (Hassan 2014).

ISIS’s Goals & Ideology

ISIS’s religious belief system is derived from Salafism, which advocates religious extremism (Hassan 2014). ISIS follows Sayyid Qutb’s and Ibn Taymmiya’s interpretations of the Qur’an (Al-Rawi 2014, Fairchild 2014).[10],[11] To date, ISIS has defined two major goals (See Table 1), which it plans to pursue in phases.

table 1

The first phase is to establish the Caliphate from “Mesopotamia to the Mediterranean” (Banco 2014, Breslow 2014, Carmon 2014, Melhem 2014). The second phase it to instigate terrorism in Western states to address injustices done to members of the Caliphate (Carmon 2014, Harrison 2014, Mullen 2014). According to ISIS’s electronic journal, Dabiq, the Caliphate’s ultimate design is to engage in Al-Malhamah al-Kubra (Carmon 2014).

ISIS Financing: Donated, Seized, and Extorted Resources

Donated Resources

ISIS conducts fundraising campaigns, via social media, to directly target individual donors from Gulf States, especially in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar (Boghardt 2014, Melhem 2014). ISIS’s success in capturing and controlling territory has encouraged private Gulf donors who use cash-transfers via Kuwait, because it is the least regulated and monitored of the Gulf States (Boghardt 2014).[15] To date, individual supporters in Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan have provided monetary support and arms to ISIS (Boghardt 2014, Laub 2014, Melhem 2014). Turkey, Lebanon, and Persian Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates have provided financial support to the Sunni factions, like ISIS, as a geopolitical strategy to prevent Iran from establishing Shi’a-based movements (Courtney 2014, Pickering 2014, Yaphe 2014).[16] In Western countries, like Bosnia and Switzerland, ISIS has established a network of cells to collect funding and recruit members (Kern 2014, Mezzofiore 2014).

Seized Resources

As ISIS annexes territory it utilizes local resources to support its military campaign (Boghardt 2014). For example, ISIS has seized 11 oil fields, including Ain Zala (Rasheed 2014) and Al-Omar (CNN 2014), netting daily revenues of approximately $3 million (Homeland Security News Wire 2014). [17], [18] Once ISIS controlled the city of Mosul, it appropriated the Mosul Dam (Rasheed 2014), its airport, TV station (CNN 2014), and “tens of millions of dollars” from the Mosul Central Bank (Boghardt 2014).[19],[20] In June 2014, ISIS obtained millions of dollars in seized weapon cashes in Nineveh and Salaheddin, Iraq (Banco 2014, Hassan 2014). In the same month, ISIS looted 8,000-year-old artifacts from Al-Nabuk, Syria that sold on the black market in Turkey for $36 million (Homeland Security News Wire 2014).[21] In July 2014, ISIS took control of Shaer gas field in Homs, Syria (CNN 2014). In August 2014, it seized the Tabqa Air Base near Raqqa City, Syria (Banco 2014).

Extorted Resources

Until June 2014, ISIS charged a dhimmis on local businesses, grossing approximately $8 million per month (Boghardt 2014, Fairchild 2014, Laub 2014).[22] Kidnapping for ransom is another means ISIS uses to extort funding. For example, ISIS received “millions of dollars” from the French and Spanish governments after releasing four French and two Spanish journalists (Homeland Security News Wire 2014).  ISIS also forced and sold Iraqi and Syrian women and children from ethnic minorities into sexual slavery (Homeland Security News Wire 2014).

Strategy and Tactics

ISIS has established a de facto state (approximately the size of Pennsylvania) within Iraq and Syria, with its capital based in Al-Raqqa, Syria (Hassan 2014, Laub 2014, Thompson 2014). ISIS’s overarching strategy to establish a Caliphate has some elements that are similar to the US military’s counterinsurgency “Clear and Hold” model (Thompson 2014). The premise of the “Clear and Hold” model is to remove or suppress one’s opponent, secure the area, and have the local population maintain the area (Thompson 2014). The primary tactics ISIS is using to support this strategy involve the use of force, social services, and an internet propaganda campaign.

Use of Force

Once ISIS entered Syria, it exerted force by establishing checkpoints, confiscating weapons, and indoctrinating the local population (Hassan 2014). Rebel factions’ disunity and inconsistent financing presented ISIS with a strategic advantage (Hassan 2014). ISIS exploited this weakness when the rebel factions declared war on it, resulting in direct violence which subdued the main Free Syrian Army factions (Carmon 2014, Hassan 2014). ISIS spokesperson, Al-Adnani, publically declared to secular and Islamist factions that their behavior deviated from the “true Islamic model” and that their groups did not have legitimate claim to Syria (Carmon 2014). ISIS continues to seize control of territory, install its flag (a symbol of a unified state), and either execute its captured opponents or have them swear allegiance to ISIS (Banco 2014, Carmon 2014, Rasheed 2014). An effective tactic of ISIS is to disband a rebel faction and have its members swear allegiance to ISIS (Carmon 2014, Hassan 2014, Laub 2014). Other opponents have fled leaving behind their resources, such as vehicles, weapons, and munitions (Hassan 2014, Rasheed 2014). As ISIS strategically annexes more territory near resources (e.g. oil refineries) and border crossings, it consolidates its gains, secures its territory, and garners support from the local population (Hassan 2014, Rasheed 2014).

