Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Absence of Faith in the Future Major Reason Young People Join Islamist Radicals, Studies in Kyrgyzstan Find

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 4 – In countries where the population lacks faith in the future, two studies over the last several years in Kyrgyzstan suggest, almost any young person regardless of education, income or associations can now be recruited by Islamist extremists who use the Internet to provide the kind of hope that some societies don’t provide.

            Sergey Masaulov of the Information Analytic Center of Moscow State University says that studies conducted by various international groups in Kyrgyzstan over the past decade suggest that the ideal recruit is a male aged 22 to 24, a student or unemployed, an active user of the Internet, and knowledgeable about Islam only via the web (ia-centr.ru/experts/sergey-masaulov/zhertvoy-mozhet-stat-kazhdyy-kak-verbuyut-kyrgyzstantsev/).

            And these investigations suggest, he continues, that there has been a major shift in the way in which the Islamists recruit people and consequently on the mix of people they draw into their network. Earlier, recruitment was largely “’face to face,’” they found, but now, with the rise of the Internet, recruitment “has become much simpler and more effective.

            Research suggests that recruiters use internet video clips and brief materials, encourage commentaries and gradually draw in those who view them.  As a result, the studies conclude, “the new recruit acquires a new image of himself.” And only after that do the recruiters worry about logistics. 

            On the basis of these studies, Masaulov draws three major conclusions: First, despite what many think, “there does not exist a definite category of young people who are at risk of recruitment by extremist groups.” Second, all young people need continuing attention so that they feel integrated in their societies and not at odds with them.

            And third, the most likely to listen to and be recruited by extremists are young people who need a faith in a bright future but “cannot find it in their own country.” These studies are based on the situation in Kyrgyzstan, but this conclusion, it seems likely, applies with equal or even greater force to others, including the Russian Federation.

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