I happened to chance upon a news story today about young Muslims in the UK who are going to Syria in order to participate in what has been called jihad, presumably with the likes of ISIL, and I heard the reporter say that people are still trying to understand why young people feel the urge to go out and join Islamic extremists. I found that kind of laughable. The older people really don’t get why young people are deciding to go to the Middle East to join with Islamic extremists?
The answer is almost staring us in the face! You only have to look ISIL themselves: they’re a vicious Islamic terrorist group who goes around killing (well not merely killing so much as executing) anyone they can who doesn’t believe the same as they are, and upload footage on the Internet of hostages being killed, they destroy historical architecture from far into the history of human civilization because they believe it’s idolatrous, not to mention other mosques, they’ve threatened to nuke Rome, they want to curbstomp the Middle East and likely the world and establish a state of shariah law under a single ruler, and they’ll go to any lengths of outrage and terror to do it. Not only that, but even as ISIL is being opposed in the Middle East, they make it seem like they’re practically winning. ISIL’s actions have likely already given confidence to other Islamic extremists wanting to fill the rest of the world with fear, and anyone who’s interested in extremist activity (whether because they really believed in it or because they were just unstable people looking for a palpable excuse for violence) are also likely to be inspired. And the thing you have to remember about adolescent people is that they’re likely to be interested in anything that seems radical to them, but they can also be pretty gullible.
It’s probably not unreasonable to say that most of us want to put some action in our lives when we’re young, and I myself have felt the same way and still do (although I never felt inclined to join a terrorist organization at all and still don’t). We want exciting possibilities to open up in our lives, no matter how extreme they are. So, when a radical and militant organization does what they do and claim a righteous cause for their actions, or when an extreme organization proclaims that the beliefs of the majority are false and offer up something totally different, even if it’s all full of crap in both morals and sense, there’s a chance young people will fall for it. And no wonder they do, because they don’t believe it when older people tell them why they shouldn’t. They won’t listen, because to them the older people just don’t get it.
That’s why I find the idea that older people still don’t understand why the young can be drawn to terrorism laughable. Because the answer is so obvious. And in the case of British young Muslims, they are probably excited by the prospect of going out to fight for what they think is going to be a war for Allah and their faith. They see all this and it captures their interest, but they have no idea of the reality of what they’re doing. I think that all people have to do is convince them that people like ISIL offers no true salvation, particularly by telling of the reality of what happens to those who do decide to join, and of what has happened to those who tried to leave.