Social Services

ISIS leveraged social services to address the local Syrian population’s unmet basic needs in order to gain local support and legitimacy. It used oil revenue to repair infrastructure, establish irrigation projects, and provide clean water (Hassan 2014). The Assad regime and rebel factions failed to create a system of basic services to provide security and food to the local population (Killcullen 2014, Thompson 2014). Within the Caliphate, residents are promised economic opportunity, law enforcement, and justice administration (Laub 2014, Killcullen 2014, Melhem 2014).

Internet Propaganda Campaign

In June 2014, ISIS announced, via YouTube and Dabiq, a call to action among English-speaking, skilled professionals to assist its social media campaign and management of the Caliphate territory (Breslow 2014, Clarion Project 2014, Harrison 2014, Mullen 2014).[23] ISIS’s internet slogan, “Every person can contribute something to the Islamic State,” is used to generate a sense of purpose, shared identity, and inclusivity among its Western recruits (Banco 2014, Breslow 2014, Harrison 2014). ISIS uses its battlefield success stories and offers individuals a new opportunity and place within the Caliphate as its constructive argument for joining (Breslow 2014). It also uses media to demonstrate its use of force in administering justice for transgressions committed by Western states and those deemed un-Islamic (Banco 2014, Rasheed 2014,Watts 2014). For example, ISIS recorded the beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and British aid worker David Haines, and released these videos on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube (Banco 2014, Thompson 2014, Watts 2014).

Organizational Leadership

The current emir/caliph of ISIS is Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, a former US prisoner in Iraq (Thompson 2014), also known as Abu Du’a (Laub 2014) and Shimon Eilot (Melhem 2014).  Al-Baghdadi’s second-in-command in Iraq is Abu Muslim Al-Turkmani and in Syria, Abu Ali Al-Anbari (Thompson 2014).[24] These two deputies, a council of advisors, and shura council form ISIS’s executive branch, known as Al-Imara (Thompson 2014). ISIS’s chain of command following the two lead deputies are the Syrian and Iraqi sub-state governors, who direct local councils on the implementation of Al-Baghdadi’s orders regarding recruiting, media relations, policing, operation finances, etc. (Thompson 2014). The shura council functions as a system of religious ‘checks-and-balances’ over the sub-state governors and local councils regarding ISIS’s interpretation of Islamic law, and reports directly to Al-Baghdadi (Thompson 2014). The shura council’s sphere of influence regarding Islamic interpretation extends to every component of ISIS’s hierarchy (Thompson 2014). It decides on hostage beheadings, it can criticize the leadership, and purportedly has the authority to remove Al-Baghdadi if he does not adhere to the ISIS’s religious standards (Thompson 2014).

Propagation Mechanisms

After Al-Baghdadi stated that ISIS founded the Caliphate, he exploited the religious ideology of bay’ah and hijra as a mechanism of mobilizing new recruits to support the ISIS Caliphate (Carmon 2014).[25],[26] Al-Baghdadi indicated that hijra and implementation of Shari’a for Muslims globally is not an option, but an obligation (Carmon 2014). Al-Baghdadi was recorded as saying,

Lift your heads up high. You now have a state and a caliphate that restores your honor, your might, your rights and your sovereignty. The state forms a tie of brotherhood between Arab and non-Arab, white and black, Easterner and Westerner. The caliphate brings together the Caucasian, Indian, Chinese, Shami, Iraqi, Yemeni, Egyptian, North African, American, French, German and Australian… They are all in the same trench, defending each other, protecting each other and sacrificing for one another. Their blood mingles together under one flag [with] one goal and in one camp… perform hijra from darul-kufr to darul-Islam. There are homes here for you and your families. You can be a major contributor towards the liberation of Makkah, Madinah, and al-Quds reach Judgment Day with these grand deeds… A life of jihad is impossible until you pack your belongings and move to the caliphate (Carmon 2014).

Cyber Mobilization

One of the most ubiquitous technological resources in the Middle East, including Syria, is the cell phone. Cell phones, especially smartphones, do not require literacy to view, ‘like,’ and repost videos on multiple platforms (Watts 2014).[27] Smartphones provide an opportunity for users and recruiters to have ‘face time’ on video chat platforms to learn about how to participate in jihad and hijira to Syria (Masi 2014, Watts 2014). The cyber-branding used by ISIS, including videos, websites, apps, and social media recruitment techniques, have purportedly been designed by Westerners (Masi 2014). Having a multisensory, real-time discussion with an ISIS fighter enables potential recruits to feel part of the ISIS movement (Watts 2014). ISIS utilizes recruits’ online presence to gain more exposure and potential followers (Masi 2014).

