Mechanism to combat the effects of ISIS in India
The article does not intend to show the dynamics of ISIS; rather it is a reflection on the psyche of the youth who are moving away from their friends and families and take risk to fly secretively from the country. If everything is good, then why, according to a First Post1 report, did the four Kalyan youths recruited by ISIS, including 23-year-old Arif Majeed, who until now was believed to have been killed while fighting for ISIS in Syria, reportedly want to return to India? Here is a point which needs to be diagnosed. The youth rush or even escape from reality with dreams of unfulfilled desires. No sooner do they confront another bitter truth do they get anguished and want to return to the protection of their families. The intelligence agency suspects a hidden agenda, but this can always be separated and studied.
The youth who are made to believe that what ISIS is doing is right should be educated by learned clergies and the Muslim Academic Council about the true spirit of Islam.
We cannot develop any mechanism unless we are certain that a counterapproach is adopted which will be not only appropriate but also fully adequate to dissuade them from pursuing this path. The youth psychology speaks volumes about their identity crisis, a feeling of being marginalised and the feeling that the society, including the family members, is unable to understand them. They are not willing to accept their shortcomings or the obstacles between their aspirations and the real situation. The youth become bitter when their aspirations remain unfulfilled. Helplessness and hopelessness make them alienated from all, and finally, they become homeless. Reasons that encourage individuals to join extremist groups are often found in the problems they are beset with in their social lives or in the long-lasting economic hardships they have to face.
There are numerous studies which have highlighted the parental discord, family disharmony and economic difficulties which distort the self-identity of the person. But there are other reasons which at the same time must not be ignored. The majority of the recruits in ISIS are young boys and girls who have abundant energy and enjoy the thrill of pursuing the objectives of the agency. Social media and propaganda entice these youths, yet all do not get tempted. Professor Kruglanski2 has done extensive work on violence and terrorism. He believes that ‘the extreme ideologies have a twofold type of appeal. First of all, they are very coherent, black and white, right or wrong. Secondly, they afford the possibility of a participant becoming very unique and part of a larger whole.’ He explains that those who join extreme groups define the world in absolute terms and place strict dividing lines between concepts such as good and bad. What they perceive good they support. Such strict belief systems are not related to the ideological approaches of people but, instead, to the need for self-identity, which plays a notably larger role in the lives of young people.
Repeated news like a woman thrown out of a Mumbai flat was a Muslim and a Muslim MBA aspirant was refused job because he is a Muslim should severely be condemned, and those who indulge in such activities must be segregated from others.
The need of the young Muslim youths of any country to join ISIS, therefore, relates to catering to the self-identity. We stress on cognitive closure as discussed by Kruglanski. One sees through the prism the fulfilment of the needs of victims of terrorist propaganda. ‘There is a high need for closure, high need for clarity, high need to commit to an ideology that would provide quick answers.’ Therefore, particularly the fundamentalist religious groups that claim to know exactly what is right and wrong also know how to behave in every situation and provide aptly and promptly a ‘golden opportunity’ for young people who are seeking their self-identity. Thus to infer from this study, cognitive closure basically related to self-identity is one of the leading factors behind the broad participation of young people in ISIS – in other words, seeking a selfidentity and answers to their questions on life, politics and other related issues.
Having discussed all the psychological issues which are prompting an increasing number of young Muslim youth to join ISIS everywhere, including India, we need to think about and formulate a holistic mechanism which will make the youth re-think before approaching the organisation. To begin with, the families of the related boys and girls must be contacted and advised to play a positive role in preventing their wards from joining ISIS. Families have a key role in preventing youths from being lured to join the ISIS, by teaching them the meaning of jihad and detecting changes in their behaviour. They can also be close observers of sudden changes in their children’s attitudes, beliefs, the peer groups they contact and the literature they study; at the same time, it is essential to monitor their activities.
