The Hyped Up Western Jihadi Fear of ISIS

Don't freak out, America has endured worse subversives.


ISIS is not just a nasty extremist group—it's a nasty extremist group with Western recruits. It even gave the starring role in the gruesome videotaped beheading of two Americans and an Englishman to a British rapper.

The rise of ISIS is massively unsettling, and time will tell if it's a good thing that President Obama has finally figured out a "strategy" to deal with this group. But nothing about ISIS justifies the growing fears in the West that liberalism's lack of "transcendent" purpose is making it difficult to counter the allure of its Islamist ideological opponents.

Among those voicing such worries is The Week's Michael Brendan Dougherty, who noted that the "West's appeal, such as it is" may be diminishing. Why? Because it has "lost confidence in its way of life," making an Islamic State that offers the "romance of revolution, and the promise of action and power" hugely appealing to disillusioned Western youth. Likewise, National Review's Charles C. Cooke laments that "totalitarianism is exciting"—and not to the socially marginalized living in grinding poverty, but the bored bourgeois youth whose basic needs liberalism has met, given that many jihadis come from well-to-do families. And across the pond the Telegraph's Tim Stanley echoes that young men and women rejecting comfortable Western homes and lifestyles to turn to jihad are a "symptom of an existential crisis" afflicting liberalism.

But if anything bespeaks Western softness and loss of confidence, it is what counts as an "existential crisis" now.

Let's begin with the actual numbers: The Soufan Group, which conducted the most comprehensive study of the foreign fighters in the region, reports that over the last three years, about 12,000 fighters from 81 countries have joined the civil war in Syria, far more than went to Afghanistan.

Of these, around 2,500 to 3,000 are Westerners—some of whom are fighting for the Assad regime in Syria and some for rebel groups of which ISIS is only one. France, England and Germany, the biggest suppliers of European jihadis, have contributed about 700, 400, and 270 recruits, respectively.

And the United States? "Dozens (70+)," notes the study.

This works out to 0.00003 percent of the total American population and 0.004 percent of the American Muslim population. A much higher percentage of Americans upset with the "system" join violent gangs and political cults every year. Between 2000 and 2008, the United States birthed 298 new hate groups, four times more than the total number of American individuals who have gone jihadi.

There is nothing new about a small number of Americans bolting to join foreign armies fighting for anti-liberal causes. Over 2,800 Americans enlisted on the communist side in the Spanish Civil War, despite America's official policy of neutrality (because, as in many current conflicts, there were no clear good guys). What's more, in the first eight months of 1931, when Stalin's atrocities were approaching their zenith, more than 100,000 Americans applied to emigrate to the Soviet Union, several thousand of them successfully.

The relative puniness of the Western jihadi phenomenon is all the more striking when one considers that for 13 years now America has been engaged in a war against terror whose locus is the Muslim world. America has invaded two Muslim countries and relentlessly drone-bombed others, often in violation of their sovereignty and with high civilian casualties.

One can debate whether America's actions are justified or not. But one can hardly be surprised that they have generated questions at home and repercussions abroad. The Vietnam War lasted less than a decade yet spawned a far bigger domestic backlash. Student organizations such as the Students for Democratic Society mounted violent protests; radical outfits such as the Weather Underground arose for the express purpose of overthrowing the United States government; and the Black Panther Party launched campaigns to advance "an anti-imperialist political ideology that linked the oppression of anti-war protesters to the oppression of blacks and Vietnamese." No doubt the draft prompted much of this, but that was a real existential crisis!

What's more, the war on terror has occurred at a time of sizeable, perhaps record, Muslim migration to the West. There are nearly 5 million Muslims in America and England each and about 7 million in France.

