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What is the attraction of joining ISIS?

The New Paper | Monday, Oct 20, 2014

Why are thousands willing to join a brutal terror group? In this imaginary conversation with a typical disaffected young man named Ahmad, motivational speaker Zaibun Siraj explores the allure of ISIS' propaganda.

Ahmad: Some people join ISIS because they believe it will enable them to do something meaningful in their lives.

Zaibun Siraj: There are many ways to do something meaningful. Joining a violent terror organisation like ISIS will not provide anything meaningful or significant.

In your own country, you can help the disabled, the unfortunate and any other person who needs help. You can chart new directions for the people in your community.

You can do exciting things with your talents and your interests. You can create art, write, produce plays and music. You can use your technical and scientific skills to develop products and machines. There is so much around you in your own country for you to do.

You can find alternative ways of being significant and of making a contribution to the world.

Ahmad: Some join ISIS because it is something exciting and big. They are drawn to it because the members are united for a cause.

ZS: The cause is evil. ISIS is a violent, barbaric terror group which promotes destruction and chaos.

It treats women badly and practises slavery. It is not exciting.

You can join groups in your country which promote exciting, stimulating things. These can be cultural, artistic, political, social and humanitarian.

People working with you in your group to achieve your cause will provide you with solidarity.

Ahmad: There are people who have joined ISIS because they feel discriminated in their own country. Joining ISIS, they think, will make them feel secure and accepted.

ZS: If you feel discriminated in your own country, there are ways to correct this situation. You can speak up, take action and seek improvement. These are your human rights.

There are channels within your country for change to take place. There are people with whom you can speak and there are activities that you can undertake. Form a group, write to the media and speak to your Member of Parliament.

Running off to join ISIS will not help you to overcome discrimination. Do something for others in your community and country, and you will find that your self-esteem will be enhanced.

Ahmad: There are people who watch the publicity videos used by ISIS and they are attracted to the propaganda that it promotes.

ZS: When we watch a publicity video or read publicity materials put out by any group, we should ask ourselves questions about the organisation behind the materials.

With ISIS materials, we should ask the following questions:

Who is the leader and what is his personal history? Has he been identified as a terrorist previously? (Yes.)

What does the group demand of the members? (To engage in war.)

Will I have any independence if I join ISIS? (No, as you are sworn to its rules.)

What is the relationship between the group and the wider community? Is this a healthy one? (No. ISIS is violent and cruel to others.) Is the core purpose of this group relevant and correct? (Absolutely not.)

Ahmad: The people who have joined ISIS wish to fight for Islam and create an Islamic state. This is the core purpose and concern of ISIS.

ZS: ISIS is not promoting Islam because all that it is doing is contrary to the teachings of Islam.

People who wish to join ISIS for this reason should read what Islamic scholars and others have to say about the un-Islamic practices of ISIS.

They should not blindly accept the words of ISIS which are often a misinterpretation of Islamic texts.

Ms Zaibun Siraj is a trainer, motivational speaker and the author of books on management and happiness. This commentary has been edited for length. Read her full commentary on her blog zaibun.com.


This article was first published on October 18, 2014.
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