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AP poll shows most ISIS recruits are ignorant of Islam

© Al Furqan


Most Islamic State recruits know little about Islam or hardly care about religion at all, an AP investigation shows. Another study found that the few with the most religious knowledge among the ranks of the terrorist group do not rush to become martyrs.

As many as 70 percent of the recruits were said to have had only “basic”knowledge of Islam – one of the three possible choices on an Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) recruitment form, according to a study conducted by Associated Press. The agency looked at thousands of leaked IS documents collected by a Syrian site, Zaman al-Wasl, and conducted numerous interviews with former IS fighters.

The probe found that some 24 percent of IS recruits could boast “intermediate” knowledge of Islam and only about 5 percent considered themselves to be “advanced” learners. Only five recruits claimed to have memorized the Koran.

Among the documents studied by AP were entry forms filled out by around 4,030 foreign recruits who crossed into Syria in 2013 and 2014. Upon joining IS, recruits had to fill out a special employment form which asked them to rank their knowledge of Islam on a scale from one to three. The findings indicated that most jihadist newcomers had trouble answering questions which tested their knowledge of Islam.

…Among those interviewed by AP were a European convert who identifies as gay, a group of Frenchmen and two Britons. The latter two were said to have bought ‘The Koran for Dummies’ and ‘Islam for Dummies’ from Amazon in order to prepare for jihad.

Those interviewed said that after filling out the recruitment form they were then lectured by a group of imams on Islam who repeatedly praised martyrdom.

On the whole, the findings suggest religion has nothing to do with people joining IS. They also indicated that the extremist group feeds on people who have little knowledge of Islam and the more ignorant a person is about the faith the easier it is to recruit them.

“Religion is an afterthought,” Patrick Skinner, a former CIA case officer and director of special projects at security consultancy the Soufan Group told AP. According to Skinner, very few people join IS because of religious adherence. Most of the recruits are people in need of “a sense of belonging, a sense of notoriety, a sense of excitement.”

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