It is inevitable that some hotheads from this relatively large population, riled up by profiling and other targeting, would seek revenge. Still, what's most remarkable is that, according to the Soufan report, 25 percent of French ISIS volunteers had no cultural or ethnic connection to Iraq or Syria. Rather, they were converts who'd embraced Islam in search of meaning and identity

ISIS has been greatly aided in its efforts to recruit these jihadi wannabees (some of who reportedly ordered Islam for Dummies from Amazon before heading for Syria) by the advent of social media. ISIS has launched sophisticated Facebook and Twitter campaigns, crafted to appeal to confused and impressionable millennials that emphasize the joys of living in an Islamic utopia without making any mention of its barbaric side. One video shows a soft-spoken soldier with a beatific smile holding a little kitten (puppies are considered impure in Islam) talking about what a good time he's having. Pictures on Twitter hashtagged #Jihadifitness show "brothers" jogging with a glorious sunset in the backdrop to portray the easy camaraderie of the jihadi lifestyle.

In a liberal society that guarantees freedom of thought, there will inevitably be some people who will freely choose illiberal ideologies. And given that Islamism is the only anti-liberal democratic game in town, it attracts many folks who might have gravitated toward the far left and fascism in the past.

However, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks triggered a mighty "clash of civilizations," if all that ISIS and its ilk can dredge up are a handful of malcontents, despite all the sophisticated communication tools at its disposal, Western liberalism must be in pretty good shape.

This column originally appeared in The Week, where Ms. Dalmia is a columinst. Go here for her Week archive.

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  1. making an Islamic State that offers the “romance of revolution, and the promise of action and power” hugely appealing to disillusioned Western youth.

    Sheesh, it’s a lot easier just to pick up “Destiny” down at the Game Stop.

    1. How much does she charge.

    2. That’s a different sort of RPG.

  2. Pro-tip: Using the SPLC to define hate groups is damaging to one’s credibility.

    1. Yeah, SPLC didn’t even like the Klan who hung black dudes from trees and they were against the White Patriot party who was buying weapons from the military bases down there for use against their enemies!

      Bad Bad Bad.

      1. Except that the SPLC has decided that Christian groups opposed to gay marriage, and even pick-up artists, are “hate groups” just like the Klan. That’s the sort of bullshit that Dances-with-Trolls meant.

  3. The fuck is the point of this article?

    1. Open BorderZ!


      1. Vanilla ISIS, the jihadi rapper?!


        1. Word to your Mullah!

    3. If only they learned the joys of cleaning Shikia’s floor with a toothbrush for 5 cents a day (less the cost of the toothbrush) they’d knock off that nasty revolution business.

    4. It is inevitable that some hotheads from this relatively large population, riled up by profiling and other targeting, would seek revenge.



    5. The fuck is the point of this article?

      It’s important for true believers to dismiss uncomfortable facts that conflict with their ideology. Libertarians don’t like war and like open borders, and so the threat of terrorism, and the problems of mass immigration, must be downplayed.

  4. “It is inevitable that some hotheads from this relatively large population, riled up by profiling and other targeting, would seek revenge.”

    Yea, that totally explains why middle-class white kids are joining IS to go kill people they have no connection to what-so-ever, after converting to islam. Could it be that a prisoner-raping, genocidal pedophile just doesn’t make that great of a mentor instead?

  5. Maybe if our government would stop waging war against it’s own citizens and creating millions of disenfranchised, this would stop or at least slow down?

    Look at the limeys for example. They’ve all but waged an all out war against males, Sweden is even worse.

    You really can’t expect to go all out looney on your citizens, ruin their lives, and expect none of them to defect to something else.

    1. I agree that it should stop waging war against people. But that is not what has caused ISIS. At some point we will get a no shit European white male radical and violent movement. When that happens, look out because a lot of people are going to die and it is going to be a bitch.

      1. My money is on France.

        1. England or Germany. I think the Muslims and their self loathing western elite enablers have about wore out their welcome in those places.

          1. Maybe Holland. Geert Wilders has basically said if you’re a Muslim get the fuck out, and I know his party has gotten like 15 or 20% in the past. Less popular now, but you don’t need a majority to start a mobwar.

        2. France will probably just surrender during the first riot. My bet is on England.

          I remember asking some acquaintances about possibility of a violent backlash in Europe after I read Bruce Bawer’s book back in 2006. The Europeans all told me it was nonsense, that the book was based way more on hysteria than fact. One, however, told me that even if it was true, “What’s wrong with just converting to Islam?” (Which someone on these boards also suggested as a response recently.)

