Jihad on our doorstep
Last month I was invited to deliver the Henriette van Lynden lecture which is organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Netherlands. Along with the Guardian journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad,I was asked to speak about the mindset of jihadists in Syria and Iraq. Much of the debate about this topic has been populist and overshadowed by those who join Islamic State, resulting in the characterisation of all participants in the conflict as nihilistic barbarians. This is certainly true for some of them – but not all. Using the research we’ve put together at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) on foreign fighters – where I’m assisted by my brilliant colleagues, Joseph Carter and Melanie Smith – I hoped to paint a more subtle and granular picture of just who is fighting in Syria and Iraq. Who are these people? What are they doing out there? And, more importantly, what motivated them to go? Exploring these questions allows us, I believe, to think smarter about how we stem the flow of foreign fighters, undermine the narrative which attracts them in the first place, and ultimately reintegrate some of them back into society.
You can watch the video here. My remarks begin at 22:20.
Shiraz Maher is a Senior Research Fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR), an academic research unit in King’s College London.