‘Anti-immigrant policies and Islamophobia push Muslims to join ISIS’
US law enforcement is investigating a new phenomenon of women living in the US seeking to join the Islamic State, as President Barack Obama vows to cut off militant recruiting at home. According to the Somali community leader Abdirizak Bihi, at least three Somali families in the Minneapolis-St Paul area have female relatives who have gone missing in the past six weeks, and may have tried to join the ISIS. The Twin Cities area of Minnesota, home to the biggest Somali community in America, has been targeted since 2007 by the Somali group al-Shabaab for terrorist recruitment.
RT:The Islamic State has proven to be very good at recruiting people both in Europe and America. Why are they so successful in it?
Mia Bloom: A lot of young people have been recruited in a very exploitative way. The recruiters are like predators, so they are looking for young people who very often may be seeking out some involvement, and may not necessarily know what their individual obligation is to their religion. So what they do is they combine feelings of guilt that they live in the West, and that there are people, there are Muslims suffering in the Middle East with this distortion of the Islamic faith, to say that “You have to go to the jihad in order to fulfill your individual obligation.” And what they are able to do is to sell a mixture of guilt but also a very idealized form of what their life will be like when they get there.
RT:Reportedly, Minnesota has become a recruiting ground for Islamic extremists. Officials say that up to 20 men connected to the Minnesota Somali community have been fighting for extremist groups in Syria. Why is this happening?
MB: What we have in Minneapolis, Minnesota is that there has been a Somali community targeted for over 5 years, first to join Al-Shaabab to go to Somalia, and now the same community is being targeted by these recruiters who are exploiting very high-performing people. So what is happening is that they are going to the community and they are going after young people who for many hours after school…don’t have anything to do before their parents get home, or they are going after families with only one parent, only the mother is available and is working very long hours. What we are seeing is that the community in Minneapolis, which previously was being sent to Somalia to join Al-Shaabab, has now been routed to Syria to join the Islamic Caliphate.
RT:Why do many women tend to join IS and other radical groups?
MB: One of the reasons that the European Muslim women who have gone have posted on Facebook, Twitter and social media, is that they have said the increase of radical hate in Europe, right-wing parties that have brought with them anti-immigrant feelings, Islamophobia – that is one of the things that pushed them to live in the Islamic Caliphate so that they could live unmolested in an Islamic environment and they wouldn’t be marked for wearing the hijab, they wouldn’t be spat on or treated badly. It’s important that we understand that people who are being lured to Syria in many ways are victims because many of these women, if they are 14-16, they don’t understand what they are about to get involved in.And it is very important not to have a reaction in the US that is anti-immigration and anti-Islam like what we have seen in Europe.
RT:Do you think ISIS presents an immediate threat to the US?
MB: Most of the foreign fighters that are involved in the Islamic Caliphate in Syria and Iraq are coming from Arab countries. I think that the immediate threat is not to the US, the immediate threat is actually to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Jordan – the countries from which the majority of the foreign fighters come. Once they are trained and battle-hardened, if they go back to their countries they will import with them their ideology and their desire for involvement in violent activities. As far as the US is concerned, as long as we know who these people are, when they return to the US they will be monitored very carefully, but it is also important that people who went there by accident, who went there because they had one idea of involvement and it wasn’t the case, that they are allowed some way to get out because if they are stuck there – that’s it, there is no way out for them as well.
RT:Are there many terrorist cells in America?
MB: I don’t think we have many cells but there is always the threat that they could be recruiting women from other Middle Eastern and Pakistani communities. This is why it has been very important to work with the community leaders within the Muslim communities around the US so that these women are not recruited and not targeted. This is where we have many of the communities themselves, the Muslims that are going to mosque coming forward to say “There is a recruiter in our mosque, please get rid of him.” So the Muslims in America are the first line of defense because they are very much part of the “American dream.” Most Muslims in America want the same things – a good home, good career and a good future for their children.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.