In an article published on Monday in the journal Justice & Sécurité, Johan Leman, a doctor in social and cultural anthropology, examines the process leading youngsters to leave and become jihadis. He says, “This is a process which, in the end, has less of a connection than previously thought, with either Belgian Islamic structures, or indeed religion itself.”
The Emeritus Professor at KU Leuven (the University of Leuven) relies heavily, amongst other things, upon interviews with parents or friends of 20 youngsters who have either left, or were on the point of doing so, at the time of the interviews, which were carried out between October 2014 and January 2015, as well as published material.
The author particularly mentions a book by T. Fraihi which was published in 2015. The latter, who works for OCAM (the organisation specialising in threat analysis coordination) puts forward possible motives for leaving for Syria. These include having Salafist ideas, the image of Syria portrayed by the media (including, of course, social media), opportunism, as well as pressure. The lack of authority within families or financial problems may also motivate individuals who choose the route of “jihadist military fighters.”
The article’s author identifies four “generations” amongst youngsters who have been radicalised in recent years; the “Sharia4Belgium” generation, in 2012, comprised “of some small-time criminals”, a 2013 generation “being youngsters who had not been indoctrinated but were attracted by the sense of adventure”, a further generation which increasingly included women “seeking a life within the Caliphate” (2014), and then more recently, that of individuals who “clearly wished to die as heroïc martyrs in the name of the jihadist cause.”
One individual questioned says, “At a particular moment, as a practising Muslim, my nephew turned, towards a more intense experience of Islam…At the beginning of such a conversion, the risk is thus to perceive, in any such individual, a non-believer.”
For he who lets himself be seduced by such ideas, “a process of mental and physical (self-)isolation then starts,” before the recruiter arrives. “Emotional family ties, and, in particular, those with the mother are cut. This acts as a second trigger moment.”
“Meanwhile, there is the unknown as to how effectively the territorial jihadi will become a global jihadi. Furthermore it is not known for how long the powers that be within Islamic State will let him do so,” concludes Johan Leman.