          Wonder if they’d still say the same thing? I haven’t been back to Europe for years, so no idea how much worse it’s gotten other than what I see in the news.

      2. No, of course it’s not what caused ISIS, John. I’m just saying that when you disenfranchise millions of your own citizens, don’t be surprised when some of them join some radical group just for revenge.

        Maybe when they have another extremist group hell bent on destruction, like you are speaking of, they will choose that path of revenge. One thing for sure is that the USA and other Western nations are engaged in a dangerous game of over the top PC non-sense, putting people on lists and making them criminals for life, stripping away all of their rights and any chance of going back to a normal life in society. It’s going to turn out very badly one way or another. I really am worried about the world my grandchildren will have to live in.

        1. I read a history of the Russian Revolution a few years ago. One of the points it made was that the biggest driver of the shere viciousness of the Bolshaviks was the creation of a prison culture among dissenters in Imperial Russia. Imperial Russia put so many people in prison and in exile that the violent and nihilistic culture of prison took hold of opposition groups. Not that the Marxists were not murderous fucks to begin with. But the prison culture made it even more murderous and more insane and more dangerous. As I read that I couldn’t help but think of the US.

          1. This prisons Saddam and other Middle East despots ran or run are probably a lot similar. Interesting observation you make.

          2. “Not that the Marxists were not murderous fucks to begin with. But the prison culture made it even more murderous and more insane and more dangerous”

            I have to wonder whether the deaths of tens of millions of them fighting Germany contributed a bit towards a violent and hopeless culture too??

            1. The Leninists were murderous fucks from day one. Between Lenin and Stalin they killed tens of millions of their countrymen long before the National Socialists ever invaded. Lenin started the terrors and was advocating for expansion until he died. Stalin, as Lenin’s protege, just kicked up Lenin’s programs a notch. The war with Germany didn’t stop the Communist murders, they channeled them a bit differently until the war ended. Then BAM back to the same programs. Stalin had planned Holocaust 2.0 and had already ordered the construction of the camps when he died. Germany had a near zero impact on their killing campaigns.

    2. Look at the limeys for example. They’ve all but waged an all out war against males, Sweden is even worse

      Therein lies the allure of radical Islamism. It is seen as unashamedly masculine and has cover to be such in the West due to the progressive multiculturalism cult. In many parts of Europe and increasingly in these United States, it is one’s last option to be assertively male.

      1. That is a lot to it. And you know what else? It makes it appealing to women as well. The Jezze’s heads would explode if they were sentient enough to understand that.

        And you leave Nicole ALONE!!

      2. Progtards do not understand human nature. Their insane illusions about things as being female or male is only a social construct is indisputable evidence of this.

      3. “In many parts of Europe and increasingly in these United States, it is one’s last option to be assertively male.”

        Are you the guy posting on Craigslist about being very hairy and manly and shagging other people wives because they really like being spanked and bitten?

        I thought so!

      4. “Therein lies the allure of radical Islamism.”

        Of all the crazy statements made daily on Reason, this one has to be the furthest reach of all…….

        Since the beginning of time virtually ALL religions and power structures have been male dominated….whether Macho cultures or more gentle ones, this has been the case up until the last 100 years or so.

        Can’t you be “male” by rock climbing? Piloting? Race car driving? Hunting? other sports? Corporate CEO? Construction worker?

        I count endless ways a person could be a grunt if they want to. In fact, more of us can choose to be any way we want than ever before – and this doesn’t include video games!!

        I think we finally put our finger on the “Reason for Reason”. It’s 90% males here commenting…these must be males who long for the good old days, when they were automatically given all power over the womenfolk.

        The very idea of a “free market and free mind” which may say to said male “hey, you have to prove yourself and compete against women in work and school”….seems to have been enough for you guys to rebel.

        At least we are getting to the real cause of your depression.

  6. As far as I can tell, this article is claiming that radical Islam will destroy liberalism, but then goes on to provide data demonstrating that there is less defection now than ever and that it is only among Muslims…

    Another completely retardedly reasoned and poorly written piece of shit Shikha!