Dabiq Magazine

Part of the media outreach campaign involves an online magazine called Dabiq, which highlights Abu Bakr al-Baghadi’s goals and ideology in several languages including English (Clarion Project 2014, Mullen 2014).[28] The magazine, produced by Al Hayat Media Center, outlines the emic perspective of ISIS regarding tawhid, manhaj, hijrahjihad, and jama’ah (Clarion Project 2014, Mullen 2014).[29],[30] The tone and content are designed to impassion the reader to pledge loyalty to the Caliphate and immediately join ISIS’s army in Iraq and Syria (Clarion Project 2014, Mullen 2014). Potential Western recruits are specifically targeted in Dabiq: “anyone remaining in the West is a hypocrite who enjoys the illicit pleasures of Western living and is content to surf jihadi forums instead of participating in the preservation and defense of the Islamic State (Carmon 2014).” The propaganda utilizes graphic photos of Muslims killed by Western forces and their allies as well as ISIS’s victims (Mullen 2014). The magazine also uses articles to justify and explain its actions. For instance, ISIS’s beheadings of its captives were labeled as “retribution for Western military campaigns in the Middle East” (Mullen 2014). In addition to outlining its actions, ISIS also tracks and responds to what Western nations publish about its network. In a section entitled, “In the Words of the Enemy,” ISIS produces counter-messaging to reinforce the “us versus them” mentality among its recruits (Clarion Project 2014, Mullen 2014).

Social Media

ISIS uses private companies’ social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Kik, YouTube, Ask.fm, Skype, and Google Play to propagate a global cyber community (Dale 2014, Watts 2014, Zavadski 2014).[31] The social media platforms expedite the radicalization process of potential recruits. It enables recruits to be in direct contact with ISIS fighters in the field to learn what the “ISIS experience” is like and what the organization has accomplished to date (Dale 2014, Watts 2014). A shared experience enables potential recruits to normalize an ISIS member’s selfies and Tweets, whether it depicts a fighter with cat or a beheading (Watts 2014). When Twitter and Facebook were not options, ISIS developed and sold a Google Play app formally known as The Dawn of Glad Tidings that allows the user direct access to propaganda (Dale 2014).[32] On smartphones, the app is called Dawn, which circulates a daily digest of thousands of messages (Dale 2014). Associated with this app is a website that sells clothing and accessories with ISIS-selected phrases associated with their revolution (Dales 2014).

Western Fighter Recruitment

Accounts of the number of ISIS fighters operating in Syria and Iraq vary widely—estimates range from 20,000 (White 2014) to 40,000 (Branco 2014). Of that total, there are approximately 12,000–15,000 foreign fighters from approximately 74–81 countries worldwide fighting in Syria and Iraq (Breslow 2014, Mullen 2014, The Economic Times 2014).[33] It is estimated that 2,000­­–2,500 of the foreign fighters are from Western countries such as France, Germany, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and the United States (Branco 2014, Breslow 2014, Mullen 2014, The Economic Times 2014). (See Table 2).

table 2

The majority of ISIS fighters are local and regional recruits; a small percentage are fighters from Western nations. ISIS’s global membership campaign uses Western fighters, especially Western fighters killed-in-action, as symbols of global support for ISIS (Masi 2014).[34] As ISIS annexes more territory, an increasing number of Western fighters are joining ISIS (The Economic Times 2014). However, the tactics and incentives use in recruiting Western fighters differ from the tactics and incentives used to recruit regional and local fighters (Banco 2014). ISIS uses video footage to demonstrate how its Western followers adopt a new identity in support of the new ‘state’, governed by Shari’a law, whose goal is to extend its boundaries into Europe (Mezzofiore 2014). Balkan fighters demonstrated this by recording the burning of their passports (Mezzofiore 2014).

Western ISIS facilitators use social media platforms (e.g. Facebook and Twitter), community events (religious seminars and community activities), and schools (e.g. high schools and colleges) to organize and recruit (Masi 2014, Mezzofiore 2014).[35],[36] Western recruits must first obtain a recommendation via letter or telephone from a sheikh or recruiter known to ISIS to verify their identity and prevent spy infiltration (Al-Shafey 2014, Masi 2014).[37] The new Western recruit’s “jihad mentor” begins the ISIS vetting process by conducting a background check, which can last between three months to a year (Al-Shafey 2014, Masi 2014). The “jihad mentor” will gauge either online or in person the potential recruit’s level of interest in becoming a member of ISIS.[38] The facilitator will assess the potential recruit’s understanding of Islam, ask about their mosque affiliation and online presence, and assess whether the recruit may be a spy (Masi 2014). If the recruit passes the vetting process, then travel logistics to Syria are discussed (Masi 2014).

