Saturday, August 15, 2015

Why ISIS Trumps Freedom

Roger Cohen, NYT
AUG. 13, 2015

What leads young European Muslims in the thousands to give up lives in France, Britain or Germany, enlist in the ranks of the movement calling itself the Islamic State, and dedicate themselves to the unlikely aim of establishing a caliphate backed by digital propaganda?

The honest answer is that we don’t know why a 20-something Briton with a degree in computer engineering or a young Frenchman from a Norman village reaches a psychological tipping point.

Zealotry of any kind subsumes the difficulty of individual choices into the exalted collective submission of dedication to a cause. Your mission is set. It is presented as a great one with great rewards. Goodbye, tough calls. Goodbye, loneliness.

Islamic State has been adept in exploiting the alienation felt by many young Muslims, from the “quartiers” of Paris to the back streets of Bradford. It offers to give meaning, whether in this life or the next, to meaningless lives.

The group has benefited from active support by online jihadi preachers and from tacit backing, or at least acquiescence, from imams in some mosques who are inclined, in the words of Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, to “quietly condone.” It has manipulated anger over America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, over Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, over Shia ascendancy in the Middle East, over bleak existences on the margins of European society.

(More here.)

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