Report: ISIS Radicalization And Recruitment Is Booming In The United States

Jonah Bennett | Contributor

Islamic State-related radicalization is booming in the United States, and the group’s recruitment tactics are far more successful than traditional jihadi movements.

A new George Washington University report looks at the demographics of ISIS supporters in the United States and the technology the terror group uses to galvanize its members.

“While jihadist causes have lured American recruits for several decades, the surge spurred by the rise of ISIS and its sophisticated marketing of its counter-culture to impressionable Americans is unprecedented,” the report authored by Lorenzo Vidino and Seamus Hughes says.

The report notes authorities opened 900 investigations in all 50 states against Americans who sympathize with ISIS. According to an FBI estimate, there are potentially thousands of individuals living in the U.S. who support ISIS, the vast majority of whom are permanent residents or U.S. citizens.

Results from active investigations and run-ins with U.S. authorities reveal some interesting demographic trends. Since March 2014, 71 have been charged with ISIS-related activities.

First, the average age of those charged for ISIS-related activities is 26. The individuals are spread across 21 different states, and 86 percent are male.

New York and Minnesota rank first and second respectively for the highest number of arrests. Minnesota has a strong reputation as an incubator of radical Islam. Mohamud Noor, acting executive director for the Confederation of Somali Communities in Minnesota, tells The New York Daily News that, “They are young men who are looking and looking for their identity.”

Just over 50 percent tried to travel to Syria or Iraq in order to fight for ISIS.

Additionally, 27 percent planned to carry out attacks in the U.S.

A total of 55 percent were nabbed by undercover operatives or informants, and 40 percent of those arrested are converts to Islam, indicating a clear overrepresentation.

By far, ISIS sympathizers use Twitter the most out of any other social media platform, followed by Facebook and Tumblr. Encrypted messaging services like Telegram also feature heavily, though after the Paris attacks Telegram shut down 78 channels in use by the group.

In other cases, individuals embrace ISIS ideology because of radicalization in existing in-person social circles.

Other demographic traits vary widely. The report notes that, “Their motivations are equally diverse and deny easy analysis.” This means there is no simple solution, the authors argue.

“Recognizing this complexity is a vital initial step for policymakers, law enforcement officials, civic leaders, teachers and parents when crafting effective solutions,” the report states.

One of those solutions includes finding recruits who are totally disillusioned with ISIS ideology and promoting their message, but it also may include granting a certain amount of immunity for foreign fighters who wish to return home. The government should then seize on the fighters’ disillusionment and use their messages as a counter-ISIS propaganda tool, as traditional methods appear largely ineffective.

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