Travelling to Syria via Antakya, Turkey is the preferred route because portions of the border are unmonitored by Turkish security (Abdulrahim 2014, Al-Shafey 2014, Brown 2014, Masi 2014). Facilitators are present on both sides of the border to coordinate ground travel (Masi 2014). ISIS recruiters also suggest Western recruits buy a round-trip ticket to Turkey, purchase a tourist visa in the airport, and conduct pre-departure research on tourist attractions in Turkey to avoid suspicion from customs and police officials (Abdulrahim 2014). To prevent detection en route, ISIS recruiters suggest Western recruits should avoid: informing one’s family about travel plans, religious services before departure, wearing clothes that could identify one’s religion, bringing religious books, imparting detailed information about oneself, or traveling directly to one’s destination (Al-Shafey 2014).

Many foreign fighters, especially Westerners, join ISIS without prior military experience (Barrett 2014). ISIS conducts a training program for new recruits in Syria, which focuses on indoctrination and military skills (Masi 2014). Once a Western recruit completes ISIS’s ‘basic training’ the recruit can then inform his family of involvement with ISIS (Al-Shafey 2014). A Westerner’s training is followed by ribat and other demonstrations of allegiance to ISIS, such as functioning as a lookout, and tax collecting from residents and oil field operators (Masi 2014).[39] A recruit’s individual skills and fighting potential is then assessed (Kern 2014). Once the initiation process is complete, ISIS fighters receive a stipend, a weapon, and are assigned duties (e.g. media relations, police force, etc.) or volunteer for tasking(e.g. suicide operations) (Masi 2014).[40]

Recruit Profiles

Jihadi dawa or “calls to war” made by ISIS invites “young Muslim” Western recruits to join the Caliphate and remove apostates (Banco 2014, Masi 2014). Western recruits tend to be recent converts to Islam and ignorant of Islamic views and values (Banco 2014, Masi 2014). ISIS also tends to heavily target estranged or dissatisfied teenagers who utilize social media (Banco 2014). A Western recruit’s dissatisfaction may be due to social, economic, or political disenfranchisement within their own society (Masi 2014, Mezzofiore 2014). This dissatisfaction prompts Western recruits to seek alternative means to address their frustration (Mezzofiore 2014). ISIS provides Western recruits with an alternative, such as shared experience (Masi 2014), group identity, purpose to life (Banco 2014), and recognition, as well as basic needs (Mezzofiore 2014, Watts 2014). Once ISIS obtains a Western recruit, it encourages the recruit to reach out to their sphere of influence, like family and friends, to obtain more recruits to populate the Caliphate (Banco 2014, De la Corte 2007, Masi 2014).

table 3-1

table 3-2

Documented Reasons for ISIS Membership

“Most [Western] recruits have no prior connection to Syria… [Western] recruits are seeking camaraderie, and they often know someone who has joined a militant group beforehand (Masi 2014)

“…[converts to Islam] have problems with their parents at home (Masi 2014)

“They [Western recruits] want to find something meaningful for their life… belong to something special… thrill-seeking, some are seeking redemption (Banco 2014)

“ISIS relies heavily on Twitter and Facebook to reach out to potential recruits—those who are friends or family with someone already affiliated with the organization. (Banco 2014)

“…[Muslim youth] increasingly frustrated in the [Bosnia] country for economic, social and political reasons (Mezzofiore 2014)

 “…[Western ISIS fighters] get to communicate back to their communities that they are participating [with ISIS]… [Western ISIS fighters] are not really that worried about being seen there [Syria/Iraq]… [Western ISIS fighters] proud of participating in this [ISIS] jihad (Watts 2014)”

“Family is not going to save me from hellfire… Muslims are getting killed and if I just sit here I will be asked in the hereafter (Bloom 2014)”

Incentives and Motives of Western ISIS Members

One of ISIS’s objectives is to “hold” the territory it appropriated to assure the Caliphate’s preservation and expansion success (Carmon 2014). To this end, ISIS used the notion of hijira as justification for people of all backgrounds (e.g. physicians, engineers, military experts, clerics, and administrators) loyal to ISIS populate the Caliphate (Brown 2014, Carmon 2014). The invitation to participate in the founding of the Caliphate appeals to individuals who feel excluded from Western society, are restricted in their religious practices, or desire a sense of purpose or new start (Brown 2014).[43] Participating in the jihad and founding of the Caliphate may provide individuals with employment, basic needs, or political and religious goals that align with an individual’s expectations (Brown 2014). Personal grievances associated with political, economic, social, and religious aspects of Western society—in conjunction with naiveté of the true nature of war, Islam, and terrorism—may motivate both Western women and men to participate in ISIS’s cause (Brown 2014).

Gender Roles within ISIS

ISIS’s interpretation of the Qur’an regarding the role of women and men within the Caliphate is that they should follow a specific division of labor and that they do not hold equal status (Dale 2014). Women from the US, UK, Austria, France, the Netherlands, Canada, Norway, and Sweden are primarily being recruited as wives for ISIS fighters, with the expectation of having children (Abdulrahim 2014, Brown 2014, Zavadski 2014). The other identified roles for women within the Caliphate include: public relations specialists, recruiters, or Al-Khanssaa police (Brown 2014).

