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The IUP Journal of International Relations :
How to Lure Away Youngsters from Becoming Jihadists?
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Many young Muslims all over the world are leaving their families, homes and friends to join the ranks of terrorists. Previously they went to Afghanistan, now they seem to flock to ISIS. Of course, the Near East is closer to Europe and North Africa from where most jihadists hail from. It is a known fact that many youngsters from all over the world are taking part in the fight in the Near East. In this paper, we would like to address a few questions as to who they are, why they decide to leave their homes to fight for ISIS, when they decide to take such a bold step, what happens when they reach their destination and so on. Moreover, apart from trying to explain the reasons for such a move, we would like to suggest other forms of engagement to these young people who are full of life, full of energy as well as full of ideas. If we present some kind of alternatives to the call for jihad, these youngsters may consider these new forms of involvement worth trying. Obviously, we are not certain that they will take up our offer but, considering the damage they cause both in the Near East and in their respective countries, it is worth trying our luck with such pacific alternatives.

 
 
 

Among several common features between the two wars which happened at the end of the 20th century and at the beginning of the 21st, we can observe the interest these drew from young Muslims who decided to take part in them. These two wars are the war in Afghanistan, which followed the 9/11 events in New York and Washington, and the present war in Syria and Iraq led by ISIS. In these two wars, we notice that, young Muslims from all over the world have decided to leave their homes, families and countries to go and fight for rebellious factions, such as the Taliban in Afghanistan and Daesh in the Near East.

Looking back, one can see that the earlier wars did not seem to have attracted a lot of young volunteers to join their ranks. Many liberation wars occurred in the 20th century, but such conflicts were led and fought by local people and not by outsiders. Therefore, the first major conflict which drew volunteers from many parts of the world seems to have been the war in Afghanistan when the Mujahideen fought the Soviet forces which had entered the country in 1979.

During the war in Afghanistan, many volunteers went there from Southeast Asia. Take, for instance, the case of the Indonesian Abdullah Sungkar who came back to his native country and officially founded the Jemaah Islamiyah with Ba’asyir Abu Bakar in 1993. The latter is supposed to have inspired a few other Javanese, his former students to launch the bombings in Bali on October 12, 2002.1

Of course, it is not the first time that outsiders to a conflict are joining these rebellious organizations. For instance, the International Brigades in which many Europeans left their home countries to fight alongside the Republicans against the Nationalists under General Franco. Yet, in that case these nationals were mostly members of the communist party of their respective countries and intellectuals believing that they had a cause to defend.2 Moreover, that involvement was rather short (1936-1939).

In the case of jihadists joining the ranks of those rebellious organizations are not primarily intellectuals or affiliated to a political party, but rather young Muslims looking for a new cause to embrace.

Many books have been authored in different languages about the youth joining the ranks of Daesh or taking part in terrorist activities, instructed by the emir settled in Daesh.They are supposed to fight the kuffar (unbelievers) in the West or even ordinary Muslims whom they do not consider real Muslims. Many studies have been devoted to the understanding of their motives, on the return of these jihadists to their home countries. So we are well informed as to why they leave their families, employment and countries to go to Sham, or the Levant in the Near East. When the first batch of volunteers went to Afghanistan to fight the Soviet forces, they were called the Mujahideen. Then they became known as the Taliban. In Somalia, the first jihadist organization came to be known as the Islamic Courts which was later taken over by the Shebab. When Osama bin Laden went to Afghanistan, he brought the Al Qaeda organization with him from Sudan where he had lived earlier. Finally, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a new caliphate under the name of ISIS.3

But the main question we would like to raise in this paper is whether we could suggest to these misguided youngsters an alternative cause or causes to defend or embrace in place of their sole aim in life of killing as many non-believers as they can. By believers we mean people believing in their kind of Islamist doctrine. Must we do nothing but wait until their movement from the West to the East finally stops, if ever it is going to stop one day? Or could we try to suggest alternatives to such a call for jihad? It is a known fact that these young adults, some still teenagers, would like to achieve something in their lives. They strongly believe that they can be useful for the cause of Daesh. They are, therefore, full of ideas, energy and are eager to be a part of a broader plan of action. They do not want to remain on the sidelines, but actively involve themselves in the mainstream. Yet, is joining the ranks of Daesh the only option available to satisfy their eagerness to achieve something? Could they choose any other way to make use of their energy and find a new approach to action, not a violent one but a much more useful one as it could help many Muslims and non-Muslims who are currently suffering? Many people in the world today, are enduring all kinds of difficulties. The problems of hunger, illiteracy, absence of education, absence of sanitation, absence of access to clean water and so on. In other words, many worthy causes are waiting for the would-be jihadists to take up and work for. Are they aware of that? Or should we try, obviously not to impose, but rather to suggest, to inform them of the many fields they could enter, either in their home countries or abroad?

In this paper, we intend to make a few suggestions of organizations which are looking for manpower and ideas to fight the problems faced by the mankind across the world. But before we try to go further in this direction, we should first consider who these individuals are, who decide to take such a bold step to become terrorists and jihadists.

 
 
 

International Relations Journal,Youngsters , Jihadists , Alternatives to Jihad , Islamist organization.