Arunima Pande of the Pakistan Press International writes on the Special Summit on ISIS 2017; stopping all revenue flow and recruitment to the terrorist organization.
Could trees live if new leaves don’t replace the old ones? Could we be brought down by deadly diseases if microbes didn’t reproduce as fast? Would the world be plagued by the threat of the ISIS if it hadn’t been joined by enormous numbers of recruits? Probably not.
The Special Summit on ISIS as a committee has not greatly explored this topic. While occasional comments were made on the cyber-presence of the ISIS, issues like the gathering of recruits and the measures to reduce this were largely dodged. When questioned on the same, a particular delegate talked in circles and repeated his points over and over. This issue may not have found great importance in the committee as yet, but it is a matter of grave importance and cannot be overlooked.
The Islamic State of Syria and Iraq recruits people from all over the world. It has a two pronged strategies for amassing new recruits – the Western and the local plank. In Western areas, the ISIS targets are usually contacted through popular social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. These targets are mostly educated Muslim teens. Teens who feel alienated, insecure and lack proper guidance quickly fall prey to the hands of the ISIS. The trap is laid out carefully –the target is first identified, sought out by recruiters and engaged in a micro community. For the first time, these teens feel they have people they can relate to. Next, the target is slowly influenced using a variety of techniques until he or she eventually cuts off all contact with his or her family. In the last step, the target is finally taken to Syria to partake in terrorist activities.
The roots of this problem lie with the ignorance and ‘Islamophobia’ of the Western countries. An average Muslim teenager living in the west is barely aware of his religious identity. What further exacerbates his mental turmoil is the fact that the leaders themselves refuse to acknowledge that terrorist groups are religiously based. Quoting Barack Obama in his September 2014 speech, “ISIL is not ‘Islamic.” Not only Muslim youth, but some young Christians too have experienced such feelings of isolation. Taking advantage of such chinks in the armour, the ISIS effectively reaches out to these troubled teens – acting as a paternal figure, a mentor, someone who gives them a new purpose. They are told about Islam and its ways, they are sent gifts and inspirational messages; all these serve not to integrate them into community, but to isolate them from it.
What the western nations need to understand is that although stricter verification of social media accounts would help greatly, to what extent can the spread of the ISIS-controlled accounts be restricted? A greater awareness amongst people is the need of the hour. However, awareness about Islam cannot be imposed on a person by a civil servant or any other officer. As happened in the case of the British program Prevent in 2011, government awareness initiatives only widened the gap between the Muslims and the rest of the community. The work of dissecting Islam and presenting it for what it is needs to be done by the preachers, the educators of Islam. If young minds are subjected to the right information and support, they will be less likely to take harsh and impulsive decisions like those of joining terrorist organizations like the ISIS.
In local areas, the ISIS connects to a different level of people- the poor, marginalized and repressed – who have borne the brunt of the political instabilities in volatile areas of Syria and Iraq. These people seek security and respect. As a proto-state, the ISIS assures them of this sense of acceptance and safety; easily ensnaring the helpless individuals into its net of lies. Western interference in such delicate situations only gives rise to anti-Western sentiments and hostility. To prevent the recruitment of locals, there must be international bodies and NGOs that not only raise awareness but also help restore the trust of the civilians in the international community. Once the locals trust these organizations, they will be receptive instead of suspicious of any aid provided to them by the international community.
If the ISIS recruitment is nipped in the bud, it can dramatically weaken the organization. Now is the time for action. The Special Summit on ISIS along with the international community must rise to meet the challenge the world faces. In the words of Andre Maurois, “Time is a factor of all actions. An imperfect scheme put into action at the proper time is better than a perfect scheme achieved too late.”