ISIS established a “marriage bureau” to reward ISIS fighters and to populate the Caliphate with the next generation (Bloom 2014, Zavadski 2014). The “marriage bureau” provides women a monthly stipend of 25,000 Syrian Pounds (or $175) for entering into an arranged marriage (News.Com.AU 2014). Social media allows Western women interested in entering into this arrangement to coordinate their travel and initiate the process (Brown 2014). As an ISIS wife and mother, one’s operational space is primarily in the home (Zavadski 2014).

Some Western ISIS women use their cellphones in the home to access to social media, functioning as informal public relations specialists (Zavadski 2014). They monitor social media platforms (e.g. Twitter, Tumblr, Kik, LinkedIn, and Ask.fm) and respond to inquiries about ISIS, its successes, and the lifestyle of female members (Brown 2014, Zavadski 2014). Some female Western ISIS members are actively engaged in blogging, tweeting, and posting to persuade like-minded women to join ISIS (Dale 2014, Zavadski 2014). These women with an online presence use slang intermixed with Qur’anic quotes and statements from radical mullahs, providing limited information about ISIS’s operations and often demonstrating limited knowledge of Islam and Shari’a law (Brown 2014).

Many Western women choose to join one of two Al-Khansaa brigades, which are all-female units comprised of women between 18-25 years of age based in Raqqa, Syria (Abdulrahim 2014, Bloom 2014, Brown 2014, Zavadski 2014).[44] Al-Khansaa brigades patrol border crossings, conduct searches of females at checkpoints, and enforce ISIS’s dress code and morality standards (Abdulrahim 2014, Bloom 2014, Zavadski 2014).[45] Members of the brigade are armed with handguns and rifles and have the authority to detain violators (Abdulrahim 2014).[46]

Theoretical Framework

Branding Theory

ISIS keeps its branding simple and focused: “help create the Caliphate” (Stine 2003). The notion of reestablishing a Caliphate under the symbol of one flag and assuring all Islamists submit their allegiance to ISIS prevents sub-brands and competition (Stine 2003). Using word-of-mouth postings on social media platforms enables ISIS to build its brand (Stine 2003). Recruiting Western media specialists who utilize advanced computer graphics in ISIS’s propaganda videos creates perceptions of quality for the viewer (Stine 2003). A potential Western recruit will conduct an information search to address his or her personal problems, and may formulate an initial impression of ISIS based on ISIS’s design and value proposition (Herbert 2011).[47] ,[48] To date, ISIS has been consistent and patient in developing its brand (Stine 2003), but maintaining its social media campaign, its seized territory, and its material and human capital will more directly effect the lifespan of the organization.

Social Identity Theory

ISIS utilizes social cohesion, conformity-obedience, and bipolar worldview as organizational bonding mechanisms to promote group-think and discipline (De la Corte 2007).[49],[50],[51] Western recruits’ membership and identification with the group makes the individual feel more likely to achieve personal goals and provides material benefits, such as a job opportunity, stipend, and education (De la Corte 2007). ISIS increases its efficacy while reinforcing the individual’s commitment to their organization by integrating them into organizational goal with shared lifestyle and participation within the Caliphate (De la Corte 2007). ISIS compares its positive social identity in relation to perceived injustices perpetrated by non-ISIS members to activate frustration-aggression among its potential Western recruits (De la Corte 2007). ISIS leverages retrospective rationality of its members’ emotions and positive intentions to justify its political violence (De la Corte 2007).[52] Al-Baghdadi utilizes the hierarchal organizational structure to control ISIS, to direct its goals and strategies, and to elicit operational compliance from its members (De la Corte 2007).

Push/Pull Theory

Western ISIS recruits, just like most members of any extremist organization, undergo a radicalization process.[53] For an extremist group like ISIS to radicalize a Western recruit, a “push” factor needs to be present to create a cognitive opening that enhances the effectiveness of the “pull” factor (Dawson 2014).[54],[55],[56] A cognitive opening makes a Western recruit receptive enough to the extremist leader’s propaganda (e.g. narrative and ideology) to adopt extremist attitudes and behaviors (Dawson 2014). ISIS’s narrative uses group identity to prevent an individual from employing any other values that could disrupt ISIS’s group coherence and unified action (Savage 2013). By selecting and associating the single most important value (e.g. governance by Allah) with the in-group that is contrary to the out-group’s value (e.g. secular governance), ISIS creates a binary opposing mentality (Savage 2013). ISIS makes the sacred value (e.g. governance by Allah) incompatible with other values, which in turn prevents trade-offs and concessions from occurring within their in-group (Savage 2013). When the value becomes non-negotiable, the individual relies on the amygdala (i.e., emotional processing) to react as opposed to a complex reasoning process (Savage 2013). ISIS’s branding campaign encourages Western fighters to utilize their own social media accounts to propagate ISIS’s success. An instance of this was observed when an Albanian ISIS fighter in Syria posted photos on his social media account of himself beheading an alleged spy (Mezzofiore 2014). Although radicalization is a gradual process, ‘catalytic events’ like enduring discrimination, the death of loved one, or an attack on one’s values can expedite the radicalization process (Dawson 2014).

