The main objective of ISIS, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, is to create an Islamic state called a caliphate in Syria, Iraq and eventually in the whole world. The purpose of ISIS is to implement Islamic Sharia laws that the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and his successor taught in the seventh and eighth century. The leader of the ISIS, Abu Bakar al Bagdadi, declares that he wants to establish an Islamic society according to the teachings of Islam. The following of ISIS grew gradually as it continuously kept taking over several areas in Syria and Iraq from 2004 onwards. One of the reason of ISIS’s growing power is that some people believe that the Islam of Abu Bakar al Bagdadi is the true Islam that the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and his successors taught to their followers in seventh and eighth century.
After the emergence of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, many researchers and authors tried to explain the factors that led to its emergence and gave different reasons about why the number of its followers and the area controlled by ISIS grew. A research named, “ISIS and Recruitment: How Do Demographics Play a Role?” by an American researcher, Tiffany Tse, analyzes the role that demographics of an individual play in the joining of armed non-state actors like ISIS (Tse). In the research, the researcher examines what role played by in why they join such organization gender, location, geographical, religious history, socioeconomic status, age, and education level to better understand the strategies applied by the terrorist organizations to attract more recruits (Tse). The research shows that the ISIS exploits demographic conditions of the individuals with which it attracts as many fighter as possible. The research is concluded with the suggestion that understanding the reasons why individuals are drawn towards these unlawful groups is necessary to counter these groups. For the authorities to get rid of these organization, it is important that they minimize their interaction with the possible recruits (Tse).
A group of scholars told in their study named, “Combatting the ISIS Foreign Fighter Pipeline: A Global Approach” that in 2014, ISIS claimed that it has about two million followers but the size greatly decreased after several military operations and it was estimated in 2016 that it still has about twenty-five thousand fighters (Curtis et al.). The main purpose of the study is to show that a great number of radicalized foreign fighters travel to join ISIS from different parts of the world. Foreign fighters are those people who leave their home country to take part in the terrorist activities of the non-state armed actor. The research shows that ISIS has more than forty-five hundred members from Western nations and about two hundred and ten are the US citizens (Curtis et al.). Moreover, the research shows that the civil war in Syria is the chief reason for the teenagers to join ISIS in the fight against the rule of the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. None of the western countries responded to the chemical attacks on Ghouta, Syria, by Assad, in 2013, fanned ISIS recruiting from the western nations. In June 2014, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared caliphate in Mosul, the second largest city of Iraq, after capturing it, which escalated the recruiting (Curtis et al.).
In the book, “ISIS: The State of Terror” the writers JM Berger and Jessica Stern tell that despite the obstacles employed by the law enforcement authorities, new recruitments from various backgrounds are still increasing in ISIS (Stern and Berger). The counter narratives and blocking accounts of these organizations has not been of much help in stopping the upbringings from all continents. It is because various forms of media and propaganda, such as Twitter and Facebook accounts, magazines, pamphlets, and YouTube videos, have been utilized by these organizations for recruitment. The law enforcement agencies find it hard to tackle the battle on social and print media where they are faceless and hidden behind the screens. The spread of information and technology, it has become difficult to trace the source back to the culprit (Stern and Berger). The book tells that the media cell of ISIS, Al Hayat, broadcasts their propaganda in a pyramid structure. Their main sources are a few and they use their member personnel to spread the information who further send to the possible recruits or upload it on several websites. Therefore, shutting down one source makes no difference. The intelligences have been scrutinizing ISIS’s sophisticated use of media tactics. ISIS’s media outlets are extremely adaptive which use modern devices to attract more individuals (Stern and Berger).
In the report named, “Eyewitness Accounts from Recent Defectors from Islamic State: Why They Joined, What They Saw, Why They Quit,” the writers Anne Speckhard and Ahmet S. Yayla give account of what techniques are employed by ISIS to lure males and females (Speckhard and Yayla). Gender divide is largely researched topic in media and marketing to understand methods to attract each group’s attention. ISIS devices different techniques to recruit females than that they use when capturing males. ISIS’s propaganda depicts a normal daily life with routinely activities in the Islamic State. They show an ideal lifestyle that appeals to the desires of possible recruits to compel them to join the organization with a hope that they may become a part of something better (Speckhard and Yayla). Moreover, the propaganda also appeals to the individuals who find war for the God’s sake glorious and adventurous. ISIS fulfils the need of young men who become lost due to negative life experiences by giving them a sense of purpose of their lives. They lure unemployed men by offering salaries, a wife and a house. To attract women to work for ISIS, the atrocities are presented to them especially those committed by the dictator Assad (Speckhard and Yayla).
In his essay, “ISIS Goes Global: Fight the Islamic State by Targeting Its Affiliates,” the writer Daniel Byman says that the ISIS develops new operatives and staging grounds as it grows bigger (Byman). Therefore, Western governments should pay more attention to the wannabe jihadists, who are traveling to and from the ISIS bases around the globe, than the foreign fighters. Byman says that these would-be fighters are the communication channels for the Islamic State and Baghdadi that bring ISIS’s agenda back to their countries on returning there (Byman). The writer of the essay says that the affiliates of the Islamic States not only fight the local government forces but also they fabricate sectarian attacks and target individuals from western nations in their region. The number followers of ISIS is growing far more rapidly on a massive scale in the whole world with the spread of the terrorists’ ideology to the locals of their countries. It has already won over multiple terrorists groups that were allied al Qaeda before (Byman).
The study, “Four Questions on ISIS: A “Trend” Analysis of the Islamic State” by Boaz Ganor analyses the military achievements and success in attracting new recruits from around the globe (Ganor). The study also analyses its gain of financial resources and its propaganda through social and other media. Ganor says that young Muslim immigrants find a sense of identity because their local society gives them a sense of barrier which increases their frustration and anger (Ganor). Islamic State exploits these youngsters by exploiting their needs and convincing them that they need to protect their religion from the infidels. Moreover, the youngsters are attracted to ISIS because it offers an outlet for adventure and violence to the thrill seekers (Ganor).
There are various reasons given by different researchers to why the number of ISIS followers is increasing. The topic has been the center of interests for many researchers but there is no research that tells about the religious factor in the continuous increase of the number of its followers.