  7. It’s good to keep the numbers in perspective, I guess, but nonetheless, it is still unsettling that hundreds of people who have joined (and fought for) an organization that’s part theocratic cult, part paramilitary gang have valid passports issued by your government. Whatever happens in Syria and Iraq, Of the folks who survive, I do not see them returning to upstate New York and settling down, taking jobs at the post office or what have you. Joining an organization like ISIS is crossing a kind of Rubicon, I suspect.

    1. Yes. Just because they are not an existential threat doesn’t mean they are not a threat at all or that they do not have the potential to cause us a lot of harm. Dalmia is engaging in real sophistry here by posing the false dilemma of every threat being existential or no threat at all.

      1. Dalmia is the worst. Just the worst. None of her articles are interesting. She contradicts her arguments with her data. And to top it off, they’re not even well written. She’s a triple threat!

        1. No. Nicole is the worst.

          Fun fact: met a girl named Nicole last night and had to stop myself several times from calling her the worst.

          1. H&R, sabotaging social interactions for years now.

    2. You know who else started out with a small band of violent, fanatic followers and wanted to conquer territory for a super state?

  8. Wouldn’t these westerners be exactly the people that we’d allow to head into a middle east shithole and blow themselves up?

    I remember a recent story about hot-headed, drunk Bellevue Police officers getting ejected from a Seahawks game. After an inquest, the officers were punished by being removed from the Bomb Squad. Should the bomb squad be exactly where we send our worst officers?

  9. Doesn’t take too many people to kill thousands and sow illiberal discord.

  10. The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

    The damage done to morale, psychological health, and capital accumulation via the welfare state and class warfare are far more dangerous to American citizens than any foreign enemy.

    1. Especially a far off “enemy” of a few thousand ill educated savages…

    2. This is true. As Toynbee said, “civilizations do not fall, they commit suicide.”

    3. “he damage done to morale, psychological health, and capital accumulation via the welfare state and class warfare”

      Exactly. We can have more equality and fairness and do away with the class warfare. Or – if only people accepted their lot in life…simple things like “our white customers would rather see an HVAC technician who looked and talked like they do”…..or “We don’t want the homeowners to be scared”….

      If only…..

  11. Pictures on Twitter hashtagged #Jihadifitness show “brothers” jogging with a glorious sunset in the backdrop to portray the easy camaraderie of the jihadi lifestyle.

    I suspect Planet Fitness is not sweating and shaking in fear, just yet.

    1. But they are Sweating to the Oldies, I just know it.

    2. I though Islam frowned on such “brotherhood”

  12. OT: I’m sure there’s a slippery slope here somewhere:…..n-schools/

    This effort came about when the Orange County school system allowed an evangelical Christian group to distribute Bibles while censoring atheist materials distributed by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a nonprofit that strives to uphold the principle of separation of state and church. In response, FFRF sued the Orange County School Board. Neither FFRF nor The Satanic Temple agree with the school board’s decision to allow the distribution of religious materials in schools; however, The Satanic Temple seeks to ensure that pluralism is respected whenever the Church/State division is breached.…..y_Book.pdf

    1. It is just a public accommodation lesson. If you let one group distribute things in the schools, you have to let all groups do it.

      I am always amazed at how the FFRF people are totally unaware how Orwellian and creepy their name sounds. Perhaps they feel it the name properly describes them.

      1. “I am always amazed at how the FFRF people are totally unaware how Orwellian and creepy their name sounds”

        Ah, how their name sounds to you…is this important? If we called them “free minds, free markets, free from religion”, would you then join?

        Which part do you find creepy?

        All of those seem fairly descriptive.

  13. France, England and Germany, the biggest suppliers of European jihadis

    They’re not Europeans. They’re Levantines and North Africans in possession of European Union credentials. Geography doesn’t designate culture and genetics.

  14. til I looked at the draft which said $4311 , I did not believe that my father in law woz like realy taking home money in their spare time at their computer. . there sisters neighbour had bean doing this for under thirteen months and just now repayed the mortgage on there cottage and bourt Fiat Multipla . visit this site right here…………..