Analysis of Findings in Relation to US Interventions

In 2011, the US Department of Homeland Security initiated Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States (Dawson 2014). This program was one of the first of its kind to target domestic-grown terrorism at the local level (Dawson 2014). Two unresolved challenges emerged from this strategy: improving the federal government’s engagement and support of local at-risk groups potentially targeted by violent extremists, and countering violent extremist propaganda while promoting US ideals (Dawson 2014). The same year the US State Department established the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC), whose strategic goal is to counter radicalization by efficiently identifying extremist propaganda on the internet, and to respond immediately with counter-narratives (Dawson 2014).[57] Under the CSCC’s auspices is the Digital Outreach Team (DOT) that focuses specifically on challenging terrorists’ narratives and undermining terrorists’ allies and sympathizers on social media platforms (Al-Shafev 2014). The DOT staff reviews dozens of social media platforms daily for ISIS propaganda, to identify opportunities to “point out the truth… and convince them [potential ISIS recruits] they are on the wrong path (Al-Shafev 2014).” The focus is based on the trending “issues, lies and exaggerations” posted by users sympathetic to ISIS (Al-Shafev 2014). The CSCC also uses debates, pictures, videos, and online communities to counter violent extremists’ narratives and beliefs on social-media platforms (Dawson 2014). The CSCC and DOT focus primarily on Twitter, and attempts to gauge their own effectiveness and impact by conducting ‘gross impressions’ analysis of their counter-narrative (Dawson 2014).[58] DOT staff monitored the reactions of potential Western ISIS recruits when it was revealed that (s)he was communicating with a government entity, including: reporting abuses to social media network, attempting to rebut government’s narrative, and resorting to curses and threats (Al-Shafev 2014).

US counterterrorism policy does not focus on ISIS’s Western recruits’ grievances, which limits the effectiveness of the intervention and generates distrust of Western governments among potential Western ISIS recruits  (Kesterson 2013). Branding campaigns, in general, require adaptive strategies with tactical marketing to construct or deconstruct loyalties (Kesterson 2013). The ISIS brand utilizes characteristics, values, and attributes to define its organizational goals (Kesterson 2013). Using values and interests with Qur’anic phrases generates a global appeal among Islamists and legitimizes ISIS’s political violence to achieve its goal (De la Corte 2007, Kesterson 2013). The brand is further reinforced by having its members utilize social media to promote campaign messages marketing ISIS’s organizational success and resilience (Kesterson 2013). ISIS’s brand loyalty enables continued recruitment to its organization (Kesterson 2013). ISIS then utilizes internet, mobile platforms, and social networking to communicate, recruit, and market their global brand (Savage 2013).

When a potential Western recruit considers ISIS membership, a cost-benefit analysis does not occur. Instead, the amygdala is activated making the individual associate ‘sacred’ values as “right” and opposing values as “wrong” without thinking critically about an issue.[59],[60] Therefore, when the US attempts to counter ISIS branding, US strategies should focus on engaging at-risk individuals’ pre-frontal cortex (i.e., reasoning capabilities) rather than countering ISIS’s narrative with positive/negative associations or trade-offs (Savage 2013). Verbal narratives prompt categorical thinking, which prevents an extremist from identifying commonalities and relating to the information due to the social pressures of extremist ideologies (Savage 2013).

By utilizing interactive, multisensory, experiential and interpersonal group activities via the internet (e.g. Games for Change and Being Muslim Being British) an at-risk population can perceive multiple viewpoints and causal factors related to an issue in a way that is transparent, relevant, and important to the individual’s daily life (Savage 2013).[61],[62] US counterterrorism strategies should avoid binary structures and adopt a value spectrum that highlights a range of thinking about governance and identity through non-verbal methods, such as cultural exchange and artistic ventures (Savage 2013). Generating a program that enables the user to experience the alternate realities of other stakeholders’ ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors and socio-psychological scenarios engages the user’s complex reasoning in a non-threatening way, which allows them to expand their hierarchy of values, and consider different modes of political decision-making and trade-offs (Savage 2013). Issues that ISIS defines as irreconcilable can be countered by having a user cognitively reframe them in a way that is aligned with his or her own values (Banco 2014, Savage 2013).

Reframing the narrative can occur collectively when developing bridging capital through “empathy for victims of extremist violence,” and “cautionary tales from ex-radicals” (Savage 2013).[63] Reframing can also occur as the user gains more knowledge regarding an issue (Savage 2013). The US can counter ISIS’s messaging by encouraging more complex thinking, not by employing false dichotomies or utilizing a “single moral value per issue.” (Savage 2013) Having schools and colleges sponsor workshops where students define economic and social problems and design policies to address these problems can increase resilience and decrease vulnerability to extremism (Savage 2013). If Department of State officials look for trends and outliers of economic and social problems and identify symptoms and causal factors to address within an internet forum, then more accurate data on at-risk individuals can be validated to more effectively reengage them (Dawson 2014). States, society, and educational institutions can foster tolerance and trust among at-risk groups, establish bridging capital through meaningful community engagement, and facilitate an understanding and dialogue that can counter the narrative violent extremists like ISIS use (Dawson 2014).