The youth who are made to believe that what ISIS is doing is right should be educated by learned clergies and the Muslim Academic Council about the true spirit of Islam. The News3 says that experts commonly say that Muslims haven’t roundly condemned the extremism committed in Islam’s name. ‘Where are the Muslim voices in condemnation? Why aren’t Muslims speaking up against extremists like ISIS?’ It is asserted that either people do not hear or they are not prepared to understand that educated and liberal Muslims have continued to condemn the barbaric acts of ISIS. The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) condemned the Islamic State and called for a ‘Stand Against Extremism’.
The need of the hour is to put aside all the differences and religion factionalism to instil the feeling of oneness and belongingness in every youth in the country.
On 20 August 2014, the MPAC released a statement condemning ‘the barbaric execution of American Journalist James Foley by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)’. MPAC urged ‘all people of conscience to take a stand against extremism’ and offered condolences to Foley’s family. MPAC also noted the importance of countering ISIS and other extremist groups by working ‘to empower the mainstream and relegate extremists to the irrelevance they deserve’. My second claim, therefore, rests here that the broadminded and educated Muslim brethren become the think tanks for the young generation and address them in schools, colleges and madrassas to make them aware about the antidotes of joining the organisation, which is condemned by their own fellow Muslims. This will be more close to the hearts of the misled youth, who will rethink and revise their actions and beliefs. Definitely it will require the total support of the family members. There should not be any conflicting ideas which will waver and confuse the youth once again.
The appeal is to the political parties and the country as a whole to read the writing on the wall. From an Indian perspective, we have already had the first reported death of an Indian fighting for ISIS. Reports about many youths fighting for ISIS from different countries, including India, are troubling, and many of the youths who manage to slip under the security radar and return home could foment trouble, given their exposure to the radical, extremist and apocalyptic ideologies. The need of the hour is to put aside all the differences and religion factionalism to instil the feeling of oneness and belongingness in every youth in the country.
Repeated news like a woman thrown out of a Mumbai flat was a Muslim and a Muslim MBA aspirant was refused job because he is a Muslim should severely be condemned, and those who indulge in such activities must be segregated from others. We must realise that homegrown terrorism and internal violence are also the result of dissatisfaction and feelings of being sidelined by the country. It is very unfortunate that on one hand we talk of development and on the other side we adamantly refuse to accept that no progress can take place unless every individual becomes a participant in the process of growth. Young adults who are still mentally immature and emotionally unstable become unwittingly the victims of these outdated and sectarian ideas of the pundits and mullahs who always believe in a divide-and-rule policy.
Becoming a migrant to another country or state happens only when one feels lonely and identity-less. It needs to be tackled meticulously.
In the end, to summarise, from all the analysis done of the profile of the youth joining ISIS and an in-depth exploration of the propelling factors enabling the move, a synthesis is drawn that a political will is needed to condemn all radicalism and fundamentalism in the country and to unite all youth by giving them equal opportunity to progress in education and skill development. If Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation is followed – ‘Saab Ka Saath, Saab Ka Vikas’ – then this is the prime opportunity to give youth the feeling of importance by giving them their rights. The synthesis of the whole argument in this article is that the mechanism to combat the flow of youth to ISIS has to be so strong and foolproof with the support of all segments of the society, and ultimately with a positive approach from the government, that youth will rethink before leaving the safety and comfort of their country. Becoming a migrant to another country or state happens only when one feels lonely and identity-less. It needs to be tackled meticulously.
Notes and References
- First Post. ‘Rescue Us: Mumbai Youth Who joined ISIS Now Want to Return Home.’ 26 November 2014. <http://www.firstpost.com/india/rescue-usmumbai- youth-who-joined-isis-now-want-to-return-home-1822425.html>.
- Reyhan Güner. ‘No Shades of Gray: Psychological Reasons for Joining ISIS.’ Journal of Turkish Weekly, 23 December 2014.
- Hesham A. Hassaballa. ‘Think Muslims Haven’t Condemned ISIS? Think Again.’ <http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonwordcommonlord/2014/08/ think-muslims-havent-condemned-isis-think-again.html>.