  15. …(puppies are considered impure in Islam)…

    Are you seriously fucking telling me that there’s an entire religion that hates motherfuckin’ PUPPIES!?!?!?

    Kill them. Kill them all. Kill them now. With fire.

  16. Why do we investigate murder in the US? It’s a very small percentage of people getting murdered. No reason to worry about every little murder. Plus if you say murder is bad you could hurt the murderers feelings causing more murder.

  17. “A much higher percentage of Americans upset with the “system” join violent gangs and political cults every year.”

    I guess this means that Kocharians are a political cult now?

  18. What’s more, in the first eight months of 1931, when Stalin’s atrocities were approaching their zenith, more than 100,000 Americans applied to emigrate to the Soviet Union

    As I said the first time this article got posted, this is simply wrong. Stalin had barely begun in 1931. The Ukrainian famine, the Kirov murder, and the purges were all in the future.

    1. Absolutely. To research this would take a few seconds. While there are a number of good books on this I recommend “The Bloodlands” to all. If you want to see why the Ukrainians, Belo-Russians, Poles etc. act like they do, this book will help you understand and make you feel a burning rage toward any person who excuses the acts of Socialists and Marxists.

  19. Hi Shikha:

    Your offhand dismissal of Americans who went to Spain to fight the Fascists bespeaks a lack of understanding of that conflict. The Communists, Socialists and Anarchists *among others* rose to fight the Fascists. They lost. But painting the volunteers the way you did is wrong. Please read the history, understand the issue and update your article. Not doing so diminishes your otherwise strong voice.

    Thank You,

    Joseph Bacanskas

    1. Calling it “the communist side” isn’t exactly correct, but it’s not exactly untrue. It’s like calling Assad’s opponents “the Islamist side”: there are non-Islamists there too, but they aren’t the major force. My memory of Homage to Catalonia is that the Communists quickly became the main force in Spain, but correct me if I’m wrong.

  20. “….0.004 percent of the American Muslim population.”

    So what, the 19 who killed 3,000 on 9-11 represent what percentage of the Muslim Population – it’s IRRELEVANT – All it takes is ONE!

  21. “Existential threat”? I think not. There have been over 40 terrorist acts perpetrated on American soil since 9/11. Most have been labeled not as such (workplace violence, act of a deranged individual, etc.). We have no idea how many have gone unreported because they failed. Now we hear 4 individuals with known terrorist links were stopped at our southern border on 9/10 this year. Just ask Australia if they think their concerns are over-hyped (random beheading). Wake up. We are at war with evil and as much as we want to pretend it doesn’t exist, we are in “real” danger.

  22. Can we just stop already?

    All this fretting and handwringing over “Western” jihadis and the allure of Islamism upon our young…what no one wants to acknowledge is that these “Westerners” who are packing up their troubles in their old kit bags and flying to the killing fields of ISIL are not ivory-skinned boys sitting in their parents’ rec-rooms smoking pot who suddenly get an adolescent urge to go kill and die for Allah; they are the sons of Muslim ?migr?s who NEVER WERE Westerners but ALWAYS remained Middle Easterners in their hearts and minds, bones and sinews. They are no more “Westerners” than Mohandas Ghandi was “an Englishman” while attending law school in London in his 20’s.
    In their minds they are citizens of a subject land who have gone into the heart of their oppressors’ world to acquire the resources needed to eventually throw off – and hopefully exact revenge against – them.
    We actual Westerners are so wrapped up in the obvious goodness and correctness of our polycultural liberal social system that we refuse on principle (and as a matter of simple good taste) to even glimpse the possibility that people from other parts of the world may not want to become just like us; when they are in our midst we just insist to ourselves that because we have accepted them that they must, in their turn, have accepted us.
    But they have not. The proof of that is evident in the numbers of their sons (and daughters) who have returned to the Motherland to fight against us.

  23. One huge difference: the members of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade didn’t return to the US and threaten to blow up or behead innocent civilians.

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