Globalization alters cultural value hierarchies threatening ISIS’s narrative (e.g. creating a traditional Islamic nation governed by Allah) with secular modernity and a market economy (Savage 2013). If Western recruits are drawn to ISIS due to the lack of economic opportunity in their country of residence, then leveraging personal prosperity through an economic strategy that addresses the disenfranchised may address this basic need (Kesterson 2013). For the US to generate a counterterrorism strategy utilizing market economy principles, it needs to consider such factors as brand identity, loyalty, durability, and attributes (Kesterson 2013). The value propositions at-risk populations respond to, the market elements that enable economic growth, and the market pitch should also be considered (Kesterson 2013). ISIS’s call to action and demand for Islamists’ global allegiance maintains ISIS’s global appeal and relevance for its continued long-term survival (Kesterson 2013).

Conclusion

Presently, ISIS is taking action to obtain Western recruits to “Clear and Hold” its Caliphate. Although US agencies implemented their own social media campaign to counter ISIS, the continued recruitment of Westerners by this organization is indicative of the US’s unsuccessful intervention. If the US focuses its intervention on internet-based education of at-risk groups using complex thinking processes instead of false dichotomies and binary oppositions, it may enhance its counterterrorism strategy.

Katherine Leggiero is currently getting her Master of Science in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University. She is also a recipient of the Secretary of Defense’s Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Boren Fellowship. Anders Corr, Robert Whitcomb, and Matthew Michaelides provided editorial oversight for this article. JPR Status: Working Paper, archived 12/23/2014. 

 


 

[1] An Arab-Jordanian militant living in Afghanistan, who migrated to Iraq in 2002 (Hassan 2014, Laub 2014).

[2] Al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters were obtained from Zarqawi’s Al-Qaeda network in Pakistan and Afghanistan and fighters from Syria and Iraq (Laub 2014)

[3] Sunni Iraqi tribes of the Sunni Awakening Movement coordinated by US forces (Laub 2014).

[4] Ba’athist is also the Syrian socialist political party currently in power. The name means ‘renaissance’ in reference to the social movement founded by Akram al-Hourani in 1953 to empower the poor to political participation (Kilcullen 2014).

[5] An Arabic word for “injustice” historically associated with Shi’a sect (Hassan 2014).

[6] Wasta and baksheesh are both forms of corruption: wasta refers to familial or business network connections and baksheesh is a monetary bribe (Kilcullen 2014).

[7] Actions attributed by the Assad regime to ISI included: December 23, 2011—two VBIEDs killing 44 people in Damascus and January 2, 2012—IED hitting pipeline in Central Syria (AssociatedPress 2013).

[8] Mubahalah refers to a religious arbitration within Islam (Clarion Project 2014).

[9] Abu Mohammed Al-Jawlani leader of Jabhat Al-Nusra (Hassan  2014).

[10] Sayyid Qutb is considered the founder of the Modern Islamist Movement, who rationalized jihad in the 1964 Milestones Manifesto (Fairchild 2014).

[11] Ibn Taymmiya is the name of a Syrian cleric that referred to Shi’a as non-Muslims (Al-Rawi 2014).

[12] According to the Islamic Tawhid Doctorine, infidels are those that follow a secular political system instead of Allah’s rule of law (Fairchild 2014).

[13] Apostates are Muslims that accept secular governance, and therefore be killed under Shari’a Law (Fairchild 2014).

[14] Al-Malhamah al-Kubra is Arabic for “grand battle against the Crusaders at the End of Days (Carmon 2014).”

[15] Three Kuwaiti ISIS financiers were added to the US list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists (Melhem 2014).

[16] Turkey’s desire to remove the Assad regime from power permitted ISIS to smuggle oil through Turkey (Homeland Security News Wire 2014).

[17] Al-Omar oil field is the largest oil field in Syria that can daily produce 75,000 barrels of oil, which ISIS seized on July 3, 2014 (CNN 2014).

[18] ISIS is able to obtain a larger profit because it sells the oil on the black market at a $25-60 per barrel versus $100 per barrel to European buyers (Carmon 2014, Homeland Security News Wire 2014).

[19] Mosul is the second-largest city in Iraq (Laub 2014).

[20] The Mosul Dam is Iraq’s biggest hydro-electric plant, with a capacity to flood cities and deny water access to farmers (Rasheed 2014).

[21] ISIS earned “hundreds of millions of dollars” from selling Iraqi and Syrian artifacts in Turkey (Homeland Security News Wire 2014).

[22] Dhimmis is protection tax extorted by ISIS from the local population who submit to Islamic rule by ISIS (Fairchild 2014).

[23] ISIS’s electronic journal

[24] Al-Turkmani formerly served under Saddam Hussein as an Iraqi military official (Thompson 2014).

