(Investigative Project on Terrorism) Prominent public figures and officials often claim that Islam has nothing to do with the jihadist terrorist violence spreading throughout the world. A recent academic study challenges this misguided view – by actually speaking to terrorist foreign fighters.
The authors of "Talking to Foreign Fighters: Insights into the Motivations for Hijrah to Syria and Iraq," University of Waterloo sociologist Lorne L. Dawson, and George Washington University Program on Extremism Fellow Amarnath Amarasingam, published their findings after numerous conversations with 20 foreign fighters, mostly coming from the West. None of the jihadists cited socioeconomic grievances or other forms of disenfranchisement as a major role in their decisions to wage jihad abroad. Rather, the conversations largely revolved around their Islamist beliefs.
Religion dominated discussion so much, the report said, that "it seems implausible to suggest that religiosity (i.e. a sincere religious commitment, no matter how ill informed or unorthodox) is not a primary motivator for their actions. Religion provides the dominant frame these foreign fighters use to interpret almost every aspect of their lives..."
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