Religion, Not Poverty, Encourages Muslims to Join Islamic State

February 24, 2015 | Ayaan Hirsi Ali
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The Obama administration famously refuses to identify radical Islam by name, preferring such nebulous terms as “violent extremism.” And the president himself routinely denies or downplays the religious nature of the ideology behind Islamic terrorism, instead depicting the attraction to Islamic State (IS) as a result of joblessness or “bad governance” in countries from which many jihadis hail. Ayaan Hirsi Ali points to the disconnection between this view and reality:

It is . . . the sincere desire to live under Islamic religious laws, and the concomitant willingness to use violence to defend the land of Islam and expand it, that has led thousands of Western Muslims, many of them young and intelligent—and not the oft-described “losers”—to leave a comfortable professional and economic future in the West in order to join IS under gritty circumstances.

[T]he U.S. administration confounds two things. It is true that in “failed states,” criminal networks, cartels, and terrorist groups can operate with impunity. Strengthening central governments will reduce safe havens for terror networks. Secretary Kerry’s [recent] argument in the Wall Street Journal is different, however, namely: if we improve governance in countries with “bad governance,” then fewer young people will become “violent extremists.” That’s a different argument and not a plausible one. In fact, it’s a really unpersuasive argument. Muslims leave bright, promising futures to join IS out of a sense of sincere religious devotion, the wish to live under the laws of Allah instead of the laws of men.

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