The Egyptian online community has been using the Arabic-language hashtag “I will join ISIS” to joke about becoming part of the terrorist organization.
Alleged members of ISIS have been using the same hashtag with the real intent of recruitment. An estimated 600 Egyptians actually have joined ISIS, according to the country’s interior ministry.
One of the most publicized Egyptian recruits was Islam Yaken, the “Hipster Jihadi” who led a privileged life until the unexpected death of a friend prompted a more fundamental interpretation of religion and later radicalization. A revealing video by The New York Times detailed Yaken’s journey to becoming an ISIS fighter, including interviews with his friends about the internal conflict brought on by living in a modern society while also struggling for piety.
Throughout Yaken’s transformation from middle-class, university graduate to jihadi, he continued to enjoy bodybuilding. Yaken said in a workout video, “Every guy dreams of having a six-pack so he can take his shirt off at the beach or at the pool and have people check him out.” Later, he created a workout video for jihadis in Syria. A clip shows the once-aspiring personal trainer outside, apparently using a small log for squats and bench presses.
After Yaken’s friend was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2012, his lifestyle began to change. He quit attending parties, unfriended females on Facebook and no longer posted shirtless, post-workout pictures.
Following the popularly supported coup which overthrew Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president in the summer of 2013, Yaken left for Syria to join ISIS. He filled his social media sites with jihadi messages and pictures. One widely circulated photo showed him wielding a sword on the back of a horse.
Yaken was reportedly killed on a suicide mission in the Syrian-Turkish border town of Kobani in late 2014.
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