“Toronto Jane” is a woman from Canada who joined ISIS last December. The banner of her Twitter feed is an image of a severed head. She has been traveling across the region controlled by the world’s largest terrorist army, lauding its beheadings and other acts of violence.
The U.S. State Department believes that around 12,000 foreign fighters like “Toronto Jane” have traveled to Syria to join terror groups, including ISIS. Estimates of the number of Americans fighting alongside Syrian-based jihadists ranges from several dozen to 100. As ISIS continues to expand, such foreign soldiers are its future.
After a Jordanian pilot was burned to death by the terror group last week, Muslim leaders around the world condemned their brutality and called their followers to reject such barbarism. Why, then, are so many joining ISIS? (Tweet this)
According to one terrorism analyst, an appeal to Muslims’ sense of obligation is frequently posted by ISIS on social media. “You have to join. It’s your duty,” he explained. But why would anyone consider it their duty to fight for such vicious terrorists?
ISIS continues to claim that it has established a new Islamic caliphate. The “caliph” was the recognized leader of Islam from the time of Muhammad until the role was abolished after World War I. Osama bin Laden cited the loss of the caliphate as one of the reasons al-Qaeda went to war with the West. To many Muslims, the loss of the caliphate was an outrage that must be avenged. By claiming himself to be the new caliph, ISIS’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appeals to Muslims who consider it their duty to serve the caliphate.
In addition, ISIS continues to utilize social media in attracting global membership. A former jihadist warned that they are “far superior and advanced than we are when it comes to new media technologies, social media, when it comes to video production qualities, and in disseminating their propaganda over the Internet.” So we can expect such recruitment of Americans and others to continue.
Why is this a problem at home? Because many of these fighters eventually return and become threats where they live. According to one expert, “Some of the foreign fighters may not return as terrorists to their respective countries, but all of them will have been exposed to an environment of sustained radicalization and violence with unknowable but worrying consequences.”
How should we respond? Obviously, our governments must be diligent in tracking citizens who are suspected of fighting with jihadists. We must find ways to counter their social media strategies, and to encourage Muslims who reject ISIS’s ideology.
But Christians have a critical role to play as well. We must be as zealous as ISIS in praying for their conversion and for God’s protection against their atrocities. Please join me in praying every day for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and other jihadist leaders to meet Jesus. Christians must be as strategic as ISIS with media strategies to share the good news of God’s love. (Tweet this) And we must be as committed to the cause of the gospel as they are to the cause of hate.
“Pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44) is not a suggestion, but a command. (Tweet this)