[25] Bay’ah refers to “pledging allegiance,” in this case, to the Caliph (Carmon 2014).

[26] Hijira refers to “migration” to the Caliphate (Carmon 2014).

[27] See example.

[28] Dabiq is a town in northern Syria and the site of one of the final battles of the apocalypse between Sunni Muslims and the West (Clarion Project 2014, Mullen 2014).

[29] Hijrah, or migration ,is a reference to Prophet Mohammed and his followers’ migration from Mecca to Medina in 622 A.D.  (Clarion Project 2014).

[30] Tawid, manhaj, jihad, jama’ah refers to unity, truth-seeking, holy war, and community (Mullen 2014).

[31] Presently, Twitter is suspending known accounts of ISIS member (Zavadski 2014).

[32] In Iraq, the central government shut down ISIS Twitter and Facebook access (Dale 2014).

[33] It is uncertain how many of the 15,000 foreign fighters are joining ISIS or other factions like Jahbat al Nusra and Free Syrian Army (Mullen 2014, The Economic Times 2014).

[34] McCain, a US citizen, chose to fight for ISIS and died while fighting in Syria (Masi 2014).

[35] Western facilitators, in Bosnia and Egypt specifically, use social media tactics for organizing (Al Arabiya 2014, Mezzofiore 2014).

[36] An example of secondary socialization is the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), which is a program designed to indoctrinate their members to eventually contribute to jihad (De la Corte 2007, Fairchild 2014).

[37] If there is no local sheikh in the area (e.g. Britain) the Western recruit resides, the recruit can be sponsored by a sheikh in another country (e.g. the Sharia4Belgium  based in Antwerp, Belgium) (Al-Shafey 2014).

[38] If a recruit is vetted online, the facilitator will use using encrypted software and a proxy server to avoid detection (Masi 2014).

[39] Ribat refers to conducting reconnaissance on ISIS opponents perceived as “infidels” (Masi 2014).

[40] If a recruit is married or marries while in Syria the fighter receives an additional allocation of money (Masi 2014).

[41] According to De la Corte (2007), friendship is the primary contributing factor for joining jihadist groups.

[42] The US State Department monitor search terms to monitor for Western ISIS recruits (Al-Shafev 2014).

 

[43] An example of religious restriction is France’s ban on the burqa (Brown 2014).

[44] A Scottish woman purportedly started the Al-Khanssa Brigade (Brown 2014).

[45] These are conducted to prevent opposition’s movement by passing through checkpoints in women’s clothing (Bloom 2014, Zavadski 2014).

[46] The Al-Khanssaa detained and issued 30 lashes per person to a group of high school students and teachers for wearing niqabs deemed “too transparent,” exposing their eyebrows, and using hair clips under the hijab (Abdulrahim 2014).

[47] ISIS’s design is the black flag, one index finger raised, and a demand for foreigners to hijira to the Caliphate; these enable them to distinguish themselves from any other terrorist organization (Herbert 2011).

[48] ISIS’s value proposition is an opportunity to found the Caliphate and establish a new life governed by Allah (Herbert 2011).

[49] According to De la Corte (2007), “the collective identity shared by members of terrorist organization promotes positive relationships among them, which increases intragroup cohesion and cooperation.”

[50] The greater the individual identifies with ISIS’s behavioral norms, the greater conformity-obedience ISIS will elicit from the individual (De la Corte 2007).

[51] ISIS uses negative associations with non-Muslims to create stronger group cohesion among its members. Blame for injustices and other societal problems are then attributed to non-ISIS members (De la Corte 2007).

[52] Retrospective rationality is a justification thought pattern utilized by ISIS to alter its members’ attitude toward ISIS’s violent tactics, often utilized after the action is committed (De la Corte 2007).

[53] The cognitive development of radicalization uses beliefs and ideological messaging to progressively alter an individual from mainstream thinking to extremism (Dawson 2014).

[54] Trauma, denial of civil liberties, or socioeconomic pressures function as “push” factors (Dawson 2014).

[55] A cognitive opening is a state of mind that makes an individual receptive to messaging (Dawson 2014).

[56] Transformative leadership and the benefits of material or social resources are examples of “pull” factors that incentivize recruits to join an extremist group (Dawson 2014).

[57] See an example of CSCC’s Caravan of Martyrs, a counterterrorism media campaign.

[58] ‘Gross impressions’ analysis counts the number of Retweets on other users’ timelines (Dawson 2014).

[59] The amygdala is the emotional center of the brain that generates the physical reaction of fight/flight/freeze (Savage 2013).

[60] An example of ‘sacred’ values is governance by Allah (Savage 2013).

[61] Games for Change generates social impact through digital games (Empax 2014).

[62] Being Muslim Being British is a pilot program to counter radicalization using live video game, chatroom, and online mentors (Savage 2013).

[63] Utilizing video stimuli associated with moral dilemmas of the in-group and out-group to increase complex thinking (Savage 2013).