Majority of ISIS recruits ignorant about Islam: Survey

Alwaght- The majority of ISIS recruits have only a nodding acquaintance with Islam or hardly care about the religion at all, an investigation by Associate Press (AP) shows.

According to a study conducted by AP, about 70 percent of the terrorist group’s recruits were said to have had only “basic” knowledge of Islam – one of the three possible choices on an ISIS recruitment form. The news agency conducted numerous interviews with former ISIS terrorists and looked at thousands of leaked ISIS documents collected by a Syrian site, Zaman al-Wasl.

The study has found that some 24 percent of ISIS recruits have intermediate knowledge of Islam and only about 5 percent considered themselves to be “advanced” learners. Only five recruits claimed to have memorized the Quran, while many even had to read ‘The Quran for Dummies’ to learn about the religion.

Among the documents studied by AP were entry forms filled out by around 4,030 foreign recruits who crossed into Syria in 2013 and 2014. Upon joining ISIS, recruits had to fill out a special employment form which asked them to rank their knowledge of Islam on a scale from one to three. The findings indicated that most newcomers had trouble answering questions which tested their knowledge of Islam.

“I realized that I was in the wrong place when they began to ask me questions on these forms like ‘when you die, who should we call?’”a 32-year-old European recruit told AP on condition of anonymity.

Among those interviewed by AP were a European convert who identifies as gay, a group of Frenchmen and two Britons. The latter two were said to have bought “The Quran for Dummies” and “Islam for Dummies” from Amazon in order to prepare for so-called jihad (holy fighting).

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Those interviewed said that after filling out the recruitment form they were then lectured by a group of imams on Islam who repeatedly praised martyrdom.

On the whole, the findings suggest religion has nothing to do with people joining ISIS. They also indicated that the terrorist group the group preys on recruits who do not have a deep understanding of the Islamic faith to recruit them.

 “Religion is an afterthought,” Patrick Skinner, a former CIA case officer and director of special projects at security consultancy the Soufan Group told AP. According to Skinner, very few people join ISIS out of religion. Most of the recruits are people in need of “a sense of belonging, a sense of notoriety, a sense of excitement.”

New recruits who do not know much about the religion are easily brainwashed by the terrorist group which imposes their own faith on newcomers in such a manner that it would match their goals of expansion and carnage.

According to a Frenchman Karim Mohammad-Aggad who traveled to Syria to join ISIS in 2013, terrorists used “smooth talk” for recruitment. “Islam was used to trap me like a wolf,” he said. Mohammad-Aggad’s brother was one of the three assailants who stormed the Bataclan in Paris November attacks in 2015.

Mohamed Lahouaiyej Bouhlel, who killed 85 people by plowing a truck into a Bastille Day crowd in Nice, France, was described by family and neighbors as indifferent to religion, volatile and prone to drinking sprees, with a love for salsa dancing and a reported male lover.

The gay European recruit said he converted to Islam as it required no prior knowledge: “People like me were tricked into something that they didn’t understand. I never meant to end up with ISIS”.

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Young boys lined up in front of a “membership office” for ISIS, in the Syrian town of Al-Bab

Another study carried out by the US military’s Combating Terrorism Center showed that ISIS recruits who had advanced knowledge of Islam were less likely to become suicide bombers, AP reported.

“If martyrdom is seen as the highest religious calling, then a reasonable expectation would be that the people with the most knowledge about Islamic law (Shariah) would desire to carry out these operations with greater frequency,” the report stated.

However, it appears that “those with the most religious knowledge within the organization itself are the least likely to volunteer to be suicide bombers,” the study found.

According to Muslim scholars, ISIS members concoct their own notions about what is allowed and forbidden in Islam which are fully contrary to the faith. Scholar Tariq Ramadan said that it is important to make it known to the world that what ISIS teaches has nothing to do with Islam.

“The people who are doing this are not experiencing martyrdom, they are criminals,” he said. “They are killing innocent people. Nothing in Islam, nothing ever can justify the killing of innocent people, never, ever”.

The number of ISIS terrorists in Iraq and Syria has dropped to its lowest numbers in two years , the US government said in June, estimating the number of fighters in Syria and Iraq at between 18,000 to 22,000, down from as many as 31,500 in 2014. There are an estimated 5,000 ISIS terrorists in Libya and 1,000 in Egypt. Studies estimate as many as 4,000 ISIS fighters were recruited from Western Europe.

By Alwaght